Title challengers to go toe-to-toe in Lotto NRFL Southern Conference

By Jack Sharp

Two of the title favourites — Waikato Unicol and Cambridge — go toe-to-toe this weekend as the Lotto NRFL Southern Conference goes into the second half of its season.

Third-placed Taupo can’t afford to falter at Claudelands Rovers, if they want to stay in the race.

Meanwhile, Otumoetai and Papamoa get to play a coastal derby, providing the weather doesn’t disrupt their plans.

Te Awamutu go to Ngongotaha Lakes, looking for respite after crazy lead-up form that has seen them hammered 7-0 by Taupo, 10-1 by Cambridge but with a 1-1 draw against leaders Unicol sandwiched between.

Game of the week

You can’t go past the top-of-the-table clash between Waikato Unicol and Cambridge, as the outcome of this game will surely influence the end-of-season reckonings.

Unicol have been a relentless outfit under coach Scott Parsonage, cruising to last year’s WaiBOP Premiership title and then making the running in the new Southern Conference.

Parsonage is a former Player of the Year at Cambridge and his side includes former Reds in midfielder Levi Clark and Donovan Latham.

Unicol go into this game with gilt-edged form, having beaten title challengers Taupo 2-0 in the last round, though Taupo played two-thirds of the game with 10 men after a red card for Cody Hawkes.

That erased doubts raised by a surprise draw against bottom-side Te Awamutu the week before.

Cambridge demolished Waipa rivals Te Awamutu 10-1 last weekend, with hat-tricks from Krishaant Singh and Josh Clarkin, their prolific goalscorers.

It’s hard to read too much into that one-sided affair, but Cambridge have scored 20 goals in their last four games.

The league’s tightest defence against the competition’s best attack — it should be an intriguing and entertaining match-up.

Player to watch

Harry Christensen-Rose played Men’s National League last summer for Melville United but switched to Claudelands Rovers for the Southern Conference season.

The 23-year-old was in good form for Rovers, scoring eight goals.

After playing against Waikato Unicol in mid-June, Christensen-Rose swapped clubs, moving to Unicol where he’s shown his worth already, scoring his side’s second goal in the crucial 2-0 win against Taupo last week.

He certainly enhances Unicol’s chances of taking the title.

Bold prediction

Taupo will take advantage of Claudelands Rovers’ lack of recent action (forced by two postponements) to score an emphatic win at Galloway Park.

I’m picking Rovers will be rusty while Taupo will have been sharpened by recent games against the top two sides on the ladder and a dogged win at Ngongotaha Lakes.

Let’s say, Taupo by a two-goal margin.

Last week, I tipped Taupo to beat Waikato Unicol. Going down to 10 men didn’t help Taupo’s cause and they lost 2-0.


Games to be played on Saturday July 8, 2023

Claudelands Rovers v Taupo
Galloway Park, Hamilton, 3pm

Ngongotaha Lakes v Te Awamutu
Tamarahi Reserve, Ngongotaha, 3pm

Waikato Unicol v Cambridge
Jansen Park, Hamilton, 3pm

Otumoetai v Papamoa
Fergusson Park, Otumoetai, 3pm

Jack Sharp

Jack Sharp is a long-time follower of club football in New Zealand and is a volunteer writer for Friends of Football.

More football stories