Southland regained the Paterson Trophy in sensational circumstances last weekend at Timaru.
The team of Gary Low, Graham Low, Suzanne Mackie and Warwick Gray, and Grant Fortune, Peter Carnie, Beejay Simpson and Greg Heads will now go forward to the premier national teams' event, the Welch Trophy, at Pukekohe in September.
After 15 games of intense competition against teams from South Canterbury, North Otago, Otago, Central Otago and South Otago, the final result came down to the last bowl of the tournament, with Fortune, the hero of the Southland team, drawing the shot with his last bowl to win the final game of pairs and beat Otago overall by just half a point.
Southland started smartest on the Saturday and held the lead after the first full round of fours, singles and pairs to head off Otago by 2 1/2 points but relinquished that advantage to trail Otago by two points after an indifferent second round. The final round for the day enabled Southland to close the margin to just half a point behind Otago, with South Otago mounting a challenge in third place.
Two unexpected losses by Otago in the first round on Sunday enabled Southland to retake the lead with a 4 1/2-point cushion and one round to play. Otago narrowed the margin again to half a point when they claimed a fours victory over one of the Southland teams and, in the first split round of singles and pairs, had reclaimed the lead.
It now all came down to the final split round - Southland won both pairs and Otago lost one and, with Southland losing just three match points in the singles to Otago's four, the victory was sealed.
Otago's Adam Williams (27 points) won the trophy for the top individual performance of the weekend ahead of team-mates Nicholas Sinclair (26) and Daniel French (25). Southland's leading players were Beejay Simpson and Graham Low (23), but it was the solid all-round team performance by all the Southland players that won the day.
Vinnie Rayner (Wyndham T&C) confirmed he is a player with a bright future when he added the Southland novice singles title to his Southland junior title on Sunday, but not before a huge battle in the final against North Invercargill's Jason Gray. Rayner edged out Gray 10-9. Caleb Hope and Les Jordan were the beaten semifinalists.
This weekend brings another round of sub-centre championships at home. At Upper Hutt, the Southland team of Gary Low, Graham Low, Jan Low and Jennifer Beattie will do battle in the New Zealand mixed fours final against the seven other district winners.
- The Southland Times