In his final year as an eligible under-26 player, Cambridge Central’s Taylor Horn gave a departing reminder of his talents as one to watch for the future, stamping his mark as one of the country’s best young charges.
Initially announcing himself as a player with great all-round ability in winning the 2019 national men’s singles, Horn went on to lift the silverware at this very event in 2020, knocking on the door of national selection. However, by his own high standards, Horn saw out a relatively quiet season last year and the 25-year-old has since been searching for the next big tick on his impressive career resume.
That is, until now.
Putting on a classy performance in the final opposite New Zealand international and Stokes Valley hopeful Seamus Curtin, Horn cut a calm and composed figure on the Burnside green, executing a good range of shots as he romped to the silverware, 21-14.
The tournament, held every year over three days, sees some of the country’s best age-grade talent converge in Christchurch to battle it out for the sought-after accolade. Adding to this year’s prestige, representatives from the Cook Islands and a Club Merrylands campaigner from New South Wales, took part, showcasing the beginning of what could become an event of international appeal.
With many top names and former champions outgrowing the tournament through age criteria in recent years, there was a great opportunity for new names to blaze their own trail and make their talents known to the national selectors - particularly to Bowls New Zealand lead coach Mike Kernaghan, watching on from the sidelines.
Following seven rounds of qualifying, the top two from each of the four sections advanced to the last eight, while those who placed third and fourth in each section comprised Division Two.
Joining Horn and Curtin in the quarter-finals was last year’s winner Anthony Ouellet, recent national champion of champion fours victor Nathan Goodin, Auckland representative Aiden Takarua, former national secondary school’s pairs champion Kasey Garforth and two Auckland young guns in Liam Hill and David Motu – rounding out a strong showing in section play.
On their way to the final, Horn defeated Ouellet and Hill, while Curtin dispatched Garforth and Goodin. Notable mention must go to Motu, who remained the only player unbeaten in section play before falling at the hands of Hill in their quarter-final showdown, 21-4.
Held in near perfect conditions, Horn and Curtin (both considered pre-tournament favourites) put on a great display for the spectators both rinkside and watching via the live stream. Both players proved in good touch in the early stages, though with a slight jump on proceedings, Horn extended a good run of play through to 15-3 – piling on the pressure and leaving Curtin with all the work to do.
Despite a spirited fight back from Curtin, Horn was able to work the scoreboard to his favour, pushing the lead out to 19-11, biding his time and shaking hands at 21-14. The win will see Horn’s name etched on the silverware for a second time, matching his win in 2020.
In other results, West Coast hopeful Hamish Kelleher proved too strong in Division Two, defeating Club Merrylands’ Adoni Wichman-Rairoa 21-3, while former U26 runner-up Adam Baillie took the spoils in Division Three, defeating Ashleigh Jeffcoat, 15-4.
Meanwhile, rounding out the weekend’s play, Kaikorai’s Mitchell Scott finished strong to take the Division Four honours, beating Rewa representative James Thomson, 15-7.
And while Horn now leaves his under-26 days behind him, a quick look at the rest of the field and the skill on show throughout the weekend confirms the sport is most definitely in strong shape and safe hands moving forward.
The Burnside Under-26 Singles will return in October 2023.