In a last bowl thriller, Tauranga have taken out the 2023 National Women's Interclub Sevens, while Gore have convincingly shone through to secure the men's accolade opposite Stoke.
Held at the Naenae Bowling Club, with supporting greens throughout Wellington, 25 centres descended on the capital to battle it out for interclub supremacy. Following five rounds of qualifying, the top two from each of the four sections comprised the quarter-finalists, with teams then requiring two out of three wins each round to progress to the grand finale.
Heads were turned on day two, with South Canterbury's Temuka men qualifying for the top eight, emerging alongside Taranaki's West End as top qualifiers in section three. Drawn to play back-to-back champions Elmwood Park, many considered one way traffic in Elmwood's favour, with the Canterbury-based club boasting past New Zealand representatives and an abundance of stars throughout the seven.
With Gary Lawson and Stephen Ditfort combining in the pairs, the Elmwood duo made light work of Sam Morton and Merv Davey, taking the first points of the fixture and leaving it to the outcome of the singles and fours. Trailing former national singles champion Kelvin Scott by 19-9, it looked almost certain Elmwood would progress to a third successive semi-final - though Stoddart, (who himself represents South Canterbury in the singles), was far from finished. Buoyed by the performance of the Temuka four Dave McClelland, Roger Jackson, Merv Holland and Hans Winkelman, Stoddart staged a comeback to remember, scoring 12 unanswered points to equal proceedings and turn all attention to the outcome of the fours.
Up against Lance Pascoe, Nathan Glasson, Liam Eathorne and Ricky Cook, McClelland's quartet continued their fine tournament form - accounting for Pascoe 15-8 and sending Temuka to the semi-finals for the first time in its club history. Across rinks, West End accounted for Durie Hill 3-0 , with Craig De Faria and John Roberts chalking up another victory to remain unbeaten, and singles exponent Dean Elgar once again doing the damage for his club on the big stage.
The Temuka dream came to an abrupt end in the semi-finals, with reigning world singles champion Shannon McIlroy taking the match-up opposite Stoddart, and the pairing of Robbie Reed and Jimmy Pugh proving too strong for Morton and Davey. By way of consolation, McClelland's four fought to the end, edging the win 12-10 against Pete Hodson, Paul Baken, Don Ambrose and Lloyd Bellis, while Elgar and Co also came unstuck in their fixture opposite Gore, with the southerners defeating them in all three disciplines.
The men's final saw Blackjack Sheldon Bagrie-Howley defeat Stoke's McIlroy to claim first blood, while the incredibly impressive pairing of Craig Tinker and Craig Merrilees were once again in stellar form, almost emulating their unbeaten run at last month's National Intercentre for Southland, combining to win seven from eight in as many starts. The Gore four of Elliot Mason, Nick Buttar, Thomas Cockerill and Tony Cockerill also enjoyed a strong run of results, claiming close wins in the quarter and semi-final respectively.
Earlier in proceedings, Gore defeated Manawatu's North End, while perennial winners Stoke put a stop to the gallant run of Auckland, who had players such as former New Zealand international Jamie Hill and former world singles champion Leif Selby among their firepower. Other quarter-finalists included Durie Hill, West End and Elmwood Park.
Meanwhile, there were dramatic scenes aplenty in the women's conclusion on day three, as Tauranga pipped Nelson to the title by the finest of margins, 2-1, as Debbie White dragged the jack into the ditch and threw her arms into the air with delight. Just seconds earlier, Nelson skip Val Smith had moved the jack to hold the win, triggering an entourage of Nelson shirts - with many not realising White still had a bowl in hand - alas White executing the win in a final bowl thriller.
In other results, Nelson defeated reigning champions Takapuna in a closely fought showdown, while Tauranga accounted for local hopes Victoria. Other qualifiers were St Heliers, North East Valley, Papakura and Queenstown.
RESULTS AT A GLANCE
2023 Bowls New Zealand National Interclub Sevens, Wellington
Singles: Sheldon Bagrie-Howley
Pairs: Craig Merrilees (s), Craig Tinker
Fours: Elliot Mason (s), Nick Buttar, Thomas Cockerill, Tony Cockerill
Singles: Sue Hodges
Pairs: Debbie White (s), Mary Campbell
Fours: Gayle Melrose (s), Jocelyn Holten, Marilyn Constantine, Karen Clark