Number four seeds Northern Ireland enjoyed a 5-2 win over Japan in the Betway World Cup of Dart on Friday night in Frankfurt as debutant Daryl Gurney and experienced Brendan Dolan - who sealed victory by taking out 95 on the bull - moved through to a clash with neighbours Republic of Ireland in the last 16 on Saturday afternoon.
“I got thrown in at the deep end but I tried to back Brendan up because he’s superb,” said Gurney. “I knew that if we could take what we’ve done on the practice board onto the stage we had a good chance.
“There were a couple of missed doubles but we got the win and we can always build on it. It’s a new experience and I learned a lot.”
Ireland’s Mick McGowan also took out a match-winning bullseye - for a 94 checkout - as they defeated Hong Kong’s Scott MacKenzie, who finished 135 in leg four, and Ting Chi Royden Lam in a deciding leg.
History was almost repeated in the event as reigning champions England narrowly avoided an upset against Spain on Friday night, as they set up a second round tie with China.
Spain had defied the odds with a stunning win over England in the inaugural PDC World Cup of Darts in 2010, when Antonio Alcinas and Carlos Rodriguez famously knocked out Phil Taylor and James Wade.
A high-quality contest at the Eissporthalle saw Alcinas and new partner Cristo Reyes push Taylor and Adrian Lewis - who have won the title in three of the last four years - all the way to a deciding leg in a thriller.
Taylor had taken out a superb 128 bull finish earlier in the game, and helped to set up Lewis on 40 in the decider, before the two-time World Champion hit tops with his third dart as England moved through.
“They put us under pressure from the start and they were brilliant,” said Taylor. “We were hitting doubles with our last darts and it was giving us a heart attack!
“They’ve beaten us before and I knew they were confident of beating us again. I think it was a cracking game and it’s livened the tournament up a little bit - if Adrian had missed at the end there I think we’d have gone out.
“It’s a different format now with the Singles and Doubles games, and it’s a leveller. Sometimes I’ve done well in the Singles and Adrian’s had a bad game or Adrian’s played well and I’ve had a bad game, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
The reigning champions now meet China in round two, after debutants Yuanjun Liu and Wenge Xie knocked out Czech Republic pair Michal Kocik and Pavel Drtil 5-3, leading 3-0 before seeing their rivals level, only to take the next two legs as Liu’s 100 finish secured a first World Cup win for their nation.
Number eight seeds Austria whitewashed Italy 5-0 as Mensur Suljovic and Rowby-John Rodriguez progressed to a meeting with Singapore, who saw Paul Lim and Harith Lim punish South Africa for 14 missed doubles with a 5-1 triumph.
World Cup debutant Gerwyn Price took out 150 to seal Wales’ 5-1 win over Finland, and the former rugby ace will join partner Mark Webster in round two against Canada on Saturday.
“It was a pretty good finish at the end and I was glad that the 150 went in,” said Price. “I thought we started off a bit slowly and got a bit better but they came back into it.
“There’s a lot more pressure playing in Pairs, for Mark and for Wales, but it will be easier tomorrow. Hopefully we can go on and play a bit better, and I’m sure we can do pretty well in this tournament.”
Canada’s John Part and Ken MacNeil bounced back from last year’s first round defeat to New Zealand by defeating debutants Greece 5-2, despite John Michael taking out a 160 finish during the contest.
The second round will be split across two sessions on Saturday, with matches featuring two Singles games and the possibility of a Doubles decider.
Betway World Cup of Darts
Friday June 3
First Round x8
Czech Republic 3-5 China
Greece 2-5 Canada
Republic of Ireland 5-4 Hong Kong
South Africa 1-5 Singapore
Northern Ireland 5-2 Japan
Wales 5-1 Finland
England 5-4 Spain
Austria 5-0 Italy
Saturday June 4
Afternoon Session (2pm local time)
Second Round x4
Belgium v Hungary
Northern Ireland v Republic of Ireland
Wales v Canada
Austria v Singapore
Evening Session (8pm local time)
Second Round x4
Scotland v Norway
Australia v Denmark
England v China
Netherlands v Philippines