The next batch of Pro Tours and European Qualifiers came around thick and fast with a quick return to Barnsley just a few days after leaving there.
It wasn’t the ideal start for Stephen, defeated 6-2 in his opening game of the weekend against Ryan Joyce despite registering the superior average.
However, Sunday proved more fruitful as the Bullet reached a quarter-final berth with some excellent arrows. In a quirky coincidence with the draw, the Liverpudlian was able to exact instant revenge on Joyce, this time pinching the last leg decider in a well fought contest. A decent 98.54 average to kick things off too which proved to be Stephen’s highest of the day.
Victory in the next game over the German, Florian Hempel courtesy of a 6-4 scoreline set up a board final with Andrew Gilding. And yet again, it was our man who grabbed the final leg to progress.
Aussie Simon Whitlock awaited in the last 16 and, yes you’ve guessed it, that again went down to the wire with Bunting making it a hatrick of being on the right side of a 6-5 win.
Disappointingly though, the gas tank seemed to have ran a little dry by the time the former Lakeside Champion faced Dirk van Duijvenbode. The Dutchman managed to turn the table on Stephen’s run of last leg deciders victories and claimed a game with neither competitor at their best.
Onto the Euro Qualifiers and it was a case of close but no cigar. To be fair to Richie Burnett in the opening match for Riesa, he played superbly aver-aging over a ton in the process and deserved his 6-2 win.
But in the race to the European Darts Grand Prix in Munich, Stephen came agonisingly close to making it onto the plane (or ferry). He opened up with a victory over young Irishman Dylan Slevin before being denied by Rob-ert Owen. And you’ve guessed it – they both ended 6-5!
As always, we managed to catch up with Stephen on Monday night. He said: “In football terms, the pro-tour was like a game of two halves.
“Didn’t get the result I think I deserved on Saturday against Ryan [Joyce] but then very happy to reach the quarters the next day. Against Dirk [van Duijvenbode], neither of us produced our best darts so I have no real complaints in losing out there.
“Of course it would have been great to have qualified for the European Tour Events. Richie [Burnett] played a blinder but I didn’t take my chanc-es against Rob [Owen] and he punished me.
“I’ve got a few days now to get prepared for the Baltic Sea Darts Open in Kiel where I’ll be hoping to have a good run. I know if I can keep playing the way I am, then I’m always in with a decent shot of any tournament I enter.”