Well, what a feast of delights the Third Round served up :o)
Co Stompe, looking ever-so-fetching in his blue and orange shirt (I have a feeling he's the only professional darts player to play in long sleeves), held his nerve to come through a thrilling match against Simon Whitlock by 9 legs to 7. Stompe looked comfortable early on, and racked up a healthy lead, but the Beard to be Feared came bouncing back and came within a whisker (Boom Boom Ching!) of making up the deficit. Cracking match, and emotional when Stompe revealed his sister was having cancer surgery in the post-match interview - best wishes to her.
Raymond van Barneveld held off a determined challenge from Steve Brown and won his match 9-5; that might seem a comfortable margin, but Barney was definitely looking unhappy mid-game as more and more errors - missed doubles, slips into the 5 or 1 - crept into his game. He picked up towards the end, but there were ominous signs for a player who feels his every mistake very keenly.
No surprises in the 3rd match as Phil Taylor defeated Mark "Frosty the Throwman" Frost (you've got to love that nickname) 9-3. Taylor started slowly and built up to a crescendo; nothing spectacular from him (by his standards) but a solid, workmanlike performance, and somehow he seems more dangerous when he's doing that. As Evel Knievel knows only too well, stunts can go wrong but a determined and grafting Taylor is very hard to beat.
Fireworks aplenty with the next two televised games: Terry Jenkins played brilliantly to put out World Champ Adrian Lewis by 9 legs to 7, and mid 90s BDO World Champ Richie Burnett held off a terrific comeback from Colin Lloyd to win by the same margin.
Jenkins went a Lewis like, well, a bull to a red rag :o) The Jackpot looked more like a man who's realised that the horse he's just bet his mortgage payment on has fallen at the first fence, as Jenkins took leg after leg with some inspired throwing, but Adie rallied and came back at him strongly, also throwing some brilliant darts. As Lewis began to loom large in his rear view mirror Jenkins had a few wobbles, but held his nerve and closed out the match before Lewis could take us to a photo finish.
After a 13 dart leg to kick off, Colin Lloyd soon began to look like he'd forgotten which end of the dart to throw first. Richie Burnett, "the Prince of Wales", meanwhile, was looking like he'd been born with a dart in his hand, thowing some super darts and cruising to a 7-2 lead. Lloyd looked doomed - was it Prayer? Popeye's Spinach? Who knows - whatever it was, it worked, and Lloyd began throwing like his brilliant old self again.
Once, when I was an undergraduate student, I went to watch the University rugby team play against Australia. Early in the match, with Australia deep inside our 22, the ball fell to one of our backs, who suddenly discovered that there was nothing between him and the Australian try line. As he crossed the halfway line, he risked a glance over his shoulder and realised that the entire Australian rugby team, red-eyed with fury, was bearing down on him like a pack of wild rhinos. Richie Burnett's face took on much the same expression as that back's did, as Lloyd won leg after leg in what looked like a miraculous comeback. Just like that back, who flung himself over the try line just before 15 enraged Antipodean giants could tear him limb from limb, Burnett somehow clung on and won a scintillating match by 9 legs to 7.
I wish Reece Robinson's terrific match against Wayne Jones had been televised - the Hull youngster managed a truly gutsy fightback against Wolverhampton's finest and won 9-8; he now faces Andy 'Pieman' Smith in what should be a cracking match. Dennis Priestly claimed a tough victory against Alan Tabern - it's mullets to action stations as he now takes on Phil Taylor in a classic early 90s rerun :o) "Mile High" Mark Hylton managed saturation bombing of Andy Jenkins, whitewashing the poor chap 9-0. John Part gained revenge for his defeat in the 2004 UK Open Final, taking down Roland Scholten 9-2, and elder statesman of darts Denis Ovens ended "Artist" Kevin Painter's comeback hopes 9-4.
All in all, a terrific evening's darts and some cracking fixture's ahead of us as we move into this weekend's darting marathon :o)