Peter Wright off to a flyer at the World Darts Championship with Mickey Mansell demolition

Peter Wright opened his title defence with a comfortable 3-0 demolition of Mickey Mansell on the opening night of the 2022/23 Cazoo World Darts Championship.

Wright becomes the first player through to the third round as he opened his quest for a third World Championship crown, while Nathan Rafferty and Grant Sampson advanced to round two with victories on their Alexandra Palace debuts.

Sporting one of his trademark Christmas outfits, Wright dropped just one leg against Mansell, who defeated Ben Robb 3-1 in the first game of the tournament.

Checkouts of 126 and 121 were the highlights of a middling display from Wright, who will return to the tournament after the Christmas break.

"Obviously I'm not happy with my performance but it's a win, I'm happy and the defending champion is still in," said Wright.

"I wanted Mickey to push me but I think fatigue set in for him and his darts weren't reaching like they were in his first game when he played really well.

"It's good to have my wife Jo back in the crowd cheering me on, she's on the mend now which is a huge relief.

"I've got a few new sets of darts to try out between now and after the Christmas break!"

Wright's third round assignment will see him come up against either Kim Huybrechts or Sampson, who caused an upset on debut, defeating highly-rated Irish youngster Keane Barry 3-1.

On his first appearance in a televised event, South Africa's Sampson took advantage of a surprisingly below-par display from Barry.

Sampson recovered from 2-0 down to win the opening set 3-2, before landing a 125 checkout on his way to taking the second set, once again 3-2.

Barry rallied, taking the next set 3-1 to halve the deficit and took the opening leg of the fourth set as he looked to force a decider.

But Sampson held his nerve, winning three successive legs to claim the biggest win of his career.

Thursday December 15

  • Mickey Mansell 3-1 Ben Robb (R1)
  • Grant Sampson 3-1 Keane Barry (R1)
  • Nathan Rafferty 3-2 Jermaine Wattimena (R1)
  • Peter Wright 3-0 Mickey Mansell (R2)

"Back home we play in front of 30 people, so this is an incredible new experience for me," said Sampson.

"I was very, very nervous as you could see; my darts weren't going straight at all in the first two legs.

"I tried to focus but with everything going on around you it's very difficult.

"I'm just happy to get the first round out of the way."

Meanwhile, Rafferty battled to a 3-2 victory over Jermaine Wattimena to set up a second round tie with last year's runner-up Michael Smith on Friday.

Rafferty twice took the lead in sets but on both occasions the Northern Irishman was pegged back by Wattimena.

Friday December 16

  • Alan Soutar v Mal Cuming (R1)
  • Boris Krcmar v Toru Suzuki (R1)
  • Adrian Lewis v Daniel Larsson (R1)
  • Kim Huybrechts v Grant Sampson (R2)

In the third leg of the decider, Rafferty found his way through a seemingly blocked double four bed to move within a leg of the match.

That dart proved crucial, as the following leg saw the former World Youth Championship runner-up once again pin the double with his last dart in hand - this time double ten to book his place in the round two.

"I wasn't nervous leading up to the tournament but when I came up the road I had butterflies in my stomach," Rafferty revealed.

"It's been my dream since I was 15 to be playing on this stage; it's what we all play for.

"Considering I had my appendix removed a week ago today, I'm so happy to win this game against a tough opponent.

'I'm looking forward to taking on Michael [Smith], he's one of the best players in the world but I think I can give him a game if I play my proper stuff."

Evening Session (1900 GMT)

  • Rowby-John Rodriguez v Lourence Ilagan (R1)
  • William O'Connor v Beau Greaves (R1)
  • Keegan Brown v Florian Hempel (R1)
  • Michael Smith v Nathan Rafferty (R2)

Friday will see the tournament's first double session of action, with two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis headlining the afternoon session as he takes on Sweden's Daniel Larsson.

The evening's play will see Smith taking on Rafferty after teenage sensation Beau Greaves looks to make her mark against William O'Connor.

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