Melville 2, Rotorua United 3
Gower Park, Hamilton, May 15 2016
In my book, no cup weekend is complete without a taste of the New Zealand Women’s Knockout Cup. That’s why it worked out brilliantly that on the way back from our road trip to Taupo, Gina and I were able to stop in Hamilton to watch Melville, ‘the pride of the Waikato’, host Rotorua United in the Chatham Cup’s sister competition.
It didn’t go entirely according to plan. I had thought the kick-off time was 1pm, and so did Melville by the way! The home team were all ready to go at that time but unfortunately for them there was nobody to play against! It was eventually deduced that 2pm was the actual kick-off time du jour, which was duly confirmed when Rotorua United arrived having been the only ones party to the occasion who were onto it enough to check the draw properly in the days leading up to the fixture!
I myself arrived at the venue ridiculously early but this inconvenience was more than made up for by my ability to catch the tail end of a game, that had kicked off at 11am, between two Melville sides playing against each other in the WaiBOP Waikato Women’s Competition.
It turned out to be the club’s development team vs their ‘classics’, who are apparently made up of older players who have been around the club for a while. From what I saw it was a thoroughly entertaining 3-1 win to the development side that made me wish I had turned up even earlier! My only real lament was that Jeremy Ruane wasn’t there to tell me about the ‘classics’ – some if not most of whom I have little doubt he would have recognised.
The other ‘classic’ of the day was the Rotorua United women’s first team coach – a man named Ron Cane, who Bruce Holloway advised me was the coach of Hamilton AFC in the early 1980’s! He’s in fact been around even longer than that, and he’s obviously a real football character whom I regret only becoming aware of now. He was probably the only person within a 50km radius of the Hamilton ground, after lunch on a Sunday, who was decked out in a suit and tie! That, and his expressive cockney London style, definitely added to the occasion from a spectator’s point of view.
Mr Cane didn’t seem overly impressed with his team’s performance at any point during the course of the game. However they still did enough to overcome a Melville side that currently sits one point ahead of them in second place on the WaiBOP Women’s Premiership ladder. That in spite of a 3-1 victory to Rotorua on the same pitch a week earlier.
On this occasion though it was the Waikato side that drew first blood, via Clare Mackintosh, just seven minutes into the match. The goal was the result of a ball played into the box from out wide on the left, that I’m not entirely convinced was meant as a shot, but none the less glanced in off both the crossbar and the far post!
Despite falling behind early I always felt that Rotorua looked like a younger and probably more skilful side, particularly in the case of their number ten Kim Maguire. And it was Maguire who dragged her side back to level terms in the 23rd minute with a well taken strike from around about the penalty spot with a lone defender on her left and just the keeper in front of her.
On to the second stanza, and Rotorua came out of the blocks a bit stronger than they were in the first following some half time tweaks. It paid off in the 62nd minute when Maguire doubled her tally and gave her side a well-deserved lead. Melville came back into the match more and more as the half wore on though, and began to apply a bit of pressure of their own in the last twenty minutes. However, unfortunately for them, they conceded on the counter with Madai Ollington seeming to have put the game to bed in the 84th minute.
But not everything is what it seems! Emily McGuinness scored for Melville just one minute after Ollington to set up a grandstand finish! There were chances at both ends in the last ten minutes including misses from prime real estate and spectacular goalkeeping – the highlight of which being Melville keeper Angelique Tuisamoa bravely plucking a ball from Maguire’s feet with time almost up.
I wouldn’t have said no to another half an hour of that, despite the later than anticipated start, but sadly we didn’t get one and 3-2 was still the score when the referee blew his whistle for full time.
On to the next round march Rotorua! It will be interesting to see how they fare if and when they come across Auckland opposition. Depending on who they face, it could well be a precursor to a play-off in the Spring…
Categories: NZ Kate Sheppard Cup
A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: http://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/