Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Football: Tough nuts Tauranga in the mix

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Andrew Cooper (right) wins possession against Jack Anderson from Bay Olympic at Links Avenue on Sunday. Photo / George Novak
Andrew Cooper (right) wins possession against Jack Anderson from Bay Olympic at Links Avenue on Sunday. Photo / George Novak

If old-fashioned virtues of guts, determination and a refusal to give up are factors in determining who wins the Lotto NFL Premiership then Tauranga City United must surely be contenders.

On Sunday, Tauranga City held out previously unbeaten Auckland powerhouses Bay Olympic to win 2-1 at a rain-swept Links Avenue to move into equal third place.

Duncan Lowry's team won promotion in dramatic fashion in the final game last season and have shown after four games they well and truly belong at this level.

"People think we have been lucky but it is four years in the making what we are doing here. We build from the same shape we have created. We only play with what we have got in the tool box," Lowry said.

"We really have only one centre forward in big Colm [Kenny] and two wingers and we have a strong back four with a five-man midfield that wins everything.

"So we are quite happy for teams to come here and when we go away and try and break us down. Teams have always found it hard to break us down. Big Sam O'Regan has come back and bosses the back four and I brought young Cameron Grieve back over from Belfast who has tightened up the left back. Sammy Nahna has come in and done a terrific job so our shape is right now."

Tauranga City started the game brightly against Bay Olympic in damp conditions with Jerahl Hughes a constant threat on the left flank and midfielder Josh Nelson showing some good touches.

It was Nelson who broke the deadlock after eight minutes when he finished well after a mistake by a Bay Olympic defender. But the visitors equalised after 25 minutes when Ben Billings' well hit shot was deflected into the Tauranga City goal past the helpless Tom Pamment.

The highlight of the game and a contender for goal of the season came in the 33rd minute. City striker Kenny latched on to a loose clearance 25m out and sent a superb volley into the top left corner.

Bay Olympic upped the pace in the second spell, dominating large periods of territory and laid siege to Pamment's goal. But the big keeper stood firm, making some fine saves with plenty of help from a resolute back four.

Hughes led the occasional counter-attack for Tauranga City but they spent most of the last 30 minutes desperately holding out Bay Olympic.

Hughes nearly scored with the final kick of the match before the referee's final whistle brought a roar of relief from the good-sized crowd.

Tauranga City United 2 (Josh Nelson 8, Colm Kenny 33), Bay Olympic 1 (Ben Billings 25)

- Bay of Plenty Times

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