Kiwis' chances on knife edge
New Zealand's Black Jacks face an anxious time on the greens in Adelaide today as their world championship aspirations hang in the balance.
Only defending champions Val Smith and Jo Edwards, of Nelson, have the luxury of occupying a top three position in their pool, a prerequisite for advancing to post-section play, heading into the final two qualifying rounds.
The duo's inconsistent form continued when they were upset by Hong Kong 22-11 in the morning session yesterday, but they solidified their grip on third place, and improved their points differential over fourth-placed South Africa to +60, by beating the Netherlands 22-10.
The Kiwis and the South Africans both meet second-placed Scotland today. Smith and Edwards face lowly Thailand first, so they can be assured of progressing before they take on Claire Johnson and Margaret Letham.
Shannon McIlroy is fourth in his men's singles group but is in a potentially advantageous position, given that he faces two struggling opponents today.
Japan's Kenta Hasabe - who leads the Kiwi on points differential - has to take on unbeaten Australian and world No 2 Leif Selby.
McIlroy lost his first match yesterday, to in-form Scotsman Paul Foster 21-16 - after leading 10-2 after six ends - but rebounded to clinch a tense contest with Thailand's Anuruk Rodmanee 21-19 at Holdfast Bay.
Hasabe has a +19 points differential, but with Selby in a class of his own and Rodmanee also on his schedule, McIlroy has a prime opportunity to secure third if he beats out-of-contention American Steve Nelson and Zvi Hadar of Israel.
The women's triple of Lisa White, Jan Khan and Meg Boyd are also fourth - a point behind England - though they have an easier draw today, with Thailand and the Dutch already out of the race.
England, one of the pre-tournament favourites, face an also-ran in Spain but also encounter pool leaders Hong Kong.
New Zealand battled to a 14-14 stalemate with Malaysia in their first game at the Lockley's club but found Norfolk Island a far easier proposition, winning 25-7.
A draw against Zimbabwe probably killed off the men's four's slender hopes of qualifying, although they finished day four by thrashing Israel 24-7.
Ironically, the Kiwis have the best points differential in their pool but are only sixth. They must beat Thailand and third-placed Malaysia and then rely on other results to fall their way.
Skip Richard Girvan squared their contest against Zimbabwe 15-15 in the final end but was denied a deadlock-breaking second shot when his last bowl drifted wide of the jack.
"We probably outplayed them, but they drove us off the park, really," said Bowls NZ head coach Dave Edwards.
The lead changed eight times throughout a tense 18-end contest, and Tony Grantham, Matt Gallop and Ali Forsyth were in a subdued mood after Girvan's final roll of the dice didn't quite come off.