LOVE ‘em or hate ‘em, but you can’t deny ‘em – my neighbour in the grandstand said after Australia’s all-conquering Jackaroos upped and snatched the inaugural World Bowls Challenge trophy at the swish Moama club this afternoon.

Trailing by eight match points after two of today’s sessions against the hand-picked ‘Rest of the World’ team, the Jackaroos scored 14-2 in the four singles matches of Round 3, inspired by its younger brigade, Aaron Teys, who defeated Irish superstar Gary Kelly; Ellen Ryan, ditto against English Commonwealth Games hero Ellen Falkner; and Corey Wedlock’s brave win over reigning world singles champion Shannon McIlroy from New Zealand.

This took the match into Round 4’s final two singles rubbers on Moama’s television green where the world team’s big guns Alex Marshall from Scotland – a six-times Commonwealth Games gold medallist – and the sport’s No.1 lady Jo Edwards from New Zealand – a three times Games golden girl – faced reigning Games singles champion Aaron Wilson and Aussie legend Karen Murphy in her final fling in the green and gold. This was truly the Clash of the Titans as beamed on the promotional material.

Australia held a four point buffer going into the epilogue, which the great Marshall erased with his 10-1 4-1 victory over the game Wilson, while Edwards banked a 5-3 first set win against Murphy – the hardy warrior with over 650 national appearances to her credit – to put victory in sight.

But the Aussie diva, the sport’s sport’s longest serving international was having none of it when she dug deep to find every ounce of magic left to garner a 6-1 second set win to tie the rubber and ultimately the match. Then, when the dust settled and the dealing was done, the Jackaroos, who have been on a Tour De Force over the past three weeks, were declared winners by the narrowest of margins – one set out of 44 completed – while they finished two shots in arrears overall to the Rest of the World side.

The ‘Rest’ men’s line-up comprised Ryan Bester (Canada), Darren Burnett (Scotland), Gary Kelly (Ireland), Alex Marshall MBE (Scotland) and Shannon McIlroy (New Zealand), while the women were Jo Edwards MNZM (New Zealand), Ellen Falkner (England), Kelly McKerihen (Canada), Colleen Piketh (South Africa) and Katherine Rednall (England).

The winning Jackaroos compliment was Barrie Lester (Qld), Aron Sherriff (Qld), Aaron Teys (NSW), Corey Wedlock (NSW) and Aaron Wilson (NSW) as the men’s quintet; with Kelsey Cottrell (Qld), Karen Murphy (NSW), Ellen Ryan (NSW), Natasha Scott (NSW) and team captain Bec Van Asch from Tasmania rounding out the women’s five.

Thus ended one of the greatest bowls tournaments ever staged.

2019 World Bowls Challenge, Australia v Rest of the World, Moama Bowling Club, NSW

Day 2:

Mixed pairs: Aust (K Cottrell, A Sherriff) drew World (K Rednall, D Burnett) 7-3 3-6, World (E Falkner, G Kelly) bt Aust (C Wedlock, N Scott) 7-2 11-2, Aust (B Lester, R Van Asch) drew World (C Piketh, S McIlroy) 4-2 1-7, World (K McKerihen, R Bester) bt Aust (K Murphy, A Wilson) 4-4 3-2, Aust (E Ryan, A Teys) bt World (J Edwards, A Marshall) 5-5 10-7.

Men’s singles: D Burnett (World) bt B Lester (Aust) 6-2 4-4, A Sherriff (Aust) drew R Bester (World) 4-3 3-4, A Teys (Aust) bt G Kelly (World) 6-4 6-4, C Wedlock bt S McIlroy 6-0 3-3, A Marshall (World) bt A Wilson (Aust) 10-1 4-1.

Women’s singles: K McKerihen (World) bt R Van Asch (Aust) 5-5 7-2, K Cottrell (Aust) drew C Piketh (World) 7-5 3-4, K Rednall (World) drew N Scott (Aust) 6-2 2-6, E Ryan (Aust) bt E Falkner (World) 11-0 4-3, J Edwards (World) drew K Murphy (Aust) 5-3 1-6.

Final standings: Australia 32 points, 22.5 sets, -2 shots. Rest of the World 32 points, 21.5 sets, +2 shots.

Photo: Australia’s jubilant Jackaroos after their thrilling World Bowls Challenge win at Moama today.