Regrettably, the Kelly Cup final is only the first match featuring two of Wellington’s W-league teams that I’d been to this year. It’s been a busy playing season! But hey, better late than never? And there’s always the upcoming national league season.
The Kelly Cup, for those not in the know, is Wellington’s top women’s knockout cup competition. Founded in 1973 as part of an upsurge of interest in women’s football in Aotearoa, it’s been won a record 15 times by Miramar Rangers, although their last victory was a decade ago. See here for a full list of the winners over the years.
With this year’s final, played at Petone Memorial Park, made up of 2016 Cup holders and this season’s W-League winners Upper Hutt City, and last year’s (now defunct) Central League victors Wellington United Diamonds, it promised to be a good game. The Diamonds were even sporting a brand new (if a little Blackburn Rovers-esque) away kit. This was also the fourth time the two sides had met this season, after three W-League matches, each resulting in an Upper Hutt win.
If the results list is anything to go by, both the Diamonds and Upper Hutt enjoyed relatively trouble-free roads to the final. The Diamonds had despatched Kapiti Coast United, W-League rivals Palmerston North Marist (who pipped them to second in the league this year) and Seatoun, while Upper Hutt swept aside Wairarapa United, my Victoria University side, and finally Waterside Karori to career into the final as the favourites without conceding a single goal.
Prior to kick off, I was curious to see how Upper Hutt would respond to last weekend’s Women’s Knockout Cup semi-final defeat to Eastern Suburbs, which would ultimately deny them a chance at a treble. But as the game got underway, it quickly became apparent that they looked unruffled by last week’s defeat, and instead every inch a cup and league double-winning side.
The first few minutes were slightly nervy as the teams settled into the occasion. This was perhaps reflected in the opening goal: a Sarah Gregorius shot beat Diamonds’ keeper Tash Ingram, only to appear to scuff to a stop on the line. The ball finally ended up in the goal after Diamonds defender Asha Strom took a swing at it. From my sideline vantage point at the other end of the pitch, it seemed to be (and was officially recorded as) a Strom own goal – although she later said that the ball had already crossed the line.
From the moment of the first goal though, it seemed to be a case of just waiting for Upper Hutt to score again. And indeed they did, as Briar Sargent steered the ball into the back of the net with what looked like the back of her neck amidst a crowded penalty area.
Upper Hutt’s young captain Kennedy Bryant scored their third goal. I was particularly impressed with her performance as the engine room of the Upper Hutt midfield, belying her years with her poise, drive, and awareness.
With Upper Hutt 3-0 up, the game felt more or less decided by half time.
The Diamonds did come out in the second half determined to force something, which paid off with Michaela Robertson’s well-taken goal.
Klara Grövenik also looked dangerous going forward, and was probably at her most effective getting into the channels in the final third, creating some chances for her fellow attackers.
I thought the Diamonds seemed to threaten the most when they drove down the wings, with a couple of low crosses slipping behind the Upper Hutt defence across the face of goal offering the potential for chaos. They just lacked a final touch to really trouble Upper Hutt’s sweeper keeper Cushla Lichtwark.
In the end a comeback wasn’t to be, and the Diamonds were unable to prise open Upper Hutt’s grip on the Kelly Cup.
Final score Upper Hutt 3-1 Wellington United Diamonds.
Categories: NZ Kelly Cup
Waiheke Islander currently in exile in Wellington. Supporter of Nottingham Forest and England, through thick and thin (there's been plenty of that). As a player is somewhat averse to the offside rule.