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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Jenkins

GWENT ARE GOING UP!


Gwent County secured their promotion to the UKDA Championship division in a weekend which showcased some of the best darts seen all season.


From Gabby Masons first dart on Saturday to the last double hit on Sunday there was no question about who wanted this promotion more.


Leicestershire started the weekend 4 point ahead of Gwent and with the Black Country putting in a great performance last weekend moving them to 25 points ahead of Gwent, it was going to be a difficult task for the home team. Gwent needed to beat Leicestershire by 23 points to 13 (which would give 3 bonus points) to secure promotion.


The weekend started in the same way that so many have this season with the Women's B side taking a win and setting up the weekend for the team.


Gabby Mason who came into the team this season got the day started with a 3-2 deciding leg win. From that point on, the team felt positive if not a little apprehensive.


Lady Jackie Norman, who has been phenomenal all season picked not only a win, but finished top of the averages in the Women's B table. An outstanding achievement.


Shannon Chappell made it 3 nil and Gwent were on a roll.


Cue the waterworks next as Amanda Cosslett, who first took to the Gwent stage in 1983, winning over 200 caps for her team, took to the stage in her final match before retirement from darts. She held back the emotion until the final dart hit the double and she finished her playing career with a win. We thank you Amanda for your many years of service and dedication to Gwent Darts Organisation.


Leicestershire scraped a point in game 5 as Libby Bullimore missed out, before Gwent youth player Abbie Brewster took game 6 and a 5-1 win for Gwent with a Lady of the match average of 18.51.


The Mens B team started off in the same fashion with Ieuan Halsall taking a 3-1 win.


Next up, Paul Cosslett, Who like his wife Amanda, was stepping up to play his final game before retirement having also won over 200 caps. He also finished his darting career with a win and brought tears to many players eyes as he walked off stage. Thank you Paul for all your years of service for Gwent and we wish you and Amanda all the very best for the future.


Leicestershire pulled a couple of points back to make the mens games all square after 6 games with Angelo Lao the only Gwent man to take a win. Game 7 and Nico Ruiz-Roynon, put in a man of the match winning performance with a 27.94 average before Miles O'Toole who was playing in only his 4th game in a Gwent shirt took Gwent to 10 points meaning that Saturday was going to finish with Gwent in the lead.


The remaining 4 games were shared with Connor Hopkins and Scott Ridler taking 2 more points for Gwent.


Overnight Score Gwent 12 - 6 Leicestershire.


Sunday morning and the squad was flying high. Promotion was not just possible but it was within sight. 11 points would see Gwent going up.


The Women's A didn't start the way Gwent would have wanted as Leicestershire took an early 2 point lead.


Up steps Jade Hickey who started the turnaround and took Gwents first point on Sunday with a Lady of the match and Lady of the weekend average of 21.47.


Mel Williams and Tracey Hickey took games 4 and 5 and Gwent Women were in the lead.


Last of the ladies games and 14 year old Yazmine Ruck-Havard returned following a shoulder injury sustained at the last county game in Merseyside when she hit a 180 and pulled her muscle. The highlight of the match was Yaz hitting a 180 and immediately turning to crowd and saying my shoulder is ok! She went on to win the game and Gwent women won by 4 points to 2.


With the score now sitting at 16 - 8, nerves were setting in. Leicestershire's mens A had been sitting at the top of their respective table for most of the season. Gwent knew they were going to have to dig deep. Leicestershire need 11 points to gain promotion. Gwent needed 7.


Who better to start the men's games for Gwent than Chairman and manager Nick Kenny. Leading from the front as always he took the first point for Gwent.


Matthew Kay next and despite losing leg 1 he fought back and took point 2. Leicestershire now were out of the promotion race.


Harry Williams took game 3 and Gwent had the 19th point of the weekend meaning that whatever happened they would at least finish with a win.


Game 4 and Mark Blandford took to the stage in his final game for Gwent before he transfers next season to Gloucestershire to finish his career. Finishing with a win for Gwent. Thank you Mark for everything and we wish you best next season and look forward to seeing you as a spectator in the future.


Game 5 for Gwent was Welsh international player Sam Cankett. Showing why he is in the Welsh team Sam produced the performance of the weekend with a 30.80 average.


Gethyn Bennett took game 6 and Gwent were now 1 point away from certain promotion.


Team Captain Paul Higgins couldn't get past the winning post and the celebrations were on hold. Nerves were setting in.


Game 7 and up to the stage walked Mike Fleet. Gwent Open 2023 winner, and known as the nicest guy in Gwent. If anyone deserved to win that point that Gwent needed it had to be Mike. 80 darts later and the room erupted as Mike hit the winning double. Gwent had the 23 points. Gwent were on their way to the Championship.


With 4 games left to play the celebrating had to wait. After a man of the match performance yesterday Nico took his place in the A side and took another point for Gwent before his fellow superleague team mate Rhys Jenkins took point 25 for Gwent.


Leicestershire were not laying down though and David Barker and Andrew Hibbert for the away team took the remaining 2 points making the mens A score 9-3.


Overall score Gwent 25 - 11 Leicestershire.


Now the celebrations could start. Gwent had done what looked almost impossible. 25 points against a side who have been at the top of their game all season.


Speaking after the game, team Captain Paul Higgins said "I am proud of all the team. The support and commitment to get us back up to the championship is just incredible. Myself and Nick are beaming with the way they all played and stepped up to the mark".


Presentation night this season looks to be one big party. Gwent are returning to the championship and dreaming big. Congratulations to all the players, supporters and admin team and good luck for next season.

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