WES Newton cruised into the unchartered territory that is the second round of darts’ Sky Bet Mobile World Matchplay at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, where 11-time champion Phil Taylor can count himself a little fortunate to join him.
Fleetwood ace Newton picked up his first victory in his fifth appearance in the event last night as he stormed to a 10-2 win over Andy Smith, but the drama was in the previous match in which the defending champion survived a huge scare against Mark Hylton.
Hylton, the emerging left-hander from Staffordshire, led ‘The Power’ 3-1 early on and hit back from 9-5 down to reduce the gap to one leg as he threatened an amazing fightback.
Hylton opened the 18th leg with a 180, but when he was unable to finish 121 Taylor held his nerve to secure a narrow victory as he seeks to claim his first major televised title of the year.
Newton had no such problems, winning the first six legs without reply to take command of against Smith.
“It’s been a long time coming and I’m delighted to win,” said Newton. “It wasn’t the best game you’ll ever see but I am in the next round and fighting for the title.”
Smith’s Winter Gardens record was even worse than Newton’s and the Pieman from Worcestershire’s nightmare continued with a sixth straight first-round exit.
In-form world No.8 Newton, a major finalist for the first time at last month’s Speedy Hire UK Open in Bolton, broke in the opening leg on double ten, and a 57 finish in the second leg saw him take command before two misses from Smith allowed him back in to hit double nine for a 3-0 cushion.
The 33-year-old, who became a father six weeks ago, also won the fourth leg with another double ten finish, and then landed a 180 in a 14-darter to win the fifth and took out 84 on the bull to move six legs clear.
Smith finally got off the mark in the next, finishing 127 on the bullseye, but after Newton won the eighth on tops a further two misses allowed the home favourite in to move 8-1 up.
Smith posted a maximum in the tenth leg but Newton’s 67 for a 14-darter took him to the brink of victory, and although he missed three match darts in the next leg, four ton-plus scores pushed him clear in the 12th before he sealed victory on double eight.
Newton now faces Justin Pipe in the last of the second round matches on Thursday, after the 39-year-old from Taunton knocked out world No.9 Mervyn King 10-6.
King, who has been suffering with tennis elbow, led 4-2 and 5-4 but Pipe won six of the final seven legs to secure his first-ever televised victory.
But it was the most famous face in televised darts which was showing most signs of relief. After world No.1 Taylor’s close call against Hylton, the defending champions said: “Mark came back well at me, and when he hit that 180 in the last leg I was thinking we were going have a tie-breaker! I’ve got a lot of improvement in me yet and I’ll prepare well to play Wayne Jones on Thursday.”
Jones won through with a 10-6 victory over another debutant, Coventry’s Scott Rand.
The first round concludes tonight with four matches, including Premier League champion Gary Anderson v Andy Hamilton. Blackpool’s Ronnie Baxter is first up against Denis Ovens.