The young guns continued to make their presence firmly felt at the BLK National Championships on
day seven, inflicting some major upsets and stamping their mark as ones to watch going forward.
In what was defined as the upset of the day at the Taieri HQ, Wellington teenagers Bradley Down and
Finbar McGuigan proved in scintillating form as they showed skill and maturity beyond their years
to dispatch the highly favoured Blackjack combination of Mike Kernaghan and Tony Grantham,
running out narrow victors in a thrilling second round match-up, 15-11.
Displaying true sportsmanship and encouragement, Kernaghan won hearts by offering post-match congratulations and advice to the young duo, clearly inspiring them to a 21-6 drubbing over Taranaki singles champion Dean Elgar and lead Scott Roberts - earning them a quarter-finals berth opposite the powerhouse pair of Shannon McIlroy and Justin Goodwin in the coming days.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing for McIlroy and Goodwin as they negotiated their way through murky waters, with locals Stewart Alderton and Blair Cowan finding themselves 15-6 up at the halfway mark, before the class of the World Champion and former New Zealand rep took full control scoring 20 unanswered points to advance to the last 16.
The following fixture then saw McIlroy and Goodwin go down to the wire against Southland reps Craig Merrilees and Brent Thomson, with McIlroy deploying his trademark drive on the final bowl to snatch victory, 18-16 and move within three wins of the title.
Other quarter-finalists see the dynamic youth duo of Sheldon Bagrie-Howley and Seamus Curtin
continuing their impressive stride in the competition, defeating promising locals Rod Fleming and
Mike Bracegirdle, 19-13, while across rinks the vastly experienced Graham Low and Paul McKinnel
nudged their way past New Zealand Development rep Rory Soden and partner Sean Thompson, 17-15.
In other results, the international combination of Ali Forsyth and Gary Lawson lurk dangerously in
the shadows, with both Lawson and Forsyth dominating the national pairs competition over the last
few years, albeit with different leads - and paired together are likely to emerge as the ones to beat
One of very few composites left in the competition, the Burnside pairing of Mike Small and Barry
Williams did themselves proud as they advanced their way to the last eight, dispatching the talented
Caleb Hope and Graham Down to secure their place opposite Forsyth and Lawson, while Dunedin
youngsters Nick Sinclair and Callum Horwell also put their best foot forward, defeating Dunedin
open representatives Craig McCaw and Geoff Wilson by a solitary point.
And while the youthful talent continues to flow through to the later rounds, only a fool would
discount eight-time national champion and New Zealand Hall of Famer Peter Belliss, who teamed
with Lance Tasker continues to pose a devastating threat in the quarter-finals as they eye up the
Bagrie-Howley and Curtin combination in what is sure to be a thrilling encounter.
Meanwhile, the women’s singles saw the graceful fall of reigning champion Selina Goddard,
respectfully bowing out to fellow Blackjack Val Smith in the last eight, while national team mates
Katelyn Inch and Tayla Bruce went toe-to-toe - Inch running out the clear victor 21-7 to earn her spot
in the semi-final.
In other results, world number one Jo Edwards made no race of her match-ups against Paris Baker,
Carolyn Crawford and Tessa Hocking, comfortably advancing to a mouth watering semi-final
prospect opposite her lifetime pal Smith in what is sure to be a closely fought fixture.
Standing opposite Inch on the other side of the draw, Waikato starlet Ashleigh Jeffcoat continues her
irrepressible form in Dunedin, defeating former Blackjack Kirsten Edwards 21-14 to advance to her
second semi-final of the championships.
With the quarter-finalists now found in the men’s singles and pairs, and the semi-finalists revealed
for the women’s singles and pairs, all action will turn to the opening rounds of post-section in the
fours, hosting some of the greatest players in the country on day eight.
Results at a Glance
Men’s Pairs Quarter-finals
Shannon McIlroy, Justin Goodwin (Composite) vs Bradley Down, Finbar McGuigan (Composite)
Paul McKinnel, Graham Low (Composite) vs Nick Sinclair, Callum Horwell (Composite)
Sheldon Bagrie-Howley, Seamus Curtin (Composite) vs Peter Belliss, Lance Tasker (Composite)
Ali Forsyth, Gary Lawson (Composite), vs Mike Small, Barry Williams (Burnside)
Women’s Singles Semi-finals
Katelyn Inch (Broadbeach) vs Ashleigh Jeffcoat (Frankton Junction)
Jo Edwards (Pine Rivers) vs Val Smith (Merrylands)