Favourites perform well on opening night

The 2023 Australian Darts Open got underway on Wednesday night with the Open Group Stage 1 and it didn’t disappoint, with 12 matches thrilling a healthy crowd at the Moama Bowling Club in Moama.

Winners on the opening night included tournament big names Haupai Puha of New Zealand, world number one Aileen De Graaf, 2022 WDF World Champion Neil Duff, current defending Champion Raymond Smith, world number one Andy Baetens and the Lancashire Rose, Lisa Ashton.

In the opening match for the night, Australian Harley Kemp took on Trans-Tasman rival Jonny Tata.

After taking the opening leg convincingly, Kemp backed up his fast start in the second, and after both players registered crowd-pleasing 180’s, Kemp nailed a double six to take a 2-0 lead.

Tata bounced back taking the third and fourth legs in convincing fashion to tie the match at two legs apiece, before Kemp won the fifth to edge to a 3-2 lead. From there Tata stepped it up a notch taking the next three legs in convincing fashion to storm home to a 5-3 win – effectively winning five of the last six legs in the process.

The second match was another Trans-Tasman affair with Kiwi Wendy Harper taking on Victorian Joanne Hadley. It was a slow start for both ladies in the opening leg which went the way of Hadley before she raced away in the second to take a 2-0 lead.

Harper found her rhythm soon after to take the third leg before Hadley bounced back in the fourth winning with a double six before sealing the match in the fifth to win the match convincingly 4-1.

Australian Danny Porter was up next and he got off to a flier against his UK opponent, Carl Caton. Porter comfortably took the opening leg and though he was challenged in the second, he remained composed to close it out and then skipped to a 3-0 lead soon after.

Caton returned to form in the fourth leg to get on the board and after starting the fifth leg with a 180, Porter extended his lead to 4-1. An opening 180 in the sixth leg set Porter on his way and he stormed home to win the match 5-1.

Last year’s Australian Darts Open runner up and world number two Haupai Puha of New Zealand was next up taking on Australian Darren Carson and he made his 2023 intentions clear early.

A relaxed Puha looked like he was enjoying himself and needed a little over 20 minutes to sweep the match, knocking over the first five legs to win 5-0. It was a comprehensive display that should see him full of confidence for the rest of the tournament.

World number one Aileen De Graaf then took to the stage against Aussie Melina Van Den Kieboom and while Van Den Kieboom had her chance in the opening leg (missing 5 attempts to close the leg), De Graaf soon pounced to snatch the lead.

De Graaf was clinical racing to a 3-0 lead and while it was a drawn out fourth leg, she won it to sweep the match.

Aussie Brandon Weening came to play with a solid start against Neil Duff taking him to an opening leg win against the lead dart, before backing it up to race to a 2-0 lead nailing a double 16 with his 16th dart of the leg.

Weening had the chance to go 3-0 up before Duff swooped to get on the board, but the Aussie then made it 3-1 with his second look at a double 16 in the fourth.

Duff took out the fifth leg before an incredible three darts from Weening where he hit a triple 20, triple 20 and double 10 for the 140 check out to take a 4-2 lead.

Duff again hit back in the seventh leg and despite Weening having three match darts in the eighth, the Northern Irelander was able to capitalise by taking out the leg.

The decider was another tight battle and after Duff missed a double 20 for the win, Weening stepped up requiring 53. He hit 13 first up but couldn’t nail the double 20 allowing Duff to get out of jail with a hard fought 5-4 win.

The next match was an all Aussie affair as Tasmanian Brad Thorp ran away to 5-1 victory over Ky Smith before Aussie Ladies number one Kym Mitchell made brief work of compatriot Chrissy Sheerin winning 4-0.

World number one Andy Baetens of Belgium then took to the stage against Aussie qualifier Rob Modra, and Baetens took the opening leg convincingly before Modra hit back in the second as the match was played at a cracking pace.

Baetens turned it up a gear showing exactly why he holds the number one ranking – winning the next two legs before Modra applied some heat of his own taking the next two legs in succession. But the number one player steading winning the eight leg to run out a 5-3 victor.

Reigning Australian Open champions Raymond Smith was up next but it was Aussie countryman Aaron Morrison who took the opening leg.

That was about all she ordered for Morrison, as Smith then went on a tear taking the next five legs unanswered to finish up winning 5-1.

Next up was the Lancashire Rose Lisa Ashton against a Kiwi opponent in Nicole Regnaud.

Ashton won the opening leg before Regnaud levelled the match at one apiece. She had chances throughout the remainder of the clash, but Ashton had all the answers – finishing clinically to win 4-1.

The final match of the night saw Aussie number one Peter Machin take on countryman Karl Schaefer, and it was Machin who drew first blood with the first leg before skipping to a 3-1 lead.

But Schaefer soon found his rhythm winning the next two legs to draw level at three legs each with the crowd enthusiastically enjoying the comeback.

It was short lived however as Machin rallied to win the next two legs and run out a 5-3 winner.

Don’t forget you can watch every minute of action from each day of the 2023 Australian Darts Open via the Darts Australia event hub.

You can also stay up to date with schedules, results, news and more by heading to the hub via: https://dartsaustralia.com/2023-australian-darts-open/

Wednesday Group Stage 1 Results:

Jonny Tata (NZ) beat Harley Kemp (AUS) 5-3
Joanne Hadley (AUS) beat Wendy Harper (NZ) 4-1
Danny Porter (AUS) beat Carl Caton (UK) 5-1
Haupai Puha (NZ) beat Darren Carson (AUS) 5-0
Aileen De Graaf (NED) beat Melina Van Den Kieboom (AUS) 4-0
Neil Duff (N.IRE) beat Brandon Weening (AUS) 5-4
Brad Thorp (AUS) beat Ky Smith (AUS) 5-1
Kym Mitchell (AUS) beat Chrissy Sheerin (AUS) 4-0
Andy Baetens (NED) beat Rob Modra (AUS) 5-3
Raymond Smith (AUS) beat Aaron Morrison (AUS) 5-1
Lisa Ashton (ENG) beat Nicole Regnaud (NZ) 4-1
Peter Machin (AUS) beat  Karl Schaefer (AUS) 5-3