Bowls: Ice Man runs hot in fours win

Rowan Brassey in action in the fours final at the New Zealand bowls championships in New Plymouth yesterday. He skipped the winning four to his eighth championship title. Photo by Crispin Anderlini.
Rowan Brassey in action in the fours final at the New Zealand bowls championships in New Plymouth yesterday. He skipped the winning four to his eighth championship title. Photo by Crispin Anderlini.
The master is back. Rowan Brassey won his eighth New Zealand championship title in the fours at New Plymouth yesterday.

Brassey (skip), Beau Prideaux, Rodger Hassall and Brett Hassall beat Andrew Kelly (skip), Danny Delany, Chris Le Lievre and Raika Gregory 19-18 in a battle of the composite teams at the Paritutu club.

Brassey (56), one of the greats of New Zealand bowls, won two World Bowls titles in a long international career.

He displayed the same masterful touches in the final to indicate he could still foot it on the international bowls scene.

Brassey won the first two of his seven fours titles in 1981 and 1982, at the Okahu Bay club, when the legendary Nick Unkovich was the skip.

He has skipped the four himself for his last five titles. His other title was in the pairs with Danny O'Connor in 1982.

Brassey is now based with the Cabramatta Club and is one of the stars in the tough Sydney league.

Known as the Ice Man for his ability to withstand pressure, Brassey played two telling shots that won the game for his team.

On the fourth of the 18 ends he was one down on the head and ran out the shot bowl to collect five shots and take the lead 7-1.

On the 16th end he was four down on the head and drew the shot to give his team a three-point cushion, 15-12.

Brassey's team added four more shots on the next end to stretch the margin to seven shots, 19-12, before the last end.

But Kelly, who skipped the winning four last year, had not yet finished and displayed his fighting qualities on the last end. His team needed seven shots to force the extra end and he almost made it.

Kelly killed the end twice and had the chance to get his seven shots on the third attempt.

Brassey tried to end the stalemate by putting the jack into the ditch and clearing the decks. He only had one bowl left on the green and Kelly attempted to take it out with his last bowl.

Kelly missed his target but still gained six shots to reduce the final gap to just one shot.

In the early stages Kelly trailed by six shots after four ends but he brought his team back into the game, scoring eight points from the fifth to the eighth ends to lead 9-7.

It was nip and tuck for the next six ends and Brassey held a one-point advantage, 13-12, after 14 ends.

Brassey controlled the head on the next three ends before Kelly made his final flutter.

Brassey told the New Zealand Herald he decided ''about three months ago'' to make the trip. He recruited Prideaux (18) to play three with former Avondale clubmate Grant Hassall to lead and his father to play two.

''Grant told me he had never played with his father at the nationals so I said I would come over and play with them,'' Brassey said.

Brassey is not discounting returning for next year's 100th national championships, to be held in Dunedin, where he won the fours in 2002.

''Who knows what will happen in regards this four, but I'm keen to play in Dunedin again.''

Prideaux displayed aggression with his accurate drives and run shots, while the Hassalls were cheered on by their home town Taranaki crowd.

It was a successful championship for Taranaki bowlers, with Val McEldowney winning the women's singles, the Hassalls the men's fours and Heather Johns team the women's fours.

The Paritutu club fours combination of Heather Johns (skip), Val Keightley, Debbie Smith and Caroline Harris beat Sandra Keith (skip), Serena Matthews, Pam Clarke and Karolyn Boon (Dunsandel) 18-7.

Dunsandel took an early 6-0 lead after five ends but the Paritutu combination fought back to score 12 points on the next six ends, and led 12-6 after 11 of the 18 ends.

Keith got one shot back on the next end but the buoyed-up Paritutu team shut then out by scoring six shots on the last five ends.

John's team had sensible tactics, with a mix of bowls close to the jack and back bowls to stop Keith from gaining points with her accurate drive.

It was a proud moment for Heather Johns, to follow in the footsteps of her father Hori Johns, who was a member of the Paritutu team that won the men's fours in 1972 and the pairs in 1983.