DEFENDING CHAMPION Phil Taylor was forced to scramble a seven-all draw with Roland Scholten on the opening night the 2007 Holsten Premier League Darts at the Plymouth Pavilions. The 13-time World Champion had gone through the first two years of the Premier League unbeaten with 16 wins and two draws.

However, he looked set to lose that record when Scholten came from 6-3 down in their clash to move 7-6 up and seal at least a point. But Taylor – who lost his World Championship crown a month ago to Raymond van Barneveld – produced a 14-darter in the final leg to snatch a point, and admitted: “I suppose I’m relieved in a way”. “I got the draw in the end but thought Roland would get me in that last leg when he kicked in with two big scores.

“I’ve made a few changes [since the World Championship Final] and I think it’s going to take me a bit longer to get used to them, but it’s something I want to do.”Van Barneveld, who took the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship crown from Taylor in an epic contest on New Year’s Day, opened his challenge with an 8-5 defeat of newcomer Adrian Lewis. The Dutchman landed four 180s and averaged 97.65 in an impressive display, despite going 2-0 down early on.

Dennis Priestley enjoyed a good debut with an 8-5 win of his own against Terry Jenkins, for whom five maximums were not enough to defeat the double World Champion.

2005 finalist Colin Lloyd fought back from 3-0 and 6-3 down against Peter Manley, but back-to-back 90 finishes gave world number four Manley the victory.

The Holsten Premier League Darts continues in Wolverhampton next Thursday, with Taylor meeting Priestley in a repeat of five World Championship finals, and van Barneveld facing Lloyd.

Night One Results – Plymouth Pavilions

Raymond van Barneveld 8-5 Adrian Lewis
Dennis Priestley 8-5 Terry Jenkins
Peter Manley 8-6 Colin Lloyd
Phil Taylor 7-7 Roland Scholten

Night Two Fixtures – Wolverhampton Civic, 8 Feb

Colin Lloyd v Raymond van Barneveld
Roland Scholten v Terry Jenkins
Phil Taylor v Dennis Priestley
Peter Manley v Adrian Lewis

RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD 8-5 ADRIAN LEWIS

RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD opened the 2007 Holsten Premier League Darts with an 8-5 win over debutant Adrian Lewis. The 22-year-old world number five showed no nerves on his first appearance in the Premier League in taking an early 2-0 lead against the World Champion. However, the Dutchman showed his class with some clinical finishing to force his way in front and resist a Lewis fightback to take the win. Lewis took the opening leg on double five after van Barneveld was off-target on double top and ten to hold his throw.

The youngster then punished a sloppy van Barneveld in the second leg to double his advantage, before the Dutchman took three in a row – landing two maximums along the way – to go 3-2 up. Lewis responded on double top to level matters going into the break, but superb finishing from van Barneveld put him 6-3 up. He took out double 16 with the first dart to win the seventh leg, then landed a two-dart 91 finish in the next and then hit double 18 to pull clear. Lewis landed another maximum on his way to the tenth leg, but van Barneveld landed double 16 to ensure at least a point by moving 7-4 up. Lewis won leg 12 on the same double to keep alive his hopes, but he missed five darts to take the next leg to allow the World Champion to take the win on double four.

DENNIS PRIESTLEY 8-5 TERRY JENKINS

DENNIS PRIESTLEY made a winning debut in the Holsten Premier League with an 8-5 win over fellow newcomer Terry Jenkins. The Yorkshireman earned his place in the tournament by rising back to third in the world last year, and produced some quality moments to open his account on the first night. The first five legs of the match went with the throw to leave Priestley 3-2, despite three maximums from Jenkins.

Priestley took a crucial break of throw in the sixth leg with a 93 finish to go into the interval 4-2 up. A brilliant 157 finish from Jenkins for a 12-darter saw him break back following the restart, and he took the next with a 13-darter, including another maximum, to level matters. The next two legs were shared, but Priestley found his rhythm in the 11th to edge clear and he then broke Jenkins’ throw with a second maximum in as many legs for a 13-darter and a 7-5 cushion.

Not content with sealing a point, he won the next leg in 15 darts to seal the win and a perfect start to the tournament. Priestley had relaxed before the game with some sight-seeing in Plymouth, and said: “We went and had a look where Queen Elizabeth I summoned the Army to go and fight the Spanish, but I had a battle of my own on stage. “It was obviously my first time in the Premier League and it was a relief to get up there. It’s been days, weeks even coming into this and I have put a little bit more practice in. “I’ve loads of experience but it’s still a new thing for me and I took it on board and wanted to get off to a winning start.

“That was a crucial part to this Premier League and it looked like it could have been a draw at one stage, but I dug deep and got the win I wanted. “The crucial thing was that I didn’t drop my game against the darts, and my doubles were probably the strongest part of my game.”

PETER MANLEY 8-6 COLIN LLOYD

PETER MANLEY held off a Colin Lloyd fightback to begin the 2007 Holsten Premier League Darts with an 8-6 win at the Plymouth Pavilions. The former Las Vegas Desert Classic champion missed out on last year’s Play-Offs, but made a perfect start to his challenge this time around. He took the first three legs without reply as Lloyd made a slow start to the contest, breaking his opponent’s throw in the second leg with a bull finish.

Manley was off-target with the bullseye in leg four to allow Lloyd to get off the mark with double 16, before hitting the same bed to make the scoreline 3-2. The Essex star, though, wasted two darts to level matters going into the break, with Manley hitting double ten with a crucial last dart to keep himself ahead. Although Lloyd won the seventh leg, two more from Manley put him 6-4 up and within a leg of a point.

Lloyd, who rued his luck following a number of bounce-outs, finally found his range to win the next three and level matters at six apiece. Manley, though, took the 13th leg with a 90 finish of treble 20, double 15 to seal at least one point at 7-6. Lloyd hit back-to-back maximums in the game’s deciding leg, but missed two darts at double top to allow Manley a repeat at the 90 finish. This time, Manley went outer bull, 15 and then sailed his dart into the bullseye to bring the capacity crowd to its feat and wrap up the win.

“This wasn’t the best game, but at the end of the day I’ve got two points and I’m happy,” he said. “As Bill Shankly once said ‘It’s a win’! “It wasn’t the most attractive game and I didn’t play that well but Colin let me get away with it. “I wanted to go a different way in the final leg and it was nice to finish with two 90 checkouts. “I’m the outsider of the tournament but I came here to win and kept coming back at Colin. He’s a class player and will be disappointed with this, but he will bounce back. “The crowd were brilliant, it was like having my family in the background and it’s an ideal start for me – the aim now is to be in the last four in Brighton at the end of May!”

PHIL TAYLOR 7-7 ROLAND SCHOLTEN

PHIL TAYLOR scrambled a draw with Roland Scholten to preserve his unbeaten record in Premier League Darts at the Plymouth Pavilions. The 13-time World Champion had been invincible in the first two years of the tournament, but an amazing comeback from Scholten saw him almost claim the win. However, Taylor took his chance to snatch a point in a dramatic final leg, with Scholten seeing his first dart at 120 landing in the treble five to leave him no finish before the champion took out a two-dart 71.

“I suppose I’m relieved in a way,” admitted Taylor. “I got the draw in the end but thought Roland would get me in that last leg when he kicked in with two big scores. “He’s a solid player and he seemed to hit his finishes when I was letting him in there at the end, so full credit to him. Taylor started brightly, winning three of the first four legs and hitting a sparkling 12-darter. Scholten responded to win the fifth, but was unable to hold his throw in the next as Taylor moved 4-2 up going into the break.

The Dutchman – who lost the 2006 Holsten Premier League final 16-6 at the same venue – broke back immediately with a 14-darter including a maximum. Back-to-back legs from Taylor moved him clear at 6-3, before Scholten produced a brilliant sequence of four straight legs to move 7-6 up and earn at least a point. The first two were 12-darters culminating in finishes of 126 and 146 – with Taylor sat on 40 – before a 13-darter and then a two-dart 81 put Scholten on the brink of victory.

But Taylor found a final effort to preserve his precious unbeaten record in the tournament and snatch a point. “It was close but Phil took the opportunity in the last leg,” said Scholten. “I’m happy with a draw, it’s not a bad start.”Taylor has been practising with World Championship finalist Andy Hamilton in recent weeks, and is also undergoing a new fitness regime in a bid to boost his fitness and stamina following his loss to Raymond van Barneveld at Purfleet.

“I’ve made a few changes and I think it’s going to take me a bit longer to get used to them, but it’s something I want to do,” added Taylor. “I’m happy with how I’m practising, I’m playing really well and I’ve just got to do it on TV.”

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