Claudelands Rovers have moved to the top of the table of the WaiBOP W-League, after a strong performance over Whakatane AFC.

The result put them back on track after a slip-up two weeks ago against a defiant Melville United team.

It was a game where Claudelands' new signings all played a key part. With Whakatane a physical side it was up to the defensive side to find another level to right the wrongs of the 4-1 defeat in the reverse fixture just over a month ago.

Lauren McErlean had half the grass pitch on her by the end of the game, due to her constant ability of breaking up Whakatane's attack, while taking some challenges in return. Olivia Schuler also started for Claudelands and brought a degree of physicality to the side alongside Paige McCloskey.

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Leanna Ryan made her return to football for the first time in just over a year, and showed no signs of rust as she opened the scoring for Claudelands within five minutes, while Kayla Wade also made her debut to steady up the midfield in the last quarter of the game.

Ryan could have pushed for a hat-trick in the first half, after Evahn Martinsen slotted a ball over the top of defence only for Ryan to be pulled up for being offside.

Kelly Le Quesne and Rhiannon Jones in defence for Claudelands Rovers. Photo / Warren Jones
Kelly Le Quesne and Rhiannon Jones in defence for Claudelands Rovers. Photo / Warren Jones

In defence Gemma Cottrell had her best game of the season. Despite being one of the smallest on the field, she was able to rise above Whakatane's physicality and break up attack after attack.

There were still signs of Claudelands' ability to lose focus in the game. At 2-0 up, Claudelands allowed Whakatane to pull one back after boxing themselves in their own half.

Despite scoring a goal before halftime, Whakatane looked deflated in the first half and the introduction of Stacey Palmer up front and a tactical change that saw Rhiannon Jones back on the right wing put the game to bed for Claudelands.

Palmer scored twice, and could have had a hat-trick if she could have moved the ball to her right foot in two instances.

A 4-1 win was enough for Claudelands to put them back at the top of the table, although Tauranga FC has a game in hand.

The season now enters its third and final stage, with every game crucial if Claudelands wish to push for promotion back to the premier league.

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