Marlborough wins Rai Shield

After a full day of ultra-competitive squash competition Nelson Bays and Marlborough couldn't be separated on matches with the scores level at 8-8; however Marlborough was able to hoist the Rai Shield for the first time in six years, winning 27-25 on a countback.

The battle for the Rai Shield, a combined under-19 girls and boys teams' event, was close-fought all the way at Nelson Squash Club on Sunday. The teams consisted of the top four junior boys and top four junior girls in the Nelson Bays and Marlborough regions who have been playing competitively this year.

Nelson Bays were ahead by five matches to three after the first round, thanks largely to a strong performance from the girls' team who won all four matches. However, the tables turned after lunch when the Marlborough girls picked up two good wins in the reverse singles.

Anita Reiter and Sophie O'Connell both won for Nelson Bays girls and Callum Seymour picked up the only win for the Nelson Bays boys in the afternoon against Ben Roughan.

With Nelson Bays sitting on eight matches to Marlborough's seven, it came down to the last match of the day between Nelson Bays' Oliver Waterworth and Logan Kerwin, of Marlborough, to decide the winner. Although Waterworth played well, he couldn't match the strength of Kerwin, losing 3-0. This created an 8-all draw and a countback of games gave a jubilant Marlborough side the overall win.

Players competed in the best of five games against their equally seeded opponent during the morning, then inverting the seeding to play reverse singles. The total points of the girls' and boys' teams combined determining the winner.

The Rai Shield used to be an annual event between Nelson and Marlborough seniors in years gone by but the event fell into obscurity and was not contested for many years.

In 2004, the trophy was dusted off and a new competition for the junior representative players was created and has been contested annually since then. A few years later, a new "J" grade for younger juniors was developed by Squash NZ, to add another competition for the up and coming juniors of Nelson and Marlborough. The Rooster Trophy was donated by Russ Rhodes, of Blenheim, so the junior players had something special to play for. The Russ Rhodes J grade Rooster trophy was created and ran alongside the Rai Shield on Sunday as part of a Junior Representative Squash challenge.

The Nelson Bays J grade team fared better than their senior counterparts although it again came down to the last match to decide the winner.

The Nelson Bays J grade boys dominated, winning all eight of their matches even though there were some close matches along the way. However, the Nelson Bays girls struggled against the more experienced players from Marlborough, losing seven of eight.

When Laura Harding stepped up for Nelson for the last match of the day against Alice Roughan, Nelson Bays were ahead 8 matches to 7 and she needed to win the match outright to avoid a draw, where once again Marlborough would win on games countback.

Harding rose to the occasion with lob serves that died in the corner and good length on her drives to take the match 3-0, giving Nelson Bays the overall win 9-7.

Results (Nelson players named first): Rai Shield winner Marlborough matches: 8-8, games: 27-25; Boys Round 1: Callum Seymour lost Steve Turrell 1-3, Oliver Reiter def Ben Roughan 3-0, Oliver Waterworth lost Quinn Udy 0-3, Felix Murray lost Logan Kerwin 3-0; Girls Round 1: Sophie O'Connell def Kiri Andrew 3-0, Gemma Martin def Amelia Wadsworth 3-1, Anita Reiter def Libby Craighead 3-0, Ashleigh Martin def Jamee Thomas 3-1; Boys Round 2: Oliver Reiter lost Steve Turrell 0/3, Callum Seymour def Ben Roughan 3-1, Felix Murray lost Quinn Udy 0-3, Oliver Waterworth lost Logan Kerwin 0-3; Girls Round 2: Gemma Martin lost Kiri Andrew, Sophie O'Connell def Amelia Wasdworth 3-0, Ashleigh Martin lost Libby Craighead, Anita Reiter def Jamee Thomas 3-0. J Grade Rooster Trophy winner Nelson Bays 9-7;

Boys Round 1: Kyle Harrison def Sonny Gulliver 3-0, Duncan Murray def Nathan Honeybone 3-0, Mason Lund def Duncan Ford 3-2, Aurum Stephenson def Jesse Dempster 3-0; Girls Round 1: Lisa Thordson lost Kaylee Ford 0-3, Sophie O'Cain lost Cassandra Slade, Laura Harding lost Kate Roughan 0-3, Megan O'Cain lost Alice Roughan 0-3; Boys Round 2: Duncan Murray def Sonny Gulliver 3-1, Kyle Harrison def Nathan Honeybone 3-0, Aurum Stephenson def Duncan Ford 3-0, Mason Lund def Jesse Dempster 3-0; Girls round 2: Sophie O'Cain lost Kaylee Ford 0-3, Lisa Thordson lost Cassandra Slade 0-3, Megan O'Cain lost Kate Roughan 0-3, Laura Harding def Alice Roughan 3-0.

The Nelson Mail