Australia on course for lawn bowls series win
A contrasting team performance placed Australia on course to retain their Trans-Tasman bowls crown on the opening day of an intriguing pre-Commonwealth Games series in Victoria today.
After their men - with the exception of the dominant Black Jacks' triple - gave Australia the initial ascendancy, the Jackroos' women stepped up in the final session at the Traralgon Bowling Club to give the two-time defending champions the honours of day one of the three-test series.
New Zealand's men won both triples encounters - and the second instalment of the pairs - to draw level on nine points, though Australia won with a superior differential.
In the women's competition, the contest was locked at two wins apiece and locked on differential until Lynsey Clarke, Karen Murphy and Natasha Scott avenged a narrow loss in the morning with a comprehensive 21-6 victory.
Kelsey Cottrell and debutant Carla Odgers then nailed back-to-back victories over Jo Edwards and Val Smith to claim the test by four wins to two.
The men's triple of Tony Grantham, Shannon McIlroy and Ali Forsyth were the only Kiwi combination to be unbeaten heading into tomorrow's second test by following up a close 16-13 win with a eight-point victory in their second outing.
Dan Delany and Richard Girvan could also take confidence from a much-improved showing against Matthew Flapper and Brett Wilkie, bouncing back from a 21-8 loss in game one to edge the rematch 15-12.
Although Trans-Tasman bragging rights were at stake, the Anzac spirit was still evident on one green - a surface tailor-made to replicate what New Zealand and Australia expect to compete on in Glasgow in July-August.
Bowls New Zealand national coach and selector Dave Edwards and Australian counterpart Steve Glasson agreed a green should be groomed to resemble the Kelvingrove Lawns Bowls Centre.
Both countries were involved in a test event at the Games venue last August and realise the surfaces will run slower than they are accustomed to.
Glasson had no issue compromising home advantage to assist Australia's closest rivals.
"It's pointless going out there playing on a fast green. We're not going to get any feedback out of that," he told Fairfax Media.
The former Australian representative said New Zealand and Australia often struggled in the UK so this tournament was vital preparation.
"In their conditions it evens up the playing field a lot because it's heavy - there's a little bit more luck involved because it's a more aggressive game.
"If you look back historically we've both probably performed under par in the UK. If we can work together hopefully we can make sure the Southern Hemisphere gets a good grab of the podium finishes."
The Scottish-styled rink runs at 11.5 seconds - about 5 secs quicker than the adjacent surfaces - meaning the bowlers had to adapt their techniques.
"It's a completely game to what we play in New Zealand," Edwards said.
"You've got to change your whole mindset. We draw to the jack in New Zealand, you've got to draw at it on their (Scottish) greens."
Edwards said their visit to Kelvingrove a year out from the Games was pivotal in solving selection issues - and a reminder of how techniques had to be modified from the slicker rinks in the Southern Hemisphere.
Sandra Keith was a major casualty following that exercise with the Cantabrian being replaced by Black Jacks debutant McIlroy, who leads the triple and four.
In the men's team, Girvan is the only personnel change from last year's Trans-Tasman series in Auckland - the experienced Australia-based player supplanted Andrew Kelly.
Edwards said it was not expected that personnel changes would be made before Glasgow though performances over the test series would be relevant.
"This is definitely our fringe team, we made that quite clear. We reserve to make some changes but it's unlikely."
Teams record three points for each win and one for a draw. In the men's and women's draw the pairs and triples played twice.
In tomorrow's test the singles and fours double up and in Thursday's final the programme reverts to the original schedule.
First test Open results:
Pairs: Australia 21 (Matthew Flapper/Brett Wilkie) bt NZ (Dan Delany/Richard Girvan) 8; Triples: New Zealand 16 (Tony Grantham/Shannon McIlroy/Ali Forsyth) bt Australia (Wayne Ruediger/Nathan Rice/Aron Sherriff) 13;
Singles: Australia (Aron Sherriff) 21 by NZ (Shannon McIlroy) 14;
Fours: Australia 18 (Ruediger/Wilkie/Rice/Flapper) bt NZ (Grantham/Delany/Girvan/Forsyth) 7
> Pairs: NZ 15 (Delany/Girvan) bt Australia (Flapper/Wilkie) 12; Triples: NZ 21 (Grantham/McIlroy/ Forsyth) bt Australia (Ruediger/Rice/Sherriff) 13.