Stafford Choat Bowl FINAL: Mangawhai FC (NM2) vs Onerahi New World (NM3) ; Sat 10 September, 1.00pm
It was a beautiful Saturday for the Northland Cup Finals, held for the first time at their new Trigg Stadium home ; and graciously hosted by Northland Football Club.
The NFF preview reported “expect a close encounter with Mangawhai slight favourites” ; but with a well-prepared squad - plus plenty of support in the stands - there was an air of confidence in the Onerahi camp.
The strategy was to err on the defensive in the opening 20, to get a gauge on the strength and play style of the higher-division side. With Mangawhai adopting a similar strategy, it was a cagey opening stanza.
With plenty of intensity in the defensive effort however, confidence was growing and Onerahi began to string together some incisive attacking sequences.
Captain Mike DeVetter was the fulcrum of Onerahi’s attack, always providing an outlet for the defence and distributing intelligently to those around him.
This was epitomised when, 35 minutes in, he played Scott Still down the right, who put a beautiful ball across ; and with the keeper caught between staying or attacking, Dominic Mills was able to touch it around him, then run past for a tap in - to raucous celebrations from the team and supporters!
An increasingly frustrated Mangawhai tried to respond, but were continually thwarted by the Onerahi defensive pressure, the underdogs leading 1-0 at the break!
The second spell saw Mangawhai throw themselves onto attack, moving the ball with greater speed and accuracy, and creating better chances as a result. There were nervous moments, with a couple of crucial saves from Dan Draisey - and a goal-line clearance from Richie on the back post in particular - but the defensive line continued to hold firm.
Despite continued Mangawhai pressure, plus injuries, fatigue, and cramp setting in, the intensity never dropped, with every ball and opposition player being swarmed by Onerahi shirts ; while a loud and energetic dugout and crowd spurred them on!
The final whistle arrived to an outpouring of emotion from the team in blue, which continued as they thanked the supporters and were awarded their medals by captain - and Player of the Match - Mike DeVetter, before gathering for the obligatory photos with the trophy!
Acknowledgement must go to the coaching unit for their planning, tactics, and substitutions which were flawless on the day.
The team would also like to extend a huge thank you to the wider squad who have played such a crucial role in the team’s success this year ; and all their club mates, loyal supporters, and of course sponsors Onerahi New World.
Special mention to the coaching team of Dave Fisher, Mack McNamara, and manager Matt Pyle for building such a great culture within the squad ; Matty I know you were following intently on social from the UK!
So a League and Cup double; each being a first for many of the squad.
Congratulations on a fantastic achievement this season guys - thoroughly deserved!!