Kaikorai pulls away to claim fours title

The champion Kaikorai fours team of (from left) Kieran Fleury, Nigel Birkbeck, Jonty Horwell and...
The champion Kaikorai fours team of (from left) Kieran Fleury, Nigel Birkbeck, Jonty Horwell and Tane Payne. PHOTO: WAYNE PARSONS
Action-packed opening ends set Kaikorai up for a 22-13 victory over Taieri in the Dunedin champion of champions men’s fours at its home green on Sunday.

The Nigel Birkbeck-skipped four that included Jonty Horwell, Tane Payne and Kieran Fleury dominated the first of the 18 ends, scoring three.

Taieri’s Peter Matheson, Lawrie Watson, Steve Gill and Darryl Monaghan hit back, surrounding the jack on the second end only for Birkbeck to have the final say when he burnt the head.

That denied Taieri five shots and forced a replay, in which Taieri was only to claim one shot.

Taieri drew level with two on the third end and grabbed singles on the next two ends to hold a 5-3 lead after five.

Kaikaori hit back with a series of big numbers on its way to scoring 22, while limiting Taieri’s scoring opportunities with nagging weight on the head.

Superb draw play from the Taieri four on numerous occasions was countered by the pinpoint accuracy of Birkbeck, who showed an uncanny ability to pull out the big shots at crucial times to maintain Kaikorai’s momentum.

On the 10th end, with the game locked up at 8-8, Birkbeck clipped two front bowls to drag the jack out left to draw five shots.

On the 13th, Matheson dragged the jack away from four Kaikorai shot bowls and placed it on the edge of the ditch to draw shot, only for Birkbeck to place his two bowls alongside as Kaikorai jumped to a seven-shot lead

Kaikorai had the luxury of playing to its strengths with confidence, clinching a further three shots on the 14th end.

Taieri pulled back the deficit on the next two ends but could not post big numbers, and Kaikorai scored another two shots on the penultimate 17th end to close out the match.

Birkbeck, who missed 10 weeks of the season and had to play his way back into form, was thrilled with the manner in which late replacement Payne played at third and how the team combined.

"The guys up front went particularly well," he said.

"It was a slow start today but once they got their grove, that made the difference in the game."

Birkbeck and Fleury teamed up to win the New Zealand pathways pairs six years ago, while Horwell has been one of Bowls Dunedin’s top young bowlers in recent years.

Surprisingly, it was just a fifth centre title for Horwell, while it was Birkbeck’s 13th, Fleury’s third and Payne’s first.



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