After 32 entertaining and thrilling nights of the Unibet PDC Home Tour first round, our attention moves to the Low6 Home Tour Play-Offs, which features our 32 group winners that progressed through the first stage.
Action on the Pro Tour had been brought to a halt due to the COVID 19 pandemic, but the darts were still thumping in the board at the players’ homes as thanks to Barry Hearn, they were given a chance to keep their competitiveness sharp and also the practicing and the preparation on point until the season is safe enough to resume.
The first stage of the competition took place on 32 consecutive nights between 17 April 2020 – 18 May 2020. Players were separated into 32 groups of four, where the player who finished top of each group moving on to the last 32. Matches were the best of 9 legs (first to 5). However since that there were only 101 of the 128 Tour Card Holders that registered an interest, it meant that the last six groups gave the other players who finished second in the first 25 groups another chance to progress. Some needed two chances, others just needed the one!
The first stage certainly did spring a few surprises with five of the top 16 players failing to make it through to the second stage. These included reigning Grand Slam champion Gerwyn Price, former world finalist and Shanghai Masters champion Michael Smith, 10 time major winner James Wade, 10 time Players Championship winner Ian White and former European champion Simon Whitlock. But it wasn’t just the departure of these players that had sprung surprises! 12 of the group winners were players outside the top 64 with 7 of them outside the top 100! It just shows what a high standard and also how unpredictable the Pro Tour is.
The second stage features the 32 group winners of the first stage being moved into groups of four. The player that finishes top of each group will move on to the third stage and the matches are slightly increased with the format being the best of 11 legs, first to 6 here on in! With the margin of error being very small, shocks will most certainly happen, but who will come through between the best and the rest?
So without further ado, here are the 8 groups in the last 32.
The action in Group 1 will take place on the 26 May 2020. Group 1 features the reigning world champion Peter Wright in action, who was one of a few players that needed two chances to qualify.
Wright failed to make it through in the first group of the tournament, falling short to Jamie Lewis, but the world champion eventually progressed in the last group of the first stage, beating Adam Hunt and Krzysztof Ratajski but despite losing to Justin Pipe in the last game, he had done enough to secure his spot.
Also in his group is Spain’s Cristo Reyes who came through Group 29 with a clean sweep, beating big Scot John Henderson, former world finalist Danny Noppert and Ipswich’s Ryan Meikle, who won two Development Tour titles this year. Also in Group 1 features the 2006 BDO world champion Jelle Klaasen.
Klaasen came through Group 7 with wins over Gabriel Clemens and Gavin Carlin before losing to Ryan Meikle. It was leg difference however that got him through to the last 32 but there was controversy along the way as many fans accused Jelle of cheating after a dart at tops looked like that it wasn’t in the segment despite calling game shot. However it was revealed that the dart was actually in the tops and that it was the camera quality that caused the illusion! Klaasen didn’t cheat after all and his spot in the last 32 was intact!
The final player in Group 1 is another Scot, Ryan Murray! Murray who is the lowest ranked player in the last 32 at 135, was one of a few surprises who went on to win their group. Despite losing to Joe Cullen in his first game, Murray then defeated the likes of Greece’s John Michael and fast throwing Jermaine Wattimena to finish top spot on legs difference. He’s only gained a tour card this year but can the 32 year old Scot spring more shocks up his sleeve?
The action in Group 2 will take place on the 27 May 2020. This group features the 2014 BDO world champion Stephen Bunting. Bunting came through his group after winning all three group games. He edged out Austria’s Harald Leitinger 5-4 in his first match before two 5-1 wins over Kim Huybrechts and Nathan Derry helped seal a comfortable passage into the next round!
Also in Group 2 is another world champion, Glen Durrant. Durrant who had a stunning impact year on the PDC circuit last year also came through his group in a clean sweep! The three time world champion defeated Vincent van der Meer in his first game before beating Justin Pipe in once of the most comical games of the century.
He survived a scare against Maik Kuivenhoven in his last group game but Duzza eventually came through 5-3 to win his group!
Next in Group 2 was Alan Tabern who unlike Bunting and Durrant suffered a more dramatic passage to the last 32. Tabern began the night with a 5-1 thumping by former runner up Kirk Shepherd but then defeated Mike van Duivenbode 5-2 which then gave him a chance to progress against Simon Whitlock, which the St Helens thrower did win 5-4! At the end of the night he and Van Duivenbode were tied on legs difference and points but with the scenario going to the head to head record it was Tabern’s victory over the Dutchman that proved decisive in topping the group.
The final player in Group 2 is Belgium’s Mike De Decker. De Decker was given a second chance after finishing second in Group 12, but like Alan Tabern he progressed through his group in dramatic circumstances! The Belgian suffered defeat in his first match against Martin Atkins before beating Conan Whitehead 5-1 to give himself a chance of progressing through! Steve Brown was in the Belgian’s way after the Bristolian won his first two games! Brown needed a win to seal it where De Decker needed to win 5-2 or better to progress. It was a slim margin but he managed to pull it off after beating Brown 5-2 and with that sealing top spot on head to head record!
The action in Group 3 will take place on the 28 May 2020. In Group 3 we have the two time world champion Gary Anderson. Anderson who initially withdrew from the competition due to bad Wifi eventually got his internet connection sorted and he was seen in action in Group 30.
Despite signs of rustiness, Anderson did win all his games, beating Dirk van Duijvenbode, Dimitri Van den Bergh and finally Kim Huybrechts to book his place in the last 32, despite never looking likely due to his internet!
Next up in Group 3 is the reigning world youth champion Luke Humphries. Humphries first appeared in Group 5 but was eventually beaten by Cwmbran’s Nick Kenny. However Humphries was eventually given a second chance in Group 28 where just like Gary Anderson won all his group games.
Humphries was ruthless, defeating Michael Smith, Andy Boulton and Mike van Duivenbode with a combined average of 101.83, with Luke hitting a 108.55 average in beating Smith! So that’ll show Anderson that this won’t be easy work.
Next up in Group 3 is the former world finalist Jamie Lewis. Camarthen’s Lewis was the first player to progress through to the last 32 after winning the group on legs difference. Despite losing his first match to Niels Zonneveld he then achieved a big scalp over Peter Wright and then defeated Huddersfield’s Peter Jacques to secure his place.
The final player in Group 3 is another Welshman, Nick Kenny. Kenny also won his group with a clean sweep, beating Luke Humphries as aforementioned, Joe Murnan and South Africa’s Devon Petersen. And with Kenny and Humphries taking on each other again, it’s the reigning world youth champion who will hope to gain his revenge!
The action in Group 4 will take place on the 29 May 2020. First up in Group 4 is the five times major runner up Dave Chisnall. Chisnall booked his place in the last 32 after winning the third group of the competition.
The St Helens thrower progressed through with ease, beating two time world champion Scott Waites 5-2, whitewashing former world semi finalist Jan Dekker and then defeated Wales’ Jonathan Worsley 5-1 to seal the deal.
Also in Group 4 is Norwich’s Darren Webster. Webster maybe short in stature but in Group 15 he proved taller than everyone else, winning all his group games with wins over Bradley Brooks, Scott Baker and Andy Hamilton!
Also joining them is Dutch left hander Geert Nentjes. Nentjes proved to be a surprise winner in Group 4 after also winning all of his group games, beating fellow left hander Mickey Mansell, four time women’s world champion Lisa Ashton and former world’s quarter finalist Ross Smith. The final player in the group is the reigning Brisbane Darts Masters champion Damon Heta.
Despite playing in the early hours of the morning Heta progressed through Group 17 with wins over Gary Blades and John Henderson before losing to Krzysztof Kciuk 5-3, but those three legs that he won in the last game was enough for him to progress into the next round!
The action in Group 5 will take place on the 30 May 2020. Featuring in Group 5 is the former world champion and reigning World Matchplay and European champion Rob Cross.
Cross suffered tragedy this year after his grandad passed away due to COVID-19, which was visible in his out of sorts form in Group 21. But despite a combined average of 82.08 on the night the former world champion still managed to show grit, heart and desire to win all three of his games, beating William Borland, Dimitri Van den Bergh (despite surviving match darts) and finally coming from 4-0 behind to beat Karel Sedlacek 5-4!
Also in his group is Devon’s Ryan Searle! Searle has had a great start to the year thanks to his magnificent triumph in PC3, beating MVG 8-6 in the final. He also defeated another big player en route to winning his group in James Wade, beating him 5-2 with a 100.64 average! Searle also scored wins over Andy Boulton and Adrian Gray (who famously upset Phil Taylor in the World Grand Prix first round back in 2007) to seal top spot in Group 6 with three wins in three!
Also in Group 5 is the man of the moment Luke Woodhouse! The Bewdley thrower achieved a bit of history in his victory against Gerwyn Price, hitting a fabulous 9 dart leg in his kitchen!! He also recorded the highest average of the tournament so far in that very match with 113.86! Woodhouse also defeated Ted Evetts and Rowby-John Rodriguez to claim top spot in Group 2 with a clean sweep!
The final player in Group 5 is Sweden’s Daniel Larsson! Larsson just like the other three players also won his group with a clean sweep, beating former Auckland Darts Masters champion Kyle Anderson (who survived a life threatening battle with COVID-19), Dirk van Duijvenbode and then saved his best till last thanks to a whitewash win over Martin Schindler, averaging 100.20! All four players come in undefeated in this group but I can assure you that it won’t stay that way!
The action in Group 6 will take place on the 31 May 2020. Group 6 features the reigning European Darts Matchplay champion Joe Cullen.
Cullen just like a few of the players needed two chances in order to book his place. The first chance came in Group 20 where despite beating Ryan Murray in his first game (just narrowly) he squandered a great opportunity after coming from 4-1 down against Jermaine Wattimena before the Dutchman prevailed in the last leg decider. Cullen needed to beat John Michael 5-0 in his last group game but could only win 5-3 and missed out on top spot on legs difference. However despite that setback he was given another chance in Group 31!
However this time it was completely different as ‘The Rockstar’ as they called him performed some brilliant darting music after beating Keegan Brown 5-2 with a 106.17 average, Gerwyn Price 5-3 with a 107.64 average and then Bradley Brooks 5-0 with a 105.85 average. Cullen was simply just too hot to handle.
Also in Group 6 is the rising star Chris Dobey. Dobey (who reached the World Grand Prix semi finals last year) came through a tight Group 14, defeating Ciaran Teehan and Ron Meulenkamp respectively but then needed just one leg to qualify after Meulenkamp’s 5-4 win over Teehan. Despite losing 5-4 to Kai Fan Leung in the last match, Dobey got the leg he needed to progress.
Next up in Group 6 is Canada’s Jeff Smith. Smith (who reached the final of the 2016 BDO World Championship) came through his group in dramatic circumstances! He began the night with a 5-1 win over Christian Bunse before losing in a decider to Martin Atkins and it looked like that the chance had gone as Atkins needed a win to progress into the last 32. However Atkins lost 5-2 to Bunse in his last group game and Jeff Smith simply needed to beat Ricky Evans in his last group game in order to snatch top spot and he did it, winning 5-4 and sealing it with a superb 147 checkout! That’s some way to do it!
The final player in Group 6 is the fast throwing Dutchman Martijn Kleermaker. Kleermaker began his night in Group 9 with a victory over Michael Smith, coming from 3-0 down to win 5-3. He then lost by the same scoreline to former World Matchplay quarter finalist Matt Clark and after defeating Harry Ward 5-2, the Dutchman needed the final game to go his way in topping the group, which it did with Smith beating Clark 5-3, not enough for Bully Boy to make it through!
The action in Group 7 will take place on the 1 June 2020. Starring in Group 7 is the 2019 UK Open champion and the reigning US Darts Masters champion Nathan Aspinall. Aspinall (one of the rising talents in the game) came through Group 10 with such ease and assurance, beating the likes of Steve Brown, Ryan Joyce and Simon Stevenson top the group with a clean sweep, dropping just 5 legs in the process!
Also in Group 7 is the reigning Czech Open champion Jamie Hughes. Hughes just like Nathan Aspinall also progressed through with a clean sweep, beating Poland’s Krzysztof Ratajski 5-2, Darius Labanauskas by the same scoreline before edging past Spain’s Toni Alcinas 5-4 to secure top spot in Group 24!
Next up in Group 7 is the two time Players Championship event winner Jose De Sousa. The Portugese has proved to be a very tough cookie and that was proved with the best group performance of the first round, dropping just a single leg in progressing. De Sousa defeated the former UK Open and World Grand Prix champion Robert Thornton 5-0 with a crunching average of 110.51, Next he beat Keegan Brown, also 5-0 and then defeated Reece Robinson 5-1 with a 106.79 average and even in the leg he lost he could have won it! That’s how goood Jose was on that night and he will be very difficult to stop!
The final player in Group 7 is Spain’s Jesus Noguera. Noguera (the world number 129) was another big surprise group winner! He began Group 22 with a shock 5-3 win over Ian White, then defeated James Wilson 5-2. Then a blow came to his chances after falling 5-2 to Danny Noppert and Noguera needed Ian White to lose or win no worse than 5-4 to secure his spot. White would then lose 5-4 to James Wilson, handing the Spaniard an unlikely passport to the next stage of the competition!
The action in Group 8 will take place on the 2 June 2020. Featuring here is the two time Players Championship event winner and former Austrian Darts Open champion Jonny Clayton!
Clayton had a very comfortable night in Group 8 at the first round, beating Adam Hunt 5-2, Richard North 5-3 and former UK Open semi finalist David Pallett to secure a clean sweep! Next in Group 8 we have young German Max Hopp! Regarded as an overrated player by many, Max Hopp did win his group in bizzare circumstances. Keegan Brown’s poor internet meant that he had to withdraw from the night and that following his voided result each player had to play each other twice, with Hopp topping
Group 12 with three wins out of four! Also in Group 8 is a another surprise winner in Carl Wilkinson. The Yorkshire man came through his group with three wins in three, beating the likes of former world champion Steve Beaton, Callan Rydz and also one of our sponsored dart players, Matthew Edgar.
The final player in Group 8 is the two time world champion Scott Waites. Waites also needed two chances to seal his place, with the first being in Group 3 but came in second to Dave Chisnall. He then returned in Group 27 where Waites was at his clinical best, beating Steve Beaton 5-3 before whitewashing Ron Meulenkamp 5-0 with some excellent checkouts and then sealed the clean sweep with victory over Ross Smith.
- The Last 32 onwards will be played over the best of 11 legs in a round-robin four-player group format.
The Last 32 will feature eight groups from May 26-June 2, with each Group Winner moving into the Last Eight.
- Two Points awarded for a win.
Should players finish level on Points, the Leg Difference will be used to decide positions. Should Points and Leg Difference be equal between two players, then the winner of the game between the two players will determine who finishes higher. Should Points and Leg Difference be equal between three players, the Overall Average of each player (across the three games on the night) will be used to determine who finishes higher.
All action will be shown PDC.TV for free! We all just cannot wait for some more darting action during this tricky crisis!