Darts: Kiwi Mark McGrath stuns Michael Smith at Auckland Masters

Mark McGrath.
Mark McGrath. Photo credit: Photosport

Kiwi darts player Mark McGrath has made history at the Auckland Masters by becoming the first New Zealander to win at the event.

On Friday night, the 50-year-old overcome a stern challenge from fourth seed Michael Smith to win 6-4.

Sixteen times before a New Zealander had taken to the stage at the Trusts Arena in Henderson in the first round and each time they had walked off unsuccessful, until now.

The pair exchanged holds of throw until the sixth leg where McGrath broke to take a 4-2 lead, but Smith fought back to tie the match up.

But McGrath held his nerve and hit double one in the ninth leg to regain the lead before hitting tops to send the New Zealand crowd into a frenzy.

"Hearing the crowd chanting for you makes a big difference," McGrath said after his win. "It added pressure, but good pressure."

"I didn’t play the darts that I wanted too but hopefully I can tomorrow.

"I think Michael was a little under the weather, but I’ll take it.”

McGrath was born in England but has represented New Zealand numerous times, including at the PDC and BDO world championships in 2015 and 2017 respectively.

The win was the first by a New Zealand on the World Series circuit since Warren Parry beat Michael van Gerwen in Sydney in 2014.

McGrath will now face Raymond van Barneveld in the quarter-finals after the five-time world-champion beat Warren Parry 6-4.

In a repeat of their first-round clash in Auckland a year earlier, Van Barneveld was once again too strong, beating his opponent by the same 6-4 scoreline as 2017.

A packed crowd got their money’s worth earlier in the night as the first two matches literally came down to the wire.

Kiwi duo Ben Robb and John Hurring both had darts to win their respective matches but missed, and their opponents made them pay.

Locked at five legs in the race to six against Simon Whitlock, Robb had one dart at double-16 to pull off the upset, but it landed on the wrong side of the wire and 'The Wizard' checked out on 52 to come away with the win.

Robb was a late inclusion in the event following the withdrawal of Corey Cadby due to visa issues.

In the following match, Hurring missed two match darts at double 20 against reigning world champion Rob Cross in the deciding leg.

The Cantabrian fell behind but battled back to take a 5-4 lead, but couldn't close the match out as Cross won the final two legs.

World number one Van Gerwen made light work of Kiwi Cody Harris 6-2 in a clinical display.

The Dutchman was determined to put on a show after crashing out early at the World Matchplay in Blackpool last week.

He will face Gary Anderson in a mouthwatering quarter-final clash after the Scotsman progressed into the last eight with a 6-3 win over Australian Tim Pusey.

Fellow Scot Peter Wright is also through to the next round for the third time in four years after overcoming a 6-3 win over Tahuna Irwin.

Wright will face defending champion Kyle Anderson who had to come-from-behind to beat Haupai Puha.

Puha, a former Maori golf champion, started strongly, raced out to a 3-1 lead before a spirited comeback saw Anderson win five of the final six legs to progress in Auckland.

Quarter-final draw (Begins 7pm Saturday)

Simon Whitlock vs Rob Cross

Mark McGrath vs Raymond van Barneveld

Peter Wright vs Kyle Anderson 

Michael van Gerwen vs Gary Anderson

Best of 19 legs