Rowby-John Rodriguez dumped out Danny Noppert in a dramatic deciding-leg on the opening night of the Interwetten European Darts Matchplay, to set up a second round showdown against top seed Gerwyn Price in Trier.
Rodriguez survived four match darts over the course of three legs as he fought back from 5-3 down to edge out UK Open champion Noppert, as the £140,000 event kicked off on Friday.
The pair exchanged ton-plus finishes in the early stages before Noppert seized the initiative with back-to-back 14-darters, but the Dutchman was unable to complete the job, as Rodriguez kept his cool to prevail with a clinical two-dart 78 kill in the decider.
World Championship quarter-finalist Callan Rydz produced a superb display of combination finishing to deny Jon Worsley a maiden European Tour victory.
Rydz opened his account with a double-double 96 finish, before firing in 124 and 125 checkouts to complete a 6-3 success, with seventh seed Damon Heta now awaiting Rydz in an intriguing tie.
Polish teenager Sebastian Bialecki claimed a landmark first win on the European Tour stage, conjuring up a brace of ton-plus finishes to dethrone the veteran Mervyn King.
King drew first blood with a spectacular 11-darter, but UK Open quarter-finalist Bialecki rallied, following up a 112 outshot with a 14-darter to set up a second round match against Stephen Bunting.
Cameron Menzies produced the performance of the first round, averaging 101 in a 6-3 success against Niels Zonneveld, and he will now face Luke Humphries, who is eyeing his fourth European Tour title of 2022.
Host-nation qualifiers Florian Hempel and Lukas Wenig delighted the partisan crowd at Arena Trier with wins over Bradley Brooks and Steve Lennon respectively, although Dragutin Horvat was convincingly beaten by Latvia’s Madars Razma.
Wenig advances to face Chris Dobey, while Hempel will play an in-form Dimitri Van den Bergh in a repeat of their World Championship tussle last December.
Three-time European Tour event winner Ian White will play defending champion Joe Cullen for a place at Finals Day, firing in successive 14-darters to wrap up an emphatic 6-1 win over Joe Murnan.
German Darts Grand Prix runner-up Martin Lukeman will lock horns with second seed Ryan Searle in round two, after recording a hard-fought 6-4 win over John Michael in Friday night’s opener.
Elsewhere, Scott Williams defied a superb comeback from Poland’s Radek Szaganski to set up a mouth-watering clash against Jonny Clayton for a place in Sunday’s third round.
Players Championship 17 winner Williams led 3-0 and 5-2, but Szaganski responded with a brace of 12-darters to force a decider, only for the Englishman to seal his progression with a 16-dart hold.
Wesley Plaisier produced another inspired big stage display to come through a high-quality clash against Jamie Hughes, continuing his fine form on the European Tour.
The Dutchman took out a stunning 167 checkout in leg three, before wrapping up a 6-4 success with a 111 combination, and his reward is a second round tie against fourth seed Jose De Sousa.
Jermaine Wattimena eased through to a second round date against eighth seed Nathan Aspinall, dispatching European Tour debutant Ross Montgomery 6-1 earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, James Wilson opened Friday’s action with a battling 6-3 win over Sweden’s Johan Engstrom to create a showdown against Rob Cross, a three-time finalist on the European Tour in 2022.
Jeffrey de Zwaan, Luke Woodhouse and German number one Gabriel Clemens will begin their campaigns on Saturday, after receiving byes through to round two following the withdrawals of Peter Wright, Michael van Gerwen and Michael Smith.
Saturday’s second round will see the 16 seeds enter the fray, including top seed Price and defending champion Cullen, before the tournament concludes with a blockbuster double session on Sunday.
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2022 Interwetten European Darts Matchplay
Friday July 1
James Wilson 6-3 Johan Engstrom
Jermaine Wattimena 6-1 Ross Montgomery
Wesley Plaisier 6-4 Jamie Hughes
Scott Williams 6-5 Radek Szaganski
Cameron Menzies 6-3 Niels Zonneveld
Ian White 6-1 Joe Murnan
Martin Lukeman 6-4 John Michael
Sebastian Bialecki 6-4 Mervyn King
Callan Rydz 6-3 Jon Worsley
Madars Razma 6-3 Dragutin Horvat
Lukas Wenig 6-4 Steve Lennon
Rowby-John Rodriguez 6-5 Danny Noppert
Florian Hempel 6-2 Bradley Brooks
Byes: Jeffrey de Zwaan, Gabriel Clemens, Luke Woodhouse
Saturday July 2
Afternoon Session (1300 local time, 1200 BST)
Krzysztof Ratajski v Luke Woodhouse
Rob Cross v James Wilson
Nathan Aspinall v Jermaine Wattimena
Stephen Bunting v Sebastian Bialecki
Damon Heta v Callan Rydz
Ryan Searle v Martin Lukeman
Jose de Sousa v Wesley Plaisier
Chris Dobey v Lukas Wenig
Evening Session (1900 local time, 1800 BST)
Luke Humphries v Cameron Menzies
Jonny Clayton v Scott Williams
Daryl Gurney v Gabriel Clemens
Gerwyn Price v Rowby-John Rodriguez
Joe Cullen v Ian White
Martin Schindler v Madars Razma
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Florian Hempel
Dirk van Duijvenbode v Jeffrey de Zwaan