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Melville United 1, Onehunga Sports 3
Gower Park, Hamilton, July 14 2018

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I went to two football games last weekend. One made it to 90 minutes, the other one not so much. But to be honest with you, the one that didn’t was the one I actually did my job at! Strangely, nobody wanted to stand next to me in the torrential rain at Centre Park on Sunday while I nursed my camera one handed under an umbrella and still managed to get soaked to the skin in the act of getting a grand total of zero useable images!

It rained on Saturday, but not that much, so I did manage to take some OK pics. However my ability to focus my brain on what was going on was somewhat hampered by the fact that it was Melville, where there are so many good friends and bacon butties competing for my attention. Mostly the bacon butties.

But football is about so much more than the game itself. It’s about friends, it’s about conversation, it’s about the journey there and back, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the WHOLE experience – especially when there are bacon butties involved, as there often are at Gower Park.

Of course, all of the above is what we union officials call “inoculation”. I’m preparing the audience for the fact that my write-up is probably going to contain more waffle than a Belgian National Team breakfast and fewer details than a Trump strategy memo. Anticipating objections and making excuses up front is how we roll in organised labour – and it works. So why not here?

Looking at this Chatham Cup round of 16 tie, it was an easy decision for me to make the two hour drive south. It had that feeling of potential cupset about it. As Germany found out a couple of weeks ago, it’s hard to win cup competitions back-to-back and if anyone is likely to end Onehunga Sports’ run, Melville were strong candidates.

The Pride of the Waikato lead NRFL Division 1 by a proverbial country mile and, for them, missing out on promotion to the 2019 Premier Division would seem about as likely as Hamilton totally eradicating agapanthus by lunchtime tomorrow.

For all intents and purposes, Melville are already a Premier Division team, and a pretty handy one at that. Ergo this game should have been a cracker!

And it was good, but what I didn’t know until I arrived at Gower Park was that the home side were missing four influential players including arguably their best, Mark Jones. I doubt they would use that as an excuse for their defeat, but it certainly didn’t help.

Having said that, Onehuna Sports, themselves without Max Mata, did have to come from behind to advance. Liam Hayes grabbed the early lead in just the seventh minute and it was a lead Melville held until 6 minutes before the half time break. But then it was boon-boon – two goals in quick succession to Boon Ozawa that gave the visitors a 2-1 advantage at the break.

The Division 1 leaders looked perfectly capable of coming back into the match, but after a number of big Onehunga misses the final nail was eventually driven into the coffin by Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, fresh off the plane from a holiday in Hawaii rumour had it (or was it a Phoenix trial?) with eight minutes of regulation time remaining and, with that, Melville suffered their first loss of 2018.

Onehunga Sports remain on course for a double double! (Inoculation – I didn’t say they WOULD win the double I said they are on course – subtle difference that apparently Twitter doesn’t appreciate!)

The last club to win back to back league and cup doubles was Cashmere Technical in 2013 and 2014 and Waitakere City were the last club to win the National League Chatham Cup double twice in a row in 1995 and 1996 but I’m not sure a Northern League club has ever done it. So there is some tantalising history on offer for Sports if they can continue their run!

Categories: NZ Chatham Cup

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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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