New Zealand Blackjack Andrew Kelly has combined with fellow Canterbury representative Nathan Glasson to take out the 2019 Stoke Stakes Men’s Pairs, overcoming a star-studded post-section field on Finals’ Day.
Hosted by the iconic Stoke Bowling Club in Nelson, the three day tournament has picked up significant momentum since the inaugural event last year – with some of the country’s best and in form players travelling to the upper South Island for their tilt at the $10,000 winners’ cheque.
Recognised as a feature event of the Bowls New Zealand Summer of Bowls programme, 32 top quality pairings put themselves among the action for section play, with thousands of viewers able to enjoy the live stream coverage and commentary on the Stoke Bowls Facebook page online.
With the weather proving uncertain at times, six rounds were still able to be completed, with the quarter-finalists revealed at the end of day two, heading in to “Stakes Day” – otherwise known as sudden death post-section.
Left standing among the top eight, North East Valley duo Keanu Darby and Jim Scott, Blackjack pairing Gary Lawson and Chris Le Lievre, Marlborough’s Andre Smith and Dennis Mills, Canterbury’s Paul Matheson and Chris Bullock, Elmwood Park Saints’ duo Lance Pascoe and Kelvin Scott, composite pairings Josh Boyd and Dave Archer, Kerry Becks and Paddy Stewart and Canterbury’s Kelly and Glasson.
The semi-finals saw Havelock skipper Smith demonstrate his quality at crunch times against Lawson, Smith drawing enough clutch shots to progress through to the final, while the other semi-final fixture saw Kelly and Glasson overcome an 8-0 deficit against Pascoe and injury replacement Finbar McGuigan to take out the match and advance to the Grand Final.
The final saw Smith and Mills race out of the block early doors to take an 8-2 lead, though much like the game beforehand, both Glasson and Kelly settled in to their work and began pegging back the deficit.
It wasn’t long before the Cantabrians had the game back in their favour, with Kelly and Glasson proving too consistent over the 18-ends, picking up a five count to extend their lead 21-12 and forcing the Marlborough duo to concede defeat with two ends left to play.
The win gifted Kelly and Glasson a sizeable pay day, both receiving $5000 each for their weekend’s efforts and taking the honour of being recognised by their peers as the 2019 Stoke Stakes Men’s Pairs champions.
Reflecting on the event’s second year, tournament organiser and co-commentator Brendan Hodgson was delighted with proceedings, though made it boldly clear the club have even greater expectations going forward to future years.
“We’ve said it before and it has been said most of the weekend, it’s a high quality field and it’s as good as anything around, but we’re by no means done yet,” Hodgson said.
“We’ve got big ambitions for this tournament and our plan is to continue attracting the best, and we’re lucky to have such great sponsors who allow us to dangle the big money carrot and put this type of opportunity up for all of the players.”
Kelly, who is gearing up to take on the singles berth at the upcoming Trans Tasman fixture on the Gold Coast, has shown impressive form in the early stages of the season, with Lawson, Ali Forsyth, Jamie Hill and Musgrave Hill-based Chris Le Lievre all primed and ready for action – Le Lievre no doubt counting down the days until he makes his Blackjacks debut in the Multi Nations on November 18.
The Stoke Stakes Men’s Pairs will return in November next year, with Hodgson and the team already confirming expressions of interest for the event.
Results at a Glance
2019 Stoke Stakes Men’s Pairs, Nelson
Kelly d Smith: 21-12
Kelly d Pascoe: 17-15
Smith d Lawson: 16-12
Gary Lawson/Chris Le Lievre d Keanu Darby/Jim Scott
Andre Smith/Dennis Mills d Paul Matheson/Chris Bullock
Lance Pascoe/Kelvin Scott d Josh Boyd/Dave Archer
Andrew Kelly/Nathan Glasson d Kerry Becks/Paddy Stewart
by Sam Morton