Wanganui's Peter Belliss bowed out of contention in the men's fours during post section play of the Hyundai National Open Bowls Championships in New Plymouth on Monday afternoon, paving the way for a former arch-rival to lay claim to the title.
The former world champion and multiple national champ's composite team was a 21-16 casualty of the four skipped by Ray Lovie, who had been tipped as the dark horse to take the title.
However, after yesterday's quarter and semifinals, veteran Rowan Brassey's composite four made it through to today's final in a match billed as a "legend versus young guns" affair after Andrew Kelly's youthful composite team also rolled up to defend his fours title from last season.
Brassey and Belliss were arch-rivals back in the day when both were multiple champions.
Kelly is joined by a stellar line-up of players with numerous titles under their collective belts. Former Black Jack Danny Delany, NZ Gold Star bowler Chris Le Lievre and 2010 NZ Open Singles champion Raika Gregory complete the powerful quartet skipped by defending champion Kelly.
Playing the quarter- and semifinals yesterday, Kelly's side were in superb form as they accounted for Graham Skellern (Composite) in a closely-fought quarter final, 19-17, and put on a dominating display against Taranaki favourite - and Belliss' nemesis - Baldwin (Composite) in the semifinal to win 16-8.
Picking up the first three ends - two twos and a three - the finalists jumped ahead of Baldwin's side and never lost their lead, despite dropping four consecutive singles on the final ends.
The final versus six-time national fours champion Brassey is bound to be a lot more difficult, as was shown by the defeat of both Ali Forsyth's composite team (fours champions in 2011) and Richard Girvan's crack squad of fellow Black Jack Shannon McIlroy, multiple national title-holder Kevin Robinson and rising star Lance Pascoe.
Brassey (skip), Beau Prideaux, Rodger Hassall and Brett Hassall unceremoniously bundled out Forsyth in the quarter-finals 20-7, dropping just five ends in a 16-end game, and then delivered a similarly definitive blow to Girvan's chances of a trophy shot.
Meanwhile, the women's fours title will be also be decided today between a hometown composite four skipped by Heather Johns and Sandra Keith's Dunsandel foursome.
Keith will have another chance at the silverware after making it to the final with her Dunsandel club team of Serena Matthews, Pam Clarke and Karolyn Boon. The Cantabrians will face a team with the advantage of playing at home; Paritutu Bowling club's Johns skipped her side into the final.
Johns skipped teammates Val Keightley, Debbie Smith and Caroline Harris to a nail-biting 17-16 victory against a local side from Vogeltown - Shirley Marsters (skip), Helen Grey, Val Robertson and Val Webster.
It was a fairly even spread as both sides bounced back and forth. The Marsters quartet increased the pressure won the final three and were locked out by some skilful blocking.
On the adjacent rink, Keith's women were a force to be reckoned with as they appeared to stroll past opponents Liz Johnstone (skip), Joy Clouston, Lyn Weir and Faye Gecse (Composite) in a 21-7 victory.
Leading throughout the match, Keith clinched the final berth by taking the last four ends, including a five on the third to last end that put the team out of reach of the Johnstone's fours and gave Keith and Matthews the opportunity to win two titles. The duo won the women's pairs on Friday.