Volleyball: Finals heartbreak
Tauranga Volleyball Club's women's teams finished the national championships in Nelson on the weekend heartbreakingly close to the gold medal positions after losing the finals in both the first and second divisions.
In the 1st Division final, 2011 champions Manukau South repeated their three sets to one win over Tauranga from last year, after dropping the first set to the Bay of Plenty women, who seemed tired after playing two marathon games a day earlier to reach the final.
Tauranga were further challenged when they lost their key spiker Simone Head to a torn achilles tendon in the first point of the game.
Captain Lisa Claassen worked tirelessly all game to keep her team in the running, while replacement Beniece Douch showed determination and will be a force in the future.
For the victors, setter Pogai Falemai always made good choices, and Vaovai Aiono hit probably as many winning spikes as the rest of the team combined.
The Club B-team were over-run by Dunedin's Scorpions 3-0 in their final, their only loss of the tournament.
Tauranga men exceeded expectations, to take the bronze medal in an entertaining five-set match against 2011 runners-up Harbour Raiders, a big improvement on their 2011 10th placing.
In perhaps the greatest volleyball match ever seen in New Zealand, the men's 1st Division final saw ASB NelsonPine men treat a 1500-strong crowd to an entertaining spectacle as they overcame the challenge of 2011 Champions Sparta in a deciding fifth set.
Down 10-12 to a fired-up Sparta team needing only three points to seal their third title in a row, Nelson dug deeper than they've had to all season to claw their way back into the set and then took two match points to win their first-ever national senior title.
Men's Division 1: Shirley b South Auckland 3-1 (25-15,20-25,25-16,25-18); Playaz b Rebels 3-2 (23-25,25-18,18-25,25-22-18-16), Semifinals: ASB NelsonPine b Tauranga 3-0 (25-22,29-27,25-23); Sparta b Harbour Raiders A 3-0 (25-20,25-21,25-16); 3rd/4th; Tauranga b Harbour Raiders A 3-2 (25-16,20-25,25-21,25-27-15-12). FINAL: ASB NelsonPine b Sparta 3-2 (25-19, 24-26, 22-25, 25-16, 16-14)
Women's Division 1: South Auckland b Marlborough Redbacks 3-0 (26-24,25-17,25-15); Sparta b Smash 3-1 (25-15,20-25,25-21,25-11); Semifinals: Manukau South A b NZ Institute of Sport 3-1 (21-25,25-14,25-19,25-19); Tauranga A b Hamilton 3-2 (17-25,25-21,25-17,24-26, 15-8). FINAL: Manukau South A b Tauranga 3-1 (25-23, 17-25, 25-17, 25-18)
Men's Division 2: Qualification Final; NZ Defence Force b Nelson Heat 3-2 (23-25,25-14,25-18,21-25,16-14); 4th/5th; Nelson Suns b Aoraki Avalanche 3-0 (25-21,25-19,25-17); Final: Hornby b NZ Defence Force 3-1 (22-25,25-22,25-22,25-18)
Women's Division 2: Semi Final; Scorpions b Eastern Angels 3-0 (25-13,25-15,25-18); Semi Final; Tauranga B b Queen Street Pharmacy Nelson 3-0 (25-18,25-16,25-14); Final: Scorpions b Tauranga B 3-0 (25-20,25-15,25-11).
Equestrian: Bronze success
New Zealand has won team bronze at the 10th World University Championships in Aachen yesterday.
Rachael Bentall (Hawke's Bay), Chloe Akers (Opiki) and Helen Bruce (Feilding) excelled in dressage and jumping to take bronze behind hosts and winners Germany, with France taking silver.
It was a rather complicated format that saw the Kiwis make it through to the final day. Twenty-six countries started at the beginning of the event, with the final selection all starting with a clean slate to decide the eventual placings.
Riders aboard borrowed horses had to do a dressage test as a group, followed by a challenging jumping course.
Dressage coach and elite New Zealand rider Penny Castle (Ashhurst) was rapt with their efforts which saw them finish less than a mark behind France and just two behind Germany.
With just two marks separating the three teams, the pressure was on in the jumping.
Akers won her section with a very polished round, with Bruce and Bentall each giving it their all but striking a few minor problems.
Trainer John Cottle (Auckland) said the bronze medal was "beyond" their expectations at the champs.
"It's the first time New Zealand has had a team at the championships and they've done brilliantly," he said. "This is out of season for us, and their efforts are a real credit to the work they have put in over the winter months."
He also congratulated dressage coach Castle.
Final results: Germany 78.34 gold, France 77.53 silver, New Zealand 63.18 bronze.
Rugby: Piako victorious
Western Bay of Plenty paid the price for several missed tackles and a number of simple mistakes, when they were defeated by Piako in their Stan Meads Cup game played on Sunday at Maramatanga Park in Te Puna.
The reward from the clash, between the unbeaten section two sides, was the lead on one side off the draw and a big step towards a home semi-final in two weeks' time. The visitors led at half-time 21-6 courtesy of three tries, with the Western Bay side's points coming from two penalty goals slotted by Darrell Houia. While Piako extended their lead in the second spell with a penalty goal, the home team came back with a try, which was finished off by right wing Richard Nauer. The successful conversion by Houia saw Piako lead 24-13.
A penalty and a converted try to Piako extended their lead to 19 , until Nauer touched down the try of the match after cutting through the visitors' defence with ease, in the last play of the game. The match concluded with Piako taking home a 34-20 victory.
Piako 34 Western BOP 20 (Richard Nauer 2 tries; Darrel Houia 2 pen 2 con) HT 21-6.
Soccer: Win for visitors
Whakatane Town have a good record at Rex Morpeth Park but Otumoetai came away with three points after a 4-1 win in WaiBop Federation football.
The home team were down to 10 men after 30 minutes. Justin Nichols scored for Whakatane but goals from Joel Hollinshead and Matt Collins gave Otumoetai the lead at the break. The visitors increased their lead in the second half with goals to Collins and Tim Miller.
Despite being reduced to nine men, Ngongotaha registered a 5-1 win over Melville United at Stembridge Rd.
Reading body language can be dangerous but Ngongotaha looked lethargic in their warm up drills and strolled onto the ground for the kick off.
All that changed as Dayne Willemsen put the Villagers ahead in the first minute and Mitchell Miller made it 2-0 after just nine minutes.
A header from Neil Slater made it 3-0 with just 15 minutes played. It was an astounding start from Ngongotaha and Melville looked dispirited, but in a rare incursion into the Ngongotaha defensive zone they were awarded a penalty which they converted to make it 3-1.
Playing with 10 men, the Villagers - with keeper Shaquille Graham prominent - defended solidly as the visitors mounted a fightback but Willemsen stretched their lead and Miller put the issue beyond doubt.
Claudelands Rovers signalled they have not given up the chase for the title with a 6-1 win over AFC Fury while Waikato Unicol were held to a 3-3 draw by bottom of the table Otorohanga.
AFC Fury 1 Claudelands Rovers 6; Ngongotaha 5 Melville United 1; Otorohanga 3 Waikato Unicol 3; Whakatane Town 1 Otumoetai 4.
Multisport: Spectacular race
Olympic Games mountain biker Karen Hanlen is one of the early entries for November's Genesis Energy Lake Waikaremoana Challenge, the re-versioned Lake to Lighthouse.
Hanlen is teaming up with Steve McKinstry and Dan Busch to tackle the spectacular race, which features two days of trail running, mountain biking and lake kayaking around, and on, Lake Waikaremoana.
"I've never done the race before so I'm really excited," Hanlen emailed from Europe a few days after the Olympic Games race - and a few days before the world championships.
"We've been camping up at Lake Waikaremoana before, but I don't know the area that well. It should be fun, and a good incentive to keep fit once I get home!"
Hanlen will be doing the mountain bike stages, but as a former second-place-getter in the individual section of Motu Challenge, she could aim for more in the future. "I would love to do the whole thing one day when I get the chance to train for it," she said.
Teams' racing is a major focus for the 2012 event, and organiser Chris Joblin hopes to get plenty of big names joining forces. Feedback from multisporters around the country has been "very positive", he said.
The top three mixed teams will share out a hefty $19,000 (to qualify, teams must be mixed gender, with two, three or four members).
Richard and Elina Ussher, who both won all four Lake to Lighthouse individual races, also plan to be back for the Genesis Energy Lake Waikaremoana Challenge, again as individuals.
The top three individual men and women will net a total of $10,000 cash.
"We think the changes are really positive for the race," Richard noted.
"It should be closer racing, more enjoyable and more achievable for people in general. It looks like it has been well thought out and will be nice to spend the whole weekend up in Tuai [where both days of the race will start and finish]."
Sam Clark, who last year joined John Gray to win the teams Lake to Lighthouse, plans to race the Lake Waikaremoana Challenge as an individual.
"I'll be back to treat it as part of my build-up for Coast to Coast," Clark said.
The first day's stages are: 28km MTB, 18km lake kayak, 20km trail run/6km MTB. The second day's stages are: 15km MTB, 12km lake kayak, 23km trail run/15km MTB. Entry fees start from $295 per person including three nights' buffet meals and entertainment, camping facilities, race packs with clothing and sponsors products, and sports massage.
The Genesis Energy Lake Waikaremoana Challenge and other options will be held on the weekend of November 17-18, 2012. Enter online at www.laketolighthouse.co.nz