NZ Darts Masters: Ben Robb avenges defeat to Simon Whitlock with Hamilton victory

Benn Robb.
Benn Robb. Photo credit: Image: Photosport

Canterbury's Ben Robb has avenged last year's defeat to Simon Whitlock by beating the Australian 6-4 at this year's New Zealand Darts Masters in Hamilton.

Last year, Robb missed one dart at double 16 to beat 'The Wizard' at the 2018 Auckland Darts Masters but missed, and Whitlock pounced to claim the win. 

But Robb ensured there was no repeat of last year's heartbreak as he averaged 96.87 while smashing home 11 140s en route to victory. 

He becomes the second Kiwi representative to win at the New Zealand Darts Masters, after Mark McGRath beat Michael Smith in 2018. 

"It felt great to win," he told Newshub. "To perform with the heart rate up and when the pressure was on to hit those shots felt good.

"Last year's loss felt like it was part of a process. Maybe I wasn't ready to win last year. I felt good, but everything I did wrong last year, I did right this year, and that was massive for me. 

"Last year, I wasn't as experienced. I've put in lots of work with tournament and tours, and that is what helped me tonight. 

Whitlock won the first two legs before Robb fought back to lead 4-2. 

However, Whitlock levelled the match with two straight legs,  highlighted by a 127 finish on the bullseye.

But Robb kept composed, winning the final leg on double 10 to become just the second Kiwi representative at the New Zealand Darts Masters. 

What made the win more impressive was the fact that Robb lost 6-0 to world number one Michael van Gerwen in Brisbane two weeks ago.

"He smacked me up a bit, and that hurt my confidence. I felt like I let Michael beat me up and control the pace of the game. 

"I watched it back, and it was hard, but I realised where I went wrong, but this time, I told myself to play my game. 

"I didn't dwell on it. I can let it upset me, and it did get to me, but I learnt from my wrongs and went again."

The match also saw New Zealand referee Terry Jowett make his  World Series debut.

Earlier, Craig Caldwell was left "disappointed" as James Wade scored a come-from-behind 6-5 win over the Wellingtonian. 

James Wade battled back from 5-3 down to win beat Wellington's Craig Caldwell 6-5.

Wade opened the game with a 180 maximum and looked the stronger of the two in the opening leg.

But Caldwell wasn't fussed, as he bounced back with a 142 finish in the next leg. 

Caldwell then broke Wade's throw to take the lead for the first time at 3-2, before then leading 5-3. 

Wade levelled the match with back-to-back ton-plus finishes, highlighted by a 140 checkout, before claiming a nervy victory. 

"I feel gutted," Caldwell told Newshub. "I felt like I gave myself a great chance to win that game, and I fell over in the last few legs.

"I'm disappointed. I knew I was playing well, but we'll move forward. Fair play to him."

Caldwell was competing in his first New Zealand Masters for the first time since 2015. 

Elsewhere, Kiwi Cody Harris missed one match dart at bullseye as Raymond van Barneveld survived a massive scare to win 6-5. 

Van Barneveld hit a 161 finish to lead 5-4, before Harris responded with a 150 finish in the next to send the match into a decider.

Harris missed his chance for a famous win as van Barneveld, 52, hit double 16 with his last dart in hand to win.  

"I accept it," Harris told Newshub. "He lifted his game in the final leg, and I didn't back up the 180 I threw at the start. 

"Overall, i'm happy with my performance, but it was disappointing to lose when I was so close."

Van Barneveld will now face Northern Ireland's Darryl Gurney, who beat Australian David Platt 6-2.

There was a similar story in Michael van Gerwen's win over Kyle Anderson after the Australian missed four match darts to beat the defending New Zealand champion.

Despite claiming a 6-5 win, Van Gerwen described his performance as "crap" after the contest. 

He had to battle back from 2-0 and 5-4 down to win.

He will face 2016 winner Gary Anderson in the next round, as the Scotsman battled through the pain of a toothache to beat New Zealand World Cup representative Haupai Puha 6-3. 

Quarter-FinalsPeter Wright v James Wade
Daryl Gurney v Raymond van Barneveld
Michael van Gerwen v Gary Anderson
Rob Cross v Ben Robb