Illawarra Zone 16 may view an opportunity was lost at the NSW Inter-Zone Championships in Maitland with both the Open and Seniors team reaching the semi- finals of the prestigious representative event.
In the first State Inter-Zone for two years, Central Coast (Zone 15) claimed the Over 60s competition, while Far North Coast (Zone 1) won its first Open title following a remarkable extra end 58-57 win over Sydney Central and South, with the result only confirmed via an umpire's measure.
One of the great Open Inter-Zone finals in history produced a 55-55 deadlock after 63 ends, before Far North Coast's triumph was sealed by the tightest of margins on the extra end, after all three rinks returned to the Club Maitland City green to play one end.
Central Coast then clinched the Seniors Inter-Zone title with a hard-fought 59-54 win over Newcastle.
Illawarra were in great form early on; thrashing Greater Western Sydney 67-42 and Hunter 73-54.
Illawarra dropped its first rink of the championships in round three but still hammered North Coast 66-42, highlighted by Gregg Stevens' team winning 30-13.
Zone 16's 53-50 quarter-final win was anchored by skips Robbie Warren (20-16) and Gregg Stevens (20-10) with both rinks making it four straight wins.
But Illawarra lost two rinks in their semi-final exit; with Mark Kesby, Trevor Suckley, Brian Suckley and Robbie Warren remaining undefeated with a valiant 26-20 win.
In the Open championship, Illawarra began impressively beating Manning 66-47 but needed Corey Wedlock and partners' 35-8 win to see off North West 68-52 in round two.
The alarm bells were ringing for Zone 16 in round three with a 20-shot, three rink loss to Sydney Central and South (Zone 13) which left Zone 16 second in their section.
Illawarra responded in the quarter-finals beating section 4 winners Sydney Northern 66-57 on the back of Aaron Teys and partners 31-19 win, plus Matty Miles winning 21-18.
But in a hard-fought semi-final against Zone 13 - a rematch of their sectional game - Illawarra lost a thriller 54-52, with Zone 13 winning two rinks by a shot, with the other rink tied.
All up, making the semi-finals in both events showed Zone 16 remain among the strongest zones in NSW, but expectations were probably a bit higher in the Open event than reaching the semis.
Conditions at Club Maitland City and Lorn Park BC were tough, with gusty winds a factor, while finding rep combinations to complement one another is never easy.
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