World singles champion Shannon McIlroy (pictured) remains a firm title favourite in the men’s singles at the BLK National Championships, winning his way through to the quarter-finals in Dunedin - though some fiercely talented up and comers may have something to say if today’s form is anything to go by.
In a post-section blitz that saw some major upsets in the early rounds on day six, defending champion Dean Elgar bowed out to the hands of Oxford’s Sean Thompson, while former national singles champion Shaun Scott put paid to the hopes of 11-time national title holder Gary Lawson, defeating the double world champion 21-9 at the Taieri HQ in the second round of post-section.
Despite Scott’s initial run of stellar form, the North East Valley hope seemingly had no answers to the silky talent of Broadbeach-based Scottish international Ryan Burnett, who breezed through to a final eight spot, defeating Scott 21-3 in a one-sided exhibition and showcasing exactly why he was the former World U25 Singles champion.
Joining McIlroy and Burnett at the business end of the competition, Blackjack Tony Grantham will face the unheralded Southland protege Caleb Hope (19), who previously dispatched former New Zealand international Richard Girvan 21-16 in a thrilling third round encounter, as will fringe Blackjack Andrew Kelly, victorious against Jim Scott, 21-20.
Other youngsters to impress throughout the day were North East Valley’s Keanu Darby, who put a stop on any title charge from former Blackjack Jamie Hill, though came unstuck against multiple national title holder Petar Sain in the later round, while Stokes Valley teenage star Seamus Curtin (17) continues his meteoric rise on the greens, defeating the Blackjack maestro and one of the country’s finest singles exponents Mike Kernaghan, 21-18.
Other high profile names to exit the competition on day six include Peter Belliss, Peter Hodson, Shayne Sincock, reigning national singles pathways champion Sean O’Neill and former New Zealand development rep Sheldon Bagrie-Howley (21) - narrowly losing 21-19 to Kernaghan in the earlier rounds.
Meanwhile, the women’s pairs continued on the inevitable collision course with the star-studded Blackjack duos eventually meeting in the quarter-finals, triggering some competition casualties.
Despite a strong run of form heading into the fixture from Blackjack pairing Amy McIlroy and Selina Goddard, the former world champion composite of long time Nelson pals Jo Edwards and Val Smith proved a hurdle too big to overcome, demonstrating why they are considered one of the greatest women’s pairings in the world, closing out a comfortable victory to earn their spot in the semi-finals later this week.
Other fixtures saw the talented Boyd sisters, Mandy and Angela, go head-to-head against another formidable Blackjack pairing in Katelyn Inch and Tayla Bruce, with the spoils going the way of the Inch/Bruce side, in what proved an epic encounter decided by a solitary point, while defending champions Dale Rayner and Ashleigh Jeffcoat made it safely through to their semi-final berth, defeating local hopes and sister combination Jacqui Peterson and Pam Walker in one-way traffic, 19-13.
Canterbury stalwart Bev Morel and lead Sherrie Cottle were in devastating form as they eliminated mother and daughter pairing Leigh Griffin and Kirsten Edwards, with Morel and Cottle proving their mettle in finalising the last semi-final placing, moving themselves within two wins of the coveted silverware.
In other action, day seven will see the men’s pairs get underway, while the women’s singles will take to the greens and do battle. In an innovative addition to the competition, bowlers far and wide can now tune in to the Bowls NZ 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.
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)
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)