Keegan Brown was in brilliant form in his first match. Picture by Jennifer Burton.
SOME of the world’s top darts players visited Shanklin last weekend for a fantastic night of sport and social fun as they took on the cream of the IW’s talent.
The IW Christmas Classic was, as proved in the title, a classic night of sport, as four Islanders — Keegan Brown, Tony Broughton, Jason Simpkins and Brenda Dyer — took on the might of Michael van Gerwen, Raymond van Barneveld, James Wade and Co Stompe, at Lower Hyde.
All four Islanders had the joy of winning legs against their counterparts, with Brown producing some amazing darts to defeat van Barneveld in front of a vocal crowd, although it was an all-pro final as Wade took on van Gerwen.
And what a final it was, as Wade produced some great darts to go 3-1 up in the first-to-four match, only for van Gerwen to pull some top darts out the bag to take the match 4-3.
The first action of the evening saw East Cowes player Broughton take on van Gerwen. Mighty Mike, who will challenge for the World Championship in a few weeks’ time, took the first leg but Broughton held his nerve to take the second. However the Dutchman powered ahead to eventually take the match 4-1.
Broughton said afterwards: "It was great, I wasn’t nervous at all. The stage was wobbly which was a bit off-putting but to take a leg off van Gerwen is brilliant. I’m a happy man."
Van Gerwen said: "It was a great game, and a good start for me. It’s going to be a cracking night, it’s always nice to play the local players and have a little fun, but of course I want to win!"
Next was IW ladies’ champion Dyer, who took on another Dutchman, Stompe. With plenty of support from the crowd she really forced the tie, pulling back twice to tie 2-2 — taking the second leg with bull — before Stompe came through to win 4-2.
"Once I started to settle down I had a lot of fun," said Dyer. "I don’t think I played as well as I could, there were a couple of 60s that should have been tons, but I will remember this night for a long time."
The third match was the pick of the round, as Newport talent Brown took on van Barneveld, a rematch of the final which he lost back in March in the IW Pro Masters.
Determined to reverse his fortunes, Brown hit some spectacular shots, including a 144 checkout in the first leg, and an 86 check-out with bull in the third, to take the game 4-3.
Finally, Sandown player Jason Simpkins had his moment to shine against Wade, and did a great job winning the second and fourth legs to keep things interesting. Wade showed his class late on to take the match 4-2.
Simpkins, who was praised by Wade on stage for his 100-plus average over the first two legs, said: "I really wanted to win but it has been the best experience of my life."
In the semi-finals, van Gerwen defeated Stompe 4-2, while Brown’s run came to an end against Wade, who romped to a 4-0 win.
Afterwards, Brown could not hide his disappointment.
"Wade was so clinical," he said. "I had an opportunity to check out on 161 and just missed. If I had hit that I think things might have been different. Next year I’ll be back."
John Abbotts, who helped organise the event, said: "The pro players were the stars but the IW qualifiers definitely played their part in pushing them all the way, proving they have the ability to mix with the best."
John thanked the players and everyone involved in the evening for making the event such a success.
• Pictures at our online gallery www.iwcpgallery.co.uk.