DARTS
PICTURE: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Phil Taylor became the first player to book his place at next month’s Betway Premier League finals night after beating bottom place Robert Thornton in Bournemouth tonight.

The six-time Premier League champion, who missed out on the end of season play-offs last year, is guaranteed to be at The O2 Arena in London on May 19, with his win over Thornton ensuring he will finish in the top four.

Despite averaging a below par 89.61, the Power picked up the two points, with two three leg bursts helping him to a comfortable win.

“I’m over the moon to be at The O2,” Taylor said. “It was the aim at the start of the season and it’s sent a message out to the rest.”

Michael van Gerwen closed the gap on Premier League leader Phil Taylor to just two points, as he beat both Peter Wright and Adrian Lewis in Bournemouth.

The world number one now just needs one point from his last three games to be assured of a place in the play-offs, having made a big step towards qualification with two victories at the Bournemouth International Centre.

In the opening game of the night, MVG had just too much for Wright, winning with a 103.38 average in a comfortable 7-2 win.

Van Gerwen won the opening two legs before Wright broke back with a 70 checkout in leg three, but that would be as good as it got for the recent Coral UK Open finalist, as MVG won five of the next seven legs to run out a clear winner.

The Dutchman returned on the stage to take on Lewis in a topsy-turvy encounter between two former world champions.

Van Gerwen hit two double tops for a 100 checkout to go 4-1 in front, before Lewis hit back with a brilliant 142 checkout getting him back on level terms at 4-4.

Jackpot then spurned missed darts at doubles to continue his winning streak, with MVG taking the next two legs to go 6-4 up.

The Dutchman missed four match darts to get the win in leg 11, but got the job done in the final leg.

“Getting the four points was the most important thing,” he said.

Gary Anderson squandered six match darts as James Wade came from 6-3 behind to snatch a share of the points in Bournemouth.

In an exciting contest between the two former Premier League champions, it looked like the current holder Anderson was going to come out on top.

An 81 checkout gave the Scot a 6-3 lead, but in the next leg the Flying Scotsman missed two darts at doubles to wrap up the victory.

Wade stepped in to gain the first of two breaks needed to rescue a draw, with the second of those coming in the final leg after Anderson missed four more darts.

“I’m really happy with the point,” Wade said. “I think the draw was about right.”

Raymond van Barneveld’s hopes of reaching the play-offs this season were given a boost after a 7-4 win over Lewis.

The Dutchman is four points adrift of Jackpot in the fourth and final play-off place, with the pair both having just three Premier League fixtures left before the finals night at The O2 Arena.

After beating Robert Thornton last week in Belfast, Barney made it back-to-back wins for the first time this season, with checkouts of 141 and 110 securing him a vital win over Lewis.

The opening five legs all went with throw, before van Barneveld claimed a crucial break of throw in the sixth leg.

Barney produced a 12 darter with a 180 setting up a 141 checkout, which he took out on his next visit to go 4-2 up.

The Dutchman made it three legs in a throw with double eight securing him a hold of throw to make it 5-2, before the 2014 Premier League champion then missed four darts to continue his good run in the eighth leg.

Lewis came back to reduce the deficit to 5-3, but a 110 checkout soon regained van Barneveld’s three leg cushion at 6-3.

Jackpot kept his hopes of gaining a point alive by holding throw in leg 10, but the Dutchman wrapped up the victory in the next leg.

“It’s a good two points,” van Barneveld said. “If I keep on winning matches then maybe I can still get into the top four but I’ve got to see how it goes from week to week.”

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