The Premiership title in the Loaded WaiBOP race seems to have narrowed to a two-horse race.
Flying Mullet Papamoa and Taupo won their games on Saturday and leaders Tauranga Boys' College suffered a loss away from home.
Papamoa strolled to a 4-0 win over lowly Tauranga Blue Rovers as ex-Rovers player Andrew Cooper netted a hat-trick against his former side. Cole Peverley scored his now almost customary penalty to give Papamoa a solid victory margin.
Taupo were made to fight much harder in their home game against Melville United, before edging their Hamilton opponents 2-1 at Crown Park. Steve McMahon and Byron Thessman scored the critical goals for the Lakesiders, although Ben Wallace's strike for Melville ensured the game was level at the break.
Taupo managed to find a way to win and stay level on 35 points with Papamoa. Their victory also means they have repelled yet another Federation Challenge Shield challenge.
Papamoa's five-goal better goal difference appears useful, although that could be of small use as both sides have a long run of games to come, including the rescheduled encounter with each other. Taupo would appear to have by far the easier run-in, as their final seven games include five against the current bottom three, while five of Papamoa's last seven are against current top-five sides.
Boys' College still lead the table, but only by a solitary point after falling to a 3-1 defeat at Comag Matamata Swifts, and their title chances are now hanging by a thread as they have played three more matches.
Matamata raced into a three-goal halftime lead thanks to goals from Brayden Lissington, Jamie Baxter and Chris Walker, but a red card early in the second half handed the visitors a big advantage. The students capitalised almost immediately when Kody Gorst slammed home an angled shot, but that's as good as it got for them.
Waikato Unicol moved into the top four after claiming a 3-0 win after Mercury Tokoroa defaulted. Unicol will expect to bridge the gap with the top three when they play rock bottom Hamilton Wanderers mid-week. Te Awamutu claimed a solid 2-0 win against an Otumoetai side that has been one of the form teams in the league since late June. Joel Roil's first-half double got the job done for the Rose Town reds.
West Hamilton United handed Hamilton Wanderers their 15th consecutive defeat with an 8-0 Weka Street rout. The goals were spread around, with Alex Whitehead and Chris Gardiner scoring doubles, while Nathan Holten, Rowan Beaumont Bell, Sully Man and Mathew Palmer also found the back of the net.
In the other WaiBOP Federation-wide leagues, Ngaruawahia United and Tauranga City have been crowned WaiBOP Championship and WaiBOP Women's Premier League champions respectively.
The WaiBOP Championship's sole match of the weekend was a big one as Kawerau Sports hosted Ngaruawahia United. After defeating Ngaruawahia at Centennial Park earlier in the season, the hosts would have been confident, but they couldn't break down the Green Machine. Ultimately it was a first-half own goal that proved the difference, as Ngaruawahia edged home 1-0 to secure the title.
Both sides have secured promotion to the 2019 Loaded WaiBOP Premiership and should prove worthy additions to the higher league.
Tauranga City Bay SportsMed matched Ngaruawahia in wrapping up the WaiBOP Women's Premier League title on Sunday. They did it in style, winning 4-0 at Melville United thanks to a Danaya McKenzie brace and further goals from Hope Lawson and Chynna Davie. Tauranga now have an unassailable four-point lead over second-placed Whakatane Town. Each only have a rescheduled match against the other.
The other Premier League match between Papamoa and McKay Tokoroa finished 3-3 in a lively encounter.
In the WaiBOP Federation-wide leagues, Ngaruawahia United and Tauranga City have been crowned WaiBOP Championship and WaiBOP Women's Premier League champions respectively.
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