The Barfoot & Thompson New Zealand Badminton League roadshow resumed after a brief COVID enforced break, hosted for the first time at the North Harbour Badminton Centre. Would the Tiger Brokers Tigers continue to build from their 2020 break-out season, or would the Plenty Bay Whales blow their opponents away, as they did in Round 1?
The Tigers quickly rose to the challenge, making light work of the Whales in a fast-paced 3v3 match, before 2020 MVP Edward Lau went back-to-back in a dominant win over Andy Rouse. Known to team-mates as the ‘Killer Whale’, Shaunna Li was expected to prove too strong from Courtney Trillo. With a deciding game required, ‘The Thrillo’ showed her stripes, controlling the rallies superbly, in what she later reflected on as being ‘right up there’ with the best wins of her career.
At risk of being stranded, the Whales needed urgent inspiration and it soon came by way of Ryan Tong and Adam Jeffrey. Fighting back after Tigers Jack Wang and Josh Feng claimed a tense first game, Tong and Jeffrey fought into a position of strength before prevailing in the cruellest of ways with the shuttle clipping the net and tumbling over, to claim match point. Tong was unapologetic for winning the match in such a manner, saying “I don't feel bad at all - it's part of the game, so get used to.”
Jasmin Ng and Li continued the Whales' momentum into the Women's Doubles with a tight 11-6, 7-11, 11-7 win. In her third match of the night, Li partnered with Jeffrey as the fought to continue the comeback. In a thrilling opener, the Tigers won a point-for-point first game, before the Whales looked to have breached their defence leading 6-1 in the second. However, Lau and Roanne Apalisok kept their eye on the prize, closing the match 11-9, 14-12 and with it ensuring that the Tiger Brokers Tigers remain unbeaten in 2021. Surprising none, the Crystal Ashley MVP was awarded to Trillo, following her pivotal win.
Having been chewed to pieces in Round 1 by a determined Whales outfit, the Mighty Jazz Apples sought a crisp performance to lift themselves from the bottom of the table, while the Starship Rockets were themselves counting down to their first success, after failing to lift off in their season opener.
Having worked hard on the new 3v3 format in the pre-season, the teamwork of the Rockets was too strong as they made short work on their Apple opponents. Seeking a statement performance after last week’s surprise defeat, Oscar Guo proved his star quality as he dominated his younger opponent 11-3, 11-5. The win ensured that both teams had all to play for as the tie progressed to the Women’s Singles. Crisp from the outset, three-time National Champion Sally Fu ran away with a comfortable 11-5, 11-6 win.
In the Men’s Doubles, it was the experienced Rockets pair of Dylan Soedjasa and Jonathan Curtin who claimed the opening game on their fourth game point. Not about to crumble, Dacmen Vong and Evan Wong set up a dramatic show down after a quick-fire 11-4 second game.
With scores tied 8 a piece, the Apples put in a mighty effort to close the match and move ahead to the sit on cusp of victory. Alyssa Tagle, facing two must-win matches, proved too strong alongside partner Catelyn Rozario in the Women’s Doubles, before returning to court with long-time North Harbour team-mate, Soedjasa, in the Mixed Doubles. Having won the first game, Tagle and Soedjasa saved four game points in the second, before converting one of their own to win 11-8, 15-14 and take the tie to a Golden Game.
Having won the toss, Rockets coach Fanny Megahwati selected Men’s Doubles as the decider and surprised many by substituting Curtin for his younger teammate Ricky Cheng, while Rikke Olsen-Siegemund chose to maintain her trust in Vong and Wong. Tied at 6-6 the match was headed for a tense finale, however the Apples maintained their composure, winning 11-8 and with it claiming their first win of the season. With the win, Dacmen Vong earned his first Crystal Ashley MVP of the season.