The 2014 Premier League Darts campaign came to a head at London's O2 Arena on Thursday evening, where Raymond van Barneveld was crowned an unlikely champion in England's capital.
Having finished the regular season in second position, Van Barneveld defied the odds to take Michael van Gerwen's seat atop the darts summit and claim his first Premier League title.
Read on for a breakdown of how matters unfolded at The O2, along with reaction to "Barney" and his dramatic surge back into the spotlight.
|2014 Premier League Darts Table Results|
|1||Michael van Gerwen||16||11||2||3||24|
|2||Raymond van Barneveld||16||7||6||3||20|
Raymond van Barneveld 10-6 Michael van Gerwen
After six failed attempts at making his way through the Premier League darts semi-finals, Van Barneveld had already recorded a massive achievement in setting up his final opposite "Mighty Mike" in London.
However, things began ominously for the underdog as world No. 1 Van Gerwen opened up his final account strongly, winning the first leg in 13 darts.
From there, the trailing party soon found his stride as the scoreline told the tale of a back-and-forth affair, with Van Barneveld first going 3-1 up before being pegged back at 5-5.
It was here that Van Barneveld claimed a pivotal lead in the match, winning four consecutive legs to go 9-5 up as both superstars showed clinical form on the biggest Premier League stage of all. PDC Darts World shows just how accurate the pair were in their endeavours:
Van Gerwen did look to pull matters back with a 110-checkout to win his sixth leg, but it was all for nought as the older of the two held his nerve to finish on a double-10 bed.
With the Premier League title and £150,000 prize money in tow, wild-card selection Van Barneveld spoke to the official PDC website after his victory:
This means the world to me - I can't describe how happy I am. I've worked really hard this season and every week was tough, but I really enjoyed it. The Premier League is something else because you're playing with the best players in the world every week, in the best venues in the UK and Ireland.
Nine years ago I joined the PDC and got a Wildcard to play in the Premier League and I thought this was the best event in the world - but I've never been able to get past the semi-finals! This year, the PDC and Sky believed in me and gave me a Wildcard, and finally I've got into the final and I've won the whole thing. Beating Phil and Michael in one night is fantastic.
Earlier in the evening, the Dutch duo clinched their places in the final, with Van Gerwen scraping victory over Gary Anderson, while Phil Taylor fell to Van Barneveld.
Michael van Gerwen 8-7 Gary Anderson
A tight affair was to be expected of these two bastions, granted, but fans may have been surprised to see just how close matters were between Van Gerwen and Anderson, with no more than a leg ever separating the scoreline.
However, the Scot remained vigilant in defeat, telling the official PDC website:
I hit some silly scores at the wrong time early on but I broke his throw and got ahead and then let him back in. Michael's the world number one and World Champion and I've taken him to the final leg, so it's not too bad. I've enjoyed the Betway Premier League this year but I've still got probably 20 percent improvement in me. I'll dust myself off now and head to Crawley this weekend, and start again!
Anderson was right to be proud, too, having hit four 180s compared to Van Gerwen's two, but it was a lack of scoring consistency across the board that ultimately let him down at the semi-final stage.
Raymond van Barneveld 8-5 Phil Taylor
As if his title triumph wasn't enough, this was also the first time that Van Barneveld had beaten Taylor on the Premier League stage in seven meetings.
And there were crucial lapses in concentration on behalf of "The Power," who sailed into a 4-1 lead but perhaps let complacency seep in as he swiftly slumped to a 6-4 deficit.
In the end, it was the difference in finishing that told the story of Van Barneveld's semi-final upset, as PDC Darts World shows the Dutchman's checkout percentage to have been far superior to that of his rival:
Stoke's Taylor wasn't able to recover from such a setback, and after he nailed a double-16 finish to put the scores at 6-5, Barney moved out of reach, claiming back-to-back legs to seal his spot in the final.
Van Barneveld will take the time to revel in this most recent success, having soared to Premier League heights previously unknown to him, but the PDC calendar won't allow for too much pause for reflection.
The European Tour and Players Championship each continue in the days to come, but the next big event which Barney can look forward to is the bwin World Cup of Darts, where he'll team up with defeated finalist Van Gerwen to form the Netherlands' competing party.
There, the two giants of the industry will seek to assert their presence as not just great individual talents but as a worldly couple, too, making a duo that's bound to strike fear into those other participating nations.
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