London began their first campaign in the top flight for a decade and a half with a tricky looking trip to Hampshire. The Ladies B kicked off the action with a sparkling display. Lynne Biondini (16.05) had the honour of being first to toe the oche under the new UKDA Darts Corner National League banner. After trading the first two legs, she kicked on, taking the next two in confident style without allowing her opponent darts at the double to deposit the inaugural point in the London win column. Jo Deamer (16.52) quickly doubled the advantage, hitting the first maximum of the session en route to a straight legs win. Tammy Mackenzie (18.81) gave as good as she got, and although losing in minimum time showed more than enough to suggest that she won’t be waiting too long for her first win of the campaign (writes Roger Spencer).
A break in the opening leg set Carly Townsend (18.56) on the right path as she quickly found her range on the big trebles. The rest of the game went with throw, and in leg four Townsend banged in three consecutive scores of a ton or more before completing a 16 darter to restore the two point advantage and claim the match award in the process. Nikki Patten (15.32) never knows when she is beaten, and her battling qualities came to the fore in the penultimate match of the session where every leg went with throw. A ton early in the finale put her in front and she increased the lead without being pressured at the business end. Dee Belcher (14.06) also had to go the distance. She looked to be well in control after taking the opening two legs, before being pegged back to all square with one to play. Having lost the advantage of throw, Belcher saw match darts against her missed and she punished them with a cracking 56 finish under pressure to round off a superb opening session for the visitors.
The Men’s B had been given a good platform on which to build, and they made full use of it. John Walters (22.05) was one of two players making their debut in the black shirt, and it was a happy one for him as he won in six. Liam Hill (22.67) never really got a blow in as he was swept aside in straight legs. All seven legs were needed for Ben Cheeseman (21.30), a 74 finish in the fourth brought him level after losing the first two. Despite being broken in the next, he found the scoring power when most needed, breaking back immediately before holding in the last.
This began a run of 5 straight wins for the Londoners. Matt Edes (22.35) lost the first two legs before winning four on the bounce, with a sparkling 112 finish the highlight of his win. The fifth match saw another come from behind win. Matt Winzar (22.84) was trailing after three legs, but “The Pirate” then reeled off three on the turn to capture the treasure. Danny Faulkner (24.51) kept the ball rolling, hitting a maximum in leg two but finding himself in arrears as the match began with three holds of throw. Another hold followed before he banged in a great 87 to crucially break in the fifth before finishing it off in leg six.
Chris Holt (23.62) was quickly into a three nil lead, and another London maximum sealed the deal in the fifth. Hampshire stemmed the tide, but needed all seven legs to do it. The returning Steve Ferguson (22.85) fired in a 78 to take a two nothing lead, but then lost the next three. He promptly held thrown in the penultimate leg to send it all the way but never got in a blow in the finale. The match award was then handed out, Matt Wood (27.08) was lethal on the outer ring, going two ahead courtesy of successive 86 and 81 finishes. He kept hitting the big trebles and romped to the whitewash win in a composed and clinical display.
Scott Artiss (24.92) was back in black, a 75 take out getting him off to a flier in the opener. At 3-2 ahead, a maximum seemed to leave him all set for a win, but missed doubles were his undoing as he lost the sixth and after a good first visit was always chasing in the last before going down in a close game. John Hind (18.97) was far from his best, but still had more than enough in hand for the win in five. The last word for the day went to the hosts. Steven Beasley (27.14) scored well on debut, but the difference was in the finishing. Despite that, London had to be pleased with a fine 8-4 sectional win which left them sitting pretty with a commanding 13-5 lead overnight.
The second day began with the Ladies A putting Hampshire even further behind. Juliane Birchill (22.35) traded the opening two legs, before getting into the groove on the trebles and being equally proficient at the outer segments to win in four. Mandy Solomons (19.39) lost in straight legs, but numerous missed chances in the second proved her undoing. Had she squared the match, the final outcome may have been different. Steph Stutley (22.55) took the match award in a real battle full of good scoring, and having first use of the oche in the fifth and final leg of a match that went with throw throughout saw Stutley fire home a 65 to bag the point. The hosts then ended the session by taking the remaining three points on offer. Casey Gallagher (22.94) had no answer to some inspired finishing as she lost in minimum time. A 68 finish in leg two for Deb Watling (16.68) wasn’t enough as she was seen off in four legs, and the last ladies game of the weekend went a similar duration. Shaz Deboo Costello (18.34) shared the first two legs, before Corrine Hammond showed her class in taking her second win of the weekend.
Despite losing the section 4-2, the London girls made their hosts work hard for every point in a session which highlighted all that is good about the Ladies game.
The Men’s A went into the concluding stanza in the knowledge that they only needed four victories from the twelve remaining matches to claim the win and the three bonus points. This they achieved at the earliest opportunity to leave Hampshire reeling. Nick Cocks (22.97) had to work hard, coming from 3-2 behind to secure the win. What followed was a superb exhibition of darts. Not only did Tommy Sanwell (32.91) gain the weekend award, but he also fired in the highest average throughout the Premiership as he won in six. He was scoring heavily at all times as he raced to a three nil lead, before it was reduced to a solitary leg. The sixth was simply outstanding, after an opening 41, two maximums on the trot were rounded off for the 100 finish to crown a sublime display. Dan Day (25.30) bagged the first two legs but found himself all square with three to play. He then totally dominated legs five and six, hitting his second maximum of the match in the latter as he ensured that London were guaranteed a share of the spoils with nine matches still to be played.
They didn’t have to wait too long for the overall win. Scott Marsh (26.72) fired home an 80 finish in leg two as he cantered to the point in straight legs, not allowing his opposition darts at the double at any juncture. Now it was just a matter of the final margin of victory. New Men’s Team Manager Lee Cocks (27.81) made it five wins in succession although it didn’t look that way initially, as he lost three of the first four legs. He then roared back, levelling the contest in the sixth courtesy of a smart 76 finish, and he repeated the dose on throw in the last leg shootout, cracking home another 76 checkout to keep the London momentum going. The shellshocked hosts finally got off the mark in the sixth match. David Wawrzewski (25.03) smacked in a 106 finish to take a two one lead, but never got in a blow in the next two. He returned the favour in an equally one sided sixth, and looked poised to extend the hosts misery with a break at the death. But he could only look on as the 80 finish was taken out to break Hampshire’s duck in the session.
That started a three point run of their own. Jason Gallagher (23.77) couldn’t quite recover from the early three nil deficit as he was seen off in the sixth. Will Blackwell (22.66) was then defeated in five. Conan Whitehead (25.69) steered the good ship London back on course, knocking over 66 and 92 finishes in succession as he coasted to a whitewash win.
After four legs, Lewis McGurn (23.48) looked well in control needing only one more leg for the point. His earlier good form deserted him however and the match was turned on its head before the Hampshire comeback was completed in the seventh and final leg. London then ended on a high, taking the final two points of the weekend. Ben West (31.81) highlighted the visitors dominance, an 82 finish completed a second 11 dart leg of the day for the rampant Londoners as he coasted to a facile win in minimum time following his second and third 180 scores of the match in leg four. Gene Hill (22.02) also won in straight legs, despite not showing his usual fluency he still had plenty in reserve had it been required.
So London started their UKDA Elite Premiership season with a comprehensive 23-13 win, which will have them full of confidence as they look to make it two wins out of two when they host Devon at Plumstead WMC on the weekend of 2/3 October.