Four from Four for the Australian contingent
In a great day for Australian Lawn Bowls, all four of our teams playing today were victorious, with three of them having to win 2 games and the Men’s Pairs winning their Semi Final against an Alex Marshall lead Scotland. For Rebecca Van Asch’s team, that now means seven wins in a row and quite amazingly, they also achieved an 8 in the Semi Final! (Will Bowls Australia give them an 8 badge?)
The Women’s Fours team started their do or die matches against Scotland. Knowing that Scotland had won their last four matches, the team knew they wouldn’t have things their own way. And the Australians showed they were focused and put themselves in a position where they never looked like they were going to be beaten, winning 17-8 and setting up a Semi Final vs New Zealand, a tough match especially with the home ground support that the Blackjacks would receive. It was a dream start for the Australian team picking up an eight on the very first end, a scenario that would never have been thought of heading into the match. “We had all our bowls just behind the head, Tash (skip Natasha Scott) and I made a couple of conversions to make it happen. We held 7 and the NZ skip took their own out,” said an ecstatic Van Asch at the end of day’s play. The first end may have shell shocked the Kiwis into action and they fought back to get the score to 13-8 but it would be the Australian team who would kick away once again taking out the match 27-9 and not needing to play the last two ends. A dominant display from all 4 players and such an amazing turnaround from those first four matches. The rink shake up seems to be the best thing that could have happened to this team. “The selectors made the call to change the rink around and it was fully supported by the rink. There’s no egos in the team, it’s about us playing to our strengths and with our versatility, and this is the order that is working for us in these conditions. Kelsey & Carla are just setting it up magnificently for Tash and I, they’ve been almost flawless! Hopefully we can carry that momentum into the final.”
Australia’s opponents in the final will be England. The combination of Jamie-Lea Winch, Rebecca Wigfield, Wendy King & Ellen Faulkner have been unstoppable in this campaign. They won all 9 of their sectional matches and defeated the Philippines 18-15 in the Semi Final. They have had 2 games decided by one shot, so they haven’t always been dominant but it should be a cracking final. The match starts at 7am (AEDST) and will be telecast live on Fox Sports 4. This is the first of four finals for the Jackaroos, hopefully they will get the team off to a winning start. Van Asch isn’t too disappointed to be first up; “I’m pleased to be the first up because the nerves will certainly be kicking in. We’re just so over the moon for every player to be through for a World Championship final. We’re here as one team, we enjoy the successes together and feel each other’s pain as well” Let’s hope that there will be no pain for Van Asch’s foursome tomorrow morning!
Karen Murphy will have a chance to become only the third female and first Australian to defend a World Singles title thanks to some bowls of the highest quality today. Murphy faced Siti Zalina Ahmad from Malaysia in her morning match and came away a 21-14 winner setting up a re match against Canadian Kelly McKerihen. Murphy had played McKerihen in the sectional games, winning 21-19 and that score line showed that this game was always going to be a close encounter.
Murphy got off to a slow start, dropping a 4 on the first end but at 0-5, she was able to string some consecutive ends together, taking the lead. After 10 ends McKerihen had re captured the lead and was 11-7 up, but this was when Murphy would have her best scoring period of the match. From ends to 11 and 16, Murphy picked up three shots on three separate occasions taking a 16-13 lead, only requiring 5 shots for victory. It was then McKerihen who would fight back, winning three end in a row, but Murphy to her credit only lost 4 shots over these 3 ends. At 20-17, Murphy knew she only needed one shot but at the same time couldn’t afford to lose a 4, the pressure had been turned up and all the pre-tournament practice now kicked in. Once again McKerihen won 3 ends in a row but they were all singles, setting up the ultimate pressure of a one end shootout with the score 20-20. Both players held shot on the last end, with some excellent precision from both players. Murphy covered the re-spot with her 3rd bowl, which turned out to be a very sensible thing to do, McKerihen killing the end with her last bowl, thus giving Murphy the match.
The singles final will be against Scotland’s Lesley Doig, who defeated home town hero Jo Edwards in the Semi Final. Doig has only been defeated once this campaign losing to the Philippines 17-21 in Round 5. Murphy will be keen to make it loss number two when they meet on Sunday morning at 11am (AEDST). This match is also being telecast live on Fox Sports 4. Murphy already holds the Australian record with 3 World Titles, but she could become only the 3rd player of any gender to win their 4th World title if she is successful on Sunday.
The Men’s Pairs only had to play one match today, but it was against the defending champions and World’s number one Alex Marshall and Paul Foster. Australia’s combination of Brett Wilkie and Aaron Wilson were hoping to repeat the 16-11 victory they had over Scotland in the sectional play. They almost did exactly that, defeating the duo 17-11 and booking their spot in the final, to be played on Sunday morning at 7am (AEDST), also being broadcast live on Fox Sports 4. They will be playing a determined Ireland team who defeated England and New Zealand 17-10 on both occasions. The Irish team looked far from making the finals after 5 rounds, boasting a 2-3 record and sitting in 6th position. Four consecutive wins plus the two today have put them in a position where they are guaranteed a Silver medal and they will be fighting hard for that Gold medal. Australian skip Aaron Wilson has enjoyed his debut and has been playing very well. “The focus in the final won’t be any different, we will go out with the same attitude and do our best”. When asked about his relationship with lead Brett Wilkie, Wilson was glowing in his praise; “I love playing with Brett, he has a lot of experience which helps me, giving me confidence in playing the shots.” Wilkie will be playing for his second World Championship after winning the fours in 2012, a feat no Australian male has ever achieved, although his team mates Mark Casey & Aron Sherriff will have the chance to do so on Saturday morning. Australia has not won the Pairs since 1980, it’s time that drought was broken!
As I just mentioned, the Australian triples combination of Barrie Lester, Mark Casey & Aron Sherriff will also be playing in the Final, after defeating both Scotland 16-13 and New Zealand 18-10. They will play at 11am (AEDST) tomorrow morning against England who defeated Japan 18-9. England have only lost one match, a dead rubber against Brunei in Round 9. Australian skipper Sherriff has been very pleased with his team’s efforts so far; “It’s been a real team effort to get to the final! Baz has lead off really well and Mark backed him up really well.” Aron neglects to mention that he has also been bowling very well, giving this combination a great chance to take the gold. “We expect it to be a tough match vs England, they finished top of their group so they must be an in form team.” Casey & Sheriff were part of the successful fours team from the World Championships and will have first crack at becoming the first Australian males to win their second world title. The Triples has not been a kind event for Australia, only winning it once in 1966, the first year of the World Championships. Let’s hope this combination is the one to make it our second triples title!
Australian coach Steve Glasson was understandably very happy with the day’s play; “It was a great day for our Australian team and naturally everybody is delighted. Having said that, there is work to be done and everybody is switched on to do their best. We have an outstanding team on and off the green and there is a management plan in place to ensure ample support and also individual needs are catered for over the next couple of days. The entire group is very much one team and I couldn’t be more proud!” Whilst Australia was enjoying the success other countries had to settle for bronze, including New Zealand who lost all four semi-finals they played in. But a bronze medal is nothing to be sneezed at in such a high level of competition, “Congratulations to all other countries who secured bronze today and here’s to an exciting conclusion over the next two days in the first round of disciplines! Naturally we will be biased towards the Jackaroos!” Let’s hope that Steve Glasson is correct and an exciting conclusion can include Australia winning multiple gold medals and hopefully even 4!
By David Genford