When you have big guns and names like Shoota Ballinger in the mix then you expect heads to roll and they did in Hastings last night.
But when the gunsmoke dissipated at the indoor facility of Bowls Hastings, Ballinger, of Levin BC, came up shy to a trigger-happy Terry Johnson, of Manawatu, in the international singles qualifier of the New Zealand Professional Bowling Association competition.
The exit loss of homeboy and top-seeded Murray Glassey to Scott Mackenzie, of Wairarapa, in the morning meant someone new will be booking the flight to Blackpool, England, in March next year.
Murray competed in Blackpool for the past two years but so has Johnson made two trips to England as well as Hong Kong and Ireland in the Superbowls before the NZPBA eclipsed it.
The 53-year-old plumber, who has been playing NZPBA for almost a decade, gave Ballinger a don't-argue 8-3, 15-5 account in the final to make an appointment at the Naenae complex in Wellington from September 8-10 where it won't get any easier against the winners from Pukekohe, New Plymouth, Dunedin and Invercagill to decide who will book a flight to Blackpool.
"Everybody's hard here. The locals are very hard to beat on this surface so you have to be on your game and have a little bit of luck, of course," said a softly spoken Johnson, whose effervescent wife Jae was quick to jovially remind him she was the jester, coach and manager who was pivotal in soothing his jangled nerves throughout the weekend.
"You've got to have a little bit of a lady bird on the shoulder," he said with a grin. "Oh, thank you to my lovely wife who supports me all the time and is my best supporter, you could say."
Johnson said it helped that the venue was warm because not only did the body respond but the surface also offered better traction.
"When it's colder it becomes quite a push," he said, adding the difference between winning and losing was just one bowl sometimes.
The outdoor player for two decades isn't intimidated going to Naenae and enjoys winter PBA bowls indoor in winter.
"It's not as attractive as it was monetary wise but there's always prestige in winning something so it's always a bit of a thrill."
Ballinger, who is a bronze medallist from the inaugural 1996 Commonwealth Shooting Championship in the long-range (400m) fullbore discipline in Dehli, India, said Johnson applied pressure and he didn't respond well.
"I was always trying to move the kitty or trying to rake the head a little in a bid to try to get two or three shots in but dropping big numbers in the end," said the 66-year-old.
"He was drawing really, really well so I was only picking up ones. Yeah, desperation but I had a good crack at it."
For Ballinger there was no cigar but satisfaction from making his maiden final after a quarterfinal at best before last night.
He only returned to the NZPBA after an eight-year hiatus due to other commitments but last night struggled with the surface here.
"I finally got there but you've really got to push for it."
He changed his name through deed poll to "Shoota" 13 years ago, a "dumb nickname a Maori fellah" gave him and it stuck because of his work on the internet.
Ironically, Ballinger's steely resolve dates back to the bronze win where he was tied for second but missed out on silver on a countback.
"I missed my last shot. I had only just missed it so if I had got it I would have been tied for gold and had a better countback," he said with a laugh.
"I've always prided myself to perform under pressure but I was terrible out there tonight in the final," he said, wishing Johnson all the best in Naenae.
Glassey, who won the ranking singles title on Saturday when he beat NZPBA chairman and tourney organiser Richard Corry, of Wellington, 6-11, 7-6, was philosophical about his exit in the internationals yesterday.
"It's different days so you have start from the beginning again and it wasn't to be today so that happens in sport." said Glassey who was jetting off to Melbourne today with the New Zealand team to play Australia in the annual Transtasman Challenge.
He wasn't disappointed, saying it was "impossible" to stay on the purple patch.
Glassey still has a chance to go to Scotland to compete in the international world pairs with Paul Sorenson, of Napier, if they prevail in Naenae.
He said Saturday's win always helped in boosting his NZPBA ranking, which should earn him enough in the bank to ensure a Transtasman berth through to next year.
Bart Robinson, from North Harbour, Craig Merrilees, of Invercargill, Andrew Kelly, of Canterbury, and Laurie Guy, of Wellington, will be on the flight to Melbourne with him today.
"It's always nice to beat the Aussies in anything, isn't it?" he said with a grin after the Kiwis lost to their rivals in Hastings last winter.