Day two of the Bowls Premier League 07 (BPL07) has concluded with the Brisbane Pirates continuing their red hot form, and the Blackjacks clocking their first two wins of the campaign to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Hosted at the Naenae bowls complex in Lower Hutt, Wellington, the world’s best bowlers continued to provide some scintillating action on the indoor carpet rinks, as a further three rounds during the day played out prior to the televised evening fixture.
Following a winless start on day one, the Blackjacks side of reigning world singles champion Shannon McIlroy, dual Commonwealth Games singles gold medalist Jo Edwards and tournament debutant Mike Nagy, knew the size of the task ahead of them - though with a 14-round format scheduled, the competition remains closely congested as teams vie for a top four placing.
An opening round encounter saw the Blackjacks hold pace with the highly favoured Gold Coast Hawks, with Nagy, Edwards and McIlroy combining expertly to take the first set with some clinical draw play and conversions.
However, the class of dual Commonwealth silver medallists Aron Sherriff and Nathan Rice, alongside former Jackaroo Lynsey Clarke shone through in the second set, with the Hawks winning through and forcing a tie break - a one end decider that cruelly went the way of the Hawks consigning the Blackjacks to another luckless loss.
Round six saw the Blackjacks fall to the hands of the Murray Steamers (pictured above), with Canadian master blaster Ryan Bester, Australian rising star Ellen Ryan and decorated Moama representative Michael Walker dispatching the Kiwis in straight sets, 5-4, 6-4.
A courageous and spirited performance in round seven saw the Blackjacks close out the Aaron Wilson led Melbourne Roys, who alongside Jackaroo star Barrie Lester and dual Commonwealth Gold medallist Carla Krizanic put up a tough fight - though a determined New Zealand side saw them win in straight sets to get eventually get them up and running and on the board.
In the final fixture of the day, a vocal crowd got right in behind their local heroes to spur them onto another much needed win opposite the Perth Suns, with a change of tactics showcasing Edwards’ skipping prowess as Nagy and McIlroy alternated off the front.
A dominant first set saw the Blackjacks push out to a comfortable 7-1 win, backed up superbly with a narrow 6-5 second set victory , in a performance that is bound to trigger a mighty comeback from the New Zealand franchise as the later rounds advance.
Other results saw five-time Commonwealth champion Alex Marshall continue his purple patch of form, aptly assisted by Cottrell who has shown superb form on the circuit, putting defending champions Sydney Lions to the sword in straight sets in devastating fashion.
An epic match-up saw BPL06 runner-ups Illawarra Gorillas, spearheaded by six-time World Indoor Champion Jeremy Henry, edge past the Hawks on a final bowl win in the tie-break, with Henry running Sherriff’s shot bowl out of play to sit with the victory and transition into second place.
Day three will now require McIlroy and Co to notch up an unbeaten streak, with a distant reliance on other results to go their way also helping their cause. The Blackjacks will take on the Lions, Hawks and Gorillas in the next three rounds, before converging on the TV rink for another evening showdown, this time opposite the Melbourne Roys.