The Whanganui men have made the task of Marton HC to make the middle division of Hockey Manawatu's grades a lot more difficult after a 4-1 win at the Twin Turfs on Saturday.
However, unbeaten after eight games and completely safe to finish in the Top 2 of Premier Men's Reserve to qualify for that grade against the Bottom 2 teams of Premier, Whanganui senior player Calum Wilbur said they will try to do Marton the favour of also beating the current second place Massey Reserves this coming weekend.
There is now a two point gap between Massey and Marton, who will play each other in the last match of the round.
"It's swings and roundabouts [on points table]," Wilbur said.
Wilbur was one of only a trio of veterans to be in the travelling team on Saturday, alongside Craig Ritani and Josh McDonnell, the latter of whom was about to have a match he can dine out on for weeks.
"We had 10.5 basically. Of the bare XI, a couple of the young guys were playing hurt," said Wilbur.
Despite facing a team with 16 players, Whanganui opened the scoring through William Hocquard – yet another young player making his debut.
"I dread to think how many players have actually played this year [for the team]," said Wilbur.
The score would stay at 1-0 right through three quarters of the match.
"Just a little bit slow and lacking...wouldn't have been the best game to watch, until the final quarter," said Wilbur.
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It was then that McDonnell had his 'Sports Centre Moment' with two brilliant goals.
"First one, beat a couple of players, went round the keeper, and was quite a tight angle. Still got the goal," said Wilbur.
The second goal saw a rapid deflection come forward McDonnell's way, and he somehow got his hockey stick back behind his own head to drag the ball down into the goal mouth when it otherwise would have gone wide.
Wilbur was asked if it was one of those shots where if you replayed it 100 times, most would have missed.
"With Josh, yes," he laughed.
Marton got a short corner opportunity, which they converted to close the scoreline to 3-1, before Whanganui got another freak goal when Hamish Bielby sent an aerial ball sky-high above the turf, which came back to terra-firma past the defenders and near Kaelin Mooney at the defensive line, who trapped it and sent it home to wrap up the match.
Whanganui will now face Massey Reserves back home in Gonville at McDonald's Stadium, before finishing the second round against winless High School Hockey Club B.
At that point, they will move into the middle division along with either Marton or Massey Reserves, to take on Premier's Palmerston North Boys High and either the Massey Premiers or the Marist Wolverines.
In the Premier Women's division, Whanganui had perhaps their best result of the season as they managed to hold the tiger by the tail against the unbeaten table leaders College A for a 1-1 draw at the Twin Turfs.
College A, coming into the match with five wins, one draw, and 19 goals scored, including 4-2 in the last meeting with Whanganui, were not expected to be troubled by the visitors (1-2-3).
This was especially true with their former Black Stick Kayla Whitelock, nee Sharland, being joined by her returning sister and current NZ Under 18's coach Verity Sharland, along with Junior Black Stick and expat Whanganui player Emma Rainey.
However, getting a rare chance at the Challenge Shield, Whanganui went out to a surprise 1-0 lead after nine minutes through Pip Symes, who has come back home from the United Kingdom to join Maggie Symes in the team to make a mother and daughter combination.
College A got a reply goal in the second quarter, but that would be it as Whanganui managed to drag them into a scrappy dog fight.
"There was a lot of good things, it was a big step up for us from last weekend's game [losing to PNGHS]," said captain Colleen Baylis.
"They definitely put us under pressure, we had quite a few penalty corners against us."
The team took a positive attitude into the match, and had been determined not to give College A the amount of space they were expecting.
"We've just got to keep the momentum up going with High School Hockey Club A," said Baylis.
That game, back at the stadium, will be another stern test, because while HSHC A have lost once this year (4-1-1), they have wracked up an imposing 28 goals for only four conceded, which included a 4-1 win over Whanganui in May.