EUROPEAN DARTS OPEN: REPORT

Stephen Bunting produced one of his best performances of the year as he enjoyed a quarter-final run at the European Darts Open in Leverkusen.

For the fourth time this year, the inform Liverpudlian reached the final session of a European Tour event maintaining his excellent record for the season.

Up against home nation qualifier Kevin Troppmann in round one, the Bullet was made to work hard for his 6-4 win against the resilient German.

Looking to upset the apple cart but delight the fans, Troppmann raced into an early 2-0 lead. However, an under par Bunting was thankfully able to click into gear and assert his presence on the contest to grab victory.

Rested and raring to go on Sunday, the former Lakeside Champion looked a different animal as he opened proceedings with a breath-taking performance and colossal 117.12 average in defeating Owen Bates.

Wasting no time, a red hot Bunting saw off the youngster with six maximums and clinical finishing en route to a marvellous 6-0 win.

Unfortunately though, that was where the journey ultimately ended as he was edged in a last leg decider by Damon Heta.

Hoping to make it a hatrick of semi-final appearances this year on the continent, Bunting disappointingly got off to a nightmare start as the Aussie number one raced into a 5-1 lead.

However, with huge resilience and a never say die attitude, the reigning Masters Champion surged back magnificently to take an exciting contest all the way.

And with darts in hand, the opportunity for the Bullet to complete a brilliant comeback looked a good bet.

But Heta had other ideas and managed to break Bunting’s throw as well as his heart by grabbing the all important shoot-out leg despite the Liverpudlian having a match dart at tops.

After the event in Leverkusen, Bunting said: “It was bitter sweet this weekend if I am honest. I was well below my best in the first round but did well to stick in there and get the win.

“Then against Owen [Bates] on Sunday afternoon, everything landed just perfectly. You sometimes get those matches where you feel like you’re just not going to miss and fortunately, that was the case.

“But when I needed to back that up later in the day, I let myself down a little with a really slow start.

“It’s always going to be difficult in a race to six to claw things back from 5-1, especially when you are playing someone with the quality of Heta.

“Of course I was delighted to fight back and draw level but once I managed to do that, I really needed to take advantage of having the darts in the decider and get the win.

“If I had of started stronger then who knows, it may well have been me in that semi-final but that’s the way it goes. You don’t get to decide when you are going to play well or not and I was disappointed even though I did get a must hit match dart for the win.

“I have a very busy few months coming up so I will take heart from another positive run to the last session of a European Tour tournament and keep going.”

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