Ngaruawahia United have returned to football’s Lotto NRFL after clinching the second leg of their promotion play-off series against Papakura City.
The men in green beat ‘Kura 2-1 at their home ground of Centennial Park to take out the series 4-3 on aggregate.
On Tuesday, the sides drew 2-2 under the lights at Papakura’s McLennan Park, setting up the return match as a do-or-die decider.
The home side took the lead in the 22nd minute through midfielder Federico Marquez and the sides turned around with Ngaruawahia 1-0 ahead.
Alfie Cole doubled United’s lead in the 61st minute, forcing Papakura to throw caution to the wind.
When Argyle Morling pulled back a goal in the 73rd minute, the series was in the balance.
Papakura’s late efforts were not helped when Kieran Nevey was sent off, as the game entered added time, for a second yellow card.
But Ngaruawahia nerves held and to the relief of home supporters, referee Robbie Maris finally blew the final whistle, ending the club’s five-year absence from the Lotto NRFL.
Victory means Ngaruawahia will rejoin the competition it withdrew from in 2016, saying the club could not sustain the costs of participation.
Since then, the club has been rejuvenated and under late president Jared Williams, the club rebuilt to become a force again in the Waikato.
Tragically, Williams died last year, as United took the WaiBOP Premiership title, winning the league by beating runners-up Waikato Unicol in the last match of the season.
The title also gave Ngaruawahia their ticket into the promotion play-off series, against Papakura City who qualified by finishing as runners-up in last year’s Northern Regional Conference.
The play-off series
McLennan Park, Papakura
Tuesday March 22, 2022
Papakura City 2 (Kieran Nevey 62′, Munit Krishna 90+5′)
Ngaruawahia United 2 (Tawhirimatea Ball 37′, Jack Connor 40′)
Centennial Park, Ngaruawahia
Saturday March 26, 2022
Ngaruawahia United 2 (Federico Marquez 22′, Alfie Cole 61′)
Papakura City 1 (Argyle Morling 73′)
Main photo: Ngaruawahia United’s WaiBOP Premiership-winning squad from last season.
What happens next
Ngaruawahia United’s promotion means the Waikato will have three clubs in the Lotto NRFL second division, joining Claudelands Rovers (Hamilton) and Cambridge. That’s six local derbies to entice Waikato fans this season.
United take the final place in this year’s Lotto NRFL’s second division.
They will join:
- Bucklands Beach (relegated from Division 1 last year)
- Beachlands Maraetai (3rd last year)
- Franklin United (4th)
- Hibiscus Coast (5th)
- Cambridge (6th)
- Northland (7th)
- Oratia United (8th)
- Claudelands Rovers (9th)
- West Auckland (promoted from NRF Conference)
West Auckland and the play-off winners will replace Uni-Mount Bohemian Celtic and Papatoetoe who were relegated last season. Greenhithe, who came 10th last year, withdrew from the competition over summer.