With his signature darts out on sale, and his new shirts safely stored in his suitcase, Loxley new-boy Ryan Searle is set to rock the Ricoh Arena as he competes in the PDC Grand Prix for the first time in his career. He faces a tough task in his opening match against Netherlands hopeful Danny Noppert, as Noppie looks for a good run to secure his place alongside MVG in the upcoming World Cup of Darts in Austria next month.
A tough task ahead for Ryan, who knows victory will set up a second round clash against a former World Champion – either 2018 World Champion Rob Cross, or 2015 and 2016 World Champion Gary Anderson. Also in his side of the draw are former World Championship semi-finalists Michael Smith and James Wade, as well as the reigning five-time Grand Prix champion, and World Number 1 Michael van Gerwen. A run to the final could see Ryan face the Number 5, 4 and 1 seeds, with a potential clash against current World Champion Peter Wright in the final.
With just an hour before Ryan was set to toe the oche, the unfortunate news broke that Adrian Lewis (along with Stephen Bunting) had tested positive for COVID-19. This meant that Ryan’s match was moved up the pecking order, and was now set to be the first game to take place in this year’s tournament, with the game prior being rearranged for the following night, to allow Chris Dobey’s new opponent, Simon Whitlock, chance to arrive and await COVID testing.
A positive start to Ryan’s debut Grand Prix campaign, as backstage he won the all important bullseye, meaning he throws first, and should the game go to a last leg decider, the advantage is with ‘Heavy Metal’.
No-nonsense right out of the gate from Ryan, finding the D20 with his second dart to immediately put Noppie under pressure. Signs of nerves from Searle, as he hits three T1’s in the next 6 darts, before finishing the remaining 292 points in quick fashion, firing in a 180 before finding a 112 finish to hold throw. Mistakes on the doubles from Noppert allowed Searle his first opportunity at a break, which he took to double his lead in the first set. Despite a 174 from Noppert, Ryan managed to wrap up the first set thanks to a sublime Bull-D16 combination off of 82, to go within a set of the match, averaging a staggering 107.36.
Back-to-back 180’s, followed by a 110 checkout put Noppie right back in the game, with Noppert looking to establish similar dominance to which Ryan had shown before the break. Ryan missed his first 5 darts at the starting double in the second leg, allowing Noppert the chance to hit home the advantage. It was a chance Danny took, finding D10 to deny Ryan a chance at 110 to level the set. Loose darts followed from both, yet it was Noppert that stumbled to a finish first, leveling the match at one set apiece, taking out 56 with Searle back on 160.
Back to business for Ryan at the start of the final set, doubling-in with his first dart. Back-to-back 134’s allowed Ryan 6 at 95, using the first visit to simply set up three at his preferred D20, which he found in the next visit with his second dart. Both players starting with a ton+ check-in to kick off the second leg, yet no trebles between them in the next throw. 127-and-game for Noppie to level in the final set, putting the pressure back on Ryan who fails to find the double in his first 7 darts. A well-timed 180 from Noppie allows a comfortable break of throw, forcing Ryan to win both of the remaining legs of he wishes to progress to the second round. Unfortunately for Ryan, Noppert proved just too strong, clinically taking out 50 for a 2-1 win, ending Ryan’s hope of a dream debut at the Ricoh Arena.
A disappointing result for Ryan, as his debut campaign is cut short abruptly, but some very promising signs from ‘Heavy Metal’, with a stellar opening set, and a strong 66% doubling percentage – he’s proved yet again why he is so highly regarded within the profession game, and given fans a glimpse into just how good he can be.
For now, it’s back to the practice board as Ryan looks to break in his new Loxley arrows, ready for the Grand Slam of Darts Tour Card Qualifier in November. I, for one, can’t wait to see what the remainder of 2020 has in store for ‘Heavy Metal’ as he looks to add more accolades to his résumé as a professional darts player.
Author – Joe Reid