Emotional Joe Cullen secures second PDC Pro Tour title by winning Players Championship 16

An emotional Joe Cullen won his second PDC title of the year after beating surprise finalist Zoran Lerchbacher 6-4 in the final of Players Championship 16 on Sunday.

The world number 21 won his first ever Pro Tour title back in April with victory in Players Championship 8, and he doubled his tally yesterday as he picked up the £10,000 first prize at the Barnsley Metrodome.

The Bradford thrower had withdrawn during the European Darts Open in Leverkusen the previous weekend to return to the UK after his father suffered a heart attack, but after seeing him on the road to recovery enjoyed a memorable triumph in Barnsley.

Cullen’s route to glory began with a 6-5 win over Austria’s Rowby-John Rodrguez, before the 27-year-old then overcame Scotland’s Jamie Bain, Belgium’s Mike De Decker and Dutch ace Benito van de Pas to advance to his first Players Championship quarter-final since winning the eighth event three months ago.

Cullen then ended the great run of Nathan Aspinall with a 6-5 win in the last eight, before getting the better of Northern Ireland’s Daryl Gurney in a repeat of the Players Championship 8 final to reach the decider again.

It was the higher-ranked Cullen who made the better start in the final, with a 102 finish and an 11-darter helping him to establish a 3-0 lead.

The next two legs were shared before world number 84 Lerchbacher, aided by a 96 checkout, hit back to level at 4-4.

But Cullen regained his composure by taking out 60 in leg nine and then followed up a 180 with double 10 to seal a 6-4 win and the title.

Cullen dedicated the win to his father afterwards, admitting: “He’d be proud of me. Hopefully he’s on the mend now, he’s back home and obviously things are looking up so I wanted to do it for him.

“I’m just happy to win. I felt comfortable all day but I didn’t feel like I was playing well – I just cleaned up the doubles.

“I’ve never played Zoran before, he’s an unexpected finalist and you don’t know what to expect so I didn’t want to be complacent and I wanted to do the job.

“I think I made it harder than I should have done but I got over the line, so that’s the main thing.”

Two-time World Championship qualifier Lerchbacher had produced a day of brilliant darts to win through to his first ranking final.

The Austrian battled past Tony Newell, Robert Owen, Mark Webster and Robert Thornton to reach the quarter-finals, with all but one of those matches going to a deciding leg.

A 6-4 win over former world youth champion Keegan Brown saw Lerchbacher advance to the semi-finals, where he came from behind to edge past Steve Beaton 6-5 to progress to the final and earn £6,000 for his efforts.

The tournament was the last before the cut-off for BetVictor World Matchplay qualification, with Justin Pipe holding on to claim the final Pro Tour Order of Merit place.

Pipe’s semi-final appearance in Players Championship 15 on Saturday had moved him above Chris Dobey in the standings, with the youngster unable to recover 24 hours later as he joined Jonny Clayton, Ronny Huybrechts, Dimitri van den Bergh, Vincent van der Voort, Robbie Green and Mark Webster in missing out on Blackpool places.


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