The well-versed Nelson/Marlborough combination of Andre Smith, Shayne Sincock, Gary Watson and Murray Scott have taken out the inaugural South Island Open Fours title in Dunedin, following an impressive showing over the five-day event.
Despite organisers left feeling somewhat dejected at the lack of tournament entries and haemorrhage of late withdrawals, a field of sixteen took to the Taieri greens to contest the silverware and vye for a slice of the $8000 prize pool up for grabs.
Initially formed as a joint club initiative between Dunedin powerhouses North East Valley and Taieri, the tournament, endorsed by the Summer of Bowls calendar, offered the opportunity for players to try their hand at the traditional 25-end rinks format – an idea that immediately generated strong interest throughout the South Island.
However, weeks out from the event, team entries began to fall and organisers were left questioning the timing of the showpiece – perhaps clashing with the Christmas and New Year festivities and the Summerset National Open Championships in Auckland.
Though, with teams from Nelson, Canterbury, Dunedin, Central Otago, South Otago and Southland, the event still promised plenty of anticipation and with predominantly pleasant weather, it didn’t disappoint as play got underway on the Taieri surface.
Qualifying rounds commenced over three days, with teams requiring four wins from six to progress through to the post-section playoffs.
Following the qualifying action, five teams remained in contention with the Andersons Bay quartet Joko Susilo, Paul King, Graeme Cocks and Bobby Johnson drawn to play against the Canterbury rep skipped side of Paul Matheson – with other qualifiers automatically advancing to the final four.
The semi-finals saw the two previously unbeaten sides of the Makos, skipped by Smith, and Edward Gibbon, skipped by former National Fours winning skip Kerry Becks, go head to head, with Becks steering his respective composite of fellow Cantabrian Paddy Stewart and Dunedin’s Keri Rupene and Jonty Horwell.
Smith and Co continued their devastating form as they accounted for Becks, while across rinks, Dunedin hopefuls Susilo and team edged a solo-point thriller against Dunedin representative Rod Fleming, ably supported by Ken Walker, Phil Austin and Karl Mason.
The grand finale proved one way traffic, as the Makos demonstrated their class and experience racing out to a 19-2 lead at the halfway mark and not relinquishing the pressure, controlling a 26-13 margin, with Susilo’s quartet conceding after 23 ends.
The win saw Smith’s side travel home with a sizeable winners purse, with Susilo’s crew taking the runner-up cheque of $2000 and both beaten semi-finalists pocketing $1000 between their team respectively.
All eyes now turn to the action in Auckland, as some of the country’s top players and rising stars look to push their mark as a new era of high performance bowls’ selection dawns.
Results at a Glance
South Island Fours, Taieri, Dunedin
Smith d Susilo; 26-13
Smith (Makos) d Becks (Edward Gibbon); 25-20
Susilo d Fleming (O’Brien Group); 25-24
Makos (Andre Smith, Shayne Sincock, Gary Watson, Murray Scott)
Edward Gibbon (Kerry Becks, Paddy Stewart, Keri Rupene, Jonty Horwell)
O’Brien Group (Rod Fleming, Ken Walker, Phil Austin, Karl Mason)
Susilo (Joko Susilo, Paul King, Graeme Cocks, Bobby Johnson)
Matheson (Paul Matheson, Paul McKinnel, Darryl Hawker, Jason Dunn)