Taranaki has been crowned the national under-26 bowls champions.

Grant Hassall
Sports News Taranaki

The inaugural five-a-side event, held inside at Naenae, Wellington, last weekend, saw Briar Atkinson, Aidan Zittersteijn, Luca Dobson, Nathan Goodin and Camron Horo emerge victorious in a thrilling final.

Run by the Wellington centre and endorsed by Bowls New Zealand, Taranaki’s win was an excellent result and vindication of some fine work that has gone into secondary schools and youth bowls over recent seasons.

The Revital Fertilisers/Shifty’s Sports Bar-sponsored side marched through section play brilliantly, winning eight games and drawing one from the 12 played across all four disciplines.

That placed Taranaki top and put the side against Wellington in the decider. Wellington’s side included former Black Jack Seamus Curtin and future Black Jack Finbar McGuigan.

In the pairs, Atkinson and Zittersteijn got Taranaki off to the best possible start, defeating Jordan Keene and McGuigan 19-11.

In the triples, Dobson, Goodin and skip Horo maintained their unbeaten record – finishing with two wins and two draws – when they snatched a 14-all tie against Curtin’s trio.

The second half of the decider saw the players switch to singles and fours.

Atkinson met McGuigan, who had inflicted the only on her in section play. Atkinson put on a strong display, leading 15-8 in the race to 21. McGuigan, though, got aggressive, turning the game around and eventually prevailed 21-18.

That left the overall outcome down to the fours clash. Zittersteijn skipped the quartet, which had won every game in qualifying. It held an 11-8 lead with two ends remaining. On the penultimate head, Taranaki held two further shots before Curtin, the 2022 Dominion pairs winner, took the point with his last bowl, reducing the deficit to two.

Wellington called the tune on the last end, holding three shots, before Zittersteijn’s last-bowl drive dislodged the jack to the boundary. After the umpire had ruled the jack dead, it was placed on the 2m mark.

Fortunately, Zittersteijn’s drive had removed one of the Wellington back bowls, leaving the Capital with only two shots after the placement. That meant the game finished 11-all, and because of the superior differential from the pairs win, the title belonged to Taranaki.

“We are delighted with the outcome,” selector/manager Simon Rowe said. “The team gelled really well.”

Meanwhile, Taranaki failed to advance from the qualifying rounds in the national champion-of-champions pairs and triples during the past two weekends in Dunedin.

Zittersteijn and Daryl Read (Paritutu) managed two wins from four in the men’s pairs, as did Fitzroy’s Maree Gadsby and Faye Gecse.

In the men’s triples, Kevan Sellers, Phil Huwyler and Kaylin Huwyler lost their opening two games to bow out, while Taranaki’s champions in the women’s event did not venture south.

The fours are on this weekend in Auckland.