Baxter’s back to his best

Adrian Lewis with Ronnie Baxter
Adrian Lewis with Ronnie Baxter
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Blackpool darts ace Ronnie Baxter defeated local rival Wes Newton en route to winning his first ranking title for ten months in the first of two Players Championships in Birmingham.

Fleetwood favourite Newton was a semi-finalist in both of the weekend’s tournaments at the NIA Community Hall, where Baxter won the £6,000 first prize on Saturday.

He defeated world champion Adrian Lewis 6-3 in the final, having come back from 4-1 down in his semi against Fleetwood ace Newton to win a 6-5 thriller.

Baxter, who had earlier defeated Steve Grubb, Dennis Smith, Joe Cullen, James Hubbard and Peter Hudson, had a chance to close out his semi against Newton by winning a fifth straight leg, but thw world no.5 forced a decider and then missed two doubles himself before Baxter sealed his win.

Baxter then raced into a 3-0 lead against Lewis in the final, aided by back-to-back 13-dart finishes before Lewis traded 180s with the Blackpool star to win the fourth in the same manner. Lewis also hit a 180 in leg five, but missed the bull and two darts at double eight to hit back as Baxter finished double ten to lead 4-1.

Lewis produced a superb 11-darter to win his second leg, but another miss on the bullseye allowed Baxter to follow up another 180 with a third-dart double five to move a leg away from the win.

The pair also traded maximums in the eighth leg as Lewis produced a 14-darter to keep the match alive, but Baxter’s sixth 180 of the game pushed him clear in the next before he landed double ten for victory.

Baxter finished the final with an average of 100.55, hitting six 180s.

The win could prove vital for Baxter in his bid to qualify via the ProTour Order of Merit for next month’s World Matchplay in his home town, cementing his place amongst the 16 qualifying positions.

Newton followed up his run to the quarter-finals of the Speedy Services UK Open last week by reaching the semis with a narrow 6-5 win over Simon Whitlock. He had earlier beaten Kurt Van De Rijck, Gino Vos, Ross Smith and Michael Smith.

Newton was a semi-finalist again in yesterday’s second Players Championship only for Whitlock to avenge the previous day’s defeat 6-3.

That earned the Australian an appointment with Michael van Gerwen in the final but the young Dutchman reeled off the first five legs on his way to a 6-1 triumph.

Newton had edged a 6-5 quarter-final win over Darren Webster that was only sealed by a 95 finish on the bullseye in the deciding leg.

The Fleetwood favourite had earlier beaten Stephen Hardy, Michael Barnard and John Henderson after a first-round bye.

There was to be no repeat of Saturday’s success for Baxter, beaten 6-3 by Ronnie Howson in the third round after wins over Prakash Jiwa and Gary Butcher.

n BAXTER, Newton and pals are bound for the Ally Pally for three more years.

The Professional Darts Corporation has extended its contract to stage its blue riband event, the Ladbrokes World Darts Championship, at London’s Alexandra Palace.

Since darts’ biggest tournament moved there in 2008, with the venue’s West Hall has staged the £1m event over 15 days each Christmas/New Year. 40,000 fans attended its fifth staging at Ally Pally as Lewis retained his world crown.