Four male qualifiers and two female qualifiers progressed to the draw of the Australian Darts Open after action from Moama on Monday.
Qualifier One of the Men’s Australian Darts Open got underway on Monday with some of the biggest names in Australian darts (of those not yet qualified) taking part. The round of 16 saw both David Platt (v Trent Mitchell) and Robbie King (v Shannon O’Brien) win without conceding a leg whilst Stuart Coburn (v GG Mathers) only dropped one. Michael Cassar, off the back of being announced in the Australian team on Saturday night, defeated Tony Brown 5-2. Ronald Nakata (v Dylan Oaff), Scott Hallett (v Luke Wilson) and Torin Helmore (v Michael Bajowski) all went through with 5-3 wins whilst Liam McDonnell survived a last leg decider against Dean Gibbs, throwing the winning dart to check out a total of 76 with Gibbs standing behind him needing 40.
The first quarter final (which with two qualifying at the end functioned as a semi-final in the top half of the draw) saw David Platt dismiss the challenge of Torin Helmore 5-0 whilst Ronald Nakata upset Robbie King in a 5-4 thriller in the second. All of Platt’s legs were 18 darts or less and he only gave his opponent one dart at a check out all match, with a 123 check out in the fourth game being his highest of the match. King had opened with a 14-dart leg and then had a 12-dart leg on his return to the oche, holding throw second time around with a 127 checkout. Nakata was holding firm on throw though and a 16-dart leg, where he missed the bull for a 12 darter, drew the scores level once more. King then held throw in 15 darts before Nakata left 49 after a 140 visit and then held throw with his 17th dart. King then held throw in 15 darts before a maximum saw Nakata leave 42 which he took out on his next visit. No break of throws and Naka secured the first visit to the oche in the deciding leg. He then opened with consecutive 140s and two visits later threw 137. It took him two more visits (and a 140 visit from King had the Nakata throw under pressure with King on 65) but with his 18th dart he secured the leg and a semifinal position.
Stuart Coburn defeated Liam McDonnell 5-3 in the third quarter final with both players holding their opening throw but either of the legs could have gone the other way. The same was true of the third leg where Coburn eventually held throw. He was then able to break the McDonnell throw to take a two-leg lead. McDonnell took one of the chances Coburn had presented him in the fifth leg and then held throw (although Coburn missed chances for this leg as well.) Coburn then held throw and took a break in the last leg, with McDonnell unable to put away opportunities on both those legs. The last quarter final went to another deciding leg as two stars of the Australian Championships went head-to-head with Michael Cassar winning out over Scott Hallett. Hallett opened with a 124 check out for a 15 dart hold of throw before breaking Cassar in 14. Cassar broke back immediately but 14 darts later was two legs behind once more. Hallett then held throw after Cassar left eight on the board after attempting a 72 check out. 4-1 down in a race to five and the hold of throw by Cassar in the sixth leg looked like being valiant in defeat but breaking the Hallett throw in 18 darts in the next leg started to make it look like something else might be slowly brewing. Despite busting 18 in the next leg Cassar held throw and the scores were level in the blink of an eye. Cassar then won the throw for the deciding leg and 17 darts later he had pulled off a most fantastic comeback and was into the semi-finals.
David Platt broke the Coburn throw in the first game of their qualifying final, set up by an opening 140 visit and a 137 two visits later. When Coburn failed to check out 36 Platt pounced with tops putting him a leg in front. He then held throw in 16 darts to move two legs up. Coburn picked up his check out game in the next leg and held throw in 17 darts before Platt held throw in 18 (having set up his successful check out score of 88 with a 122 visit.) Coburn then replicated his 17 dart hold of throw from leg three and then secured his finest leg, a 15 darter, with a 102 check out. He had dragged the match back on to equal terms only for Platt to be back in front in 12 darts. Visits of 140, 140, 121 and a 100 check out gave Platt a comfortable break of throw. Coburn had to take the break back to move the match into a deciding leg. Two 140 visits from him left him on 66. Platt threw 140 to leave 36, putting extra pressure on his opponent. Coburn missed his check out by twenty and Platt stepped up and converted his check out with last dart in hand, thus securing a place in the finals draw.
Platt would be joined by Ronald Nakata in the open field after Michael Cassar’s run came to a shuddering halt at the hands of Nakata at the final hurdle. The Cassar throw was broken at the first attempt in 13 darts before missed check out darts from the Victorian was punished by Nakata as he secured a 70 check out to hold throw. He then broke once more before holding throw, both legs going to 21 darts. A maximum two visits from the end set Nakata up to take the match and a double nine with his 19th dart was enough to give him the win and the man from Port Hedland was off to the main Australian Darts Open draw alongside West Australian colleague Platt.
The ladies first qualifier for the Australian Darts Open saw the two positions determined in battles between Kiwis and Aussies with the final score 1-1. The qualifier saw final 16 results go the way of Tara Mears (4-3 over NSW’s Sarah Harrison), Gemma Leonard (4-0 over Abbey Morrison), Jules Taylor (4-1 over Melissa Harrison), Amanda Loch (also 4-1 this time over Melita Ford), Desi Mercer (4-1 over Shantell Collings), Janine Cassar (4-2 over Jodie Oakley), Lyn Morrison (4-2 over Andrea Hendley) and Maureen Homer (4-2 over Karen Councillor.)
The quarter finals (really the semi finals as the two finalists would not play off as both would go through to the main draw) did not end up close affairs. The closest was the Loch and Taylor affair. That saw both players open with two holds of throw with Loch checking out 104 in the third leg before spurning opportunities at a break of throw in the fourth. Loch then held throw to place the pressure on Taylor to hold throw and put the match into a deciding leg. She had a shot at 85 and left 20 as Loch moved to 40. Taylor then left ten trying to check out 20 and Loch stepped up and through tops with her 22nd dart to win the match 4-2.
The other three matches finished 4-1 in that round. Leonard held throw in the opening of her match with Kiwi Mears but then dropped four straight legs without having a shot at anything but distant check out opportunities. Janine Cassar broke the Mercer throw in the opening leg of their match after the Kiwi failed to capitalise on a 28 check out for two visits. Mercer broke straight back after Cassar left 8 attempting to check out 37. Mercer then checked out 126 to clearly win the next leg on throw before she jumped on poor finishing from Cassar in the next leg to be a leg away from the match. The last leg saw Mercer give her opponent a shot at the leg she should never have had but with Cassar leaving eight Mercer finally checked out the leg and the match.
The first qualifying final (/semifinal) saw Mercer break the Morrison throw immediately in a clear statement of intent. She then held throw in 16 darts and in a flash she was 2-0 up. When Mercer did fail to check out in the third leg Morrison was in a position to pounce and collect a leg. Mercer then held throw to move back into a two-leg lead. Despite missing three darts at tops on her penultimate visit Morrison was presented the opportunity to return to the oche when Mercer only scored 32 chasing 70 for the match. Morrison accepted the chance to get the 40 needed although it was a nervous last dart in hand that did the job. Mercer was in no mood for anymore, though, and comfortably held throw to win the match 4-2.
One up for the Kiwis but Australian player Amanda Loch was not going to let another Kiwi progress as she dismissed the Tara Mears challenge in five legs. Loch dropped the opening leg of the match before a 68 check out (under intense pressure after Mears threw 135 to leave 40) from Loch tied things back up. Loch then held throw although had to survive some nervous moments caused by her taking longer than she could have to check out the leg. Leg four saw Loch do better at the checkouts as she cleaned up a break in 15 darts, including two 140 scores in the second and fourth visit, and a 120 check out to move a leg away from the Final’s draw. She comfortably held throw in 18 darts to secure the win and a place alongside the elite of Oceanic darts.
Michael Cassar put the disappointment of earlier in the day behind him as he qualified in the second qualifier of the day or the Australian Darts Open, alongside Queensland star Robbie King.
The top 16 matches saw former Australian number one Justin Thompson lose 5-4 to Laurie Loch whilst NSW’s Troy Papworth defeated Dillion Stewart 5-0. King eliminated James Johnson 5-3 and Michael Bajowski kept his good form going with a 5-1 win over Shannon O’Brien. Liam McDonnell (over Dylan Oaff 5-1), Scott Hallett (5-2 over Dale Stokes) and Cassar (5-2 over Tony Helmore) added to their wins from the previous event whilst Mick Mullaney eliminated Michael Harrison 5-3. The Cassar Mullaney match in the next round (whilst a quarter final it really determined who would be in the final eliminating match because the two winners of the semis qualified for the Open draw) was one way traffic with Cassar only conceding the first leg (on throw) and then rattling off five straight legs, dominating on his own throw and taking the opportunities presented to him against the throw.
Queenslanders Loch and King both won their matches 5-2, Loch being broken in the opening leg of his match with Papworth before breaking straight back in 14 darts. He then won three straight games before Papworth held his own throw in 14 darts. One leg later and Loch had the match. King, meanwhile, held throw but then dropped two straight legs to fall behind on the scoreboard only to rattle off four straight legs, including two 13 darters in legs five and six.
The final match in that round saw Liam McDonnell and Scott Hallett hold throw in the first four legs before McDonnell broke the Hallett throw after his opponent failed to check out 57. McDonnell could not capitalise, though, and dropped his throw immediately. He then regathered himself to secure another lead with the third successive break of throw. Again, Hallett refused to surrender and broke straight back. The deciding leg saw Hallett open the throwing but after nervous moments from McDonnell Hallett had an opportunity to check out 38 and then 19 but he busted the latter attempt to present McDonell with another dart at double one, which he took to secure a 5-4 win.
Thus, the two qualifying finals were set. Robbie King and Laurie Loch faced off as so often before whilst Michael Cassar entered his second qualifying final of the day. Cassar held throw in 21 darts and then 16 but in between McDonnell looked even better checking out 81 for a 14-dart leg. He then replicated the tally for his second half of throw before Cassar had two treble figure visits to leave 70 which he had soon checked out for a 3-2 match lead. McDonnell held throw once more, just missing a 140 finish, before Cassar comfortably held throw. In the eighth game of the match the streak of no break of throws came to a crushing end for McDonnell. Cassar threw 100, 140, 140 and 89 to leave double 32 and with McDonnell not even able to get a check out chance Cassar collected the victory with his 14-dart leg. The Australian representative had joined his teammates in the main draw of the Australian Darts Open.
King and Loch’s match was as tight as followers of the sport would expect. Loch broke the throw at the first attempt with great darts at the end of the leg. King threw 145 to leave 41 on throw before Loch stepped up to the oche and checked out 107. The checkouts were not as clean in the next leg but eventually Loch held throw before King finally got on the board in the third leg. He then broke the Loch throw with a 180-visit leaving him needing 80, a total he got with his 15th dart of the leg. Both players then held throw although Loch missed a shot at the fifth leg and King put his opponent under huge pressure with his check out darts after scoring 177 to leave 32. The run of holds continued with King taking advantage of Loch’s inability to secure ten in the seventh leg and then Loch clearly holding throw to put the match to a decider. King had the throw and started with two-ton visits before a 140 two visits later had him a firm favourite. With the 16th dart of the leg Robbie King had placed his name in the draw for the Australian Darts Open.