It was a buoyant Southland representative team that returned home from Alexandra last Saturday having reclaimed the SOCOS Trophy they lost last year in the annual triangular against South Otago and Central Otago.
The Southland team stamped their mark on the competition in the second round of fours when they lost just two of the eight games contested.
The advantage over the other two teams was enhanced even further in the first round of singles when Southland lost only one game. Wins from more than 50 percent of the next three rounds of singles consolidated the position and the trophy was headed home after Southland won 24 of their 32 games of pairs to close out the tournament.
The final points were Southland 134.5, South Otago 117 and Central Otago 36.5.
Southland players to the fore with an unblemished record from six games, were Suzanne Mackie, Honorine Orchard, Grant Kean and Matthew Heads closely followed by Peter Carnie, Beejay Simpson, Margaret McDougall, Joanne Wilson, Belinda Peard, Mervyn Ryder, Elaine Carnie, Jennifer Beattie and Jason Gray who all lost just one game.
On Sunday, two players who have shown strong prospects for higher honours realised their potential when they contested the final of the Champion of Champion Singles.
Club champions from 24 clubs started the day but it was Sheldon Bagrie-Howley (Young Spirits) and Trevor Burgess (Onslow) who fought out a scintillating final with some outstanding shot-making and a game where the final result was in the balance until the very end.
Burgess started strongly but Bagrie-Howley responded to the challenge and although Burgess held a two shot advantage on the final end Bagrie-Howley delivered some precision bowls on the last end to gain three shots and deny Burgess the win, 10 shots to 9. Both players were attempting to win their first open Southland title. In the semifinals, Bagrie-Howley captured a last end 9-7 result against Grasmere's Graham Low and Burgess was too strong in defeating Peter Carnie (Seaward Downs) 12-4.
The Limehills pair of Grant Kean and Aaron Harrison successfully defended their Southland Novice Singles title recently when they won a closely fought final over the combined team Ethan Batt and Emma Houliston 7-6. In the semifinals, the Limehills combination, who swapped playing positions this year, accounted for Jason Gray (North Invercargill) and Josh Capil 17-1 and Batt won through to the final with a 9-6 victory over the combined team of Jim Davis and Les Jordan.
The Southland mixed fours team of Gary Low, Graham Low, Jan Low and Jennifer Beattie finished a close-up fourth in the New Zealand finals at Upper Hutt. Going into the final round, seven of the eight teams were in a position to win the title eventually taken out by Tauranga.
This week the North Island team commence its South Island tour and will play a combined Southland/South Otago team at Balclutha on Wednesday ahead of the inter-island test at Timaru next Saturday.
- The Southland Times