9 Dec 2016

The final ties of round one of Soffe cup tennis see all teams return to North Taranaki with Oakura hosting Okaiawa/Manaia, Huatoki hosting Pihama and Stratford travelling up to face Rotokare.  With only 4 points separating positions 2-5 on the table and leaders Pukekura with the bye there is likely to some fiercely fought matches to sort out the final positions.

Both Oakura and Okaiawa/Manaia are fielding relatively full strength line ups.  In the men's top match Oakura's Jaime Simpson will meet either Cameron Koch or Mark Laurence.  Koch is the stronger opponent and likely to challenge Simpson but Laurence is also playing well and comes off a good win last week so the results could go either way.  In the No2 men's match Oakura's Graeme Mitchell is likely too strong for David Baker.  Oakura's Brady Simpson and Len Adamson will meet Vince Baylis and Josh Murdoch and will want to secure at least one win of these two games to hopefully lead the score after men's singles.  Oakura's women look likely to extend this lead with Sue Oldfield, Bailey Bruckner, Jackie Keenan and Chris Davies favored over Okaiawa/Manaia's Carolyn Jackson, Aroha Beattie, Helen Johnston and Georgia Jackson.  Okaiawa/Manaia would need some strong doubles and combines combinations to stay in the hunt against second place holders on the table Oakura.

The Huatoki versus Pihama tie looks to be relatively evenly matched with newcomers to the competition Pihama showing their new team to be developing well after their last week's surprise victory over Oakura.  In the men's Huatoki's Jayden Harrison will be looking for a return to form when he meets Beauden Fleming.  Alistair Nairn has been improving week to week and is likely to beat Pihama's Rob Haveswood although Haveswood showed his quality to get a win last week.  Murray Keast looks likely to secure a victory for Huatoki over James Padilla with the final matchup being between Pihama's Matt Symons and Huatoki's Luis Silva who got a win on debut two weeks ago versus Stratford.  Pihama's women's lineup looks quite formidable at the top end with Paris Butters and Maree Gopperth to face Huatoki's Marcella Jones and Ellen O'Byrne.  Jones has only lost one match so far in Soffe cup this season but Butters is likely to challenge this record.  It will however be a hard hitting and entertaining matchup to watch.  Huatoki may feel a little more secure in the No3 and 4 women's games with Tracey Old and Lorraine Heerdegen favored to win over Tara Butters and Brianna Matthews.  Huatoki will hope to take a small lead at the end of the singles and convert this to an advantage with doubles and combines however the overall score is likely to be relatively close.

In the final tie, Rotokare play bottom of the table Stratford.  Stratford would need all 16 points to avoid relegation at the completion of this round and this is highly unlikely.  Stratford should start strong with a likely win to Sam Howard over Kyle Crowley.  The No2 men's battle will be between tennis stalwarts Shane Devlin and Bruce Cleland with Stratford's Grant Kite a likely winner in the No3 match against Bill Husband.  The final match sees Rotokare bring youngster William Roberts up to make his Soffe cup debut against Michael Boland.  In the women's games, Stratford sees a return to Soffe cup tennis for Lynn Stanners and she will meet Tania Atkinson.  The other women's games see Rotokare's consistent lineup of Chantelle Peters, Brittaney Carr and Julie Foley meet Stratford's Mylie Thwaites, Katie Stanners and Anna Hutterd.  On paper Rotokare look likely to secure more wins by the end of the singles which may well carry through to the doubles but Stratford will be hoping to stay in touch with 5th place Rotokare to the end of the matches.