20 March 2010

Sanfords Manaia are Soffe Cup champions for season 2009-10.  An emphatic 11-5 victory over AWE Huatoki was an outstanding achievement by a very young side made up predominantly of teenagers from a club you normally associate with experienced title winners.  After a pulsating round of singles matches Manaia nabbed the key lower order matches from both the men's and women's sections to lead 6-2, which from there they shattered any dreams of AWE Huatoki of causing a major upset.


Manaia got off to a flying start with No.1 lady Nicole Koch beating Saori Han 6-1 6-1.  Jordan Fleming then capped off a stellar season by beating Neil Bridgeman 6-3 6-1.  Alice Caskey pegged one back for the visitors however by defeating Ginny Death 6-1 6-3.  Jonathan Ussher overcame Cameron Koch 6-2 6-2 in the No. 1 men's match to level the scores at 2-2 before Manaia ran riot in the remaining singles.  Jason Mills and Michael Gates showed their experience in beating Amrit Rai 6-2 6-3 and David Geange 6-3 7-5 respectively.

The performances of Sarah Kelly and Maree Gopperth deserve special praise taking into consideration the calibre of their opponents- Kelly beat Chris Wilson 6-2 6-2 at No. 3, while Gopperth dug deep to beat Janice Taylor 3-6 7-6 7-6 (10-2) in the No. 4 ladies match. 


In the doubles Manaia won three of the four ties to earn an unassailable lead at 9-3 and therefore secure the winner's trophy.  C. Koch/Fleming beat Ussher/Bridgeman 6-2 6-4 while Mills/Gates beat Geange/Rai 6-2 6-4.  N. Koch/Kelly beat Han/Taylor 6-2 6-4.  Caskey/Wilson won the sole doubles match for Huatoki beating Gopperth/Death 6-2 6-1.


With the trophy safely tucked away in the cabinet for one more year, the combines effectively became a dead rubber.  C. Koch/ N. Koch showed why they are the top mixed combination in the province, beating Ussher and Han 9-3 while Fleming/Kelly beat Bridgeman/Taylor 9-4.  Huatoki sneaked home the bottom two combines: Rai/ Wilson beat Mills/Gopperth 9-0 at No. 3.  Alice Caskey was the standout performer for AWE Huatoki winning all three of her matches- therefore over half of the Huatoki team's wins.  Caskey teamed up with Geange in her final match to beat Gates/Death 9-2.
As it was made abundantly clear by Manaia's performance on Saturday, for New Plymouth clubs travelling down to South Taranaki attempting to beat Manaia on their home track remains analogous to attempting the nigh impossible.  This is the first title for Sanfords Manaia for four years since they began a rebuilding phase which has finally come to bear its ultimate reward.
In the Wilson Trophy Inglewood beat Okaiawa 9-7, while Stratford upset first seeded Hawera 10-6.  In the Sumpter Trophy Huatoki beat Rotokare 14-2, and Okaiawa beat Hawera 10-6.  The finalists of the WilsonTrophy (Inglewood v Stratford) will both earn promotion to next years Soffe Cup, while the Sumpter Trophy (A3) finalists (Huatoki v Okaiawa) earn the same reward into the Wilson Trophy (A2) subject to team numbers and competition format.