Sadly, it was a case of played well but no cigar for Stephen Bunting in the Cazoo Grand Slam of Darts.

With a tournament average of 99.18, the Bullet can consider himself extremely unfortunate to not have progressed from his group.

Against Ryan Joyce in the opening match, Bunting was in scintillating form, yet still comprised to finish on the wrong end of a 5-4 scoreline.

With a colossal 106.7 average against the Geordie, only two other players in Grand Slam history have hit that figure and still lost the match – Adrian Lewis on two occasions and Michael van Gerwen.

But this is an event when you get a few bites of the cherry. And Bunting’s next nibble was against another Newcastle ace, Chris Dobey.

Hollywood was a late entry in the tournament, replacing the unfortunate Dimitri Van den Bergh after he returned a positive COVID-19 test.

With another fine display, Bunting finally got his tournament up and running, defeating Dobey 5-3.

After the jigs and the reels of other group results, the equation was simple – beat Rowby-John Rodriquez to progress. A loss however would put the Austrian through and send the Liverpudlian home.

Despite winning the opening leg, it was the World Cup of Darts runner-up, Rodriquez who turned on the style, winning the next five legs to book his place in the knockout stage.

Disappointingly, Bunting said: “I was absolutely gutted to go from leading the group at one stage to finishing bottom. Very upsetting.

“Felt I played very well and was unlucky. But I will take the positives from this – the level of my performance and take it forward.

“There is a week break which I will use to hit the practice board and relax before off to Minehead for the Players Championships.

“If I can continue to play this well, I’ll win more than I’ll lose.”

Stephen will face Gary Anderson in round one at the end of the month in Minehead.

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