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Waikato Bay of Plenty 2, Auckland Football 3
St Peter’s College, Cambridge, October 26 2014

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Roma 1, Bayern Munich 7. Sampdoria 0, Roma 0. WaiBOP 2, Auckland 3. It’s been a tough sporting week for me, but ask me which one hurts the most and I will tell you honesty – it’s the last of the three. Roma were always underdogs against Bayern and still sit second in their Champions League group. It was always going to be tough to bounce back against Sampdoria and even though the result was disappointing we are still joint top of the league at least for 24 hours…. But this game… Like the other two I wasn’t expecting much, given the absence of Helen Collins on Football Fern duty, but unlike the other two my favourite team put themselves into a position where they could have won, perhaps should have won, then it was cruelly ripped from our collective grasps and struck like a dagger through my heart. Sigh. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times: if you want to support Waikato sport, you have to get used to suffering.

I was originally planning to stay in Auckland this weekend and watch Northern vs Central at North Harbour. This was largely due to car trouble I have been having scaring me off travelling too far afield, but my heart was always going to be in Cambridge. I have seen both Northern and Central play already this season and was only at North Harbour just last week. This game not only featured my favourite team, but it was also a clash of two unbeaten sides and carried the potential to be quite decisive in the race for the semi-finals. All of this coupled with the fact that I haven’t seen Auckland yet this year meant that I was always looking for an excuse to hit the road. With my troublesome Italian car off at the mechanics, I had a courtesy car and even though it’s not the most confidence inspiring of vehicles I decided it was worth the risk. Tally ho!

Apart from one slightly hairy moment when the brakes on the little Fiat didn’t exactly do their job… I made it safe and sound.

Another reason why it was well worth taking my life into my hands to make the trip became immediately apparent on my arrival – WaiBOP have really stepped up their match-day spectator experience in 2014. They have a ground announcer, music playing, and a good little match day programme. Those three things, small as they may seem, are three things you don’t see everywhere else and places WaiBOP second only to the Mainland Pride for treating the women’s game with the respect it deserves. I could have mentioned this after I was here a fortnight ago but I thought it might have been in honour of the fact that particular game was a double header with an ASB (men’s) Youth League game. But there were no blokes this week and the same professional environment was on show just for the ladies. Super.

As you can tell, I am rambling on about a lot of things other than the game itself. This is in the forlorn hope that I can use up 600 words talking about the peripheries and avoid the painful home truths… How many words is that? 540. Dammit not quite…

To summarise, it was a game of two halves and one wind. A fairly significant breeze a Wellingtonian might refer to as a moderate zephyr was fair howling straight down the ground from Northwest to Southeast with WaiBOP in the first half and Auckland in the second. This had a resonably significant impact on the game.

Despite the wind being against them, Auckland still looked the stronger of the two sides in the first half. They dominated possession and had a couple of good chances to score. WaiBOP’s opening goal was a real counterattacking special against the run of play following some sterling defence from Emma Baker to dispossess a rampaging Melanie Gooch. Dispatched down the other end with speed it was Ella Golding who got on the end and gave the lead to the home side. Despite much pressure from Auckland, WaiBOP showed some good defensive grit to keep the half time score to 1-0.

I was dreading the second half a little bit, knowing that it was going to be tough for WaiBOP to keep defending the way they had for a whole other 45 minutes with the wind against them. But 12 minutes into the second half it was WaiBOP who again pleasantly surprised by doubling their lead via Tessa Leong. My feeling of smugness along with the two goal cushion were short lived though as only two minutes later Becky Hawker had Auckland on the score sheet. Only 9 minutes after that Melanie Gooch made it all square. And only 8 minutes after that Sam Muirhead used the wind to good effect by floating one from long range over the flailing arms of WaiBOP keeper Georgia Williams to complete the comeback.

I can’t sit here and tell you it was an undeserved victory for Auckland – it wasn’t. They thoroughly deserved their win and now sit top of the league thanks to a shock defeat by Capital of Mainland, and a shock draw by Central at Northern after Central had led 2-0 at one point. South were also drawing with New Zealand Development late in their game in Dunedin before eventually succumbing 3-1.

The good news for WaiBOP is thanks to those other results this league is still wide open, but that defeat was nonetheless decidedly unhelpful. They’ll need a big win over South next week to get things back on track. I’m sure they’ll get it, especially with me definitely not there providing my usual jinx! Instead I’ll be at William Green for the first time this season watching Auckland take on Mainland in a game where you have to say now that anything is possible. How could you possibly not love this competition?

Categories: NZ Women's National League

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Enzo Giordani

An action photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand. I focus on sport, birds or cats depending on what stage of the apocalypse we're currently experiencing.

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