Neither side took prisoners in an exciting final to the Bowls South Africa Mixed Pairs Championships at Hermanus Bowling Club.
When the final bowl came to rest, Mike and Lynne Marnewick (Sables), just the underdogs against Protea opponents Billy Radloff and Elma Davis (Eden) bronze medalists at Potchefstroom in 2012, had triumphed 25-19 in a solid game that might have gone either way.
On a green with early dew reflecting a poor excuse for a sun and before an enthusiastic and knowledgeable bank, the protagonists gave it their all – hampered maybe by one hand being more than tricky and the wind’s insistence to swing 180 degrees without warning.
They met after three-days of sectional play (15-end games), each in their own group against nine district champions – there were no easy matches. The runners-up, who had an unblemished, stellar run, might have found it tough to again raise their game, but take nothing from the titleholders; the winners had dropped only two games en route to glory.
Radloff pulled the mat at every opportunity, but it seemed to backfire. Indeed, the Marnewicks enjoyed the shorter draw and led 5-1 after four ends with Lynne unwilling to be pushed around by Davis, probably the most successful domestic champion in the past three years. It might be said Davis was not her usual deadly self and Lynne took advantage to lead with great tenacity.
Mike, a senior Protea and SA Senior Masters champion with a string of medals drew, trailed and ran with composure and amazing confidence against Radloff, surely one of the best line and weight players in South Africa. It would be exciting to see the tall 2014 SA Singles silver medallist from George return to the SA Masters and international scene after recent mysterious omissions.
There were three major moments.
It was nip and tuck with all four providing spell-binding performances until the eventual champions 8-5 ahead dropped a four and a single to trail 10-8. Then Mike, facing five down drew a blinder of a shot with his last bowl and on the next head manufactured a five of his own to put his side 15-10 ahead.
A moment of Radloff brilliance on the next end saw him play a nominated drive to hit the jack and earn six shots – with his opponents again lying shot – to lead 16-15. The sides peeled at 17-17 on the 16th end and then Mike took the game by the scruff of the neck, superbly saving seven shots in all on the 18th and 19th ends. In spite of Radloff’s nagging touch, the champions were not to be denied and more Marnewick skipping excellence saw the result never in doubt.
Presenting the prizes, with Boland president Almarie du Toit present, Bowls SA president Allan Freeman said: ‘This has been superlative bowls, played in great spirit. The organisation and preparation by Hermanus Bowls Club under Blackie Swart (organising committee convenor) demonstrates smaller districts can put on a show when asked.’
Bronze medals in Blue Section went to world champion Santjie Steyn and husband MP Olivier (Boland) who played with great flair throughout; Red Section saw 2013 champions Hilton/Jennifer Cherry (EP), who grittily led until the last qualifying game against the eventual champions, earn some compensation.
Final positions after prelims
Red Section: Sables 14 points, +72 shots, EP 13,+39, Natal Inland 13,+18, N Cape 12,+7, S Free State 10,+19, Sedibeng 10,+17, Ekurhuleni 7,-7, N Free State 5,-48, Limpopo 5,-55, Border 1,-62
Blue Section: Eden 18,+74, Boland 14,+42, Gauteng N 12,+33, KZN Country 12,+20, JBA 10, +17, WP 8,+11, NW 6,-42, Port Natal 6,-59, Mpumalanga 4,-12, Kingfisher 0,-94
In the picture, Freeman presents the Marnewicks wit their trophy. Picture: PAM BRUCE-BRAND