It was a decent turnout for the knockout competition with 7 players competing. To shake things up a bit we had a change from the usual 501 format and instead played best-of-3 legs of 401 with double in. This format usually produces a few upsets and tonight was no exception.
The draw for the first round was Ram v Ben, Tom v Natasha and Anne v Andy, with James having a bye. First to play were Tom and Natasha. Natasha got off to a good start in both legs, hitting her opening double before Tom and building a lead which she maintained with some steady scoring. Unfortunately she didn't have as much success at the end of the legs and Tom checked out to win 2-0.
Ram played Ben next and it looked like it would all be over early for Ben as he failed to even get off the mark in the first leg while Ram powered ahead to a 14-darter. After switching from the troublesome double-20 to double-16 Ben's fortunes improved and he put the opening leg behind him to take the next two legs and a place in the next round.
The last first-round match saw league-leader Andy drawn against underdog Anne. Anne started well, hitting her doubles to start and getting some good scores to keep the game close. Andy must have been feeling the pressure because double-trouble set in and dart after dart failed to hit the mark. This was too good an opportunity for Anne to let go and she nailed her checkouts to cheers from the spectators, winning 2-0 and knocking the defending champion out in the first round. Definitely the match of the night, a major upset for Andy given their league results, and a very popular winner.
Ben played Tom in the first semi and his form from the opening match continued. Good scores and sharp shooting on the checkouts sealed the result: 2-0 to Ben.
James faced dark horse Anne for the remaining place in the final. The first leg was close but James's scoring advantage was key and he checked out to win it, but Anne's form slipped in the next leg and she struggled to get off the mark while James romped ahead. It was too much for Anne to catch up and James won 2-0.
So it was an interesting line-up for the final as an in-form Ben faced off against James. It was an well-matched contest with both players looking good on the doubles and several 80- and ton-plus scores, but James had the edge in scoring which proved decisive as he checked out both legs while Ben remained on a 2-dart total.
Some great darts in the matches tonight and most players can be proud of how they played, with particular mentions to the two ladies, Natasha and Anne, who played their best matches of the year so far. Congratulations to winner James who received the £10 prize and to runner-up Ben who got £5.
It's the final round of the league next week with six matches instead of our usual five, so I'd appreciate it if we could get things started a little earlier than the usual 8:30. The fixtures will be:
Andy v Natasha
Anne v Natasha
Ben v Tom
James v Sam
Ram v Darren
Sam v Anne
I look forward to seeing you all there next Monday night as we round up this league. If there is anybody who can't make it there will be a chance to play their fixture(s) the following week before we have our Finals Night on the 25th March.