Former champions Wales and Netherlands impressed on the opening night of the Cazoo World Cup of Darts, as host nation Germany came through a deciding-leg thriller to sink Spain in Frankfurt on Thursday.
Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton claimed Wales’ maiden World Cup crown in 2020, and they reaffirmed their title credentials with a dominant display against Philippines duo Lourence Ilagan and RJ Escaros.
The second seeds produced the performance of the night at the Eissporthalle, averaging just over 99 to set up an intriguing last 16 showdown against 2021 finalists Austria.
Price and Clayton appeared poised to run riot following a blistering start, with Clayton following up a maximum from his fellow countryman by cleaning up 84 in two darts for an 11-dart opener.
Ilagan & Escaros fought back to level at two apiece for the Philippines, but finishes of 106 and 108 from Price, sandwiched between a 13-darter, saw them run out convincing 5-2 winners.
“I’ve been doubting myself recently, so today was a big confidence boost,” admitted 2021 World Champion Price.
“We have a great bond,” Clayton added. “As long as we play our game, I think we’ve got a fantastic chance of getting our title back.”
Price and Clayton now lock horns with last year's runners-up, Mensur Suljovic and Rowby-John Rodriguez, after the Austrian duo defied a spirited fightback from Finland’s Marko Kantele and Aki Paavilainen to progress.
The Austrians suffered a mid-game slump having stormed into a 3-0 lead, but Suljovic - one of four World Cup ever-presents - sealed the deal in leg eight, having earlier almost clinched the match with a spectacular 156 checkout.
Netherlands’ new-look pairing of Danny Noppert and Dirk van Duijvenbode breezed through to round two with a whitewash win over Brazil’s Diogo Portela and Artur Valle.
Van Duijvenbode, a replacement for Michael van Gerwen - who has undergone surgery on an arm injury - produced an accomplished display alongside UK Open champion Noppert, as the Dutch duo eye a fifth World Cup crown for their nation.
Gabriel Clemens and Martin Schindler came through an epic first round encounter against Spain’s Jose Justicia and Tony Martinez to the delight of the partisan German crowd.
The seventh seeds seized the initiative midway through the contest, with Clemens' 146 finish in leg five swiftly followed by a classy 108 from Schindler in the sixth.
However, the pair then squandered ten match darts between them in an extraordinary conclusion, before Clemens regained his poise to pin double six in a breathless deciding leg which saw Spain left waiting on 24.
“I have no words. It’s amazing. I am so happy,” said Clemens, the German number one.
“It is a lot of pressure because you want to win for the fans, but I hope we have a full crowd on Saturday, and hopefully we can have another great game.”
Daryl Gurney vowed to lead Northern Ireland to World Cup glory alongside Brendan Dolan, after they survived a scare to see off Gibraltar’s vibrant young pairing of Justin Hewitt and Craig Galliano.
With a combined age of just 40, Hewitt and Galliano revelled in the partisan atmosphere at the Eissporthalle, restoring parity at three apiece to threaten an unlikely triumph.
However, a magical seventh leg from Gurney turned the tide, with the 36-year-old following up a maximum with a stunning 135 checkout on the bull to set up a 5-3 success.
“I’ve been telling everybody all week, we are going to win it,” insisted Gurney, a two-time TV title winner.
“I’ve got one of the best gentlemen, one of the best dart players in the world playing alongside me. I would absolutely love to win the World Cup with Brendan.”
Elsewhere, 2019 finalists William O’Connor and Steve Lennon will play Noppert and Van Duijvenbode for a last eight spot, after the Republic of Ireland opened their campaign with a routine 5-2 win over Canada’s Jeff Smith and Matt Campbell.
The Irish pair landed back-to-back 16-darters to establish an early 2-0 cushion, before O’Connor followed up a clinical 83 kill on the bull in leg four by wrapping up proceedings inside 14 darts.
“It was tough. Steve played absolutely brilliantly there. I’m over the moon,” reflected a confident O’Connor.
“If Steve can keep doing what he’s doing and I can start doing what I can do, there’s very few that can stop us.”
New Zealand’s Ben Robb and Warren Parry made a winning start in their first appearance as a partnership, battling past Switzerland’s Stefan Bellmont and Thomas Junghans in a hard-fought tie.
The 2019 quarter-finalists recovered from an edgy start to draw level inside 13 darts, and Robb capped off a solid debut by pinning tops to set up a showdown against sixth seeds Gurney and Dolan.
In the tournament’s curtain-raiser, Danish duo Vladimir Andersen & Andreas Toft Jörgensen eased past Singapore’s Paul Lim and Harith Lim to book a meeting with hosts Germany in round two.
Andersen produced an impressive display to spearhead Denmark to a first World Cup win since 2016, wrapping up an emphatic victory with a 112 finish.
The first round concludes on Friday night in Frankfurt, as reigning champions Peter Wright and John Henderson open Scotland’s bid for a third World Cup title against Hong Kong.
Michael Smith and James Wade join forces as four-time winners England take on Czech Republic, while former runners-up Australia and Belgium also begin their campaigns.
Click here for match stats and results.
2022 Cazoo World Cup of Darts
Thursday June 16 (1900 local time)
First Round x8
Denmark 5-2 Singapore
New Zealand 5-3 Switzerland
Republic of Ireland 5-2 Canada
Austria 5-3 Finland
Northern Ireland 5-3 Gibraltar
Wales 5-2 Philippines
Germany 5-4 Spain
Netherlands 5-0 Brazil
Friday June 17 (1900 local time)
First Round x8
Latvia v Hungary
Poland v USA
Sweden v South Africa
Portugal v Italy
Australia v Lithuania
England v Czech Republic
Scotland v Hong Kong
Belgium v Japan
Best of nine legs Doubles
Saturday June 18
Afternoon Session (1300 local time)
Second Round x4
Northern Ireland v New Zealand
Netherlands v Republic of Ireland
Wales v Austria
Germany v Denmark