Reigning champion Val Smith's contrasting fortunes at the bowls world championships transferred to the singles arena in Adelaide yesterday as a spine-tingling trans-Tasman triumph was counteracted by a narrow loss to Canadian Kelly McKerihen.
Smith made the perfect start to her title defence when she clung to a 21-20 lead at the climax of a titanic 23-end struggle with Australia's Karen Murphy but, in a mirror image of her experience in the early stages of the pairs competition with Jo Edwards, back-to-back wins proved elusive.
McKerihen completed a tense 21-18 win at the Lockleys club and is one of four unbeaten bowlers in pool one with nine qualifying rounds remaining.
Smith, whose defence of the pairs title with Edwards continues in post-section play next week, had to survive one last desperate drive from Murphy before she celebrated in fairly muted fashion.
The world No 4 Murphy, having drawn level at the close of the penultimate end, managed to skittle a shot bowl clear of the jack with her last delivery on the last but could not dislodge another in close proximity, leaving the relieved New Zealander to reflect on a titanic struggle.
"It went right down to the wire, and it was just a case of trying to hold my nerve and see the game out, but it could have gone either way," Smith said.
"No one player deserved it any more than the other, to be honest.
"I was pretty much ready to accept the fact that she was going to get the shot and I was going to go down 20-21, but I'm really happy that I've come away with the win," said Smith, who takes on players from Wales, Israel and Thailand today.
The men's triple of Tony Grantham, Matt Gallop and Ali Forsyth also claimed an Australian scalp first up, a 13-10 win in a low-scoring encounter at Lockleys some compensation for their failure to advance from pool play in the fours.
They then ensured that promising start did not go to waste by beating the Canadian trio 20-14 thanks to Forsyth extricating them from a couple of vulnerable positions.
Unsuccessful fours skip Richard Girvan also bounced back from that setback in tandem with Shannon McIlroy as they opened their pairs programme with an 18-13 victory over Malaysia, although they dropped their second game to Canada 26-13.
The women's four of Lisa White, Jan Khan, Mandy Boyd and Edwards could not be separated from Scotland at Holdfast Bay where they shared a 14-14 stalemate, and then compounded Australia's woes when they put away the Jackaroos 22-14 to sit pretty in pool one.
The competitors defied furnace-like conditions as a heat wave struck South Australia.
The temperatures rose to 36 degrees Celsius before a short, sharp downpour slowed the greens in the afternoon.
- The Nelson Mail