The Soccer Shop WaiBOP Premiership race has twisted yet again as the top two teams Flying Mullet Pāpāmoa and Ōtūmoetai couldn't be separated.
After a goalless first half at Fergusson Park, the match between Ōtūmoetai and Pāpāmoa burst into life almost immediately after the break. Andrew Cooper put the visitors in front only three minutes after the restart, but their advantage didn't last long.
Ōtūmoetai's captain, Scott Reid, levelled inside two minutes. Ōtūmoetai were then reduced to 10 men when Karis Collins was shown a second yellow card on the hour mark before Jordi Langton scored to put the hosts in front 10 minutes later.
The match entered added time with Ōtūmoetai having hung on and all but wrapped up a league double over the leaders. Player-coach Colm Kenny was having none of it however and rescued a point for the visitors in the fifth added minute to maintain their four-point lead over Ōtūmoetai. The final scoreline of 2-2, while not terminal for either side, was not overly helpful either.
Pāpāmoa sit on 42 points having played 18 games, with Ōtūmoetai on 38 after 17 matches. The biggest beneficiaries of this result, however, were Taupō as their 3-2 home win over Melville United moved them up to 37 points from 16 games – a position that, for the moment, leaves them marginally in pole position in what is turning out to be an intriguing three-horse title race.
Taupō's victory over Melville at Crown Park wasn't as straightforward as it may seem with the visitors taking an early lead through James Nove. However, Joe O'Donoghue, Matt Lewis and Jordan Lamb had the champs comfortably in front before the half hour. Sok Ven pulled the visitors to within a goal in the shadow of half time then Melville had the better of a surprisingly goalless second half. In the end, Taupō came through the match unscathed, unbroken and within a few weeks of potentially being back on top.
Waikato Unicol snapped their two match losing run with a 3-0 home win over neighbours West Hamilton United.
Unicol was helped out by Tauranga Blue Rovers' losing 3-1 at Tauranga Boys' College, a result that, given the tightness at the bottom, also lifted Boys' College three places to seventh. Jordan Toy and Braxton Fisher scored the goals that gave the hosts a two-goal half time lead, before Jared Bailey, for Rovers, and Matt Schoonderwoerd traded second half goals that didn't alter the destination of the game's three points.
Comag Matamata Swifts bagged their first win since Easter, over in-form Ngaruawahia United 7-2 - a victory that lifted them out of the bottom two. Safer Team Te Puke United beat Gisler Architects Te Awamutu 1-0 to pick up their second win of 2019. They still sit five points off the pace at the bottom, with Te Awamutu now in the second relegation spot on goal difference, but at least have a sniff of survival.
There was a sensational twist at the top of The Soccer Shop WaiBOP W-League too, as Tilemax Pāpāmoa thumped long-time league leaders, Tauranga City, 4-1 in a stunning Western Bay derby at Gordon Spratt Reserve. As has often been the case Briana Osbourne was to the fore for Pāpāmoa, stepping up with a hat trick, but only after City had taken the lead. Annaliese Heuvel's goal midway through the first half seemed to have settled the visitors' nerves, but Osbourne struck back within three minutes before Christine Hammerich gave Pāpāmoa the lead just after the half-hour mark.
Osbourne scored her second, from the penalty spot, at the most opportune time, two minutes before the break, giving the hosts the confidence they needed to score an ultimately league-shaking victory. Osbourne's third, nine minutes from time, completed a fine personal and team performance from a Pāpāmoa side that jumped over Tauranga in the standings.
Claudelands Rovers maintained their lead at the top of the table at two points, although now it's over a Pāpāmoa side that has played two games more than them. Rovers' 7-0 win over Ōtūmoetai was somewhat routine. Whakatāne Town have potentially locked in a top for finish with a 3-0 win at Melville United.
Bulk Lines Otorohanga took a huge step closer to The Soccer Shop WaiBOP Championship title after defeating Taupo's Reserves 3-1 in the early game at Crown Park. Otorohanga then received the news that closest challengers, Claudelands Rovers, had been defeated 3-0 at Waikato Unicol's Reserves, leaving them with a four-point advantage with five games remaining.
Unicol's win moved them to a point behind Rovers and kept their lead over fourth-placed Ōtūmoetai Reserves at four points after the team from Fergusson Park beat Flying Mullet Pāpāmoa Reserves 4-2. Tokoroa moved to within a point of both Tauranga City and Cambridge, whose match was postponed, in mid-table after a 3-1 win over Tauranga Blue Rovers' Reserves at Strathmore Park.
Hamilton Wanderers lifted themselves out of the bottom two after defeating rock-bottom Waharoa Transport.