27 Nov 2015

Competition front runners Huatoki travel a short distance to third-placed Pukekura this week and take with them a strengthened line-up.  Taking a break this week from tennis in Wellington, Huatoki have the services of Tristan Stayt at No.1 and he will take on Meto Snegirev with Stayt expected to win comfortably.  Alistair Nairn will relish the drop down to No.2 but he will still have his work cut out to defeat David Barnard.  Chris Popata and Jayden Harrison should be untroubled picking up the bottom two men's positions for Huatoki against Thomson Matuku and Andrew Hood respectively.  Pukekura will pick up the No.1 ladies match where Louise Waite will be too strong for Tracey Old but Pukekura's Donna Thorne takes on Ellen O'Byrne at No.2 and she will have to lift from the last meeting of these two when O'Byrne was the victor in three sets.  Chris Wilson should take the No.3 match for Huatoki when she does battle with Jeanette Harding however Pukekura should pick up another win at No.4 when Nikayla Barnard plays Jae Wilson.  With Huatoki comfortably ahead after the singles, only some inventive doubles combinations will provide Pukekura with further wins against the run of play.

The high-flying second placed Oakura team are at home to fourth place Stratford and on paper it doesn't look like it will be a happy time results-wise for the central Taranaki team.  Oakura have a formidable line-up at the moment and even without their normal top male player, there are not many places where Stratford will get to shine.  At the top of the order, siblings Jaime and Brady Simpson should be too strong for Andy Roberts and Bruce Cleland.  Beauden Fleming at No.3 should also be too strong for Stratford's Grant Kite.  Craig Waite is solid at No.4 but could be upset by a focused Michael Boland.  There will be no respite for Stratford when it comes to the ladies matches either.  Oakura's line-up of Sue Oldfield, Bailey Bruckner, Jackie Keenan and Chris Davies should be overall too strong for Mylie Thwaites, Reagan Boland, Kristen Lourie and Katie Stanners.  It is difficult to see where victories might present themselves in the doubles and combines for Stratford and a big enough win for Oakura may see them leading the Soffe Cup table at the end of the first round this Saturday.

Okaiawa/Manaia host Rotokare in the remaining match and both teams would appear to be at near full strength.  The combined side not only see the return of Mark Laurence and Vince Baylis this week but also have the services at No.1 of Hamish Mead.  Mead will take on Blair Crowley who has been showing good form when his opposition allow him to, however Mead is the higher ranked and should prevail.  Laurence will play Kyle Crowley in the No.2 match and Laurence has a 3-1 win record over Crowley in recent times and would be expected to prevail.  Baylis will relish being down at No.3 but has the dogged Shane Devlin as his opposition.  Baylis has the edge in previous matchups and the Okaiawa hard courts will be an advantage.  Josh Murdoch should also be too good for Laurie Jordan in the No.4 match.  Rotokare will be sure to strike back in the ladies with Karen Cranston at No.1 who'll be too accomplished for a gallant Lauren Fraine.  The remaining Rotokare ladies consisting of Tania Atkinson, Helena Goodin and Chantelle Peters will be looking to add to the victory from Cranston when they do battle with Caroline Jackson, Georgia Jackson and Aroha Beattie respectively.  Okaiawa/Manaia's overall strength in the men should help them in the combines where the overall tie winner will probably be decided.