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Neville Bensdorp with the impressive New Zealand petanque open singles trophy.

Ashburton petanque player Neville Bensdorp is on top of his game and is the newly crowned New Zealand open singles champion.

Bensdorp edged fellow Ashburton MSA Petanque Club member Richard Browne in a nailbiting final at the Dunedin City Petanque Club to win the title 13-12.

It is the first national title for the 48-year-old who only took up the game in 2015.

“It was an amazing feeling to win and it took a while to sink in,” he said.

Bensdorp opened up a 9-0 lead in the final before Browne came storming back to level the scores at 12-12.

He kept his nerve on the last end to claim his biggest tournament victory and eight wins from eight matches played.

The Ashburton pair emerged from a strong field of 48 players which featured many upsets and many top players not quite making the cut for the championship section.

Bensdorp beat Giorgio Vakauta 13-3 in the semi final to claim his finals berth.

“This guy is a petanque legend and has been at the top of the sport for a long time, so to even play against him was an honour.”

Bensdorp has been in good petanque form this season.

He lifted the South Island triples title with two Christchurch team mates in April and was fifth in the triples at the nationals.

He started playing at the nationals in 2017 and has been third equal in the doubles and fifth equal in the triples in the past.

“When I first got into the game it was Richard (Browne) who took me under his wing and helped me develop the skills.

“Other players in Christchurch have also given me insights.”

Bensdorp said playing against the best players had lifted his game and it was nice also that his wife, Karen, played the game at a high level.

An alumni of Ashburton College, Bensdorp used to play football and was a useful lawn bowls player.

Skills from the bowls green, including judging the ground and slope, had been useful when transitioning to petanque, he said.

Bensdorp’s goal over the coming months is to make the New Zealand petanque team and to test his skills against trans-Tasman rivals. He is also keen to advance his umpiring qualifications and already has his regional umpire badge.

“I’m not too far away from my national badge and I’d love to be an internationally qualified umpire one day. Travelling and running tournaments around the world would be great.”

-By Mick Jensen