Smith is marvellous in Manchester to seal playoff place with his third-night win
Michael Smith sensationally defeated Jonny Clayton 6-3 in Thursday’s Manchester final at the AO Arena to clinch a spot in the Cazoo Premier League Play-Offs and earn his third nightly victory of the season.
With a remarkable performance, World Champion Smith defeated local favourite Nathan Aspinall, reigning champion Michael van Gerwen, and Welsh star Clayton to complete back-to-back Premier League night wins and earn a top-four finish.
He defeated Aspinall 6-3 in their quarterfinal before defeating Van Gerwen 6-4 in a rematch of the January World Championship final by nailing six doubles out of a possible 11 attempts.
The world number one saved his best performance of the evening for the decider, where he missed double 12 for a nine-darter and landed five 180s in a stunning performance. He then raced to victory in the final to secure the £10,000 winner’s bonus.
Early in the final, Clayton defeated 72 and 121 to take a 2-1 lead, but Smith turned up the heat with a mesmerising four-leg run to take control.
He first landed six perfect darts in the following leg as he won it in ten darts after missing double 12 to complete a nine-dart finish in leg four.
A missed match dart by Clayton allowed him to come back in the eighth leg, but Smith of St. Helens sealed his second nightly victory by winning the following two legs on double ten to extend his lead to 5-2.
Smith finished the game with the best average of the season (1110.05), and the five league points were essential in guaranteeing his Play-Off spot on May 25.
“It’s good to be back and I like to play like that,” said Smith. “I struggled against Nathan and Michael but I needed the wins and when I need to win, I’m producing it.
“I had to play well once tonight and I felt good. Being 2-1 down, I thought “right, step up now”.
“That’s back-to-back wins now and hopefully I can go to Sheffield now and win four (for the season). I did my job.”
With victories over Peter Wright and Chris Dobey, Clayton’s run to the final propelled him back into the top four of the Play-Off standings and ensured that his matchup with Aspinall in Aberdeen would be a shootout for a spot in the semifinals.
The 2021 Premier League champion defeated 102 in the fourth and final leg of his quarterfinal, and he maintained the lead the entire time to defeat Masters champion Dobey 6-3 in the semifinals.
Van Gerwen defeated Price with a commanding 6-2 victory in a top-notch quarterfinal to end Price’s run of five straight defeats. The Dutchman made six doubles on ten tries, and both players averaged over 103.
Wright and Van den Bergh lost in the quarterfinals, ending their slim chances of making it to the Play-Offs. Both teams had a 2-0 lead before losing to Clayton and Dobey, respectively.
With two league nights remaining and Clayton and Aspinall almost certain to face off on Night 16 in Aberdeen, Dobey is also unable to make the Play-Offs in his rookie campaign. He is currently ten points behind the top four.
2023 Cazoo Premier League
Night 14 – Thursday May 4
AO Arena, Manchester
Jonny Clayton 6-5 Peter Wright
Chris Dobey 6-2 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Michael Smith 6-3 Nathan Aspinall
Michael van Gerwen 6-2 Gerwyn Price
Jonny Clayton 6-3 Chris Dobey
Michael Smith 6-4 Michael van Gerwen
Michael Smith 6-3 Jonny Clayton
Night 15 – Thursday May 11
Utilita Arena, Sheffield
Gerwyn Price v Nathan Aspinall
Chris Dobey v Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen v Michael Smith
Jonny Clayton v Dimitri Van den Bergh