STEPHEN BUNTING produced a superb display to whitewash Michael Smith 6-0 in the second round of the Dutch Darts Masters in Zwolle on Saturday.
The battle between the two St Helens stars saw Bunting post a stunning 106.09 average, which included a 103 checkout.
The former-Premier League man hit two 12-dart legs and three 14-dart legs as he raced into a 5-0 lead against a shell-shocked Smith.
A nervy final leg saw Smith miss a dart to register a leg on the board, before Bunting got the job done to set up a clash with Krzysztof Ratajski in round three.
“I think that’s probably the best I’ve ever played,” said Bunting, who is hoping to land a maiden European Tour title.
“I truly believe I am playing better than I ever have done in my life.
“It’s taken me a long time to get back to being comfortable playing in front of these amazing crowds, and long may it continue.
“I’m really looking forward to playing tomorrow and seeing how far I can go.”
Ratajski toppled Dutch crowd favourite Jelle Klaasen 6-2 to claim his first European Tour win of 2018.
Klaasen started well as he went into a 2-0 lead, before Ratajski reeled off six straight legs to seal his place in the third round.
Michael van Gerwen thrilled his adoring Dutch crowd with a resounding 6-0 whitewash win over Terry Jenkins.
The world number one was too hot to handle for Jenkins, as he looks to win the tournament for a fifth successive year.
Van Gerwen praised the Zwolle crowd for the red-hot atmosphere, and he will be hoping for more of the same tomorrow afternoon when he faces Darren Webster in round three.
Webster fired in three 180s en route to a 6-4 win against Steve Beaton to seal his place in the final day of the European Tour for the fifth time this year.
The Norfolk thrower hit an impressive 105 checkout to move into a 3-1 lead but the game was nip-and-tuck throughout, until Webster sealed the deal with a strong finish.
Cameron Menzies produced the performance of the afternoon session with a win over eighth seed Dave Chisnall 6-4.
The Scottish ace fired in three 180s as he progressed to the final day of a European Tour event for the first time.
Both players held throw in a tight opening seven legs, before Menzies broke the Chisnall throw to go within a leg of victory at 5-3.
The Challenge Tour star missed darts to win the match in the next leg, before getting the job done in the following leg with a 90 finish, and he will now face Kyle Anderson in round three.
“It’s an amazing feeling to reach the final day of a European Tour event for the first time,” said Menzies, who sank to his knees after hitting the winning double.
“When your luck’s going your way, you need to make the most of it and ride the waves of success.
“I’ve known Dave for a long time, he’s a great guy and a great player so to beat him on this stage is a proud moment for me.”
Anderson secured a comfortable 6-3 victory over Ian White in the final game of the afternoon session to continue his quest for a maiden European Tour title.
The Auckland Masters champion hit a stunning 170 finish to take a 3-2 lead, which proved to be a turning point as the Australian cruised to victory.
Peter Wright had to fend off a comeback from James Wilson to secure a 6-4 triumph.
The Scotland World Cup star hit checkouts of 131 and 116 as he played his way to a comfortable 4-1 lead, before a determined Wilson fought his way back to 5-4.
Wilson missed a chance to level with a 102 attempt, before Wright pounced to finish the job with his last dart in hand to set up a mouth-watering round three battle with Gerwyn Price.
Price kept Welsh hopes alive in the tournament with a tense 6-5 triumph over Dragutin Horvat.
The Premier League star hit a 110 checkout to level the match at 3-3, then took control to go into a 5-3 lead but ended up surviving a match dart to see off the last German player in the event.
After Horvat missed a dart at tops, Price stepped in to tidy up 20 with one dart and book his place in the third round.
Simon Whitlock earned a hard-fought 6-4 win over Jan Dekker in a thrilling start to the evening session.
The Australian number one fired in six maximums as he raced into a commanding 4-1 lead before crowd favourite Dekker pulled it back to 4-4.
Whitlock stemmed the tide with a crucial break of throw to go within a leg of victory, before sealing his path to round three where he will face Mensur Suljovic.
Suljovic had to fight to the end in his 6-5 win over Josh Payne as he continues his pursuit of a first European Tour title.
The Champions League of Darts winner started well as he took a 2-1 lead, only for Payne, who was playing in his second European Tour event of the year, to fight back and go within a leg of victory at 5-4 up.
Suljovic broke the Payne throw to level at 5-5, before a dramatic final leg saw the Austrian find double eight with his last dart in hand to book his place in round three.
Daryl Gurney posted an impressive 102.06 average as he defeated an improving Cristo Reyes 6-4.
The World Grand Prix champion hit a 107 finish as he surged into a 4-1 lead, before surviving a fightback from the Spaniard to set up a meeting with Mervyn King in round three.
King staved off a comeback from Ryan Joyce as he eventually wrapped up a 6-5 win.
The four-time major finalist was averaging over 100 as he went into a comfortable 5-1 lead, only for European Tour debutant Joyce to reduce the deficit to 5-4.
A relieved King eventually got the job done to seal his path to round three.
Jermaine Wattimena raised the roof with a 6-3 victory over seventh seed Joe Cullen.
Finishing proved the difference between the two rapid throwers as the Dutch crowd favourite pulled away at the end of the match.
Wattimena rattled of the final three legs in quick succession to set up a meeting with Kim Huybrechts on Sunday afternoon.
Huybrechts was delighted with his 6-2 win over Wayne Jones in the opening game of the afternoon session.
The Belgian claimed his first European Tour win of 2018 in impressive style, hitting a stunning 149 checkout as he raced into a 3-0 lead before finishing off a resounding win in style.
James Richardson recorded a 6-3 victory over 14th seed John Henderson to reach the final day of action in his first European Tour appearance of the year.
The Rushden thrower beat Henderson for the second time on the European Tour stage thanks to some ruthless finishing, hitting six doubles from ten attempts.
Richardson went ahead in the third leg and held the lead for the rest of the game to set up a third round match with Steve Lennon, who received a bye to the third round after Rob Cross pulled out on medical grounds.
The Dutch Darts Masters will be broadcast throughout the weekend for PDCTV-HD Subscribers , and through a series of bookmakers' websites worldwide.
2018 Dutch Darts Masters
Saturday May 12
Afternoon Session (1.15pm local time, 12.15pm BST)
Kim Huybrechts 6-2 Wayne Jones
John Henderson 3-6 James Richardson
Gerwyn Price 6-5 Dragutin Horvat
Mervyn King 6-4 Ryan Joyce
Joe Cullen 3-6 Jermaine Wattimena
Dave Chisnall 4-6 Cameron Menzies
Ian White 3-6 Kyle Anderson
Bye - Steve Lennon (Rob Cross withdrew)
Evening Session (7.15pm local time, 6.15pm BST)
Simon Whitlock 6-4 Jan Dekker
Mensur Suljovic 6-5 Josh Payne
Michael Smith 0-6 Stephen Bunting
Peter Wright 6-4 James Wilson
Jelle Klaasen 2-6 Krzysztof Ratajski
Daryl Gurney 6-4 Cristo Reyes
Michael van Gerwen 6-0 Terry Jenkins
Darren Webster 6-4 Steve Beaton
Sunday May 13
(1pm local time, 12pm BST)
Steve Lennon v James Richardson
Mensur Suljovic v Simon Whitlock
Jermaine Wattimena v Kim Huybrechts
Peter Wright v Gerwyn Price
Stephen Bunting v Krzysztof Ratajski
Daryl Gurney v Mervyn King
Cameron Menzies v Kyle Anderson
Michael van Gerwen v Darren Webster
Evening Session (7.15pm local time, 6.15pm BST)
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