Dunedin’s Taieri Headquarters is proving a happy hunting ground for New Zealand Blackjack Mandy Boyd, successfully skipping her fours unit to a third successive fours final in as many attempts and helping to move her sister Angela within one win from a Gold Star.
A sure certainty for the Commonwealth Games side come April, Boyd with Angela, Christchurch pal Sheryl McLean and 2015 women’s singles champion Leigh Griffin, showed exactly why she will be a threat to any international opponent, executing some telling bowls as she breezed through post-section and in to the grand finale in the coming days.
Day eight saw both defending champions in the men’s and women’s fours bow out of the competition in remarkable fashion, with Jo Edwards and her dubbed “dream team” of Val Smith, Kirsten Edwards and Tayla Bruce going down to the might of the Kay Hammond quartet in an extra end thriller, 18-17, while Peter Belliss, Richard Girvan, Michael Beesley and Lance Tasker eventually succumbed to the glossful talent of Raymond Martin and his side of Jayden Ravji, Jason Johnstone and Richard Corry, 13-9.
In the run-up to the semi-finals in the women’s fours, Boyd, who earlier encountered a bye, put an end to the title run from the formidable four skipped by Broadbeach-based Blackjack Katelyn Inch in the quarter-finals, 17-9, while fellow semi-finalists Ann Muir defeated the composite side skipped by St Helier’s Catherine Bien, 24-4.
Boyd’s four will now go head-to-head with the Sandra Keith skipped combination, littered with Blackjacks Selina Goddard, Amy McIlroy and long-time pairs partner Serena Matthews - who earlier accounted for Canadian international Kelly McKerihen and her side of Leanne Chinery, Natasha Russell and Jan Shirley, 24-13 in an exciting showpiece.
The semi-finals saw both Boyd and Keith race out in their respective matches, controlling play throughout and comfortably setting up a grandstand finish between two top sides.
Meanwhile, the men’s fours continued to spotlight the domination of the international packed side of Blackjack skipper Ali Forsyth, double world champion Gary Lawson, current World Singles champion Shannon McIlroy and Melbourne Commonwealth Games medallist Justin Goodwin, with the quartet sounding a loud warning signal as they dispatched Te Rangi’s Steve Sanders in the last 16, before trouncing Naenae’s Mike Solomon 29-3, to earn their spot in the final four.
Across rinks, prolific national title holder Bruce McNish appears to have returned to the national echelons with style, teamed with formidable locals Murray Wilson, Geoff Griffiths and Nick Buttar, who has recently returned to the Kapiti Coast after a stint living overseas, with McNish and Co turning back the clock to progress through to this year’s semi final.
For those astute bowls followers, both McNish and Buttar were in the victorious Ryan Bester skipped side in 2008 alongside former NZ rep Chris Le Lievre, with their performance this year earning them a spot opposite title favourites Forsyth and clan. The other likely contenders, who are presently one round behind the action at HQ, include the powerhouse combination of Mike Kernaghan, Scottish international Ryan Burnett, Blackjack Tony Grantham and New Zealand development rep Rory Soden, who will go head-to-head with the Pascoe family, Lance, brother Shane, father Trevor and long-time pal Robbie Reed, following their solitary point victory against Forbury Park hopeful Rod Fleming and team.
The strong run of form continues for 17-year-old Seamus Curtin, who alongside Sheldon Bagrie-Howley has advanced his way to yet another quarter-final - with Curtin now featuring in all three disciplines in the last eight. Joined by 2015 NZ Open Pairs victors Taylor Horn and Jesse Russell, the young guns will combine to take on Martin’s quartet in what is billed to be a blockbuster showdown later this week.
Moving through to the business end of the competition, day nine will work to reveal the finalists in the men’s and women’s pairs and singles, with tournament organisers aiming for the coveted finals to take place on Sunday - though will find themselves having to work around the player’s schedules who remain alive in multiple disciplines.
In an innovative addition to the competition, bowlers far and wide can now tune in to the Bowls New Zealand Facebook page to enjoy scheduled live streaming of select games at the Taieri HQ, commentated expertly by the Voice of Bowls Kevin Hickland and proudly supported by event sponsors BLK.
Upcoming Fixtures at a Glance
Men’s Fours Quarter-finals
Mike Kernaghan (Composite) vs Lance Pascoe (Composite)
Sheldon Bagrie-Howley (Composite) vs Raymond Martin (Composite)
Men’s Fours Semi-Final (awaiting quarter-final results)
Ali Forsyth (Composite) vs Bruce McNish (Composite)
Women’s Fours Final
Mandy Boyd, Leigh Griffin, Sheryl McLean, Angela Boyd (Composite) vs Sandra Keith, Serena Matthews, Amy McIlroy, Selina Goddard (Composite)
Men’s Singles Quarter-Finals
Shannon McIlroy (Stoke) vs Don Cameron (Hikurangi)
Tony Grantham (Browns Bay), vs Caleb Hope (Gore)
Andrew Kelly (Canterbury) vs Petar Sain (Carlton Cornwall)
Seamus Curtin (Stokes Valley) vs Ryan Burnett (Broadbeach)
Men’s Pair’s Quarter-Finals
Bradley Down, Finbar McGuigan (Composite) vs Shannon McIlroy, Justin Goodwin (Composite)
Ali Forsyth, Gary Lawson (Composite) vs Mike Small, Barry Williams (Burnside)
Nick Sinclair, Callum Horwell (Composite) vs Paul McKinnel, Graham Low (Composite)
Sheldon Bagrie-Howley, Seamus Curtin (Composite) vs Peter Belliss, Lance Tasker (Composite)
Women’s Singles Semi-finals
Katelyn Inch (Broadbeach) vs Ashleigh Jeffcoat (Frankton Junction)
Jo Edwards (Pine Rivers) vs Val Smith (Merrylands)
Women’s Pairs Semi-Finals
Dale Rayner, Ashleigh Jeffcoat (Composite) vs Jo Edwards, Val Smith (Composite)
Katelyn Inch, Tayla Bruce (Composite) vs Bev Morel, Sherrie Cottle (Elmwood Park)