Did Bernie Smith's opponent Justin Pipe intentionally cough to distract Kiwi opponent at PDC World Darts Championship?

New Zealand darts player Bernie Smith has been caught up in an incident being referred to as 'cough-gate' after his narrow loss to Justin Pipe at the World Darts Championship.

Pipe edged Smith 3-2 in a dramatic opening round match at the championships on Thursday (NZ time).

Smith, 53, trailed early in the match and fought back to set up a thrilling finish that went down to the wire.

Smith was on match darts and as he went to throw double 10, Pipe coughed while standing in the background watching his opponent - a tactic that has angered and frustrated members of the darting community.

Sky Sports UK commentator and four-time world semi-finalist Wayne Mardle said it was poor sportsmanship by the world No. 27.

"It looks absolutely despicable behaviour by a professional darts player," said Mardle.

"Every time I see it, it was a case of how desperate are you?

"That was a tactic for advantage, that was a tactic to make Bernie Smith miss and he got his way.

"Whether Bernie Smith heard it or not is absolutely irrelevant, the intent was there." 

Pipe was hurt by comments claiming he was trying to cheat.

"I'm bitterly disappointed with the comments which were made on Sky Sports and it's not nice for me and my family to hear," he told The Express.

"I would never do something to put another player off and Bernie didn't say anything to me on the night.

"As far as I'm aware there is no issue from his side and this has been blown out of proportion.

"My focus is on preparing for my second round game against Phil Taylor on Saturday.

"It's an honour to play him in his final tournament and I want to concentrate on that match."

Smith didn't make much of the incident, telling Stuff he only has himself to blame for missing the chance to win the match.

"It's nothing," he told Stuff. "I missed my double. I had a chance to hit my double and I missed it. That's all I can say about that."

Pipe will now face 16-time world champion Phil Taylor is the second round in London.

Smith was one of two Kiwis competing at the Alexandra Palace, with Cody Harris also being eliminated in the first round.

Newshub.