Southland darts thrower upsets world champion
An Invercargill slaughterman assumed the unlikely role of giant killer at the Sydney Darts Masters last night as New Zealand No 1 Warren Parry sensationally eliminated reigning world champion Michael van Gerwen.
The understated Southlander looked almost bashful as he took to the stage at Horden Pavilion among some of the sport's greatest exponents - and after the Dutch master cruised to a 4-0 lead in the best of 11 leg first round clash, Parry appeared relieved to at least get on the board.
Taking out 108 on tops spared the 50-year-old the embarrassment of being blanked 6-0, a fist pump with his then jovial opponent underscored Parry's relief, an emotion that turned to disbelief 15 minutes later after he orchestrated a remarkable comeback.
Van Gerwen, who is dovetailing the Professional Darts Corporation World Series tour with his honeymoon, refocused to record his second 180 of the clash en route to taking a seemingly unassailable 5-1 lead.
But the 25-year-old's famed accuracy then deserted him at key as Parry grew in confidence and a crowd, listless as the clock passed midnight, started sensing an upset of epic proportions.
Parry stayed alive by hitting double four and then claimed a third leg when van Gerwen couldn't land two match darts in the same bed.
The odds were still in van Gerwen's favour even when Parry fightback trimmed the margin to 5-4 on double 10 but when "Mighty Mike" found double 16 and double 8 elusive, the Kiwi closed out his fourth successive leg from 88 on the bullseye.
Parry threw first in the decisive leg and after building an early buffer he completed easily the most memorable win of his 27-year career on double top as a stunned van Gerwen looked apologetically at the audience.
"What do you say?" Parry repeated as the magnitude of his achievement sunk in.
"To beat Michael is just unreal, awesome, I'm over the moon.
"Michael's a great player. Him and Phil (Taylor) are my idols but he wasn't playing well and he gave me chances, and I took them.
"At first I wanted to win one leg and then take it one leg at a time from there, but the chances kept coming and all of a sudden it was five-all, and I thought 's..t, I've got the throw in that last leg'.
Parry, who had to qualify for the 16-man field through a regional tournament, finally realised he wasn't just there to make up the numbers when he posted 125 to take control of the decisive leg.
"I looked over and he couldn't finish, and I knew I had a finish," he smiled after booking a quarterfinal with England's James 'The Machine' Wade tonight.
Wade, a seven-time major champion, crushed Queenslander Shane Tichowitsch 6-1 while English legend Taylor, compatriots Dave Chisnall, Stephen Bunting plus Australian Simon Whitlock and mohawk-sporting Scotsman Peter Wright also beat qualifiers.
England-based Australian Kyle Anderson created the first boil over when he recovered from a 3-0 deficit against five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld to eventually claim a cliffhanger 6-5.
In the opening match-up Chisnall recorded the first 180 of the tournament during the fifth leg of his emphatic 6-0 win over West Australian qualifier Damon Heta, who at least had the consolation of recording the last three-dart maximum of their one-sided encounter.
Phil Taylor was due to come to New Zealand in January for a leg of the Australasian King of Darts series.