Our journey to the Bowls 3Five Finals
10 May 2023
By Andy Ellis

“The Undisputed Auckland Champions” Well, that is what our shuttle driver’s welcome sign said as we arrived at Wellington Airport – much to the amusement of the Bowls NZ lads who were on the same flight.  

If the welcome was anything to go by, we were going to have an amazing weekend ahead of us.

Friday 5 May

Game 1 vs Kensington: a bit of a grudge match for Lauren as it was her hometown club. We got there in 2 sets. 

Game 2 vs Blenheim: an unknown for us, we had never met or played these guys, so we had no idea of their playing style. We stuck to our game plan and got them in 2 sets. 

Game 3 vs Gizzy Gold: another unknown but what great people. We had a fun game and again got there in 2. 

Game 4 vs Coromandel: Lauren knew two of the team so was able to provide Adam and me a little intel, “Back bowls required”. 1 set each, we got the tie-breaker. 

At the end of day one with four wins, all looked good for us, and the Far North team was in the same boat. 

That evening we caught up with Peter Doreen, Sam Alison, and the legendary Commonwealth Games medal winner Anne Lomas. She gave me some advice; in her opinion, it is always better to lose one on the way when it isn’t in sudden death. This was something we really aspired to do on Saturday. 

Saturday 6 May

Day two, was one win to qualify. Seemed simple, right!

Game 5 vs Masterton: 1 set each, we lost in the tie-breaker. 

Game 6 vs West End: Scored a 5 on the first end, happy days. But we lost the set 8-6 then dropped the next set. 

Next, it was a two-game Bye. It gave us time to reflect on the morning and to reset for the afternoon games.

Game 7 vs Arrow Force: We got the first set, and tried to settle down, but lost the next, and dropped the tie-breaker.

Game 8 vs Paekākāriki: It’s the last throw of the dice, and we’re on the live-streaming rink – no pressure, but we need to win or home early in the morning for us. 

Paekākāriki had just qualified, they were very relaxed. We were a tad worried but to be fair got the 1st set with a power play 4-3 and feeling a little shaky. Set two they made a late call for the powerplay and only scored 2 from it when they needed 4 to catch us. It was a massive sigh of relief, we made it!

I was chatting to Anne Lomas after the game, and she reminded me what she had said – to drop one on the way not three.

Sunday 7 May

It’s Finals Day and we get to play Coromandel first. They are a tough team to play, we narrowly beat them in qualifying. 

We had to earn this one! One set each, so off to the tiebreak. We lost the toss but weren’t handed the mat, they chose to go first. I wasn’t going to argue as the last bowl is an advantage in a one-end shootout. It was a get-out-of-jail, we had shot at the changeover then their skip Colin drew one in. Adam let rip with his first, killed the jack as we had the 2-metre covered and the jack was spotted, Colin had a clean run at the bowl, caught a little straightener on the way, and hit their front bowl solid which raced past our lonely shot bowl, missing it by what appeared to be a whisker – lucky for us, unlucky for them.  

We’re in the last 8 and getting better and back to the live-streaming rink to play the unbeaten Far North. These guys are a very good team with lots of experience off the front and at 2 and Sam is no slouch. Early on Peter was nailing it, we had to work very hard. When we secured the mat Lauren played maximum length, a tactic that worked in our favour. We won both sets. 

It’s the semi-final and we meet Paekākāriki again. No cameras or microphones so I was feeling more comfortable without having to stifle my emotions and language! We got the 1st set comfortably 8-0. The second set was a battle, their late powerplay call cost them, they scored 1 for 2 when they needed a 3 to win the set. It was a good game played in good spirits. 

We made it to the Final, and yes, we’re back on TV. We had 10 minutes to grab some food and focus. 

Mt Maunganui is a super sharp team, they are Bay of Plenty reps, a team of accomplished players. We had kept a sly eye on them over the day, as they were looking likely to go all the way.

Set one was very close, we got there 4-3. Set two was a disaster lost by a street, it was like the green had completely changed we could find our mark.

It’s a tie-breaker, leaving Adam one down with a chance to turn in our closest bowl for the shot. He opted for a dead draw on the open side but left it a bit wide, Mt Maunganui’s skip Paul dropped another in leaving Adam no option but to play to turn our bowl, it was wide – the dream was over. 

Thanks to my teammates Adam Blucher and Lauren Mills. To reach a national final puts all effort into perspective. Adam for a young bowler, you handled a lot of pressure so well. Lauren was solid off the front all weekend and only called for the Andy Ambulance a few times. There’s an old saying in sports, “You don’t have to be the best player, but it helps to be in the best teams.”

Congratulations Mt Maunganui, they played excellent bowls, and thanks for shouting us a drink after the match.

A huge thanks to the Bowls NZ team, the Umpires, host venue Naenae, and everyone who worked behind the scenes, I saw first-hand how hard you guys work – this was one of the best events I have been a participant in.

Thanks to bowling mate and previous Auckland Bowls3Five champion, Bevan Beckham for organising our transfers – that welcome sign was epic. 

A final thanks for the fantastic support from Te Atatu Peninsula Bowling Club, from our mates at our home and beyond, it was really appreciated.

Check out Bowls NZ Bowls 3Five review on the competition – https://bowlsnewzealand.co.nz/news/mount-megalodons-claim-national-summerset-bowls3five-honours/ 

And their photo album on their Facebook pages – it captures a great weekend of bowling: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=BowlsNewZealand&set=a.720934893367817