Michael Smith made the perfect start to the 2024 BetMGM Premier League season on Thursday, defeating home favourite Gerwyn Price to triumph on Night One in Cardiff.
Smith laid down an early marker with a trio of brilliant victories at the Utilita Arena, defeating reigning champion Michael van Gerwen, teenage sensation Luke Littler and Price to cap off a terrific evening’s work.
The 2023 World Champion edged out Van Gerwen and Littler in last-leg shoot-outs to progress to Thursday’s showpiece, where he celebrated an emphatic 6-2 win over the Welshman.
Smith had punished a poor deciding-leg from Van Gerwen to prevail in the evening’s third quarter-final, before defying six 180s and a 105 average from Littler to set up a showdown against Price.
The Welshman – a runner-up in last year’s Premier League – drew first blood in the final with a clinical 80 finish on tops, before Smith responded with a three-leg burst to seize control of the contest at 3-1.
The world number three continued his charge with consecutive 120 and 107 combinations to move to the cusp of glory, although Price preserved his hopes with a 100 checkout in leg seven to double his tally.
However, the St Helens star responded by crashing in his fifth 180 to close in on victory, and he capped off a dominant display with a 13-darter to round off a statement performance.
“I’m really happy to win,” admitted Smith, who finished second in last year’s league phase.
“My game wasn’t where I would love it to be, but winning is winning and I love to do it.
“I think Night 15 in last year’s Premier League was my last win on tour, so after six months of hard work, it does feel really satisfying to get that momentum going again.
“My scoring wasn’t at its best, but I was putting everything together at the right time, when I needed it the most, and that was my statement to myself tonight.”
Price was unable to make it back-to-back nightly wins in Cardiff, but he walked away with three points courtesy of wins over Nathan Aspinall and Rob Cross.
Price toppled Aspinall in last year’s final in the Welsh capital, and he continued from where he left off by sealing a 6-4 victory over the World Matchplay champion in the last eight.
The 38-year-old recovered from a sluggish start to deny a resilient Aspinall, converting 124 and 120 checkouts and producing a mid-match burst of 13, 12 and 13-dart legs to move through to the last four.
Price then powered past 2019 runner-up Cross in a high-quality semi-final tussle, reeling off the last four legs without reply to progress with a 101 average.
Elsewhere, Littler produced a brace of ton-topping averages on his Premier League bow, avenging his World Championship defeat to Luke Humphries with a resounding 6-2 victory in the quarter-finals.
The World Youth Champion also impressed in an absorbing semi-final showdown against Smith, rallying from 4-2 adrift with legs of 12, 14 and 13 darts, only to miss a match dart in a dramatic finale.
Cross, meanwhile, marked his return to the Premier League fold with a two-point haul in Cardiff, running out a 6-3 winner against two-time World Champion Peter Wright in the evening’s opening quarter-final.
The BetMGM Premier League continues on Thursday February 8, as Price and Smith collide in a repeat of tonight’s final on Night Two at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin.
Elsewhere, Littler and Cross lock horns, Van Gerwen takes on Aspinall in the evening’s opener, while Humphries and Wright also collide.
2024 BetMGM Premier League
Night One – Utilita Arena, Cardiff
Thursday February 1
Rob Cross 6-3 Peter Wright
Gerwyn Price 6-4 Nathan Aspinall
Michael Smith 6-5 Michael van Gerwen
Luke Littler 6-2 Luke Humphries
Gerwyn Price 6-2 Rob Cross
Michael Smith 6-5 Luke Littler
Michael Smith 6-2 Gerwyn Price
Night Two – Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin
Thursday February 8
Nathan Aspinall v Michael van Gerwen
Michael Smith v Gerwyn Price
Luke Littler v Rob Cross
Luke Humphries v Peter Wright