The Wellington men and Nelson women have regained their provincial supremacy, winning the 2023 Bowls New Zealand National Intercentre silverware in Christchurch.
Held in near perfect conditions, the four-day event saw 26 (men) and 25 (women) centres battle it out for national honours, with some of the country’s finest talent on display from all corners of the country.
Following three days of section play, the top two teams from each section emerged as quarter-finalists, proceeding to straight elimination in the last eight – hosted by the magnificent Burnside Bowling Club.
The men’s qualifiers were Central Otago, Wanganui, Southland, Auckland, Taranaki, Wellington, Nelson and Northland, while the women’s field saw Auckland, Nelson, North Harbour, Thames Valley, Wellington, Bay of Plenty, Counties Manukau and Wanganui advance.
Played on the Saturday afternoon, the first round of the women’s post-section saw Bay of Plenty defeat Thames Valley, Nelson defeat Wellington, Auckland defeat Counties Manukau and North Harbour clean-sweep Wanganui , while the men’s action saw Northland cause an upset opposite the star-studded Nelson side, Wellington defeat Taranaki, Central Otago advance past Wanganui and a thrilling showdown between last year’s champions Auckland and Southland, with Southland progressing courtesy of a win in the singles and pairs.
While many centres stuck to their selected seven players, the eighth person format came into its own for the Wellington men, with capped-Blackjack Seamus Curtin acknowledging some struggles with his form and standing aside for a team change – which may have proven to be a winning formula for the now- national champions.
The change saw Stephen Ditfort join Andrew Kelly in the pairs, while Caleb Hope stepped in as two in the four. The result saw a cliffhanger semi-final opposite Northland, with reigning National Champion of Champion Singles winner Dean McMurchy continuing his winning form in the singles, defeating Ray Martin and leaving the result up to the outcome of the pairs and fours on adjacent rinks.
An extra end saw Kelly and Ditfort claim one back for Wellington, while the Wellington four of Blake Signal, Finbar McGuigan, Hope and Robbie Bird proved too strong, pushing Wellington through to the grand final.
Across rinks, Southland took control of their semi-final, brushing aside a gallant Central Otago side 3-0, with special mention going to the pairing of Richie and Conor Muir (unrelated),…
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