Val Smith claims silver at world champs

SINGLES STAR: The best is yet to come from the driven Shannon McIlroy.
SINGLES STAR: The best is yet to come from the driven Shannon McIlroy.

Two-time gold medallist Val Smith was unable to prevent Australia maintaining their stranglehold over New Zealand's Black Jacks at the bowls world championships in Adelaide today as she relinquished her singles crown to Karen Murphy.

Smith surrendered the pairs title she won in Christchurch in 2008 with Jo Edwards in last week's showdown with Australia's Kelsey Cottrell and Rebecca Quail and today Murphy was too stylish for the 47-year-old as she claimed celebrated her second gold of the tournament.

Murphy was never headed during her 21-17 victory at the Lockleys club, her response to a rare moment of anxiety underlined her class and coolness under pressure.

Smith constructed the most profitable end of the encounter when she tallied the maximum four on the 23rd end to trim the deficit to 17-14 but Murphy - a member of the gold-medal winning triple yesterday -- brushed aside the potential setback by scoring on four of the next five to win with relative ease.

Murphy's triumph means New Zealand has not won a gold medal at a world championships for the first time since 1996 - a rare blot on an otherwise proud record.

Australia made the most of home advantage by ruling five of the eight disciplines, traditional powerhouse Scotland won the other three.

Before Smith's demise Shannon McIlroy's title aspirations were ended by eventual champion Leif Selby in the semifinals.

The Australian took out an entertaining encounter 21-19 against an opponent who played better than his world ranking of 11th suggested.

Selby, the world No 2, was pushed to the limit by the New Zealander before securing victory on the 27th end.

McIlroy was well beaten 21-11 when the pair met in the first round of pool play but the rematch was a far edgier affair thanks to the 25 year-old's ability to work his way out of seemingly hopeless predicaments.

"I had a 'never say die' attitude really. I had to dip into the reserve tank when things were getting tough and I managed to pull it out of the bag a few times, but not quite," said McIlroy, who was making his world championship debut.

Selby made the perfect start in blustery conditions at the Lockleys club when he picked up four on the opening end and was poised to expand his advantage to 9-1 on the fifth until McIlroy orchestrated the first of several superb saves.

He killed the end with a pin-point drive and then picked up a single when it was replayed to launch a sequence of five successful ends that saw McIlroy take a surprise 9-7 lead.

Undeterred, Selby regrouped and after a fluctuating battle he threatened to build match-winning momentum when holding two shots on the head and a lead of 17-14 during the 22nd.

However, McIlroy calmly responded with a perfectly weighted toucher to again turn a potential deficit into a one shot gain.

McIlroy successfully limited the damage to two shots over the next two ends and then scored one with a magnificent draw with his last bowl of the 25th.

Another last-ditch drive ensured the 26th would be replayed and although Selby closed to within one shot of the 21 required he squandered an opportunity to end proceedings when his final bowl stopped short of the target.

McIlroy almost made the Australian pay when a stunning fourth bowl claimed three shots to trim the deficit to one, though Selby dictated terms in the decisive end after the Kiwi's opening efforts made no impression on the jack.

His last-ditch effort also thudded harmlessly into the ditch to hand Selby a hard-fought victory.

"It was another royal rumble, this has been going on for too long now," Selby said of his rivalry with McIlroy.

"The last four ends I sort of held the match and he's played absolutely world class bowls to stay in it."

Selby ensured Australia ended the championship on a successful note by beating Canadian Ryan Bester by the same margin, 21-19, in a thrilling finale.

New Zealand ended up with three silvers and two bronze.

New Zealand medals: Women's singles: Val Smith (silver); women's pair: Val Smith/Jo Edwards (silver); women's triple: Lisa White, Jan Khan, Mandy Boyd (silver); Men's singles: Shannon McIlroy (bronze), men's triple: Tony Grantham, Matt Gallop, Ali Forsyth (bronze).