Red hot favourite and reigning World Singles champion Shannon McIlroy has moved to within three victories of claiming his third National Singles crown in four years, following an impressive day on the Howick greens in Auckland on day four of the Summerset National Championships.
As post-section got underway in the Men’s Singles and Women’s Pairs, high profile names began to fall, and the vast experience and local knowledge began to be a telling factor.
Bowing out of the championships early, New Zealand Development representatives Sheldon Bagrie-Howley, Bradley Down, Finbar McGuigan and last year’s beaten semi-finalist Seamus Curtin and Caleb Hope, all meeting their match early on, though a classy performance from Mangere’s Taylor Horn turned heads as he thumped former international Richard Girvan to book a spot in this year’s last eight, rounding out a consistent string of performances at the event’s headquarters, Carlton Cornwall.
Across rinks, dual world champion Gary Lawson, who was bidding to win the Men’s Singles 30 years after his triumph in 1989, was stopped in his tracks by North Harbour’s Grant Goodwin – who pulled off the perfect finish after three-times clawing back a sizeable deficit, driving Lawson’s three closest bowls out of the head to claim a 21-20 victory on what proved the final end.
Goodwin, subsequently looking to emulate the efforts of his son Justin who won the singles in 1999, will now play Hillcrest’s Tony Fabling in Monday’s quarter-final, with Fabling earlier accounting for the well-performed Roger Stevens, 21-15.
Alongside McIlroy, Goodwin, Fabling and Horn, former Auckland representative Chris Le Lievre, now playing out of Musgrave Hill in the Gold Coast was equally in promising form and will now go up against good friend and former international Jamie Hill in what promises to be a blockbuster clash.
The other match-ups will see Wellington youngster Logan Amer take on McIlroy in a feature-like encounter, while Horn will be looking to continue his scintillating form as he goes up against Manurewa hopeful Roger Andrew.
Meanwhile, the Women’s Pairs semi-finalists have been found with some star-studded fixtures to take place early next week.
Sydney based Blackjack Val Smith, along with lead Lisa Prideaux continued their commanding form as they dispatched the Pt Chevalier duo of Jo McKenna and Jenny Stockford and the composite skipped side of Lisa Parlane and Iris Dickson – though found themselves edging a quarter-final thriller opposite Elaine McClintock and Lindsay Nichols, 18-17, in what eventuated as a somewhat nervous finish.
Seemingly in control throughout, Smith and Prideaux were surprisingly forced to anxiously await the final delivery from McClintock, with McClintock drawing for a possible full count and taking the game to an extra end. Though it wasn’t to be, as McClintock fell short of the head, gifting a semi-finals berth to Smith despite collecting a five-count.
Across rinks, the Blackjack-like pairing of former Commonwealth Games’ team mates Amy McIlroy and Selina Goddard proved in irrepressible form as they coasted past the other Blackjack-like pairing of Clare Hendra and Tayla Bruce, 18-10, before going on to end the title run of the mightily impressive former international Wendy Jensen and lead Anne Dorreen in the quarter-final on Saturday afternoon.
McIlroy and Goddard will now line-up against the composite skipped side of Reen Stratford and Linda Ralph in Monday’s semi-final, while Smith and Prideaux will take on the Te Atatu Peninsula pairing of Marion Hakaraia and Robyn Reihana – Reihana earlier defeating the promising Te Rangi duo of Sarah Scott and Bronwyn Stevens and the mother and daughter combination Kirsten Edwards and Leigh Griffin, 15-12 in the last eight showdown.
Day five will see a reverse format of Saturday’s play with the Men’s Pairs and Women’s Singles post-section fixtures scheduled to commence from 8.30am.