By Joan Grey
Fencibles United have taken the lead in the Lotto NRFL Women’s Championship, without even taking the field.
Their Friday night fixture has been defaulted by Te Atatu, meaning Fencibles are credited with a 3-0 win, enough to take them above previous leaders Onehunga Sports.
Meanwhile, the Championship enters its third and final round-robin stage of the 2023 season this weekend, promising intense competition and high stakes.
Five teams are battling for top position on the ladder to win promotion to next year’s Women’s Premier League.
Frontrunners Fencibles United and Onehunga Sports have the edge at this stage, while Franklin United, Otumoetai, and Tauranga City vie to close the gap and give the leaders a run for their money.
Franklin United achieved a thrilling 4-3 victory over Otumoetai last weekend which brought them level with Tauranga City in third place.
Trailing 3-1 at half-time, Franklin made a remarkable second-half comeback, and in the final 12 minutes, they scored three goals to grab the lead.
This weekend, Franklin United and Manukau United take to the field in a South Auckland derby.
These teams have faced each other twice already this season without there being a decisive winner, which sets the stage for a highly-competitive bout at Walter Massey Park on Sunday.
Game of the week
Enjoying a streak of impressive performances in recent weeks, Tauranga City have found the back of the net 11 times in their past three matches.
Tauranga City are led by captain and centre-back Serena Murrihy, in her third year with the club.
Her impressive footballing CV includes previous spells with Wellington United, Hamilton Wanderers and the successful Glenfield Rovers in the Northern Premier League.
Murrihy has New Zealand age-group experience at U-20 and U-17 level.
Tauranga’s opponents, Central United, who sit at the base of the table, have narrowly lost their past two games by a one-goal margin.
They’ll face a tough challenge after travelling across the Kaimai Ranges and facing an in-form Tauranga City.
Player to watch
Tauranga’s attacking midfielder Briana Osbourne is the league’s equal top goalscorer with 12 goals this season.
Osbourne has scored in Tauranga’s last three games. Osbourne showcases strength on the ball, dominates in aerial duels, and has a flair for powerful long shots. She’s also an endurance powerhouse who will run the whole game.
Fencibles United v Te Atatu
FENCIBLES WIN 3-0 AFTER TE ATATU DEFAULT
Games to be played on Sunday July 23, 2023
Tauranga City v Central United
Links Ave, Mt Maunganui, 1pm
Otumoetai v Onehunga Sports
Fergusson Park, Otumotetai, 1pm
Manukau United v Franklin United
William Massey Park, Manukau, 1pm
Friends of Football writer Joan Grey loves playing and writing about football. She plays football for Franklin United.