With two Euro Tour Events already in the bag, Bunting was hoping Barnsley would be a happy hunting ground for the remainder of the weekend.

Back into Players Championship action and the opening day served up a first round clash against Jim McEwan – a man who had gotten the better of Stephen in the recent past.

But making no mistakes this time around, it was Bunting who got the job done, taking the contest 6-4 whilst in third or fouth gear.

Knowing that an acceleration of form would be needed against another Scot, Cameron Menzies in the next match, the Bullet put his foot on the gas and produced an excellent display to win 6-2 and post a 96.47 average.

Then in the board final, Bunting really showed his class with his finest performance of the weekend. If you want to beat Jonny Clayton, then you have to put in a real shift and that is precisely what happened.

After agonisingly missing D12 for another pro-tour 9-darter during the match, the St Helens based star grabbed the thrilling last leg decider to take the contest 6-5 whilst registering an astronomical 104.50 average. Jonny’s wasn’t too shabby either at 102.53 so that tells its own tale.

But following that high came the low as Stephen failed to get close to that level of performance against Joe Cullen. Despite a close 6-4 game, it was the Rockstar who prevailed to advance to the quarter-final stage.

Then unfortunately on Sunday, Ryan Meikle ended Buntings hopes in the very first match. The former barber was a cut above from the offset and his tremendous 101.81 average was too much for his opponents 95.28 resulting in a 6-2 win.

Reflecting upon the weekend, Stephen said: “I am happy with how things went. Naturally, I would have liked to go further but all in all, it was a successful few days.

“My first objective when I arrived was qualification for the two Euro Events. Then I can take a lot of positives from how I played in large parts of Saturday and Sunday.

“The win over Jonny [Clayton] was the highlight. He is a fantastic player, one of the best in the world so beating him in the manner which I did was a huge confidence boost.

“I feel my game is very good at the moment. Yes, there is room for improvement but I’m playing some god darts and enjoying it.”


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