Ashton poised to become first two-title winner at bowls’ NZ open.

Rob Ashton, soon to join Auckland's Carlton-Cornwall club after dominating Wellington bowls for years, moved to the brink of an unprecedented double at the New Zealand Open at Henderson yesterday.

For the second consecutive year Ashton and his St Heliers lead Barclay Lee won the pairs title, with a decisive 23-3 win over Canterbury's Alvin Gardiner and his Central Otago lead, Pat Houlahan.

The result was decided after only 12 of the scheduled 15 ends.

Since the open started in 2007, no male bowler has won twice at the same tournament, but today Ashton, who has appeared in five open finals, has the chance to do that when he meets the equally experienced Gardiner again in the singles final.


There was considerable drama in yesterday's other finals.

Long-standing Counties bowler Shane McGonagle teamed with two old mates from his original club, Putaruru, brothers Owen and Noel Sutton, to win the men's triples from Pauanui club team John McConnell, Grant Moran and Graham Bowers.

McGonagle's team trailed by four shots after nine ends, but came to the last end having pegged that back to 11-all.

Two successful drives from McGonagle taking out opposing shot bowls gave him a 13-11 win.

McGonagle plays now for Otahuhu Railway, but has ties with Counties, where he has won 13 centre titles.

It was a game effort by the Pauanui triple, whose 72-year-old skip McConnell joked afterwards that they were such outsiders at about 100-1 that had they won it would have bankrupted the TAB.

Queenstown's Margaret O'Connor and Christine Buchanan added to their triples title won last year by winning the women's pairs final from Thames' Margaret Henderson and Doreen Garlick 14-12.

O'Connor, with 39 centre titles, drew the winning shot on the final end with her last bowl.

Down 5-13 with four ends left, the Thames pair made a stirring, late fightback.

Henderson's brilliant run shot on the 14th end netted four shots to almost snatch the win and until O'Connor's winning shot, an extra end looked likely.