Hall and Francis edge one point thriller at the Valley

October 10, 2022

Dunedin composite Jan Hall and Ange Francis have started the season in fine style, taking out the coveted 2022 North East Valley Ladies Pairs in a gripping last bowl finale in Dunedin.

Now in its 11th year, the event attracts players from all corners of the country, with provincial representatives and high performing local players showing their wares, bidding for a lucrative prize pool and top honours among their peers.

The event format sees 24 combinations take to the greens in sections of six, with the top two from each section progressing to the quarter-finals. From there, it’s straight knockout play.

Following five games of qualifying, the top eight pairings emerged – these were Kerry Kelly (Tala Kelly), Malia Tavite (Carolyn West), Jo Toogood (Annie McDonald), Lynley O’Callaghan (Beth Brown), Auckland representatives Linda Ralph (Estelle Hickey), Lynda Milne (Christine Buchanan), Hall (Francis) and mother and daughter combination Shannon Eathorne (Cathy King).

Returning to this year’s field, all eyes were on the Southland pairing of Sarah Scott and Bronwyn Stevens, winners of both the 2020 and 2021 events. However, any talk of a three-peat was quickly stopped in its tracks after qualifying, with the reigning champions unable to progress from their section, in a closely fought line-up that included the eventual winners.

Also, a surprise absence from post-section was three-time winner and last year’s runner-up Sandra Keith (Tania Woodham), with the pairing securing three wins and two losses, while Central Otago pairing Margaret O’Connor and Jane Anderson managed two wins and a draw – both combinations narrowly missing the cut.

On their road to the final, Hall and Francis accounted for Toogood and O’Callaghan, while Eathorne and King proved too strong for the Buchanan and Ralph combinations, setting up a blockbuster clash of the locals.

Racing out to a comfortable 10-3 lead, Hall and Francis put themselves in the box seat, though with a spirited fightback from last year’s Dunedin Open Pairs champions, Eathorne and King moved through the gears to bring the score back to within one point, 11-10.

However, holding their nerve, Hall and Francis responded in promising fashion, extending the lead to 12-10, and 15-10, before a last gasp finish from Eathorne saw them pick up a two, falling one shot short of an extra end.

In other results, Keith and Woodham bounced back from their disappointment in missing the main event, combining to win the Plate Final opposite Shona Elder and Helen Carman. Meanwhile, Scott and Stevens also got into the prizes, defeating Ruth Williams and Christine Boorer in the Consolation Final.

The North East Valley Ladies Pairs will return again in October 2023.

-Sam Morton