Gore and Thames Coast prevail at National Champion of Champions Triples

Women's Winners:  Thames Coast
From left: Val Mathews, Adele French and Kaye Bunn

New Zealand World Bowls’ representative Sheldon Bagrie-Howley appears to just keep on winning, riding a purple patch of form to skip his Gore clubside to the Summerset National Champion of Champions Triples on Sunday.


Joining the Gore trio at the top of the podium was the Thames Coast line-up of Kaye Bunn, Val Mathews and Adele French, completing an astonishing comeback to clinch gold in an extra end finale opposite South Canterbury’s Sharon Leonard, Julie Robins and Janice Williams.

Hosted at the Hopes Dunedin Lawn Bowls Stadium, 24 men and 21 women combinations converged to contest the final stage of a three-tier competition, with play first commencing at club championship level throughout the season. The format requires three out of four wins to progress to post-section play, with eight pairings making the cut in the men and 10 combinations among the women.

In a commanding display, Blackjack skipper Bagrie-Howley and his side of Thomas Cockerill and Elliot Mason were clinical from start to finish, wrapping up a one-sided final opposite the vastly experienced North Harbour line-up of Neil Fisher, John Walker and Colin Rogan, 18-2.

Agonisingly so, this was Fisher’s second final in as many weeks, last weekend pipped to the post on an extra end thriller in the men’s pairs. However, Bagrie-Howley and his side put on a shot selection clinic, seemingly unable to miss throughout the match and piling the pressure on Fisher throughout.

The semi-finals saw Fisher defeat the well-performed West Coast family line-up of Ethan Kelleher, Hamish Kelleher and Nigeal Kelleher, while Bagrie-Howley survived a frightening encounter opposite Mount Maunganui stars Nicholas Tomsett, Paul Anderson and Nathan Arlidge, overcoming a 13-5 deficit to take the spoils, 16-14.

Beaten quarter-finalists were St Kilda’s Murray Wilson (Reuben Silva, Owen Bennett), Putaruru’s Owen Sutton (Noel Sutton, Liam Peeters), Stoke’s Paul Baken (Don Ambrose, Graham Growcott) and Kahutia’s July Hoepo (Leighton Shanks, Willy Murray).

Shortly after, the women’s final saw one of the most remarkable comebacks in recent years, with Bunn and her side overturning a 14-0 deficit to win the game on an extra end, 18-17. Up against Leonard’s strong side of Robins and Williams, the Thames Coast trio looked to have their work cut out for them as the Kia Toa ladies continued to apply scoreboard pressure, simply outdrawing their opposition in the early stages.

Though having previously defeated Hawkes Bay combination Natarsha Grimshaw, Coral Lukies and Henrietta Scott, it was clear Bunn and Co were far from done - clawing back every point before picking up a four on the final end and forcing the title to a deciding end.

Despite Leonard’s best attempt to save the match, her final bowl sailed past the head, completing an unlikely turnaround and sending Bunn, Mathews and French into raptures of joy as they secured their maiden national title.

The semi-finals saw Bunn defeat Grimshaw, while Leonard’s charges overpowered the Queenstown trio of Jane Anderson, Andrea Dowman and Kath Mann, 17-12.

Beaten quarter-finalists were Raumati’s Audrey Stevenson (Rochelle Stevenson, Michelle McDonald), Picton’s Kiri Bond (Alisa Waters, Eden Murrell-Manu), Palmerston North hopefuls Mere Fryer (Emily Grey, Anne Ayres) and local favourites Bronwyn Stevens (Brooke Craik, Ange Francis).

Other qualifiers included Hinuera’s Deb White (Bev Corbett, Katrina Ensor) and Bridge Park’s Agnes Motu (Lesley McLinden, Kirsty Hill), with both sides defeated in the first round of post-section earlier in the event.

Attention now moves to the Summerset National Champion of Champions Fours (21-23 July) at Royal Oak and Pukekohe Cosmopolitan Club, bringing to a close the 2023 series.

-Sam Morton