THE players broke into a rendition of High-ho when it was announced "The Gnomes" had won the bowls tournament in Napier.
As the composite team of skip Ken O'Neil, brother/lead Pat O'Neil and Kevin Ives threaded their way through the crowded clubrooms to the front the jokes continued.
"Stand up, we can't see you," one joker yelled out at Bowls Napier on Thursday after the trio had clinched the Bay Tours and Charters-sponsored President's Day tournament, revived after five years of recess.
"They can't reach the bar," another chimed in amid more friendly banter.
Talk, the vertically-challenged trio will tell you, is cheap after they amassed four wins and +35 differential points on the greens.
They beat a Bowls Heretaunga team of Bruce Stewart (skip), wife Lois Stewart (lead) and Byron Brook, who had four wins and +30 differential points.
The Havelock North Bowling Club's all-women side of skip Pauline Craven, lead Mary Hortop and Heather Leyland had to settle for third place on just as many wins but mustered only +27 differential points.
Whether the sprightly, retired seventy-somethings' short stature gives them a better sense of traction with gravity or whether it's the superb greens at Bowls Napier is the difference is debatable but what is clear is the winning combination are adroit.
A grinning host club member Ken O'Neil, 70, said they "got it [banter] all the time".
"They have to pick on somebody, don't they, if they can't win?"
Chimed in fellow club mate, Ives, 74, who lives three doors away from Ken: "We let our actions speak on the greens so they can say what they want."
Pat O'Neil, 75, of Bowls Heretaunga, said: "Okay, so we're old gnomes, too, and have a bit of fungus on us but we're not for sale."
He said the three greens were fine although their team didn't play on the best surface, the B Green.
"The greens ... allowed for consistent draw bowls."
The winning trio pocketed $300, adding the fine weather and great atmosphere heightened the 126 players' enjoyment from 9am to 4pm.
Some felt the day was perhaps 15 minutes too long, to which a laughing Ives replied: "They must be old, old people because we're old, young people."
Ken O'Neil said their final game against a Bowls Heretaunga team of skip Jim Bentley, wife Helen Bentley and Judy McDonald could have cost them the title.
"We won 12-6 but Jim could have cleaned us up with his last bowl although he just failed."
Asked if the winning combo would return to defend their bragging rights next year, a grinning Pat O'Neil replied: "Yes we'll be back if we're upright and arrive here because we could be the dancing gnomes."