RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD believes that a change back to the darts which won him a fifth World Championship title can aid his Cash Converters Players Championship challenge, after he opened the event by hitting eight 180s in a defeat of Ronnie Baxter in Doncaster.

The Dutch ace has slipped to eighth in the PDC Order of Merit this year, but since losing out in the group stage of the Grand Slam of Darts last month has returned to using darts similar to those with which he defeated Phil Taylor for World Championship glory in 2007.

He made a huge impact at the Doncaster Dome, averaging over 104 and hitting eight 180s in seeing off Baxter 6-3 to power into the last 16 of the £250,000 Players Championship.

“I didn’t have a good Grand Slam but I’ve gone back to this set-up and I’ve practised well, and I know now what I can do on stage with these darts,” said van Barneveld.

“I’m very happy with that performance and to average over 104. If I’d not missed my doubles then I may have averaged 110 and enjoyed a better win, but I’m feeling good.”

2010 champion Paul Nicholson suffered a dramatic 6-5 defeat to Steve Brown in their first round contest.

Brown held an early 2-0 cushion before Nicholson hit back to take the lead at 4-3 and 5-4 – but after the Bristol ace forced a decider it was Nicholson who missed the bull for a 170 finish in the final leg, and his opponent hit tops to progress.

“Paul’s a fantastic player and he knows how to win, so to come through that shows my fighting spirit,” said Brown. “My last leg was strong and I knew after he missed the bullseye that I couldn’t give him a second chance.”

World number three James Wade progressed to the last 16 with a 6-4 win over Andy Smith and now faces Brown in Saturday’s second round.

Van Barneveld plays Scott Rand, a lorry driver from Coventry who enjoyed a 6-2 victory over Jamie Caven in his debut in the Players Championship.

Wes Newton and Peter Wright will also clash on Saturday after coming from 2-0 down to take victory in their games against Richie Burnett and Denis Ovens respectively.

Newton impressed by hitting five 180s, a 177 and a 117 checkout in his 6-3 defeat of Burnett, while Wright bettered that with a 103 average in a 6-4 win over Ovens.

Ovens hit a brace of 120 checkouts in the game, but could only watch on as Lowestoft’s Wright powered home five 180s and a 121 finish before sealing victory by taking out 130 on the bull.

Grand Slam of Darts semi-finalist Mark Walsh carried on his impressive recent form with a 6-3 win over left-hander Mark Hylton and will now take on Wayne Jones in the second round.

Jones was also in strong form, whitewashing three-time World Champion John Part 6-0 with a thrilling performance as he moved into the last 16.

The first round concludes with eight further games on Friday night at the Doncaster Dome, headed by reigning champion Phil Taylor’s clash with Terry Jenkins.

February’s runner-up Gary Anderson meets Michael van Gerwen, number one seed Justin Pipe plays Scotland’s John Henderson, former World Champions Mark Webster and Steve Beaton clash and Dutch pair Vincent van der Voort and Co Stompe lock horns.

Tickets are still available for the Cash Converters Players Championship, either by calling the Doncaster Dome Box Office on 01302 370 777 or in person at the venue.

Cash Converters Players Championship
Thursday December 8

First Round
Jamie Caven 2-6 Scott Rand
Mark Walsh 6-3 Mark Hylton
Peter Wright 6-4 Denis Ovens
John Part 0-6 Wayne Jones
Wes Newton 6-3 Richie Burnett
Ronnie Baxter 3-6 Raymond van Barneveld
James Wade 6-4 Andy Smith
Paul Nicholson 5-6 Steve Brown

Friday December 9 (7pm)
First Round
Dave Chisnall v Alan Tabern
Colin Osborne v Kevin Painter
Vincent van der Voort v Co Stompe
Mervyn King v Colin Lloyd
Justin Pipe v John Henderson
Phil Taylor v Terry Jenkins
Mark Webster v Steve Beaton
Gary Anderson v Michael van Gerwen
All games the best of 11 legs

SCOTT RAND 6-2 JAMIE CAVEN
SCOTT RAND made a winning Cash Converters Players Championship debut with an assured display to defeat Jamie Caven 6-2.

The 36-year-old from Coventry has finished 23rd on the Players Championship Order of Merit this year in continuing his emergence, qualifying for the UK Open and World Matchplay.

He booked his place in the second round at the Doncaster Dome with a fine win against Caven, was punished for a slow start as Rand took an early 2-0 lead courtesy of double ten and double 16.

Caven took the third, opening with scores of 125 and 135 to pull clear and ensure that he would land double 16 despite the pressure of a 180 from his opponent.

Rand landed another maximum in a 14-darter to win the fourth before Caven replied in 13 darts, hitting a 180 along the way.

Rand posted his third 180 of the game in restoring his two-leg lead at 4-2, before misses at the bull and double eight from Caven allowed him in to finish 40 with an improvised double one, double 19 combination.

He then landed double 18 in the next to ensure passage into the second round and a tie with Raymond van Barneveld on Saturday afternoon.

MARK WALSH 6-3 MARK HYLTON
MARK WALSH continued his run of form to see off Mark Hylton 6-3 and move into the second round of the Cash Converters Players Championship in Doncaster.

Walsh had reached the William Hill Grand Slam of Darts semi-finals three weeks ago, and returned to the televised stage with another victory.

He made the early running against Hylton by winning the first three legs without reply, punishing four missed doubles from the left-hander in the second leg and landing a 180 and a 96 finish in the third.

Hylton posted two 180s in winning the fourth leg on tops, and landed another maximum and double eight to pull back to 3-2, making Walsh pay for three misses on the wire of double 12.

Walsh did manage to land double 12 in the next and defied a 180 to move into a 5-2 advantage.

Hylton stepped in following three missed double tops from Walsh for the match in the eighth leg, landing double ten to keep the game alive, but the Hertfordshire ace sealed victory in 14 darts in the next, taking out 64 on tops.

PETER WRIGHT 6-4 DENIS OVENS
PETER WRIGHT came from 2-0 down to defeat Denis Ovens 6-4 in the first round of the Cash Converters Players Championship on Thursday night.

The Lowestoft ace hit five 180s and finished the game with an end average of 103.26 in progressing to the last 16 in Doncaster.

Ovens made the early running, twice punishing missed doubles from Wight to land double eight and double four respectively in the opening two legs.

Wright hit a 180 and a 121 finish to get off the mark in the third, and landed another maximum and tops to level the game.

Wright then defied a 180 from Ovens to win the fifth and edge ahead, although the UK Open semi-finalist replied to level with a 120 checkout.

Ovens also took out 120 to win the eighth, after Wright had regained the lead with another 180 and double 12.

Wright then finished double 12 again to win the ninth for a 5-4 cushion and sealed victory in the next by finishing 130 on the bull.

WAYNE JONES 6-0 JOHN PART
WAYNE JONES whitewashed John Part 6-0 to storm into the second round of the Cash Converters Players Championship in Doncaster.

The Wolverhampton ace left Part trailing with a blistering start as he took the first four legs without the Canadian having a dart at a double.

When Part did give himself chances, the three-time World Champion was unable to convert eight darts to get off the mark as Jones stepped in to seal the win.

Jones now meets Mark Walsh in Saturday’s second round, and said: “I’m really pleased with that.

“I started off brilliantly and managed to keep it going. I think if John had got a leg on the board it would have got me worried and I was just glad to finish him off in the end.”

Jones hit a 180 in taking the opening leg on double 16 for a 13-dart finish, and then followed another maximum by taking out 121 in the second for a 12-darter.

Double 16 gave him the third in 14 darts, and he then won the fourth on double two, with three tons a 140 score pushing him far enough ahead to afford two earlier missed doubles.

Part hit a 180 to be first to a finish in the fifth leg, but wasted six darts at a double as Jones took out double 16 once more, before two misses at double 11 from the Canadian gave him a shot at 81 to seal victory, which he took on the bull.

WES NEWTON 6-3 RICHIE BURNETT
WES NEWTON produced a superb fightback from 2-0 down to defeat Richie Burnett 6-3 and move into the second round of the Cash Converters Players Championship.

Welshman Burnett, who ended a ten-year gap between ranking victories in September, made an electric start to win the opening two legs – but paid for failing to hit single numbers to leave a double as Newton levelled.

The Fleetwood ace then hit top gear with four 180s and a 177 as he powered through to take victory and set up a second round tie with Peter Wright on Saturday.

Burnett finished 81 on double 13 to win the game’s opening leg and bettered that with a 101 checkout in the second.

Newton hit a 180 in the third, but missed two darts at double 16 to allow Burnett in – only for the Welsh ace to miss the single nine to leave double eight and then seeing a dart at double four land off-target as Newton returned to hit double two.

Newton also capitalised in the fourth leg when Burnett again failed to leave a double at the first time of asking, missing double 16 before the UK Open finalist hit double ten to level.

He then landed a 177 to leave 32 in the next, stepping in to take out double eight after Burnett missed tops for a 106 finish, and hit a 180 and double six to move 4-2 up.

Another 180 from Newton was followed by a 117 checkout in the next as he moved a leg away from victory at 5-2, although he missed three match darts as Burnett won a third leg of the game on double eight.

Newton, though, posted his fifth 180 of the contest and followed that with a 140 to leave 81 after nine darts, and finished double eight again to seal his second round berth.

“I’m relieved to have come through that,” admitted Newton. “Richie made a great start and he could have gone 4-0 up, but I came strong after that.

“I was really pleased with how I scored and it’s a good way to start this tournament.”

RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD 6-3 RONNIE BAXTER
RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD hit eight 180s in a heavy-scoring 6-3 win over Ronnie Baxter as he began his challenge at the Cash Converters Players Championship with a sensational performance.

The Dutchman’s return to a similar set-up of darts with which he won a fifth World Championship in 2007 saw him power past Baxter and set up a second round contest with Scott Rand.

Van Barneveld opened the game with a 180 in a taste of what was to come over the next nine legs, taking out double eight for a 13-darter to lead and also hitting another maximum in the second and two in the third leg.

Baxter replied with a 180 of his own in taking the fourth, and when van Barneveld was unable to take his chances in the fifth he cut the gap to 3-2.

Baxter missed double 16 to level in the sixth, but when van Barneveld was unable to land double 18 the Blackpool ace took out double eight to level the game.

He also traded 180s with van Barneveld in the seventh, but double ten gave the Dutchman back the lead before four misses from Baxter proved costly as double ten gave him a 5-3 cushion.

Van Barneveld then added a further two 180s in setting up an 11-darter in the ninth leg, taking out double 16 for a powerful victory.

“I’m very happy with that performance and to average over 104,” said van Barneveld. “Ronnie came back well to three-all but I missed doubles and let him in.

“If I’d not missed my doubles then I may have averaged 110 and enjoyed a better win, but I’m feeling good.

“I didn’t have a good Grand Slam but I’ve gone back to this set-up and I’ve practised well, so to hit two treble 20s nearly every time I went to the oche was a big boost and I know now what I can do on stage with these darts.”

JAMES WADE 6-4 ANDY SMITH
WORLD number three James Wade defeated Andy Smith 6-4 to win through to the second round of the Cash Converters Players Championship at the Doncaster Dome.

The left-hander opened the game with a confidence-boosting 12-dart finish which featured a 180, although Smith levelled on double ten and then hit double 16 to lead 2-1.

Wade, though, took the fourth to square the game before hitting a 180 and tops to regain the lead.

Double ten for a 13-dart finish moved Wade 4-2 up, giving him a lead which would prove crucial in edging him to victory as Smith battled for a way back into the game.

He finished double top for a 14-darter in winning the seventh leg, and after Wade took out tops he added a second maximum and double three to pull back to 5-4.

However, he missed the bull to send the game into a deciding leg, and Wade landed his trusted double top to ensure progression to the last 16.

STEVE BROWN 6-5 PAUL NICHOLSON
STEVE BROWN edged out 2010 winner Paul Nicholson 6-5 in a first round thriller at the Cash Converters Players Championship as the pair battled out a dramatic contest.

Emerging Bristol ace Brown took an early 3-1 lead before Nicholson hit back to move 4-3 and 5-4 up.

Brown forced a deciding leg and held the edge after hitting two tons but could only watch as Nicholson missed the bull for a 170 checkout to take victory, before he returned to hit double top and snatch the win.

Although Nicholson hit a 180 in the game’s opening leg, two missed doubles allowed Brown in on double top to lead before he took out 92 for a 14-darter in moving 2-0 up.

He also opened the third with a 180, but Nicholson finished 101 to get off the mark – only to pay for two further missed doubles as Brown took out double 12 for a 3-1 advantage.

Brown hit a 180 to lead 69 in the fifth, but Nicholson finished 79 for a 14-dart finish before levelling in 13 darts on double 14, punishing his opponent for misses at double 19 and double eight.

Nicholson then hit his second 180 of the game and a two-dart 65 finish to lead for the first time at 4-3, although Brown swiftly levelled with double ten for a 14-darter.

Nicholson landed another maximum on his way to a fifth leg, which he secured on double 16, although Brown denied him a chance to take victory by hitting tops to send the tie into a deciding leg.

Nicholson struggled to find the treble as the tension mounted, while Brown hit scores of 100 and 121 in being first to a finish, initially leaving 115 and setting up 60.

Nicholson had a chance to take victory with a maximum 170 checkout, but wired the bullseye to allow Brown back, and he made no mistake to hit his first dart at double top for the win.

“I’m relieved to have come through that,” admitted Brown. “Paul’s a fantastic player and he knows how to win, so to come through that shows my fighting spirit.

“My last leg was strong and I knew after he missed the bullseye that I couldn’t give him a second chance.”

He added: “I’ve worked so hard this year but had some hard draws with playing Raymond van Barneveld twice and also Phil Taylor and James Wade in the first round of TV events.

“It’s been a long time coming for me to get the win but I’ve been very focused for the last five weeks and although it wasn’t an amazing performance, I thought I was gritty.”

Source – PDC/Lawrence Lustig