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The Mancunian Candidates

Onehunga Sports 2, Cashmere Technical 1
Waitakere City 4, Western Suburbs 0
Cashmere Technical 2, Western Suburbs 1
Waitakere City 1, Onehunga Sports 0
Bruce Pullman Park, Auckland, March 9 2014

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It was pretty hard to go past the Manchester United Premier Cup (Nike Cup as it used to be known) when looking for a spot of football to check out this weekend. The worldwide under 15 tournament had its New Zealand finals day today at Bruce Pullman Park in Papakura, where our nation’s representatives were found, over a series of 40 minute games, to head over to Australia and contest the Australasian finals where representatives will be found to head to the world finals. Follow that? Four teams made it to this weekend from the regional finals held last week. They were Cashmere Technical from Christchurch, Western Suburbs from Wellington, and from the land of the JAFA, Waitakere City and Onehunga Sports.

First order of business today was two semi-finals played simultaneously. I straddled them both so don’t take my impressions as gospel. Trying to watch two games at once inevitably means I feel like I did neither much justice. But from what I could tell, Onehunga played a nice attractive brand of football and dominated Cashmere Technical in the first half and looked worthy of their 1-0 (Sarpreet Singh 11’) half time lead. They got their second (Max Mata 21’) soon after the break but then went to sleep a wee bit, allowing their Cantabrian opponents back into the match via a Ryan Nicholson goal (23’). Cashmere got their tails up for a time after they hit back, but you sensed Onehunga always had the game under control.

As pretty as Onehunga were in their semi, Waitakere were… I believe the polite word for it is ‘direct’. They seemed content to let Western Suburbs come at them, trusting in their ability to hold them at arm’s length and use the long ball to grab the goals when the time came. And hey, it was effective! With a devastating first half as far as the scoresheet was concerned, a 4-0 win (Dane Schnell 5’, Charles Spragg 6’ 15’ 19’) is a 4-0 win and not to be quibbled with!

So my impressions of the semis, from what I saw of each, can be summed up this way: Onehunga – style/bark. Waitakere – substance/bite. Which would prevail in the final? It was set up nicely for an interesting contest to find out.

First we had the play-off for third, which was a great game of football and played in excellent light, unlike the final, which is why I have more passable photos of that game than the others… But it was also quite exciting. The best team won in Cashmere Technical, but they didn’t have it all their own way. They got the first goal (Cullan Dreaver 10’) and almost went 2-0 up after the referee pointed to the spot but the penalty was beautifully saved by the Western Suburbs keeper. Cashmere then had to withstand a bit of sustained pressure leading up to an equaliser (Elijah Just 30’) finding the auld onion bag. But Cashmere struck back only four minutes later (Declan Hickford 34’) and that was that really.

Which just left the final, a game that was like a game of chess a lot of the time. The clash of styles was interesting as predicted as both sides largely cancelled each other out in the first half. Both took their turns in the attacking third but it seemed to me as though again, Waitakere were content to let Onehunga have a bit of possession so they could pick their moment. Their moment came in the first quarter of the second half when a bit of a goal mouth melee resulted in a goal in the 24th minute credited to Alex Grieve on the score sheet, but it possibly got some help along the way from one or two others… Thus followed a nervous wait for Waitak fans as Onehunga did their best to get back into the match. It wasn’t to be though and Waitakere City were crowned New Zealand Champions.

Congratulations to Waitak and good luck for their trip across the deeeetch!!

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

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