One win from glory
Let’s cut to the chase. The Men’s Henselite Tigers are 1 win away from claiming their first ever Alley Shield. It won’t be easy, a clash against the defending champions, Victoria, but it’s a possibility. The only caveat is that we need to win on 1.5 rinks minimum to not let the South Australian Team catch us. They currently sit on the same points as us but are 2 rink wins behind us & 30 shots up. The news for our Women’s side is pretty much the opposite after a tough day on the green, but let’s recap how we got to this situation.
In the morning we took on Queensland. This match made up the third test of the Tas/Qld test series, the first two tests were played on the day before the Sides Championships. The Men had an unassailable 2-0 win, whilst the Women had a chance for some silverware with the series locked at 1-1. The Men’s focus was firmly on a win and the top spot on the ladder.
The Men were off to a great start. Lee Schraner led 7-4 after 7 ends, winning 6 of those 7 ends. Michael Sims was against the top skip to date Kurt Brown and lead 8-4 whilst Mark Nitz picked up a crucial 4 on the 9th end to lead 9-7. With all three rinks in front, the mood of the green was very positive. Not only would a win over Queensland be important, but could we dream of getting 3 rink wins and put the pressure on the other states? Kurt Brown fought back well against Sims picking up a 5 on the 14th end to take a 1 shot lead. But Sims and his rink were not going to lie down picking up a 3-5-3 in consecutive ends to stamp their authority on the game. The end margin a 6 shot win and Brown’s first loss of the week. Nitz, who has been supported well by Brad Gibson, Lachie Sims & Patrick Smith, never let Nathan Rice into the game and won by 5 shots. Schraner’s strong start was hampered by losing 7 of the next 8 ends and his 9 shot deficit looked to give Qld a sniff of victory. But he also steadied winning 5 of the last 6 ends, losing by 4 but allowing for a great overall win.
Our Women’s team got off to a slow start and never recovered. Rebecca Van Asch who was up against good friend Lynsey Clarke fell behind 2-14 and could only win 6 of the 21 ends in their 12-28 defeat. Lyn Triffitt fell behind 1-8 and despite winning ends, could never reduce the deficit and lost 14-21. Candice Hodgetts was the shining light of the match leading 8-7 after 11 ends and 16-10 after 17. A win would keep Hodgetts with a perfect record but the Qld rink skipped by Julie Keegan picked up 9 shots over 3 ends and won the game 19-17, inflicting Hodgetts with her first loss of the campaign.
The Women then had to play NSW who were on a mission. The Blues team had been winless on Day 1 and started to destroy teams on Day 2. Day 3 was no different defeating Victoria by 51 shots. Our Tigers team would need to improve from the morning to put the pressure on the NSW powerhouse. But it wasn’t to be. The NSW team, filled with current, past and future Australian players dominated from start to finish. Hodgetts had her first poor performance of the week losing to Kelsey Cottrell 8-27. Lyn Triffitt played Natasha Scott and lead early, 9-5 after 8 ends. But a loss of 6 shots on the 11th end was too much to come back from, eventually being defeated 18-32. Van Asch took on another good friend in Karen Murphy and fell behind early 1-10. A 6 on the 7th end and three consecutive singles tied the score at 10 and at 14-11, it looked like Van Asch could knock Murphy down a peg. But Murphy was not to be denied, picking up a 5 on the 14th end and never letting Van Asch pick up anything more than a single for the remainder of the game, the end score a 17-21 defeat. The 37 shot loss a little better than the Victorian side but a tough day on the green for our Women who failed to pick up a rink.
The Men got off to a dream start in what was virtually a semi-final match for them. Schraner playing against Wayne Turley picked up a 5 on the 5th end to lead 9-3. Schraner has received excellent support from his rink, especially 3, Robert McMullen who has played all the shots when required. Sims, playing against David Ferguson lead 8-5 and despite Mark Nitz being 0-7 down against Aron Sherriff, the overall board was competitive, a poor start would have been difficult to overcome. Schraner & Sims kept on picking up shots and Nitz kept the game close, all 16 players contributing and ensuring a collapse was not occurring. Rinks were consistently getting bowls in the head and not allowing the NSW team an opportunity to pick up any numbers. After 14 ends Schraner lead 20-10, Sims led 19-11 & Nitz had snuck in front 15-14. Once again, the team had a chance to not only win but to win on all three rinks. The NSW team now had nothing to lose and started to claw back the deficit, reducing it at one stage to 9 shots and had momentum on their side. Then the game turned on the delivery of 2 bowls. After watching Sherriff move the kitty the pressure was on Nitz, who was down 4/5 shots in the head. At the same time Turley was down 7 against Schraner. Both bowls were played simultaneously, the pivotal moment of the game. Nitz arrived to the head first and had sat the absolute shot and won the end, Turley however was tight, glancing a bowl but leaving Schraner with 6 shots, who added a 7th with his last. The game was virtually over, the Tasmanian dream could continue. Schraner picked up another 9 shots after that 7 to win 36-12, Sims dropped some shots late but won 24-19 and in the closest match of the afternoon, Nitz picked up a 3 on the last end to take a 1 shot 21-20 win over Sherriff. 3 rinks to Nil. Amazing!
After the match I caught up with Michael Sims, Steve Glasson & Qld skip Brett Wilkie to get their thoughts on the Tasmanian Men’s side so far.
First to Sims, who has been outstanding, fresh off helping Melbourne to win the Metropolitan pennant in Victoria. “You can really feel a buzz around the group, it’s a feeling we probably haven’t had since we won the Vic series a few years ago. Taelyn and I are playing well together. We have had experience playing in the Juniors so it’s been an easy transition. Having played for Melbourne and winning the premiership, it has helped build my confidence and to know what is required from both myself and the team to win.”
Australian Coach Steve Glasson has been watching the Championships closely, “It has been a delightful performance from the Tassie team, epitomised by this afternoon’s comprehensive victory. It has been obvious from the start that the team is very united and compatible as well as focussed on reaching a new benchmark, which they have already succeeded in doing. It has truly been a team effort with outstanding displays across the board. There are more challenges ahead with the Victorians out to spoil the party and let’s not forget the weather forecast which could test the character of the participants. I wish all the teams well and I eagerly look forward to this climax of what has been the most exciting and competitive Men’s Sides Series I can ever recall!”
And finally Wilkie, who has played all three tests against the Tasmanian team, “They have impressed me with their consistency. They will definitely take it up to the Victorians tomorrow if they play the way they have been playing. Even Duddie (Chris Dudman) is playing well as the old fella of the team!”
So it comes down to one match. A win against Victoria with at least 1 rink win and 1 draw or better and the result is sealed. A one rink win will need for either SA to only win 2 rinks against the ACT or to win by 30 shots less than Tasmania. (SA are currently 30 shots behind us, if they don’t win on 3 rinks, they must also make up this margin)
A win could still be achieved with a loss but we would need SA to lose to the ACT & Qld to lose to NSW.
The Women’s team can achieve a respectable 4th place finish if they can defeat Victoria in their final match.
The Qld Women’s team have wrapped up the Marj Morris trophy with one round to spare.
Check the Bowls Tasmania Facebook page for live scores and live streaming.
An exciting day awaits!
By David Genford