The powerhouse line-ups of Canterbury and host centre Auckland have been crowned the 2019 National Intercentre champions, following two epic final match-ups in which both men and women defeated Nelson to take the silverware.
Hosted at the Howick Bowling Club on Sunday, the finals saw the Canterbury men go head to head with Nelson, while the Auckland women also found themselves up against Nelson, whose team comprised of former Blackjacks across the green.
In a perfect afternoon that proved bowls is a game of the finest margins at the best of times, the men’s action saw an absolute ‘battle royale’ play out between two of the best performing centres in recent years.
Duly spearheaded by double world champion Gary Lawson and fellow New Zealand squad member Andrew Kelly, the Canterbury contingent started the tournament as somewhat of the front runners and from day one, the men in red and black have looked the goods.
However, with reigning world singles champion Shannon McIlroy, two former national singles champions combining in the pairs and a talented fours line up, Nelson were always going to put on a good contest – reflected by a final bowl win in the singles amidst scenes of last-bowl heroics from Canterbury.
With Nelson’s Richard Collett and Peter Hodson getting out to a good start against Lawson and lead Nathan Glasson, it appeared Nelson were in the box seat, with McIlroy and Kelly keeping scores close throughout and both fours sides enjoying an even match-up.
Despite their best efforts, Lawson and Glasson had to settle for their first loss of the event, losing first blood 23-7, though a one-shot thriller in the fours saw the Lance Pascoe skipped Canterbury side bring the series to a tie, 20-19.
All eyes were on Kelly and McIlroy in a repeat of the 2018 national singles final in Dunedin, with both players refusing to lose pace and keep within a shot of each other throughout. With the score 24-23 in McIlroy’s favour, the world champion demonstrated exactly why he is considered one of the world’s best, drawing three shots within inches.
But the day belonged to Kelly, executing a perfect shot to drive the jack in to the ditch to swing the series to what seemed like a one-end shootout. However, McIlroy’s final delivery arrived too quickly, giving Kelly a metre or more to draw second shot and win the title for Canterbury.
Not leaving anything to chance, that’s exactly what Kelly did, turning his second closest bowl in just enough to claim the two required shots and close out the trophy for his centre.
Meanwhile, the hometown heroes of Auckland, buoyed by their supporters, proved in outstanding form to make their way to the final, brushing aside a star-studded Wellington side, 3-0 in the semi-final.
Across rinks, the Nelson ladies clearly looked to be on a mission, combining expertly to put North Harbour to the sword, also defeating them in a clean sweep, 3-0, and booking a berth in this year’s final.
The final saw former world bowls representative Kirsten Edwards take on the vastly experienced Karen Hema in the singles, while the in-form Catherine Bien and Ling Qu went head to head in the pairs with Colleen Earl and Katie Scott – the former defeating the Nelson pairing to place one hand on the trophy. The fours match-up, skipped by Leigh Griffin for Nelson and Jill Fraser for Auckland rounded out the action, with the Auckland ladies proving too powerful, closing out two wins and leaving the singles battle retired at 22-22, with the final score eventually irrelevant.
Earlier match-ups saw some scintillating semi-finals’ action, with the Southland men considering themselves desperately unlucky not to be in the big dance, with their singles and fours representatives missing by a matter of millimetres to exit the competition at the hands of Nelson – despite a resounding win for Gore duo Caleb Hope and Sheldon Bagrie-Howley, who remained impressive throughout the event.
The other semi-final saw former champions Manawatu end their title run at the hands of Canterbury, with Kelly, Lawson and Pascoe doing enough to secure their respective disciplines and record an all important, 3-0 victory.
Special prizes were awarded to Canterbury representatives Lawson and Scott, who were both recognised as having amassed 10 national titles in the Bowls New Zealand Silver Star criteria.
The 2020 National Intercentre will return next year , with the top seven men and women from each of the 25 centres converging in Wellington to once again battle for provincial pride.
Results at a Glance
2019 Bowls New Zealand National Intercentre, Auckland
Canterbury d Nelson; 25-24 (singles), 7-23 (pairs), 20-19 (fours)
Singles: Andrew Kelly
Pairs: Gary Lawson, Nathan Glasson
Fours: Lance Pascoe, Kelvin Scott, Paul Matheson, Richard Hocking
Auckland d Nelson; 22-22 (singles), 18-10 (pairs), 18-8 (fours)
Singles: Karen Hema
Pairs: Catherine Bien, Ling Qu
Fours: Jill Fraser, Estelle Hickey, Lisa Prideaux, Linda Ralph
*For full results, team lists and section charts, visit; https://bowlsnewzealand.co.nz/national-intercentre/