By Michael Burgess
As Alex Reed and Aiden Takarua sealed their victory in the 2021 Carpet Mill Birkenhead Men’s Pairs tournament, their overriding emotion was relief.
While there was plenty of pride at triumphing over a strong field, Reed and Takarua also knew a monkey was off their back.
The Pt Chevalier combination are a promising duo, who have made significant progress since they teamed up four years ago.
They had impressed in many tournaments, but had never managed to triumph in a pairs event.
“We got down to the last four in lots of them,” says Reed. “And we lost our club pairs final two or three years in a row. There had been lots of semi-finals and quarter finals in big pairs’ events so this was important.”
“It can become a habit, that’s the danger, so it was nice to prove a point and get over the line and hopefully it’s not a one off.”
And they did it in fine style, considering the 2021 field was labelled by organisers as the strongest in tournament history, with so much pedigree and quality among the 32 teams.
“It’s a great challenge,” says Reed. ‘When you get there on the first day and see two greens full, and you look around and they all know what they are doing.”
“There were lots of people with national titles and centre titles and former and current New Zealand champions. It’s cool to be in that sort of company. In our first game we faced Jamie Hill, who won the national pairs earlier this year.”
Reed and Takarua were one of only three teams to emerge from qualifying with a 100 per cent record and were seeded second for post section play, with 2020 champions Roger Andrew and David Clark the fifth seeds.
In the round of 16 Reed and Takarua were pushed against Neil Fisher and Bryan Chapman, before prevailing 14-12. The quarter final was also close, but they progressed with a 13-10 win.
The semi final looked a difficult assignment, as their Birkenhead opponents enjoyed plenty of local support, but the youngsters made no race of it, with a comfortable 11-4 victory.
In the final they faced 2021 national singles champion Mike Galloway, playing alongside Martin Dixon. The experienced duo, who made the Birkenhead decider in 2019, gained an early 5-2 lead, before Reed and Takura changed their game plan.
“We decided to switch hands,” said Reed. “There was a side towards the clubhouse which was a bit dodgy and a side away from it which we thought was a bit easier. We seemed to pick it a bit better after that.”
They took seven of the next eight shots to lead 9-6 on the eighth end, then closed the door completely on their opponents, who never scored again, before they conceded on the penultimate end when trailing 15-6.
“We have played them a number of occasions in the last few years and they are a really good team,” says Reed. “We managed to string ones and twos together and get a nice lead, so it wasn’t as stressful as it could have been.”
It meant Reed and Takarua, both seventh year bowlers, emerged unbeaten from the weekend, in their first bow at the Birkenhead event.
“It just clicked,” says Reed. “Aiden played well in section play and I showed up in post section play which was good. We’ve now got a bit of mongrel. When you are down in a game we have won enough of those that it is not a frightening prospect.”
Reed (27) and Takarua (21) linked up in 2017, after Reed had moved to Auckland from Tauranga. The duo met playing indoor bowls at Pt Chev, at a time when Takura’s previous teams had dispersed. They have won centre fours and triples events together and now have their first pairs trophy.
“We probably talk less now,” said Reed, when asked how the partnership has developed. “There is a more non-verbal communication. We have more understanding and trust, so don’t need to talk through shots as much.”
Organiser Terry Moverley said the tournament had been a major success, highlighted by the fact there were five teams on the waiting list. He paid tribute to all the sponsors, including major backer Carpet Mill, adding that prizemoney would increase by $500 to a total pool of $6000 next year.