It was not the result Melville United were hoping for on returning to the premier league after a two-year absence, but Waikato football was the winner as a strong crowd turned up for a game that had it all on Saturday at Gower Park.

The two coaches, Kale Herbert and Sam Wilkinson, agreed that the rivalry was good for the league, as over 200 people turned out for the game, more than most national league football games.

The game itself was a spectacle. Melville started the stronger and brighter of the two sides. Luke Searle was proving to be an even match for Wanderer's star man Tommy Semmy, and the two came together early on with Semmy picking up a yellow card.

Marc Evans, who has returned to the squad after a season away, had the first real chance of the game, beating the Wanderers defence, but his shot was well claimed by Matt Oliver.

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Minutes later it was Evans again on goal for Melville, his chipped effort forcing a strong save from Oliver.

Both teams were on level terms for much of the first half. As the minutes wore on Wanderers grew into the game and forced several attacks of their own, including a Xavier Pratt header, which was spectacularly saved by Max Tommy.

A narrative in the match was that Tommy was previously the reserve keeper to Matt Oliver during his time at Wanderers, with both keepers proving to be stars of the match.

In the second half, after a slow opening, the game kicked into high gear. Evans and Oliver were in a battle against one another and Evans forced another strong save from Oliver at point blank range.

Max Tommy then had to be quick off his line to beat Semmy to the ball.

Kieran Richards then went on the attack for Melville, doing everything right and cutting the ball across goal but Evans was unable to get a touch on goal.

Melville brought up another former Wanderers player in Federico Marquez, and he forced yet another crucial save from Oliver, with the game looking more and more like it would end in a draw.

Tommy Semmy had a final part to play in the game, bringing a long ball down off his chest in the 92nd minute, he spun on the Melville defence, shooting across goal and sending the Wanderers fans into pandemonium.

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In other games on the weekends, Claudelands Rovers started their campaign with a 3-0 win over Oratia United. Bailey Webster and a double from Jono Viviani securing that game.

On Sunday, the Wanderers women's team secured a 3-1 win over Papakura. Grace Wisnewski, Maddi Ollington and Emma Cawte scoring.