Kiwis primed to defend women's pairs title

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 05:00 29/11/2012

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Reigning pairs champions Val Smith and Jo Edwards remain on track to defend their crown, while Shannon McIlroy and the women's triple also advanced to the pointy end of the world bowls championships in Adelaide yesterday.

The men's four, who were figuratively behind the eight-ball from the early stages of their competition, were the only team to miss out although England almost completed a miracle comeback on the Kiwis behalf until they were pipped by Wales.

After beating Thailand 28-13, Tony Grantham, Matt Gallop, Ali Forsyth and Richard Girvan then eliminated Malaysia 25-10 at the Lockleys club before switching focus to the battle of Britain, where they yearned for an English victory to lift them into the top three.

The English picked up four on the 16th end to narrow the margin to 16-15 and raise Kiwi hopes, but Wales eventually prevailed 17-15.

Liz White, Jan Khan and Meg Boyd finished their programme with a flourish by beating Thailand 18-12 and the Netherlands 31-4 but still had to rely on a minor miracle to join Australia and Hong Kong in the next stage of the triples from pool two.

Their prospects looked remote when England maintained their one point advantage when inflicting Hong Kong's first defeat of the tournament with a crushing 22-9 victory in the morning session, but they sensationally stumbled against out-of-contention Spain in their final game, losing 14-8 to surrender third spot.

Smith and Edwards, the only Black Jacks to occupy a top-three placing heading into the final two qualifying rounds, were assured of progressing after routing Thailand 43-5.

Not content to rest on their laurels, the Kiwis maintained their focus to overpower Claire Johnson and Margaret Letham 18-11 to claim second place from the Scots.

McIlroy's survival was basically assured after the early session where he outlasted American Steve Nelson 21-17, while then third-placed rival Kenta Hasabe (Japan) lost ground by succumbing 21-12 to unbeaten Australian Leif Selby.

He duly protected his top-three status by beating Israeli Zvi Hader 21-16 at Holdfast Bay to join Selby and Scotland's Paul Foster - the only rivals to beat McIlroy - in Tuesday's post-section play.

Attention turns today to the start of pool play in the women's singles (Val Smith), four (White/Khan/Boyd/Edwards) men's pair (McIlroy/Girvan) and the triple (Grantham/Gallop/Forsyth).

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