The first trans-Tasman clash for gold is locked-in at the bowls world championships in Adelaide after New Zealand's reigning pairs champions and the in-form Australians reached tomorrow's showdown in contrasting style yesterday.
While Val Smith and Jo Edwards had to endure some anxious moments before winning their quarterfinal and semi by a solitary point on the greens at the Lockleys club, Kelsey Cottrell and Rebecca Quail surged into the decider by clouting Scotland 24-1.
The Australians advanced straight to the semifinal stage by finishing ahead of their neighbours after pool play and while the Kiwis laboured to put away England 18-17 and the Philippines 13-12, a partisan crowd marvelled as the title favourites toyed with Claire Johnson and Margaret Letham on the next rink.
Statistically, Cottrell and Quail present a formidable obstacle to Edwards completing a three-peat - she won the 2004 title with Sharon Sims in Leamington-Spa before combining with Smith four years later in Christchurch - but the Kiwi was upbeat despite being beaten by the Australians on the tournament's first day.
The Jackaroos' double act cleared out to win their clash 17-11 on November 24, though Edwards felt the margin did not fairly reflect the competitive nature of the game.
"We dropped a four on the last end but a lot of water has passed under the bridge . . . since then," she said. "This is a one-off game, we'll be up for it and giving it out best crack. They're both playing really well, so we're going to have a hell of a game on our hands."
Edwards and Smith were looking forward to a rest today after taking almost four hours to eliminate England's Wendy King and Ellen Falkner, the pair they beat to win gold in Christchurch.
Despite the closeness of the score, the New Zealanders essentially had the game under control on the final end, although Falkner turned a one-shot deficit on the head to a gain of four with her last bowl.
"Even though it was a bit hairy for the spectators, we were quite confident we couldn't drop a five because of the way we had positioned our bowls," Edwards said.
The semifinal was on a knife edge to the death, however, but Filipino skip Ainie Knight could only pull back one on her final visit to the mat.
"She could have sliced the jack for two (shots) but she decided to go a bigger weight and missed the target," Edwards said.
The Black Jacks are contesting the post sectionals of five of the eight disciplines - Shannon McIlroy is the Kiwi in action today in the quarterfinals of the men's singles.
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