New Zealand's bowls world championship campaign ended without a golden moment for the first time since 1996 in Adelaide yesterday as Australia continued to torment their Black Jacks counterparts to the bitter end.
Leif Selby and Karen Murphy compounded the Kiwi's despair on the last of 16 days of competition by claiming tense victories at a windswept Lockleys club to complement the host's superior combination play.
Murphy's 21-17 victory in the women's final was the cruellest blow as it consigned defending champion Val Smith to silver for a second time.
Smith and Jo Edwards relinquished the pairs crown they won at Christchurch in 2008 to Kelsey Cottrell and Rebecca Quail last week, and the 47-year-old was powerless to stop Murphy celebrating her first singles world championship after a tight tussle in testing conditions.
Murphy seemed to have a grip on the game when leading 17-10 after 22 ends but Smith rallied magnificently with a four on the next - a dramatic method of bridging the gap in the context of the game.
Prior to Smith claiming the maximum, the combatants could only add single shots for 13 consecutive ends but the New Zealander's scoring spurt could not faze the Australian.
Murphy showed her class by securing a single on the next with her last bowl and the 37-year-old eventually closed out a 3 hour contest she never once trailed on the 29th end.
"Karen's body language dropped a bit, there was a chance for Val to pounce after the four but she's an experienced player and called on all those reserves to keep Val at bay," said Bowls NZ head coach Dave Edwards.
Earlier Shannon McIlroy's quest for gold was downgraded to bronze after Selby claimed a gripping semifinal 21-19.
The New Zealander surrendered the lead on the 13th of 27 ends but pushed the title favourite to the brink with a sequence of amazing salvage operations.
McIlroy, well beaten 21-11 when the pair met in pool play, gave an inkling of his stickability when he worked his way out of a seemingly dire predicament during the fifth.
Facing a potential 9-1 deficit, the 25-year-old killed the end, depriving Selby of three shots, before claiming a single when it was replayed - the catalyst for a successful five-end stretch that enabled the Kiwi to take a surprise 9-7 lead.
"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.
Once Selby regained control, McIlroy again delivered miracle bowls on the 22nd and 25th ends to grab unlikely shots but a last-ditch drive could not prevent Selby collecting the shot he needed to win the race to 21.
"The last four ends I sort of held the match and he's played absolutely world class bowls to stay in it," Selby admitted.
Before McIlroy and Smith had their hopes dashed, the men's triple were upstaged by Australia in their semifinal the same day as the pair lost out.
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)
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