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Rocket Ronnie Baxter sees off the Menace

ESPN staff
December 19, 2012 « Dodson chasing pigs & squirrels to prepare for Johnson | Chartbeat test »
Ronnie Baxter was fortunate against Dennis Priestley © PA Photos
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The Rocket Ronnie Baxter survived a World Darts Championship scare on Wednesday, seeing off a fightback from 1994 champion Dennis Priestley to win 3-1 in the first round at Alexandra Palace.

Priestley, who is something of a legend of the game, is widely regarded to be past his best at the age of 62, but he can only blame himself for failing to force the match to a deciding set.

The Rocket has never been past the quarter-finals - a huge underachievement by his standards - and Wednesday's match was a total encapsulation for why that is the case. Exceptional early in the contest, Baxter completely lost his way and would arguably have been punished by a higher class of competition.

The first set was clinched inside ten minutes, with Baxter averaging 108, but he was suddenly in trouble in the second, with Priestley holding two darts for the set. Crucially he missed both, and Baxter rode his slice of luck for a 2-0 lead.

It looked like the third set would be a carbon copy as Priestley again missed a dart for the set, but this time Baxter wasted five of his own for the match as The Menace capitalised for 2-1.

Priestley then had three darts at double-tops to move level at 2-2, but when he missed all three Baxter finally closed out the match. The Rocket will now meet Kevin Painter in the next round.

Colin 'Jaws' Lloyd, the former World Matchplay and World Grand Prix champion, twice trailed before beating Darin Young 3-2 in a gruelling first round battle.

Young carried impressive form into the match and looked extremely composed as he cemented the first set with a 144 checkout. The American appeared on course for a 2-0 advantage when he took the first two legs of the second, but Lloyd nailed five out of six treble-20s and then a 114 finish for 2-2, eventually taking the set for 1-1.

The pendulum swung again as Young claimed a scrappy third, but he was pegged back again as Lloyd showed a clinical streak around the doubles to level at 2-2. He then had a shot for the match in the fifth but missed, allowing Young to force sudden death.

Now needing to win by two clear legs, Lloyd looked like he had his man on the ropes again at 3-2 in the final set, but Young nailed a 115 finish to cling on. In the end, with the score at 5-4 on legs, Lloyd finally killed things off with an 82 checkout.

In the first match of the night, Justin Pipe overcame Andy Jenkins 3-0 to reach the second round after a match of dire quality. Pipe, who has a slow throwing action as the result of a previous car accident, swept through the first set unchallenged by his off-colour rival who barely threatened all night.

Jenkins was a shadow of his usual self, gifting his opponent another advantage in the second after missing two darts at double-16, and Pipe gratefully accepted the invitation for a 2-0 lead. It was the same story in the third, with Jenkins failing with three darts at a 19 checkout, and Pipe advanced with ease despite his own average dipping into the 80s.

The day's late game saw Simon Whitlock beat Haruki Muramatsu 3-0. Muramatsu had won a preliminary tie earlier in the evening.

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