LEEDS UNDERLINED its status as one of darts’ great destinations as the Betway Premier League got off to a rip-roaring start.
A Premier League record crowd of around 11,200 packed the First Direct Arena, creating what the players described as an “unbelievable” atmosphere.
The arena was handed the honour of kicking off the 16-week tournament after a near full-house turned up for the PDC’s first visit to the city last year.
Leeds is known as the birthplace of televised darts after the sport was first played in front of the cameras as part of ITV’s Indoor League at the Irish Centre, on York Road, in the 1970s.
And the city seems set to take a regular place on the sport’s fixture list after another hugely successful event.
Performance of the night came from two-time former world champion Adrian Lewis, who demolished Raymond van Barneveld 7-1.
Only the legendary Phil Taylor has thrown a better three-dart average in the Premier League than Lewis’ televised-best 113.80.
It was sweet revenge for Lewis, known as Jackpot, who lost to Van Barneveld in a recent World Championship third round tie. In eight legs, Lewis threw five maximum 180 scores, eight of 140 or more and 10 of 100 plus.
“It was the perfect start, a 7-1 win,” Lewis said. “The atmosphere out there was quality. On the walk-out you look round and see all those people, chanting your name, I am lost for words really.
“There was 11,000 people there and I think over the next few years it’s going to get bigger and bigger. I just hope everyone’s enjoying themselves.”
Flying Scotsman Gary Anderson repeated last month’s world final victory over Taylor with a dramatic 7-5 triumph.
The match went with the throw until the final leg, when Anderson broke Taylor after the Power missed double top to salvage a point.
Anderson – who averaged 99.66 to Taylor’s 104.72 – had already missed one match dart, but made no mistake second time around, taking out double four. The world champion was struggling with flu and he said: “I pinched it.
“I didn’t really want to be here, I just wanted to be in my bed!”
The night kicked off with a one-sided clash between St Helens’ Dave Chisnall and Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright, who did not have a dart at a double after the second leg.
Wright’s three-dart average was only 87.20, to 94.16 by Chisnall, who sealed his 7-1 victory with an 11-leg victory, finishing on double-18.
In the evening’s other matches, Michael van Gerwen beat debutant Kim Huybrechts 7-3 and Stephen Bunting, in his first Premier League appearance drew 6-6 with James Wade.
Leeds boxer Josh Warrington performed his regular walk-on and led the crowd in a chorus of Marching on Together.