It has been a busy schedule of indoor bowls competitions over the past fortnight with three Southland championships decided and new champions crowned in two of those events.
Twelve players from a field of 43 qualified for the post-section play in the Skelt Jewellers-sponsored Southland Singles Championship, but it was Gary Low (Grasmere) who triumphed over Suzanne Mackie (North Invercargill) in a final of two halves where both players struggled to master the finals mat.
Low opened up a 6-0 lead after just five ends and maintained that advantage through nine of the scheduled 12 ends.
Mackie collected two shots on each of the next two ends but, holding the draw with one bowl to play, Low drew a toucher to deny Mackie the victory and a 10-7 final result.
Low, a New Zealand representative, had to draw on all his experience to beat a determined Joanne Wilson (Wallacetown) 11-8 in their semifinal and Mackie delivered a precision last bowl to down Graham Low (Grasmere) 12-11.
A week later and Mackie was again in a position to gain the one win she required for her Gold Star (five titles) when she partnered North Invercargill clubmate Brian Hotton to reach the final of the Harcourts Real Estate-sponsored Southland Pairs Championship.
Their opponents in the final were Eastern representatives Willie Donaldson and Maree Swain and a titanic struggle ensued with neither pair able to gain any ascendancy until the closing ends where Donaldson and Swain gained the upper hand and the success followed with an 8-5 win.
For the victors, Donaldson and Swain, it was a double celebration as this was their first Southland titles.
Alan and Marlene Henderson (Niagara) succumbed 11-5 to Mackie in their semifinal, while Donaldson eventually accounted for the father-and-son pairing of Owen and Vinnie Rayner (Wyndham T&C) 9-4.
On Sunday it was the turn of the juniors (under-18) and their quest for the right to represent Southland at the NZ Finals in late August.
Trevor Burgess (Young Spirits) was thwarted in his attempt to defend his NZ championship crown when he was undone in the semifinals in a powerful display by Matthew Heads (North Invercargill) 14-4.
The second semifinal was an enthralling tussle between Vinnie Rayner (Wyndham T&C) and Jason Gray (North Invercargill) before Rayner triumphed with his last bowl on an extra end to secure his place in the final.
The standard of play in the final was worthy of players far more experienced and a credit to both contestants.
Rayner held the early lead at 4-0 but the lead disappeared with Heads gaining a maximum on the fifth end.
Shots were traded over the next five ends but Heads took control with three shots and a two-shot lead on the penultimate end.
Holding one shot and a measure for a second, Rayner played the perfect weighted shot to remove the closest Heads bowl to win 10-9, and his first title.
It is another round of sub-centre championships at home, while Balclutha will host the zone final of the NZ Mixed Fours today where Gary Low, Graham Low, Jan Low and Jennifer Beattie will playoff for a place in the NZ Finals and tomorrow the Southland Juniors will contest their annual representative fixture
- The Southland Times