As the first day of the Bowls New Zealand National Intercentre draws to a close, the heavy hitting provinces have sounded an early warning to the field, racing to the top of their respective sections after three rounds in a strong start to their 2019 campaign.
Held at six greens throughout Auckland, with headquarters named as Howick, the top seven men and women from each province have converged in the city of sails in a format that sees centres battle it out to be crowned the best centre year on year.
In the men’s action, Section One, which saw teams play one additional game yesterday due to an uneven number of teams in their line-up, resulted in Manawatu leading the charge with 21pts, while both Counties Manukau and Northland run equal second with 18pts each.
Section Two, played at Auckland Bowling Club, saw tournament favourites Canterbury, who bolstered by double world champion Gary Lawson and Andrew Kelly, drop only one game to lead the section, with North Harbour and defending champions Wellington the next best off the ranks tallying up 18pts and 15pts respectively after nine fixtures.
The Royal Oak action, which hosted Section Three, saw the powerhouse Nelson and Taranaki sides sweep their opposition away to comfortably remain on track for a top eight berth, finishing on 22pts and 21pts respectively.
Across rinks, the shock of the competition appears to be going the way of last year’s runner-ups Dunedin, who have managed only four wins from nine – three of which courtesy of New Zealand squad member Mike Kernaghan, who has remained unbeaten thus far, including an impressive showing opposite reigning world champion Shannon McIlroy, 25-18.
The final section, played at Howick, resulted in a fairly equal effort across the park, with Hawkes Bay topping proceedings with 19pts and three other centres separated by only a single point with Southland, Auckland and Marlborough finishing the day with 16, 15 and 14 game points respectively.
Meanwhile, the women’s field saw some of the country’s smaller centres lead the way, matching it with many of the pre-tournament favourites to maintain a strong record.
Section One, which again featured seven teams and required one additional game, saw Thames Valley and South Otago race to the top of the table, finishing on 22pts and 21pts – just one game ahead of Marlborough, chasing hard at their heels on 19pts.
Section two, played at Papatoetoe Hunters Corner, saw the expected Central Otago and Canterbury contingents to forge ahead, though with Hawkes Bay and Waikato all but one game away, it will be all to play for heading into day two.
In other results, Section Three’s standings see a three-horse race developing, with Counties Manukau and Wellington both on 21pts a piece at the top of the section and the star-studded Nelson ladies sitting one game behind on 18pts.
The final action of the day in Section Four saw hometown hosts Auckland and their noisy neighbours North Harbour break away from the pack, both topping the table with 21pts a-piece, with seemingly only the Southland women able to catch them idling in third place on 15pts.
Day two’s activity will see a further two rounds of section play unfold, before the quarter-final fixtures get underway later in the afternoon at the Howick and Carlton Cornwall greens.
The semi-final and final will be played on Sunday at Howick.