Unicol lead wide open Loaded WaiBOP Premiership

The 2017 Loaded WaiBOP Premiership, which is only two rounds in, is already shaping up as one of the most open contests in years. It seems just about any side, apart from perhaps a couple, is capable of taking points on any given Saturday, which means the title race could go deep into the season for the first time in a long while.

Only one side, Waikato Unicol, still maintains a 100 percent record. Unicol ground their way to a 3-1 victory at West Hamilton United largely thanks to a second half double from substitute, Luke Goodwin. Ash Gower-Rudman opened the scoring for the students but West Hamilton’s Glenn Browne equalised not long after the re-start.

The visitors strangled the life out of the contest, both through their performance and Goodwin’s goals. His first, which nudged Unicol ahead for a second time, came in the 56th minute, only a few minutes after he came on. His second, after a proper arm wrestle of a second half, came on 90 minutes to end the contest.

Unicol look to have a fit, well organised squad and, barring injuries and their usual wild swings in form, could be a genuine title contender this season. Their victory saw the Federation Challenge Shield move for a second week. Their first defence will be at home to Tauranga’s Old Blues this coming Saturday.

First round victors Old Blues and Matamata Swifts both tasted defeat on the road to slip down the table. After scoring a goal apiece in the first half, Rotorua United found a precious second after the break to run out narrow 2-1 winners and moved into mid-table.

The Swifts seem to like scoring goals this season. So much so, they put two through their own net during the first half of their match at Melville United, either side of a tidy Dylan Blair finish, before they figured out which end they were supposed to  be attacking. Chris Walker and Dayne Willemsen narrowed the margin to one at half time but Matamata’s defensive frailties were exposed again just before the hour mark, letting in Conor Crowe to re-establish the hosts’ two goal lead.

Even having let in four, Matamata created enough to take something from the match. Walker scored again with 12 minutes left but Melville held on and, after Blair snatched his second right on time, they ended with a morale boosting 5-3 win.

Cambridge, Taupo and Otumoetai all remain unbeaten and fill out the rest of the top four spots, behind Unicol. Cambridge completed an expectedly comfortable 7-0 home win over a SGS Papamoa side that, by their own admission, is looking just to survive this season. DJ Latham, in only his second start for the club, scored a hat trick, while Adam Brady, Callum McCloud, Kyle Stead and captain, Patrick Woodlock, all helped Cambridge improve their goal difference.

Otumoetai would have been a little surprised to have found themselves two goals down at the break against Edmonds Judd Te Awamutu. Jack Connor’s double gave the visitors hope for an upset away win, but strikes from Jay Silcock and Dave Williams rescued a point for the men in green as it finished level at 2-2.

Taupo won 2-1 at Tauranga Boys’ College to pick up a first win on their return to the Premiership. The match was goalless at the break, but the two Smiths, Fin and Eli, each hit the back of the net to ensure victory for the visitors. Alex Elliott replied for the hosts, but it wasn’t enough to stop them sinking to a second defeat in two games.

In the WaiBOP Championship, both Cambridge reserves and Otumoetai reserves secured 1-0 home wins and are the only sides with six points from two games. Josh Clarkin’s first half effort gave Cambridge the points over Hamilton Wanderers, while Jayden Hill’s goal led Otumoetai to victory over Te Awamutu’s reserves.

Tokoroa moved into third after a 4-1 win over Richardson Racing Stables Matamata reserves. A Lloyd Clarke double, supplemented by strikes from Connor Wood and Desmond Phillips ensured the Championship’s largest win of the weekend. A brief hiccup for the home side saw Keegan Willis put the ball through his own net but Tokoroa completed the job with a late goal.

A Dion Bartosh double helped Tauranga City United to a 2-1 win over Taupo reserves, while Rotorua United reserves beat Old Blues reserves 1-0. The other game, between Te Puke United and Unicol reserves, finished goalless.

Click here for all the results.