Late goals in two nerve-jangling matches delivered drama on the last day of the Lotto NRFL second division season.
Hibiscus Coast clinched the title; Ngaruawahia United sealed promotion.
Main photo: Hibiscus Coast … heading for first division football in 2023. Photo: Phototek.
For West Auckland, it was a day of joy and then heartbreak.
By half-time of their game at Hibiscus Coast, they led 3-0 and were hot favourites to take the title, especially as Ngaruawahia United were trailing 0-2 in their last game.
But second half fightbacks changed the outcomes at the top of the table.
Here’s what went down on the final day of the season:
Joy for Coast … heartbreak for West Auckland
A dramatic second-half comeback fired Hibiscus Coast to a 3-3 draw with title rivals West Auckland to ensure the club took the Lotto NRFL second division title, and the promotion place that goes with it.
At half-time, leading 3-0, West Auckland were in the box seat to take the title themselves.
It was a day of drama at Stanmore Bay Park, fitting for a competition which produced many tight matches during a hard-fought season.
West Auckland, shooting for their second promotion in successive seasons, took the lead in the 4th minute through Nathan Rollinson.
Haylen West doubled the visitors’ lead on the half-hour.
And West Auckland rocked the home supporters with a third goal, four minutes into added time for the first half.
Coat regrouped at half-time and came out with guns blazing.
Trent Mayes reduced the deficit to 3-1 with a goal four minutes after the restart.
In the 64th minute, he scored his second of the day, to set up a nailbiting finish.
With three minutes left, Mitchell Browne got the all-important equaliser, the goal that sent Hibiscus Coast into next season’s first division and secured the title.
For West Auckland, the result left them in third place — with nothing tangible to show for a season that in so many ways earned them admirers.
Withers double helps Ngaruawahia seal promotion
Two late goals from substitute Mark Withers saved Ngaruawahia United’s season as they snatched a 2-2 draw with Franklin United.
With 15 minutes to go, Ngaruawahia were trailing 0-2 at their Centennial Park home ground and it looked as though they might miss out on promotion as well as the title, despite leading the competition for most of the season.
But Withers, who came off the bench in the 53rd minute, scored a late double to spark promotion celebrations among home supporters.
Franklin, with nothing to play for in their last game, brought their best game and took the lead in the 15th minute through Chris Brett.
That was enough for the visitors to go into the interval with a 1-0 lead.
Franklin rocked the home side in the 52nd minute when Brett scored his second of the day.
And he could have had a hat-trick in the 61st minute but for a good stop by Ngarawahia United goalkeeper Stefan Heuberger who came out best in a one-on-one.
Ngaruawahia worked their bench, bringing on five outfield players in the second half as they threw everything at Franklin.
Withers, who joined the club from Oratia United early in the season, scored in the 75th minute to set up a storming finish.
With three minutes left, referee CK Kawana-Waugh awarded the home side a penalty.
Withers hit the net; promotion was on its way for a second season in a row.
For Franklin, the draw meant the side finished their season with a 10-match unbeaten run.
Northland earn win with double-goal burst
Two goals in the middle of the first half were enough to help Northland finish their schedule with a 2-0 win against Bucklands Beach.
Playing at Whangarei’s Trigg Arena, Northland’s home form has been patchy this season but Michal Walesiak’s side made sure they finished positively with a strong first spell.
Kyle Levell gave Northland the lead after 20 minutes and five minutes later, Finn Diamond doubled their lead.
Neither side could break through for the rest of the game.
Late goal gets Cambridge winning end to season
A goal two minutes from full time by Josh Nooijen ensured Cambridge ended their season on a winning note, as they beat bottom-placed Oratia United at Parrs Park.
The Reds were never behind in this encounter and their win was made easier by Oratia being reduced to 10 men for the last quarter of an hour.
Cambridge took the lead in the 28th minute through Anton Ganas.
Sean Atherton levelled for Oratia on the half hour.
But Cambridge went into half-time 2-1 up, thanks to an own goal as the half ended.
Michael Graham levelled for Oratia in the 54th minute, setting up an exiting finish.
However, Atherton got his marching orders in the 75th minute for back chat to the referee.
This gave Cambridge the chance to finish the season with a win and Nooijen duly obliged with his 88th minute winner.
Beachlands Maraetai edge out Rovers
Beachlands Maraetai beat Claudelands Rovers 1-0 at Te Puru Park, thanks to a goal by Aaron Parry.
He scored in the 18th minute to set up a tight game, with the Waikato visitors unable to break through.
Games played Saturday September 3, 2022
Hibiscus Coast 3 (Trent Mayes 49′, 64′, Mitchell Browne 87′)
West Auckland 3 (Nathan Rollinson 4′, 45+4′, Haylen West 31′)
Ngaruawahia United 2 (Mark Withers 75′, 87′ pen)
Franklin United 2 (Chris Brett 15′, 52′)
Oratia United 2 (Sean Atherton 33′, Michael Graham 54′)
Cambridge 3 (Anton Ganas 28′, own goal, Josh Nooijen 88′)
Northland 2 (Kyle Levell 20′, Finn Diamond 25′)
Bucklands Beach 0
Beachlands Maraetai 1 (Aaron Parry 18′)
Claudelands Rovers 0
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