Otago Daily Times

Put un­der pres­sure but McIl­roy pre­vails

BOWLS

- ADRIAN SECONI Sports · Booker Huffman

DE­FEND­ING cham­pion Shan­non McIl­roy weath­ered a bold come­back from Colin Wheeler to win his open­ing game at the North East Val­ley 10,000 yes­ter­day.

The four­time win­ner edged his op­po­nent 25­22.

He came up with a crack­ing bowl to clinch the win. He was po­ten­tially trail­ing the head by one shot but drew the shot with a toucher with his last bowl.

Ear­lier in the game it ap­peared as if he might not have to work so hard. He was up 15­3 after about an hour. But Wheeler found his range and clawed his way back into the match.

‘‘Re­gard­less of who you play you should al­ways ex­pect a mo­men­tum swing at some point and I was just for­tu­nate at the start that he was still search­ing,’’ McIl­roy said.

‘‘That al­lowed me to get a bit of a lead. But then there was just a sub­tle change in the line to the jack.

‘‘It got a bit wider and wider to where he was play­ing ini­tially.

‘‘They started land­ing on the jack and he got a lot of first bowls close. That’s the key to sin­gles.’’

Wheeler also saved the game twice with his last bowl and proved a tena­cious open­ing op­po­nent.

It was per­fect prepa­ra­tion for the rest of the tour­na­ment which con­cludes on Mon­day.

McIl­roy is the only player to have won the tour­na­ment four times.

‘‘The closer the games the bet­ter. If you are put un­der pres­sure in your sec­tion it leads on to good form if you are able to scrape through.

‘‘Be­ing tested early doors is ac­tu­ally a re­ally good thing.’’

McIl­roy won the 30­year­old tour­na­ment at his first at­tempt as a teenager in 2006. The 2018 World Sin­gles Cham­pion of Cham­pi­ons has en­tered each tour­na­ment since with a tar­get on his back.

‘‘Out­side of the na­tional sin­gles it is the pre­mier event in the coun­try and one that the guys re­ally look to do well in.

‘‘You only have to look at the guys who have won this event.’’

Pre­vi­ous win­ners in­clude the likes of Ali Forsyth, Rowan Brassey and Mike Ker­naghan, so it is a real who’s who.

McIl­roy used to feel the pres­sure ear­lier in his ca­reer but th­ese days he is more re­laxed.

He has mostly done well at the event and en­joys re­turn­ing year after year.

He has noted a ‘‘bit of a de­mo­graphic change’’ this year, though.

‘‘It used to be all the old dogs and I used to be the kid,’’ the 33­year­old said.

‘‘But now I feel like one of the older ones and there are all th­ese young fel­lows and I need to prove my worth be­fore they take over.’’

 ?? PHOTO PETER MCIN­TOSH ?? Hats off . . . De­fend­ing cham­pion Shan­non McIl­roy had a nar­row es­cape in his open­ing game at the North East Val­ley 10,000 yes­ter­day.
PHOTO PETER MCIN­TOSH Hats off . . . De­fend­ing cham­pion Shan­non McIl­roy had a nar­row es­cape in his open­ing game at the North East Val­ley 10,000 yes­ter­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand