Major shake up in Loaded WaiBOP Premiership title race

Cambridge’s 3-2 win over Waikato Unicol at John Kerkhof Park on Saturday has changed the dynamic of the 2017 Loaded WaiBOP Premiership title race.

Only a few weeks ago Unicol looked like running away with a maiden Premiership crown, while Cambridge appeared destined to stay on the fringes. But a run of seven straight wins, coupled with Unicol losing three in a row, means the red and whites now sit only two points off Unicol in top spot with a game in hand.

Saturday’s match began with Unicol on the attack. They missed a great early opportunity before Simon Gibson put the students in front after only three minutes. Cambridge eased themselves back into the game, drawing level when Jordan Silvester slid home the rebound after Unicol keeper, James Field, saved from the spot.

It got better for the hosts as half time neared. Centre-half, Matt Wheeler, pushed them in front with a goal only two minutes before the break. In a back and forth match, Unicol hit back only moments into the second half courtesy of Van Ewert’s strike.

But Cambridge continued to bombard Field’s goal until they found the winner. Josh Clarkin rose to nod home from a free kick and give Cambridge a result that has changed the dynamic of the 2017 Premiership season. With Old Blues not playing, Cambridge moved into second and, better still, pole position for the title.

Otumoetai, another team on a long winning run, scored twice in the last ten minutes to beat Comag Matamata Swifts 2-1 and move up to fourth, while also holding on to the Federation Challenge Shield they won at Unicol last weekend. The game’s key moment came 20 minutes into the second half when veteran goalie, Graeme Blissett, saved a Jamie Baxter penalty, which would have doubled the Swifts’ lead after a first half Sam Masterson strike.

Scott Mitchell drew Otumoetai level in the 80th minute when Matamata failed to properly deal with a corner, before Dave Williams raced clear to net the winner three minutes into added time.

Taupo dropped more points after being held to a 1-1 home draw by lowly Rotorua United, while Edmonds Judd Te Awamutu survived a huge scare before sneaking past bottom side, SGS Papamoa, 2-1 at Gordon Spratt Park thanks to goals from Joel Roil and Joe Gifford.

In the other game, West Hamilton romped to a 7-1 home win over a Tauranga Boys’ side that had scored ten the previous week. Reuben Henderson and John Cameron scored twice to ensure the Hamiltonians stayed in the firmly compressed mid-table pack.

The WaiBOP Championship’s top two, Unicol Reserves and Cambridge Reserves, didn’t play so the second tier’s spotlight fell on the team’s jostling for positions just below them.

Tokoroa, sitting third heading into the weekend, dropped points and a position after a 1-1 draw at Old Blues Reserves. Chris Teague slid home a penalty at the start of the second half, but Tommy Lee’s equaliser restored parity in a boisterous match.

This result allowed Otumoetai Reserves, 3-2 winners over second bottom Richardson Racing Stables Matamata Reserves in the early game at Fergusson Park, to move into third. Otumoetai did it tough, though, scoring twice after the break to overturn a half time deficit.

Three teams – Taupo Reserves, Te Puke United and Tauranga City United – are level in mid-table on 23 points. Taupo handed Rotorua Reserves another thrashing, 12-1, while Tauranga edged past Te Puke 3-2 at Litt Park. In the other game, Hamilton Wanderers hammered Edmonds Judd Te Awamutu Reserves 8-0 but remained in eighth.

The WaiBOP Women’s Premier League has stuttered into life over the last few weeks, but is now starting to take shape. Cambridge and Tauranga City United Bay SportsMed have both won two from two, with Tauranga leading the league on goal difference.

Tauranga blew Whakatane Town off the park in the first half, scoring five without reply, before a more sedate second half saw them cruise to a 6-1 victory.

Cambridge was involved in a far more competitive encounter, but came out on the right side of a 4-3 scoreline against Melville United. Andrea Rogers, Astrid Howarth, Jessica Crowe, and Sophee Rapson-Jones got the goals for Cambridge.

In the only other game played, Tokoroa used home advantage to maximum effect to thrash Melville United’s development team 5-1. Tamara Ward helped herself to a brace to lead Tokoroa’s scoring and move the green and whites up to third, albeit level on three points with Rotorua United and Whakatane.

Full match details here.