Marlborough bowlers Maurice Symes and Craig McDonnell were part of the winning combination when the New Zealand men’s four title was decided in Alexandra on Sunday.
Symes, from the Blenheim club, and McDonnell, from Riverside, joined with Te Puke’s John Gray and Steve Beel of Mount Maunganui to form an unstoppable composite four. They prevailed in a nail-biting decider over 18 ends, beating Michael Kernaghan’s four 20-19. Teamed with Kernaghan were Kelvin Scott, Shannon McIlroy and Lance Pascoe.
This was Symes’ second NZ crown, coming 36 years after he won the pairs. The vastly-experienced skip has been runner-up on five occasions. It was Beel’s second fours title and McDonnell's first.
Symes’ four led the final 16-9 after 11 of the 18 ends, but Kernaghan took a four on the next end to maintain the pressure. Symes picked up two shots on the next end, but then Kernaghan got on a run and, with three shots on the penultimate head, his team grabbed the lead for the first time.
Both Gray and lead MacDonnell produced top draw shots on the deciding end. Gray, with his second and final delivery, drew the jack, pushing it into McDonnell's bowl to hold two. Kernaghan’s final drive disrupted the head, putting the jack in the ditch but Gray's toucher also ended up there and the next closest bowls was Symes, denying Kernaghan in the decider for the third year in a row.
Immediately after the final, Symes described the victory as "one of the best feelings I have ever had in my life".
Regarding Gray's vital delivery on the final end, he said the team had decided that he would try to draw as close as he could, so Symes would at least have a shot with his final two bowls.
"But, as it happened, I didn't have to play my bowls," he added with a winning smile.
In the semi-finals, Kernaghan ousted Whangarei’ s Steve Smith, Paul Shotter, Paul Price and Trevor Reader 17-16 while Symes ended the run of Bevan Smith, Brett O’Riley, Ian Monaghan and Brian Little 24-13. Earlier in the day the victorious four had beaten Gary Lawson’s quartet 17-12 in the quarterfinals.