Just three teams remain in the running for the $15,000 winners’ cheque in the second Bowls3Five televised league season, while another three are vying to avoid relegation.
The Stokes Valley Vipers and Elmwood Park Saints will square-off at the New Lynn Bowling Club in Auckland tomorrow night (Tuesday, December 10) for the right to play top qualifiers the Stoke Thunder in Wednesday night’s grand final.
Former Blackjack Blake Signal and Nicole Toomey have forced their way into the Vipers triple, after impressing in the final week of the regular season, and will team up with the returning Seamus Curtin.
There is doubt surrounding the make-up of the Saints’ line-up with their leader, 13-time national champion Gary Lawson, having been bed-ridden for much of the past week.
He won’t make a call on his involvement until hours out from the playoff, with the entire Elmwood Park squad travelling to Auckland and available for selection.
The Vipers and Saints split their round-robin meetings, with Stokes Valley winning in straight sets on the last evening of the regular season, after Elmwood Park had prevailed on a tie-breaker end on the opening night.
Stoke will be watching with interest. They’ve yet to finalise their triple for the grand final, but world singles champion Shannon McIlroy will return to skip the Thunder, who only lost three of their 14 round-robin matches.
Before the grand final qualifier, last year’s finalists the Pt Chevalier Pirates and Gore Rams will meet in an arguably more important match.
The winner will secure a place in next year’s competition, while the loser will play the Parajacks on Wednesday night in the relegation playoff.
Both the Pirates and Rams have named familiar line-ups, with the contestants from last year’s dramatic finale to again square-off.
Jenny Stockford, Alex Reed and Aiden Takarua will turn out for Pt Chev, while Ashleigh Jeffcoat, Caleb Hope and Sheldon Bagrie-Howley will again represent Gore.
Since the 2018 title decider, the Pirates and Rams have met twice with Pt Chev winning the first contest in straight sets before Gore won the rematch on a tie-breaker end.
Bruce Wakefield, Pam Walker and Mark Noble will be awaiting the result as they’ll represent the Parajacks in the relegation playoff on Wednesday night, which will proceed the tournament decider.
The Royal Oak Rockets and Hinuera Heat are sitting out this week’s matches, having fallen short of the top three playoffs but above the bottom three.
All four of this week’s games will be broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 9.
The total prize pool is $28,000.
1st place: $15,000
2nd place: $7,000
3rd place: $4,000
Bowls3Five – finals week:
Tuesday, December 10
6th vs 7th: Pt Chevalier Pirates vs Gore Rams – 7pm
Grand final qualifier: Stokes Valley Vipers vs Elmwood Park Saints – 8:15pm
Wednesday, December 11
Relegation match: Pt Chevalier Pirates/Gore Rams vs Parajacks – 7pm
Grand final: Stoke Thunder vs Stokes Valley Vipers/Elmwood Park Saints – 8:15pm