It's game on in the WaiBOP W-League as Melville United stunned Tauranga City AFC with a draw, to give Claudelands Rovers and Pāpāmoa a chance to claw themselves back into the title race.

At Gower Park on Sunday, the travelling Tauranga City squad faced off against Melville United, which sits three spots below them on the table, however a surprise draw condemned Tauranga to just their fourth dropped point of the season, losing the other three points to Claudelands Rovers.

Melville's shock draw allowed Hamilton rivals Claudelands Rovers to gain points on the title leaders, with a crucial three points against Ōtumoetai Premiership.

The first half was a dire affair with both teams struggling to string meaningful attacks together.

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At times it looked as if bottom-placed Ōtumoetai would score the first goal with several attempts during the opening half.

After a half time talk from head coach Tai Ballantyne, and a change of player formation with Stella Neems moved to the left wing while Stacey Palmer took up a role down the middle, the goals suddenly flowed.

While the strike trio of Rhiannon Jones, Stacey Palmer, and Stella Neems lit up the scoresheet, it was young midfielder Abbie Watson who played a staring role, stepping in for the absent Rachel Porteous.

Playing with a fever, Watson's distribution helped spread the play for Claudelands, while breaking up numerous attacks in the Ōtumoetai half to allow Claudelands to continue the pressure.

She also took several shots from distance, a trait which has been lacking in recent games for Claudelands.

Abbie Watson stepped up to fill the void of Rachel Porteous, with precise distribution of the ball. Photo / Warren Jones
Abbie Watson stepped up to fill the void of Rachel Porteous, with precise distribution of the ball. Photo / Warren Jones

Rhiannon Jones grabbed a hat-trick, scoring her first within minutes of the second half restart, a well-taken strike from the right flank.

Stella Neems and Stacey Palmer scored goals in between Jones's hat-trick to give Claudelands the dominant 5-0 win.

Paige McCloskey had the chance to score a sixth for Claudelands, but failed to connect with the ball, and showed visible frustration she was unable to double her one goal tally this season.

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The contrast between the two halves were clear to see, with Claudelands deciding to play through a wall of Ōtumoetai players and holding onto the ball for too long.

In the second half, the players stepped up playing one and two touch football which was able to spread the Ōtumoetai defence and find the back of the net.

It was a happy, but also sentimental result for Claudelands, as it was the last game for American Natalie Dixon who returns to the United States later this week.

It was the last game for Natalie Dixon (centre) who returns back to the United States this week. Photo / Warren Jones
It was the last game for Natalie Dixon (centre) who returns back to the United States this week. Photo / Warren Jones

With four goals to her name this season, Claudelands will lose one of the characters of the dressing room, but with last weekend's performance of Abbie Watson, there is a chance for the young midfielder to cement that role as her own.

The league remains in a intricate position. With Tauranga Blue Rovers withdrawing from the league, a potential third round of games looms for the remaining teams.

Pāpāmoa and Claudelands are both within touching distance of league leaders Tauranga City, but Melville United showed that no team should be underestimated as the second round of the season kicks into gear.