Former New Zealand internationals Shaun Scott and Sean O’Neill combined forces to take out the prestigious Bayleys Stewart Buttar Invitational Pairs, defeating reigning world champion Shannon McIlroy and lead Isaac Denny in a thrilling finale at Burnside.
Now in its 14th year, the event sees the famed Burnside complex welcome 48 pairings to the city, including four players from the Australian Jackaroos set up and a host of top past, present and no doubt, future international stars from throughout New Zealand.
The three-day event got underway on Friday, with teams playing three games of section play, two further games on Saturday and then the first round of post-section before Sunday’s business end action commences.
Following five rounds of section play, the top placing in each section advanced through to the Main Event – squaring off in a bid to progress through to the Grand Finale. The top qualifiers comprised of McIlroy (Denny), Scott (O’Neill), Bob McAuley (Dave Archer), Rohan Ware (Brian Ware), Lynsey Clarke (Chloe Stewart), Sandra Keith (Serena Matthews), Mike Kernaghan (Brent McEwan) and Hamish Wilson (Bruce Wakefield).
As the final bowls came to rest on Sunday morning, the section toppers were McIlroy and Scott, with McIlroy and Denny enjoying an unbeaten run to the final match-up, while Scott and O’Neill had only dropped one round in post-section.
Scott and O’Neill, who have both previously won this event with different players, got off to a scintillating start in the final, racing out to a comfortable 11-1 lead after eight of the scheduled 15 ends.
However, McIlroy and Denny, both in promising form throughout the tournament, were in no mood to head to the bar for an early drink – staging an incredible comeback to move within one point of their opposition, courtesy of a five on the 12th end.
The following end saw the McIlroy duo collect a solitary point to bring the scores level with two ends left to play. Though, their comeback hopes took a dive on the fourteenth, with Scott and O’Neill combining expertly to pick up a four count, with swirling winds proving a tough task for the bowlers to overcome as McIlroy was unable to reduce the deficit.
The final-end saw McIlroy and Denny try everything possible to force a four count, however the vast experience and composure of Scott and O’Neill was enough to close out the fixture 18-13 and take out the winner’s cheque of $3600.
Meanwhile, the Taieri/Halswell pairing of Ken Walker and Phil Austin spoiled the party for the Australian powerhouse duo of Scott Thulborn and Wayne Ruediger, defeating them in the Division 2 final, 9-7.
In other results, the recently crowned New Zealand pair’s champions Chris Lowe and Jordan King took out Division 3, local representatives Nathan Glasson and Jason Dunn won Division 4, last year’s champions Mike Small and Richard Hocking proved too strong in Division 5, while Kevin Rowe and Craig Schroder were the best in Division 6.
Other commendable placings in Division One went the way of the all Burnside-pairing of Wilson and Wakefield, finishing joint third with Dunedin’s Kernaghan and McEwan, while Jackaroo duo Clarke and Stewart and the formidable pairing of Keith and Matthews shared the fifth position equally.
The 2020 Stewart Buttar Invitational Pairs will return to Burnside next January, where it expected another star-studded field will be in attendance for their shot at the prestigious silverware.
-END -Sam Morton