Cambridge seal Loaded WaiBOP Premiership crown in emphatic style

Cambridge FC has completed a great turnaround to secure a second Loaded WaiBOP Premiership title in three years and with it a spot in the 2017 Northern Region Football League (NRFL) play-offs.

Needing a win at Te Awamutu on Saturday to grasp the trophy, the red and whites showed few nerves. They dispatched their neighbours 7-0 to leave little doubt about who has been the league’s strongest team this season.

Cambridge scored three times in five minutes just before the half hour mark, through Callum MacLeod, Tom Woutersen and captain Patrick Woodlock, to break Te Awamutu’s resistance, then smashed in four more after the break to complete a Waipa derby double.

The gloomy Anchor Park setting did little to dampen Cambridge’s spirits once the final whistle went. While victory was expected, its nature along with the relief that comes with finally finishing the job, will have been pleasing to coach Mike Woodlock and his staff.

Especially so given the team’s start to the season.

At the end of May, Cambridge sat near the relegation spots having lost three and drawn one of their first six games. Since then they have gone on a run of fourteen wins and one draw in fifteen games. Some victories were large and impressive, while on other occasions they were forced to grind through games to snatch the points.

Now, just like in 2015, Cambridge sits two games away from a return to the NRFL. They are set to play Auckland-based club, Beachlands-Maraetai, for a spot in NRFL division 2.

In other Premiership games at the weekend, the second and third placed sides both scored five against lowly opposition. Waikato Unicol were goalless at the break against rock-bottom SGS Papamoa but went on the rampage in the second half to win 5-0 and consign Papamoa, in their final game of the season, to their 22nd defeat in 22 matches. Unicol’s goals were spread around with Van Ewert, Tom Wright, Riley Rigden, Ahmad Zammit and Reed Fisher all finding the back of the net.

Old Blues ran through Melville United 5-1 to stay a point behind Unicol in third. Andrew Cooper, Andy Carter, Hayden Fowke, Jared Bailey and Franz Marko got the goals.

In the other Premiership match that survived the weekend’s weather, the fourth and fifth placed sides couldn’t be separated at the Matamata Domain. Comag Matamata Swifts and Taupo ended locked at 1-1 with Reuben Wigelsworth’s opener not long after half time cancelled out by Joe O’Donoghue’s equaliser.

The match at Weka Street between West Hamilton United and Otumoetai was postponed.

With the WaiBOP Championship title wrapped up last weekend, all eyes turned to the race for second. Things became only slightly clearer, though. Tauranga City United’s 6-5 loss at Crown Park against Taupo Reserves means they’re out of the running, but four teams still hold realistic hopes.

The match of the round saw Unicol Reserves beat Wanderers 3-2 to leap ahead of their Hamilton rivals to third on the table. Unicol sit on 40 points, one behind Taupo and one ahead of Wanderers. They have two games left to play, while the other two have just the one game each.

Tokoroa is the fourth team in the mix, but their match against Otumoetai Reserves on Saturday was postponed due to a flooded Strathmore Park. They sit on 38 points with two games to play.

Full match details here.

Photo: Kim Brierley.