New Zealand High Performance Squad member Gary Lawson has teamed up with Bowls3Five fan favourite James “Jimmy” Pugh to take out the 2019 Invitational Victoria 2-4-2 Men’s Pairs.
Marking its 23rd year and with generous sponsorship from Credit Consultants, 32 pairs combinations from around the country converged in the capital, with the field reflecting a high calibre of national and provincial representatives throughout, as the Summer of Bowls programme rolls on.
Teams included defending champions Ross Thorn and Bruce Henderson along with a host of previous champions such as Terry Johnson and Wayne Coleman (2017), Grant Wakefield and AJ Cronin (2012), Steve Glavas and Rex Holmes (2009), among notable hopefuls such as current high performance squad members in Andrew Kelly, Jamie Hill, Seamus Curtin and Mike Kernaghan rounded out a top quality field.
Split into eight sections of four, day one saw the teams play three qualifying games to find the top two in each section.
With the field then halved, day two saw the winner of each section comprise two sections of four, while the section runner-ups progressed through to a Plate format. The winner of each section in the top eight advanced to the Grand Final.
Following Saturday’s play, Scotty McGavin (Robbie Bennett), Curtin (Finbar McGuigan), Grant Wakefield (AJ Cronin), Kernaghan (Laurie Guy), Lawson (Pugh), Mark Noble (Lou Newman), Mike Isaacson (M.Hapuku) and Brendan Hodgson (Robbie Reed) remained in the hunt, while Ricky Cook, Brendan Gibson, Sanjhe Prasad, Dave Carr, S Alfesio, Robbie Bird, Rex Holmes and last year’s main event winners Henderson and Thorn comprised the Plate sections.
A further three rounds saw Lawson and Pugh progress through unbeaten after as many starts, while Manawatu/Wellington composite McGavin and Bennett enjoyed similar success, also rounding out three wins.
In swirling conditions, both sides started out in even fashion, with McGavin and Bennett extending a slim lead early doors, 5-3. However, the lead was short lived as Lawson and Pugh began finding their stride, Lawson displaying an accurate attacking game, while showing his class on the draw end after end to regain the lead.
Trading shots in difficult conditions, the Lawson and Pugh duo held their composure to run out tournament champions, 14-5 – with an end to spare, Pugh showing plenty of enthusiasm that has seen him win over crowds as part of the Stoke Thunder Bowls3Five set-up and enjoying his maiden Victoria Pairs title.
However, for Lawson, the win gave him an unprecedented sixth title at this event, once again etching his name on the silverware alongside previous title wins with Andrew Curtain (2008), Lance Pascoe (2011), Justin Goodwin (2014) and back-to-back victories with former Australian representative Rob Parella (1999/2000).
Meanwhile, other results saw Johnsonville’s Dave Carr and Dick Williams share the spoils in the Plate opposite Kapiti Coast pairing Rex Holmes and Steve Glavas, while Curtain and Gary Ruane and Rob Ashton and Brent Stubbins followed suit in the Shootout Division to conclude the event’s results, with no further bowls required for the afternoon.
Will Lawson be back to attempt a Parella-like repeat with Pugh next year, or will another playing partner be on the cards as he chases a seventh link to the Invitational Victoria Men’s Pairs?
Watch this space.
Results at a Glance
2019 Victoria Invitational Men’s 2-4-2 Pairs, Wellington
Final: Gary Lawson & James Pugh d Scotty McGavin, Robbie Bennett; 14-5
equal: G.Wakefield, A.Cronin
Final: 1st equal: Dave Carr, Dick Williams – Rex Holmes, Steve Glavas
Final: A Curtain & G. Ruane – B. Stubbins & R. Ashton
by Sam Morton