Canterbury duo Shayne Sincock and Kelvin Scott showed their class, tenacity and experience to take out the 2021 Stoke Stakes Men’s Pairs silverware, overcoming a formidable challenge in Ray Martin and Matt Pearson in Sunday’s grand finale.
Hosted by the iconic Stoke Bowling Club in Nelson, the three day tournament has picked up significant momentum since its inception in 2018 – 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, 30 top quality pairings put themselves among the action for section play, albeit with the absence of some quality line-ups based in Auckland and Waikato (unable to travel due to COVID-19 border restrictions).
However, despite that, the event once again proved a drawcard for some of the country’s top quality exponents, comprising former, current and potential future New Zealand representatives.
With the weather this year playing its part, six rounds of section play were completed, with the quarter-finalists emerging at the end of day two.
Left standing among the top eight, Manawatu’s Dean Gilshnan and Jason Hawe, Dunedin pairings Roger Stevens and Andy McLean and Nigel Thompson and Oliver Mason, Blackjack- esque combination of Shannon McIlroy and Seamus Curtin, Marlborough’s Scott Mansfield and Warren Brown, Gore buddies Sheldon Bagrie-Howley and Caleb Hope, Wellington/Manawatu composite Martin and Pearson and Cantabrians, Sincock and Scott.
A strong showing in the semi-finals saw Martin and Pearson overturn a significant semi-final deficit opposite Mansfield and Brown to progress comfortably through to the big dance, with Sincock and Scott, both former New Zealand internationals, also shifting gears to power past Stevens and McLean to set up a scintillating clash opposite their North Island counterparts.
For all that were watching, the game will be remembered for the final end – an exhibition of bowls at the highest of standards.
With the scores reading 17-all, it was all to play for. Some excellent lead bowls from Scott set the scene, though not to be outdone, Martin executed an inch perfect draw bowl to place the pressure firmly back on the shoulders of Sincock.
A weighted bowl cruised through the front traffic and landed for shot, again throwing the challenge to the Victoria-based skipper. Martin responded with a virtual resting toucher, prompting cheers from the crowd rinkside and applause from his opposition.
Though the action was far from done.
With perfect through weight, Sincock pushed Martin’s bowl off the head and lay for two shots and the game. A failed attempt to rescue the match saw Martin’s bowl run narrow, concluding yet another high octane finale at Stoke.
Four years in, that landmark decision to supersede the long-standing Stoke Invitational Singles with what has now become one of the sought-after events within New Zealand – tournament organiser Brendan Hodgson says the club are delighted with the event’s progress, but tips bigger and better things going forward.
“(Once again), we were thrilled to assemble another quality field for this tournament, which seems to be going from strength to strength. Obviously, we had some misfortune with the Auckland and Waikato players unable to travel, and also a bit touch and go with our new green after a wet spring, but it ended up all being perfect,” Hodgson said.
“Really pleased with how our tournament is progressing, and hopefully it will only get bigger and better as time goes by. At the end of the day though, these events are only as good as the players that want to attend them. (When you look back on it), you could say we took a bit of a punt dropping our 30-odd year Invitational Singles in favour of pairs, but after four years, there’s certainly no argument that we made the right call.
“Huge credit to our greenkeeper Glen Miller and everyone involved in making the weekend what it is . . . bring on 2022.”