The New Zealand Blackjacks campaign at the 2023 World Bowls Championship concluded with a well-earned silver medal for the women’s triples at the Gold Coast today.
The trio of Val Smith (skip), Tayla Bruce and Leeane Poulson were beaten 14-9 by a strong Australian combination in front of a packed and partisan crowd at Broadbeach.
It marked a superb campaign for Christchurch bowler Bruce, who added the silver in the triples to her gold medal in the singles earned in the opening week.
“Overall I am really proud. If I had known before coming here that I would lose one game in the whole tournament I would be over the moon,” said Bruce. “Obviously emotions are running high having just lost a final, but overall and in the bigger picture, I couldn’t be prouder.”
In a thrilling showdown, Australia's formidable trio of Kelsey Cottrell, Lynsey Clarke, and Dawn Hayman asserted their dominance early on. With impeccable draw shots, they secured four out of the first five ends, racing to a commanding 6-1 lead.
The Australians made it tough for the New Zealanders to find their rhythm, but they managed to eke out singles on ends four and six, but a three and a two later extended their deficit to nine shots, down 2-11 after eight ends.
With time running out, New Zealand needed to mount their comeback. Smith stepped up, executing two flawless draw shots to secure another single, boosting the confidence of Bruce and Poulson.
On a pivotal 10th end, Poulson and Bruce made a strong move, holding three shots. However, Cottrell's precise drive reduced the count to one, marking New Zealand's first consecutive scores and reducing the gap to seven with eight ends remaining.
The Blackjacks held a critical shot on the ninth end but Australian skip Cottrell delivered a perfect shot, denying New Zealand their fourth consecutive score and maintaining the seven-shot difference.
New Zealand fought valiantly, with Smith finding her range on the challenging Broadbeach green. They managed a single on the 13th end and a two on the 14th end, reducing Australia's lead to four with four ends left. A spirited last bowl from Cottrell on the 15th and 16th ends secured two singles for Australia, all but sealing the gold medal. New Zealand, desperate for a breakthrough on the penultimate end, settled for a single shot, leaving them in need of a near-impossible five on the final end.
Despite their efforts, New Zealand couldn't muster the substantial score required to force extra time, with Australia defending their World Championship title, leaving the Blackjacks to settle for a well-earned silver medal.
Bruce said after the fast start, they had to dig deep.
“We did grit through it a bit. The green changed during the game and started to change the head slightly. We tried to capitalise on that but just missed on a couple of opportunities that could have boosted us a bit closer,” said Bruce.
“They played really well as we expected that would but we just needed to lift that little bit higher to give us a bit more of a chance. I am proud of how we performed, and I feel there is room for us all to grow and we can still improve.”