It was a magical weekend for Jeff Smith at the White Eagle Hall in Jersey City where he steamrolled everyone in his path on the way to victory in the inaugural Cross Border Darts Challenge in front of a lively crowd.
The event began with 16 players – eight Americans and eight Canadians – with each first round match featuring a player from each country. In addition to playing for the individual title, its $5,000 prize and a spot in the PDC US Darts Masters, players were also competing on a team level for The Nations Cup, with each match won worth one point for the winning player’s country. Canada proved dominant throughout this event, as they secured the requisite 8 points to claim the Cup – and eliminated the entire American side – before the conclusion of the quarterfinals.
“The Silencer” began his quest for the title against American legend, Larry Butler, getting out to a quick 2-0 lead before “The Eagle” righted the ship with a break of throw in leg three followed by a brilliant 110 checkout to level the match at two. However, it was not to be for the Ohio man as Smith closed the door by checking out 100 on-throw before claiming victory with a 56 checkout, stranding Butler on 99.
Those would be the only two legs that the New Brunswick man would drop in the event.
Smith whitewashed a hard-charging Jules Van Dongen 5-0 in the quarters, punishing him for a couple of missed doubles early in the match on his way to a 96 average. “The Dutch Dragon”, averaging 90 in his own right, was looking for opportunities that never came later in the match as Smith’s trademark clinical finishing was on full display.
Fellow Canadian Steve Warnock, who stunned Leonard Gates 4-1 in round one before dispatching John Norman, Jr. 5-3 in the quarterfinals, was next on the docket. “The Sniper” – whose finishing had been solid up until this point – missed some crucial darts at double in the first two legs and allowed Smith to sneak off to a 2-0 lead with a pair of 17-darters. Smith then checked 94 in leg three before punching out a spectacular 124 to seal the deal and book his appointment with “The Gentleman” in the final.
Jim Long’s path to the final wasn’t quite as smooth as his opponent’s as he faced Chuck Puleo, one of his closest friends on the CDC Tour, in a first round in a match that went the distance and saw three breaks of throw – including the critical decider where a pair of consecutive 140s put the Canadian in position to pin tops and claim victory in 15 darts to advance to quarterfinal matchup with Keith Way who had just dispatched Joey Lynaugh. Way got off to a great start in the quarters, going up 4-2 with 16, 17 and 18-dart finishes and appeared to be cruising to the semifinals, but it was not to be for “The Iron Rock” as Long put on a blistering display of scoring, winning three on the spin with a 16-dart leg sandwiched between two 15-darters and not giving his opponent another look at double in the match.
In the semis, Long once again found himself needing to mount a comeback, dropping the first two legs of the match against Jacob “The Truth” Taylor in 14 and 16 darts respectively. And come back he did (and in style), winning five straight and punishing missed doubles from the Newfoundland man in the 4th and 5th leg to book his pace in the final.
The event concluded with Smith’s third straight whitewash in a match where both players struggled at times to regain the form that landed them in that position in the first place. An opening 16-dart effort got Smith on the board early before a bit of the rot set-in with a forgettable 27-dart second leg that finally ended when Jeff checked 5 on his fourth trip to the oche with that number remaining. That leg seemed to be the catalyst needed for focus as Smith then fired in a 13-darter, immediately followed by an 86 checkout to strand his opponent on tops and pull within two legs of victory which he would claim just a short time later.
However, all was certainly not lost for Jim Long. In addition to the $2,000 second-place prize, Jim will be taking the stage at the US Darts Masters, claiming the event’s qualifying spot by virtue of the fact that Jeff Smith’s place is already booked as a North American PDC Tour Card holder.
Steve Warnock 5-3 John Norman Jr
Jeff Smith 5-0 Jules Van Dongen
Jacob Taylor 5-3 Alex Spellman
Jim Long 5-4 Keith Way
Jim Long 5-2 Jacob Taylor
Jeff Smith 5-0 Steve Warnock
Jeff Smith 5-0 Jim Long
The Nations Cup:
Canada wins 13-2