Dimitri Van den Bergh signed off from this year’s Cazoo Premier League in style with victory on Night 16, as Jonny Clayton claimed Play-Off qualification on a dramatic night in Aberdeen.
Van den Bergh was one of only two players in this year’s event without a nightly win to his name ahead of the trip to Aberdeen, but the Belgian rectified that with victory on the final night of league phase action.
The former World Matchplay champion kicked off his campaign with a 6-4 win over Michael Smith, fending off a late fightback to end Smith’s nine-match winning run in the Premier League.
Van den Bergh then received a bye through to Thursday’s decider at P&J Live, after Michael van Gerwen was forced to withdraw after sustaining a shoulder injury during his quarter-final win over Chris Dobey.
This set up a showdown against table-topper Gerwyn Price for the Night 16 title, and Van den Bergh came through an exhilarating last-leg decider to claim the £10,000 winner's bonus on Scottish soil.
“I have given my all and it managed to work out for me tonight,” reflected Van den Bergh, who leapfrogs Chris Dobey to finish the season in sixth spot.
“I had a chance and I took it. Fair play to Gezzy. He showed his class yet again, but I stuck in, and I’m so happy with this win.
“It’s my first time being in this position in the Premier League, travelling week in week out across Europe. I have given my best and it wasn’t meant to be, but I have never given up.
“I have to say thank you so much to the PDC. I felt really honoured to be part of this, and while it didn’t happen this time, nobody can say I will never be back.”
Van den Bergh produced his performance of the night to deny Price a fifth nightly win of the season, breaking the Welshman’s throw in the decider to win through a topsy-turvy affair.
The Belgian fired in a spectacular 148 checkout to lead in leg three, but he continued to be pegged back by Price, as the opening six legs went against throw.
Van den Bergh regained the initiative with an 11-dart break in leg seven, before closing out the game’s first hold in leg eight, landing a 13-darter on tops to move a leg away from glory.
Price survived a match dart in leg nine before conjuring up a 12-dart break to force a decider, only to squander three match darts in a dramatic finale, and Van den Bergh duly capitalised to celebrate a landmark win.
However, Price becomes only the fifth player in Premier League history to finish top of the league phase, after remarkably progressing to a ninth nightly final of the season.
The Welshman opened Thursday’s action with an emphatic 6-2 success against home hero Peter Wright, averaging 103 and sealing victory with a superb 129 checkout.
Aspinall also averaged 103 to demolish his Play-Off rival Clayton 6-1, which saw him draw level on points with the Welshman ahead of his decisive semi-final showdown against Price.
However, 2020 runner-up Aspinall was unable to secure the victory he needed to confirm a top four spot, succumbing 6-3 to the league leader in a scrappy contest.
Earlier in the night, reigning champion Van Gerwen suffered a shoulder injury during his 6-3 win over Dobey, storming into a 5-0 lead before playing through the pain barrier in the latter stages.
Despite receiving treatment post-match, the six-time champion was unable to take on Van den Bergh in the last four, which meant the Dutchman had to settle for a third-place finish.
Price ended the league phase six points clear of Smith in second, while Clayton finished fourth - the same position from which he lifted the title on debut in 2021.
The 2023 Cazoo Premier League culminates with the season-ending Play-Offs at The O2 next week, as Price, Smith, Van Gerwen and Clayton battle it out for the coveted title in the capital.
Table-topper Price will play his compatriot Clayton in an all-Welsh semi-final, before Smith and Van Gerwen lock horns in a repeat of January’s World Championship decider.
The respective semi-final winners will then advance to the evening’s showpiece, as the battle to scoop the £275,000 top prize reaches a thrilling climax.
The 2023 Cazoo Premier League will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK & Ireland, through the PDC's worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN, Viaplay and VTM, and on PDCTV for Rest of the World Subscribers.
2023 Cazoo Premier League
Night 16 - Thursday May 18
P&J Live, Aberdeen
Gerwyn Price 6-2 Peter Wright
Nathan Aspinall 6-1 Jonny Clayton
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-4 Michael Smith
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Chris Dobey
Gerwyn Price 6-3 Nathan Aspinall
Dimitri Van den Bergh Bye (Michael van Gerwen withdrew due to injury).
Van den Bergh is awarded the win, 1 league point and +1 leg difference. Van Gerwen receives -6 legs difference.
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-5 Gerwyn Price
2023 Cazoo Premier League
Play-Offs - Thursday May 25
The O2, London
Gerwyn Price v Jonny Clayton
Michael Smith v Michael van Gerwen
Best of 19 legs
Price/Clayton v Smith/Van Gerwen
Best of 21 legs