Given some of Stephen’s recent excellent runs and performances, a board final and a last 16 will probably feel a little disappointing return from a three day excursion to Barnsley.

However, when your lowest average is a very respectable 92.08, then there are plenty of positives to take back to St Helens.

Friday began well, showing huge fighting spirit to win dramatic last leg shoot-outs against Richie Burnett and Devon Petersen.

At 5-1 up against the legendary Welshman, Bunting took his foot off the gas but was able to press the accelerator when it mattered and hold his nerve to edge that one.

It was a little more even against the African Warrior, with the tide turning both ways. But a quite magnificent 11-darter in the final leg of the match did the business for Stephen.

Despite performing ok-ish against Jonny Clayton in the last 32, the Welshman just turned it on and posted an astronomical 105.79 average to take the contest convincingly.

Bunting went one better on Saturday. Wins over Steve West and Mike de Decker earned the scouser another shot at the Ferret.

And this time, it was Stephen’s turn to come out on top in what seem to be these recent quick return matches against opponents who have just defeated him!

OK, so Clayton didn’t perform as well as he did 24 hours earlier but Bunting certainly turned up the volume and eased to a comfortable 6-2 win with his highest average of the weekend – 101.78.

However, in the board final against Jose de Sousa, Stephen can be left wondering how he lost that one. Leading 5-4 and in absolute control, he took his finger off the pulse and allowed the Portuguese to claw his way back to eventually grab a messy final and decisive leg.

There was nothing much to write about on the Sunday but I will anyway. It’s a game that could and perhaps should have gone the way of the Bullet – but at 5-5 against Ron Meulenkamp in the opening match of the day, the last leg decider was easily won by the Dutchman.

Afterwards, as always, we caught up with Stephen to reflect on the three days.

“Obviously, I am disappointed to not go further than the last 16 – especially on the Saturday where I felt the game was there for the taking against Jose [de Sousa].

“I didn’t take my chances and he did – that’s darts. But I shouldn’t have lost that one.

“Overall, I am playing well and my numbers reflect that. It was just a case of not hitting the doubles at crucial times in too many matches this weekend.

“My averages are still high which means, despite missing too many doubles as I would like, my scoring is there.

“So I will go home, work on the things I need to work on and come back stronger next week for the Euro qualifiers and two pro-tours.”


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