Unicol stay perfect after healthy Loaded WaiBOP Premiership victory

Could 2017 be the season Waikato Unicol finally mounts a serious Loaded WaiBOP Premiership title challenge? Their current form, which includes Saturday’s 5-0 home win over Tauranga’s Old Blues, suggests so.

After easing into their campaign with a couple of comfortable Hamilton derby victories, Unicol served notice of their title credentials with the win at the weekend. A double from Ash Gower-Rudman, and another Gavin Clark goal, eased the students into a three goal lead at the break before a late double from substitute Jono Sergeant finished off their beleaguered opponents.

Too often in the past Unicol has promised much but has fallen away over the course of a long season. While it’s still early days, it appears coach, Dan Goodwin, has recruited well and has his team playing the sort of football that is successful at Premiership level. Time will tell if this continues throughout a campaign where the mantle of favourites may end up sitting firmly on their shoulders.

This win was Unicol’s first defence of the Federation Challenge Shield, after winning it at West Hamilton last Saturday, and also suggested next weekend’s Chatham Cup preliminary round match between the two sides at the same venue may not be something Old Blues will be looking forward to.

With Cambridge’s match at Edmonds Judd Te Awamutu falling victim to ex-Cyclone Cook, it was Taupo that moved into second place on seven points following a routine 3-0 win at bottom side SGS Papamoa. Given Papamoa’s form the Lakesiders may have expected to score a few more but, on their return to the Premiership, they’ll be happy to be unbeaten and playing well three games into the season.

On a weekend of lots of goals but no Premiership hat tricks, Eli Smith helped himself to a brace, while a goal from Taylor Long ensured there would be no mistakes as Taupo doubled their goals scored for the season.

Matamata’s Chris Walker hit his third double in three games as the Swifts completed a 4-1 win over West Hamilton United to move into third. Walker’s first, on 20 minutes, gave his team the half time lead, before he doubled the margin three minutes into the second half. Alex Whitehead briefly had the visitors back in the game, but Dayne Willemsen’s strike just after the hour broke West Hamilton’s back. Substitute, Reuben Wigelsworth, hit the fourth in the final minute for the free scoring Swifts.

In other games, Rotorua United scored their second win in a row at home, 1-0 over Otumoetai thanks to a second half own goal from the visitors, to move into fourth, while Tauranga Boy’s College and Melville United shared eight goals but couldn’t be separated.

Goals from Lewis Reid, Alex Elliott, Oliver Harrop and Kody Gorst helped Boys’ College to their second four goal haul of the season, while a Luis John double, an own goal and a late Harry Coulson strike ensured Melville left Southey Field with a point.

In the WaiBOP Championship, Otumoetai’s Reserves notched their third win in three, a 4-1 win in the early game at Rotorua United, to go top. Mo Gunfield’s hat trick led the way while veteran, Richard O’Regan, also got in on the goal scoring act.

Cambridge’s Reserves still have a 100% record, but remain on six points after their match against Edmonds Judd Te Awamutu’s reserves became one of two Championship matches to be postponed. Richardson Racing Stables Matamata Reserves’ match against Te Puke United was the other.

That meant the winner of Tauranga City United versus Tokoroa would move to second, but the sides couldn’t be separated after a 1-1 draw at Links Ave. Waikato Unicol’s Reserves joined those two teams on five points after their first win of the season, a 4-1 trouncing of Old Blues’ Reserves.

In the other match played in the Championship, Hamilton Wanderers grabbed their first points of the season following a 4-1 win of their own, at home over Taupo’s Reserves.

Full match details here.