The Awakeri Sportsfield hosted two hard fought football clashes over the weekend. On Saturday SLH Contracting Plains Rangers men were at home to the high flying Taupo team.
Both teams looked to play good constructive football from the outset, with the midfield a contest between the guile of the experienced Taupo side, led by Alan Lamb, with the youth and willingness of the Rangers midfield. After 25 minutes and great ball in from Sione Lotu found Rangers striker Andy Willis, but his shot went narrowly wide. Taupo came back and forced an excellent close range save from Christian Wetting in the Rangers goal. Rangers midfield were putting together some great moves and the team was looking likely, however on the stroke of half time, a Taupo counter attack caught Rangers out and they scored.
Rangers were well in the game in the second half. After fifteen minutes Lotu sent Hamish Wilde into the box, but the Taupo keeper made an excellent one-on-one save. On the half hour came a couple of unusual moments, with Lotu scoring while Rangers were trying to play the ball back courteously to the Taupo keeper, after the ball had been put out of play for injury. Rangers then sportingly allowed Taupo to score from the kick-off to return the game to its one goal difference! With five minutes left, Rangers lost the hard working Wilde to a second yellow card. Late in the game Petir Gary came within a whisker of grabbing an equaliser when his shot rolled across goal and past the far post. The final score: Plains Rangers 1, Taupo 2.
The game had been a good battle with both coaches conceding it was even and played in good spirit. Sione Lotu, making a big impact for Rangers in his first season of football, was named player of the day by player-coach Wetting. Others to shine included midfielders Tijmen Corporaal, James Krause and Wilde, and flying left back Jordan Ogilvy. This Saturday Rangers have another big test with the local derby against Whakatane Town. Kick off at Whakatane is at 12.30pm.
On Sunday Whakatane Town came to play Plains Rangers in the BOP women's league. Whakatane opened very strongly and caught Rangers out scoring three times in the first fifteen minutes. Rangers got their communication going better and came back well into the game. Rangers midfield, especially player of the day Mikaela Mathis and Libby Shove, put the pressure on the visitors. The speedy Cassidy Spillman was always dangerous and set up debutant Kiahli Ibbetson with a good chance late in the half.
The game continued to be a willing contest in the second half and there would have been plenty of bruises to examine afterwards. Whakatane did score once more, despite body-on-the-line efforts from the defence, with Caitlin Stuckey in top form. The final score was Plains Rangers 0, Whakatane Town 4.
This Sunday Rangers women are away to Ngongotaha.