Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Rowing: Bond and Murray deliver again

Hamish Bond and Eric Murray posted a world's best time in the coxed pair in Amsterdam. Photo / Getty Images
Hamish Bond and Eric Murray posted a world's best time in the coxed pair in Amsterdam. Photo / Getty Images

Just call Hamish Bond and Eric Murray 'The Casino'.

Regardless of the five crews who gamble against them, the house of the 'Kiwi pair' eventually win.

They joined the women's lightweight double sculls combination Julia Edward and Sophie MacKenzie, who secured a remarkable gold on the Bosbaan in Amsterdam in their first international regatta together after original crew member Lucy Strack opted out mid-season. The women's pair of Rebecca Scown and Louise Trappitt earned bronze.

The odds, through dominance at 19 consecutive FISA international regatta victories in the men's pair, have favoured Bond and Murray for six unbeaten seasons. Last night saw them earn their fifth coxless pair world championship to go with the London Olympic title, yesterday's victory in the non-Olympic coxed pair and their 2007 coxless four triumph.

The British crew of James Foad and Matt Langridge pushed in the first 500m in an attempt to unsettle, and Bond and Murray were 1.21s off the lead in last.

Then the natural order of physiology took hold. The New Zealanders pulled through and away from the field. They created the illusion other crews were mere buoys such was the traction with the length of their stroke. Their lead extended to 0.675s at the 1000m, to 2.78s at 1500m and 4.41s at the finish. Britain and South Africa took silver and bronze respectively.

The biggest fear came when German oars crossed into their lane during the early stanzas. Their time of 6m 09.34s was 0.84s outside the world best effort they set at the London Olympics.

In many eyes, including those of British great Sir Matthew Pinsent last year, Bond and Murray are considered the greatest coxless pair ever.

The only remaining contenders could be Sir Steven Redgrave and Pinsent, who won consecutive Olympic golds in the class at Barcelona and Atlanta, or East German twins Joerg and Bernd Landvoigt who achieved the feat at Montreal and Moscow.

To reinforce their achievement, the pair were joined by coxswain Caleb Shepherd to disprove the theory coxed pair skiffs are 'water taxis' or 'lead sleds' in which rowers chauffeur the cox down the course. Fast water propelled the trio to a world's-best time of 6m 33.26s in the non-Olympic class. They eclipsed the 20-year-old mark by nine seconds.

"The conditions were phenomenal and allowed us to row to our potential," Murray said. "Until this regatta, we'd never been in [a coxed pair]. We'd heard rumours about them being a 'water taxi' or a 'lead sled' because you carry a coxswain down the course, but we found it's not too dissimilar to what we do in the [coxless] pair. You've just got to be realistic that it goes a bit slower.

"We wanted to challenge ourselves beyond the usual three races in a week, which we'd normally do in a World Cup weekend. It was something different to focus on midway through the Olympic cycle to break it up a bit."

Murray appreciated Shepherd's guidance.

"Caleb has taken the men's under-23 eight to two world titles so he's got the calibre and pedigree and listened to our philosophy. He kept us motivated and I hope he's the coxswain if New Zealand boats a men's eight for Olympic qualifying next year."

Murray had "no idea" whether they'd continue in the non-Olympic class during next year's Olympic qualification programme.

"We haven't spoken about it but I doubt it. It was fun for this week."

Edward and MacKenzie provided a surprise after finishing second in their semifinal to South Africa. They announced themselves on the international stage with a world best time of 6m 48.56s, eclipsing the time set by Edward and Louise Ayling in 2012. They were down by 0.04s after 500m but steadily increased their lead in the second quarter to dominate. MacKenzie was recruited from the lightweight combination with Zoe McBride which won the under-23 championship in Italy last month. Edward rowed the lightweight single sculls until MacKenzie arrived.

Scown and Trappitt delivered a bronze behind Britain and the United States. It is Scown's third bronze in as many years after reaching the podium at the Olympics with Juliette Haigh and the 2013 world championships with Kayla Pratt.

"It hasn't been the easiest of seasons," Scown said. "The Brits were tough but we put up a good fight and reached one of our goals which was to get a medal."

Earlier yesterday, the women's four of Kerri Gowler, Grace Prendergast, Kelsey Bevan and Pratt took gold posting a world-best time in another non-Olympic class. Prendergast and Gowler are already seen as contenders for a spot in the women's pair next year after beating the incumbents to the silver medal at the World Cup in Lucerne.

- Herald on Sunday

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