BALTIC SEA DARTS OPEN: REPORT

The Baltic Sea Darts Open proved to be a familiar story for Stephen Bunting with an appearance on the final day of action yet still left hunting for that elusive maiden European Tour title.

Once again in the seeded positions, the Bullet had to wait until late Saturday night to begin his campaign in Kiel, facing Andy Baetens in the penultimate match of the evening session.

And despite the Belgian boasting the higher scoring power, it was his failure to convert the doubles which ultimately allowed Bunting to capitalise and claim a comfortable 6-3 win.

Racing out of the blocks early, the Liverpudlian took the first three legs before extending his lead to 5-1. The Flanders chucker did manage to close the deficit slightly but to no avail as Stephen ended the contest with a healthy 94.49 average aided by his clinical 60% success rate on the outer ring.

Bunting’s reward for that victory was a Sunday afternoon clash with two-time European Championship winner Rob Cross.

What looked on paper like a mouth-watering match up didn’t disappoint as the two major champs went toe to toe in a high quality encounter.

It’s rare you watch a professional game of darts without a single break of throw but on this occasion, Rob Cross winning the bull in the practice room proved to be crucial.

Similarly to an exciting rally you may see on a tennis court, the pair went back and forth as they wowed the German crowd with some scintillating scoring and first rate finishing to take an absorbing match to a tie break leg.

However, with Cross holding the darts in the decider and in keeping with the pattern of the game, he was able to serve it out to take the honours.

Fast forward to the end of Sunday evening and it was Rob Cross who was standing in the winners enclosure after defeating Luke Humphries in the final. A moment of comfort perhaps for Bunting, losing out to the eventual champion.

After his epic with Cross, Bunting said: “To be honest, I didn’t do much wrong there. We both played extremely well and our finishing was very good too.

“Who knows what would have happened if I had of won the bull. Guess we will never know but I can’t complain about the way I played – it could have gone either way in the end.

“Of course I am always disappointed to return home from another European Tour event still without that maiden win. But like I always say, as long as I’m getting to the business end of tournaments, I am always in with a shot.

“I’m very confident of breaking my duck very soon, ideally this year. My game has never been in a better place so hopefully that will be rewarded with more titles over the coming months.”

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