Hot Cross reaches first major televised final

Rob Cross celebrates landing a leg-clinching double at the Unibet European Championship. Picture courtesy Kelly Deckers

Rising darts star Rob Cross took another step forward in an amazing season by reaching his first major televised final.

The St Leonards thrower produced a tremendous performance to finish runner-up in the Unibet European Championship in Hasselt, Belgium, at the weekend.

Cross won four matches, three of them against players in the top 11 on the Professional Darts Corporation order of merit, before losing out to world number one and world champion Michael van Gerwen.

His run began last Friday afternoon with a superb 6-0 whitewash of Germany’s Martin Schindler in a first round clash between two European Championship debutants.

Cross, who has won four ranking titles and reached two European Tour finals in his debut year on the circuit, landed five 180s - one in each of the opening five legs - and averaged 101.35.

He followed that with a 10-7 second round win over eighth-ranked Dave Chisnall, who battled on despite a back injury, on Saturday night.

St Leonards darts star Rob Cross (right) clutches the runner-up prize alongside winner Michael van Gerwen at the Unibet European Championship. Picture courtesy Kelly Deckers

Cross was always in control after winning the opening two legs and five of the first six, which included a 120 checkout and a neat 82 combination of bullseye and double 16.

Chisnall pulled back to 6-4 and 8-7, but Cross found an extra gear to close out the win, following a 13-darter with a 100 finish.

Cross returned yesterday (Sunday) afternoon to see off 11th-ranked Michael Smith 10-4 in the quarter-finals, averaging 100.85 and hitting 10 doubles from 18 attempts in a fine display.

Cross opened up an early 3-1 lead and although Smith took back-to-back legs to level, the former electrician finished 116 and 85 to wrestle back the advantage.

Cross also finished 130 and 84 as five successive legs moved him 8-3 up. Smith pulled one back before Cross took out 69 and double 16.

He then raced past recent World Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney, ranked sixth, 11-3 in the semi-finals yesterday evening.

Cross claimed the opening seven legs, including an 11-darter and three breaks of throw, before Gurney won three out of four, with the aid of back-to-back 14-darters, to pull back to 8-3.

Cross, though, stopped Gurney’s fightback in its tracks with a brilliant 10-darter before hitting back-to-back 14-darters of his own to seal his spot in the final.

Cross pushed van Gerwen hard in a high class final later in the evening before the Dutchman pulled away for an 11-7 victory, winning the title for the fourth consecutive year.

The opening five legs went with throw to leave Cross 3-2 up, despite a 104 finish from van Gerwen, before the world number one fired in a 10-darter in leg six and a 12-darter to break for a 4-3 lead.

Cross hit back with a 12-darter, bizarrely scoring 39, 180 and 180 before finishing 102 with an improvised single one, treble 17 and bullseye combination to square the game at 4-4.

After van Gerwen claimed the ninth leg, Cross landed an 11-darter to level once more, but van Gerwen took four of the next five to pull clear at 9-6.

Van Gerwen landed a seventh 180 and a 130 bullseye finish in a 12-darter to move a leg away from the win, and though Cross replied on tops, the Dutchman sealed victory on double 16.

Cross averaged 102.39 in the final and admitted: “I had one flat session and that’s what cost me, those five legs after the second break, but I’ve had a fantastic week.”

Cross picked up £40,000 as runner-up, will rise from 29th to a career-high 24th on the PDC order of merit and has qualified for the upcoming bwin Grand Slam of Darts in Wolverhampton.

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