Blackjacks remain in the hunt for national titles


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Val Smith in action at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Five Blackjack squad members are in contention for the remaining two New Zealand titles at the Summerset Nationals.

Tayla Bruce, Clare Hendra, Selina Smith and Val Smith are all through to the semi-finals of the women’s pairs, while Andrew Kelly remains in the running to win back-to-back men’s singles titles.

Bruce has avenged her quarter-final defeat to Mandy Boyd in the singles to earn a place in the final four of the pairs.

Bruce and Hendra, who finished runners-up last year, have beaten two-time champions Mandy and Angela Boyd 16-13 in the last eight at Browns Bay.

They will now face Dale Rayner and defending champion Selina Smith in the feature semi-final at Carlton Cornwall tomorrow (Friday, January 8) morning.

Rayner and Smith posted three comprehensive wins in the bottom quarter of the draw, capped by a 23-11 quarter-final win over Robyne Walker and Adele Ineson.

2019 winners Val Smith and Lisa Prideaux are in the other semi-final after toppling Wendy Jensen and Rachel Davies before beating Karen Hema and Jacqueline Broderson 16-12 in the quarters.

Smith and emerging talent squad member Prideaux will face Sue Curran and Paula Kempthorne for a place in the title decider.

Curran and Kempthorne emerged from the top quarter of the post-section draw, beating Cecilie McIntyre and Rosemary Ackerley 24-7 in the last eight.

The Waikato composite pairing of Debbie White and Ashleigh Jeffcoat were the major casualties in the quarter, exiting in the round of 32.

Defending champion Andrew Kelly (Canterbury 2017) is the only men’s Blackjack left standing, after world singles champion Shannon McIlroy (Stoke) and multiple national champions Mike Kernaghan and Gary Lawson all fell by the wayside.

Kelly comprehensively beat Matthew Day (Masterton) 21-9 at Carlton Cornwall to secure a place in the quarter-finals after downing pairs champion Lance Pascoe (Elmwood Park) 21-19 in the first knockout round.

He will play Sheldon Bagrie-Howley (Gore) for a place in the semi-finals after Bagrie-Howley easily accounted for Stephen Liddington (Hillcrest) 21-7, also at Carlton Cornwall.

Mike Galloway (Royal Oak) will square-off against Timothy Hook (Takaro) in the other quarter-final in the top half of the draw after contrasting victories in the round of 16 at Blockhouse Bay.

Galloway swept by Jeremy Brosnan (Takapuna) 21-10, while Hook edged Laurie Guy (Victoria) 21-20.

Rory Soden (Mangere) and Raika Gregory (Carlton Cornwall) have emerged from a difficult quarter of the draw at Howick, where McIlroy, Kernaghan and up and comer Ray Martin all fell short.

They will meet in the third of the quarters, with Finbar McGuigan (Stokes Valley) and Keanu Darby (North East Valley) to face off in the remaining game in the last eight.

McGuigan cruised through his four rounds of post-section play at Howick, beating Vai Gafa (Papatoetoe Hunters Corner) 21-10 to secure a quarter-final meeting with Darby, who beat David Eades 21-17 in the last 16 at Glendowie.

The men’s singles quarter-finals are scheduled to start at 8:30am tomorrow (Friday, January 8), the same time as the women’s pairs semi-finals.

The women’s pairs final will follow at approximately 11:30am, along with the men’s singles semi-finals before the final from around 2:30pm.

Both finals will be broadcast live on Sky Sport Next.