South Island centres claim national titles

March 24, 2021

The centres from the top and bottom of the South Island have celebrated claiming the 2021 National Intercentre titles.

Nelson won a fifth women’s crown at the Wilton Bowling Club in Wellington on Sunday, moments after Southland broke through to win the men’s silverware for the first time.

Reigning Commonwealth Games champion Jo Edwards appropriately sealed Nelson’s victory over Dunedin in the final, beating Beth Brown 25-14 in the singles.

Edwards was also a key member of the Nelson sides that won the intercentre titles in 1997, 2004, 2012 and 2014.

“I’ve played pretty much all of my bowls in Nelson and it’s a great group of friends off the green as well,” she said.

“We’ve been a really good team of eight. We’ve chopped and changed a little bit and I think they’ve got those selections right.

“No one person or one discipline can win it for you, but it’s been a hell of a team performance over the three days.”

Edwards’ best mate Val Smith earlier helped Nelson put one hand on the intercentre trophy, when she and Colleen Earl raced to a 21-5 win over Sarah Scott and Bronwyn Stevens in the pairs.

The Dunedin women had won all eight of their pairs games on the road to the final.

“Val’s been playing so good,” Edwards said.

“She’s won two games with her last bowl, including the semi-final, winning it for us to get through to the final.

“I think they’ve only dropped one game all tournament too so that’s a great achievement for them.”

It is the fourth intercentre title for Smith and Barbara McGregor, who didn’t play in the final, while it is the first for Earl.

Katie Scott was also part of a winning Nelson team for the first time, while
Kirsten Edwards, Amy McIlroy and Gemma Watt claimed their second titles.

Edwards, McIlroy, Scott and Watt were leading Dunedin 14-11 in the fours when Jo Edwards gave Nelson an unassailable lead.

They closed out the women’s final while celebrations were taking place at the other end of the green, where Southland completed their giant-killing run in the men’s competition by stunning the powerhouse Auckland team.

The Southlanders earlier upset defending champions Canterbury in the quarter-finals before downing hosts Wellington in the final four.

Sheldon Bagrie-Howley and Elliot Mason beat former Blackjacks Mike Galloway and Tony Grantham 20-12 in the pairs to secure Southland their maiden intercentre title.

It reduced grown men, including coach Tony Cockerill, to tears.

“It’s the first one for Southland so it’s quite emotional within the whole team,” Bagrie-Howley said.

“It means a lot and definitely that hard road makes it even better.”

Craig Merrilees set-up Southland’s victory in the final, beating past international Jamie Hill 25-16 in the singles, having accounted for Blackjacks Andrew Kelly and Seamus Curtin in the previous two rounds.

“You’ve got to take your hat off to Craig in the singles,” Bagrie-Howley said.

“Apart from a couple of wee hiccups in qualifying he played outstanding in the last two days when it really mattered.

“The majority of us put in a lot of preparation leading up to this, especially the likes of Craig, and it really showed.”

Shane Elliott, Bryan Harvey, Steve Sanders and Craig Tinker were the other members of the champion Southland team.

They were trailing Gary Lawson’s Auckland quartet 14-12 when Bagrie-Howley and Mason made the fours a dead rubber and started the celebrations.