A strong title charge on day two has seen the Thames Coast side of Kevin Gainfort, Sandy Foy, Simon Stephens and Steve Jones crowned National Club Fours Champions, while Queenstown quartet Margaret O’Connor, Christine Buchanan, Debra Lloyd and Jane Anderson (pictured above) continued their early form to power home in the women’s action.
Hosted at the Browns Bay Bowling Club in the North Harbour, all eyes were on the southern contenders after an unblemished record on day one saw them head in as overnight leaders after three rounds, with their nearest opposition one game behind.
However, two losses in their remaining fixtures saw the Waikiwi side of Craig Merrilees, Bryan Harvey, Aaron Tribe and Brent Thomson surprisingly fall to second place, going down to the might of local heroes Tony Grantham, Adam Haywood, Scott Mouton and Lindsay Gilmore, in a narrow solitary point loss.
The win to Grantham, a Blackjack squad member and local favourite, threw the tournament wide open, though a determined Gainfort skipped four kept pace, winning their first game to draw level on game points heading into the final round - giving themselves every opportunity against Grantham.
The final round saw the well-performed young guns of New Zealand Development representative Seamus Curtin and sixteen-year-old rising star James Cameron-Powell, joined by Jason Puddick and Bill Brunenberg, find their season’s best form to notch up a further two wins - including a last round victory opposite Merrilees and Co, pushing them into third place overall and ending their campaign on three wins from five.
The loss opened the door for Gainfort’s men, who remained in fine touch to comfortably halt Grantham’s expected title hunt, posting a resounding 24-7 victory and running out the only four-winner of the event to claim the silverware in impressive fashion.
Other results saw Grantham’s side finish fourth, while Canterbury contenders Craig Carter, Rob Fensom, Brent Mayson and Bruce Redmond, of the Methven club, ended their campaign with one win to claim fifth place. Hawkes Bay hopefuls Paul Sorensen, Bob Strahl, Fred Ellison and Martin Wyeth were unable to register a win in the first four rounds and opted not to play the final round, finishing sixth overall.
Meanwhile, across rinks, Queenstown’s O’Connor and team continued their dominant form on day two, narrowly edging out a strong challenge from Northland’s Anne Bateman, 12-11, in round four to move within an arm's length of the trophy.
Equally impressive, an opening round win to Counties Manukau’ contenders Gaylene Harvey, Natarsha Grimshaw, Leanne Poulson and Marilyn Bristowe forced the competition into the final round, with Harvey’s side requiring a win to potentially overstep the leaders on differential, should O’Connor’s side lose.
And as results would have it, that’s exactly what happened as Naenae’s Cath Jones, Leonie Gough, Karen Hilliard and Robyn Fitzgerald chalked up an 18-16 win - only for Harvey and Co to fall agonisingly short after playing out a draw opposite Bateman, rendering O’Connor’s loss irrelevant and gifting the title the way of the Queenstowners.
Other competition standings saw a late charge from Kahutia’s Glenys Whiteman, Francis Adair, Dayvinia Mills and Lucy Shanks finish up on three wins to take third place, while Jones finished fourth and Bateman, with one win and a draw, settling for fifth position. Stoke’s Mary Orbell, Jan Marsden, Kath Newth and Lesley Morris rounded out their campaign with a draw, finishing in sixth place.
With all titles now awarded in all disciplines from the National 2x4x2 Mixed Pairs right through to the singles, pairs, triples and fours, successful players and teams can now potentially hold onto their respective champion tags for many years to come, as sweeping changes look likely to see the National Club Championships fall from the calendar to make way for more innovative formats, similar to that of the Bowls Premier League - recently televised on Sky Sport.
Results at a Glance
National Club Championship Fours, Browns Bay Bowling Club
Champions: Kevin Gainfort, Sandy Foy, Simon Stephens, Steve Jones (Thames)
Runner-up: Craig Merrilees, Bryan Harvey, Aaron Tribe, Brent Thomson (Southland)
Third: Seamus Curtin, James Cameron-Powell, Jason Puddick, Bill Brunenberg (Wellington)
Fourth: Tony Grantham, Adam Haywood, Scott Mouton, Lindsay Gilmore (North Harbour)
Fifth: Craig Carter, Rob Fensom, Brent Mayson, Bruce Redmond (Canterbury)
Sixth: Paul Sorensen, Bob Strahl, Fred Ellison, Martin Wyeth (Hawkes Bay)
Champions: Margaret O’Connor, Christine Buchanan, Debra Lloyd, Jane Anderson (Central Otago)
Runner-up: Gaylene Harvey, Natarsha Grimshaw, Leanne Poulson, Marilyn Bristowe (Counties Manukau)
Third: Glenys Whiteman, Francis Adair, Dayvinia Mills, Lucy Shanks (Gisborne East Coast)
Fourth: Cath Jones, Leonie Gough, Karen Hilliard, Robyn Fitzgerald (Wellington)
Fifth: Anne Bateman, Betty Mitchell, Gwen Lawson, Manu Timoti (Northland)
Sixth: Mary Orbell, Jan Marsden, Kath Newth, Lesley Morris (Nelson)