An understrength Whanganui Women's team made a big statement when they hung on to take away Athletic's undefeated record with a 3-2 win in the Manawatu Premier Reserve's top of the table clash at Gonville on Saturday.
Meeting at the end of the first round in the No1 vs No2 positions, there was a lot of anticipation for the match, although Whanganui were missing several key players including former Black Stick Robbie Matthews, while player-coach Colleen Baylis was attending the ill-fated USA vs Canada ice hockey game in Wellington that was eventually cancelled after a series of mishaps.
They had a very small bench compared to the visitors who could rotate four substitutes, and went out to a 2-0 lead within the first 10-15 minutes.
"We're always slow starters," said senior player Michelle Lowe.
Whanganui hit back with two goals before halftime, and then took the lead in the second stanza, with Lowe saying they didn't go into a defensive mindset from there.
"We were actually over them quite a bit, we weren't just able to get it in.
"We did alright, with the young ones."
The Whanganui goal scorers were Rachel Dickie, Lucky Wilbur and Nicky Skedgwell.
Keeping it open gave Athletic an opportunity to tie the match, but ultimately their record fell to 6-1-1, tied with Whanganui on points but behind them by seven goals on the for-and-against record.
Having had a frustrating weekend, Baylis was pleased to get the news.
"The girls sort of commented they fought right to the end.
"Obviously, goal differential has put us back up the top."
Baylis was now waiting to hear how Manawatu Hockey will split the nine-team grade for the second round, likely to be a Top 4 championship group and Bottom 5 consolation group.
It is a familar position for the women's team from Whanganui to be in, as in both the Premier and Reserve grade in recent seasons they have been a leading contender at the end of round robin, but faltered in the playoffs.
"Even when we were Collegians up in Premier 1, we were ever the bridesmaids there too," said Baylis.
"For sure [we can win], we always give it a crack."
Meanwhile, the Tech College Old Boys can't beg or steal a match in the Men's Premier 1 as lack of preparation took a toll in their 4-0 loss to Massey A in the early afternoon game at Gonville.
Playing with their blue shirts inside out to avoid confusion with the home side, Massey confidently defended their half and then on their very first run into TCOB's dangerzone a long range flick shot found it's way home.
TCOB showed good periods of defence, with Massey just causually passing the ball around the midfield, but even when they won a turnover they gave it back in short order with passes missing intended targets and debates following about who should be where.
Lee Moir did a typical solo dash on the far side but then could not find a receiver in front of goal, and Massey immediately worked it back to get a corner and convert for 2-0.
Another Moir reverse flick just struck the outside of the goal, while other potential attacking chances were lost before the break.
The theme continued from the second quarter onwards as Massey got two other goals on their only real opportunities.
"That would have been the story of the day," said senior player Calum Wilbur.
"[Massey] short corner to follow [first goal] up, them another short corner and I think the other goal was similar to the first one.
"We would have been in the circle more times than them. [Poor] execution.
"It's just people not doing their jobs."
Tyler Nicoll-Hylton and Patrick Madder were away with the Central Under 18 team in Taupo, so TCOB drafted in Whanganui High School players Kaelin Mooney and Travis Bayler, who played well.
But Wilbur said the issue had been cancelling practice on Thursday when only four players turned up.
"Lack of numbers at training doesn't help.
"This guys do struggle with their passing, and that's a basic coaching problem in Whanganui."
TCOB will have the bye this weekend to regroup.