An action packed two-race round of trans-Tasman orienteering in Woodhill Forest saw mixed fortunes for both Kiwis and Aussies.
Kiwi orienteers Ross Morrison and Lizzie Ingham won the preliminary race of the second Test Match round only to set themselves up as sacrificial rabbits - to be hunted down by fierce chasing packs.
Leading the men’s pack chasing Morrison’s 45 second lead in the final race – a chasing start - was Aussie champion Dave Shepherd, along with Aucklanders James Bradshaw and Matt Ogden.
All it took was a minor navigational error in the open forests for NZ Middle distance champion Morrison, and the pack caught sight of him and closed in like hungry foxes, eating up his lead like a Tour de France peleton.
A peleton which swept through the contours, collecting up Morrison and spitting him out the back before rushing the finish line en masse.
With the Australians yet to win a round of the NZ based Test Match, Shepherd put everything and more into his finish, to prevail over the strong Bradshaw by just 3 seconds.
Young Matt Ogden showed the most consistency of the men to finish 6 seconds back and in third place two days running, with Morrison in 4th place.
With just a one minute head start over the women’s elite field, NZ number one Lizzie Ingham was also feeling the pressure.
Heading into the 4th control, Ingham lost over two minutes on a bearing up a vague hillside – enough for the pack to catch sight and pounce.
“I’m kinda annoyed about that” she said “The train caught me and I stayed in front to number 8 then overshot it. It was catchup time then!”
Refusing to surrender Ingham and Penny Kane regained the lead at the 11th control holding it right up until the very last.
But Kathryn Ewels, tucked into the chase pack along with countrywomen Shannon Jones, Aislinn Prendergast and Anna Sheldon, and Pinestar Lara Prince, had one last card to play.
“She steamed past at the last control, and my legs had nothing left” rued Ingham, who took on Ewels in one last gutsy sprint for the finish.
After the dust had cleared it was Ewels in front by two seconds, with the first six strung out over just 17 seconds in the first-past-the-post final.
The two individual wins for Shepherd and Ewels were not enough however to claw back the NZ Pinestars Test Match lead, even with the Bushrangers women winning the second day by 30 points to 25.
A collective Pinestars tally of 57 points to the Australian Bushrangers 53 stretched out the overall lead for New Zealand to 46 poinst (133:87) putting them into a commanding position with one round remaining in the Test Match.
Results – Australia New Zealand Test Match Round 2
1 Kathryn Ewels (Australian Bushrangers) 51:10, 2 Lizzie Ingham (NZ Pinestars) 51:12, 3 Shannon Jones (Australian Bushrangers) 51:20, 4 Lara Prince (NZ Pinestars) 51:24, 5 Aislinn Prendergast (Australian Bushrangers) 51:26, 6 Penny Kane (NZ Pinestars) 51:27, 7 Anna Sheldon (Australian Bushrangers).
1 David Shepherd (Australian Bushrangers) 46:46, 2 James Bradshaw (NZ Pinestars) 46:49, 3 Matt Ogden 46:55, 4 Ross Morrison, (NZ Pinestars), 5 Karl Dravitzki, 6 Simon Uppill (Australian Bushrangers), 7 Darren Ashmore (NZ Pinestars), 8 Chris Naunton (Australian Bushrangers), 9 Gene Beveridge.
Test match points, Round 2 NZ men win 32 points to 23, Australian women win by 30 points to 25. Overall NZ wins Round 2 57 to 53.
Total: New Zealand Pinestars 133, Australian Bushrangers 87.