Recalled New Zealand squad member Gary Lawson demonstrated exactly why his talents have been missed in the top echelons over the last decade, with a masterclass skipping exhibition in taking out the Speight’s Nelson Premier Fours for the second successive year.
Following the inaugural success last year, the small, but hearty Nelson Bowling Club welcomed another star-studded field to the sunshine city, with 16 teams bidding to claim top honour and pocket the rewarding $10,000 winners cheque on offer.
Combined with fellow former international Jamie Hill, Wellington’s Mike Carroll and star lead Tony Grantham, Lawson conducted his side expertly throughout the tournament – bringing the big shots out of Hill when required and consistently supporting the team with his own prowess on multiple occasions.
The tournament format saw teams split to four sections of four, with the top two sides from each section advancing to the Main Event and moving within three games of the sizeable prize money and sought-after silverware.
Following the three rounds of section play, the successful skips left standing were Lawson, Pascoe, Andre Smith, Peter Hodson, Sheldon Bagrie-Howley, Josh Boyd and reigning World Singles champion Shannon McIlroy, with the other sides contesting the Plate and Flight play-offs.
In what seemed like a sense of dejavu, Lawson’s four found themselves once again up against last year’s runner-ups in Lance Pascoe, Kelvin Scott, Glenn McDonald and Jason Dunn, with a repeat of performance playing out over the 25-end thriller in Lawson’s favour.
Despite holding their own in the opening ends of the match-up, Pascoe’s four came unstuck after some exquisite shot play from Hill – with two pin-point drives and exceptional draw shots giving the defending champions an edge and a revived confidence.
As Grantham and Carroll continued to lay the foundation from the front, both Hill and Lawson continued their devastating form in the latter stages of the game, leaving Pascoe and his side little choice but to concede defeat with five ends left on the ledger and wondering what might have been after yet another consistent showing at a premier event.
Beaten semi-finalists in the Main Event included Smith and Hodson, with Pascoe halting Smith’s run and Lawson putting the kibosh touch on Hodson’s quartet, as players battled tough, rain-soaked conditions in the early action.
Across rinks, the Plate Final was won by former New Zealand international David File, who alongside Canterbury representative Stephen Ditfort, Chris Alldred and tournament major sponsor John Caldwell , proved too strong for Marlborough’s composite four of Sanjhe Prasad, Craig McDonnell, Kevin Greenwood and Shane O’Leary.
The Nelson Premier Fours will return again next year, with all eyes on Lawson as he searches for a three-peat victory, though with increased exposure across the ditch, expect some household names to make the trip in 2020.