PREVIEW: In-form Taupo and Cambridge go head-to-head early in Conference

By Jack Sharp

Two teams that both won their season openers by 5-0 margins go head-to-head this weekend when Taupo host Cambridge.

The fixture will provide an early reality check as to which — or both — will be likely title candidates at the season’s end.

Otumoetai, who are top of the table after a 7-2 drubbing of Te Awamutu in the first round, head to Claudelands Rovers who should put up more of a fight at Galloway Park, than the 5-0 Easter drubbing at Taupo.

Defending champions Waikato Unicol dodged a bullet in their opening game at Papamoa, falling 3-0 behind after half an hour.

A second-half resurgence and tiring Papamoa legs got Unicol up for a 4-3 win for experienced head coach Tracy Wrigley, who has taken over from Scott Parsonage.

Unicol have many new faces in their squad and we’ll learn more from their performance against Te Awamutu.

Ngongotaha Lakes played better against Cambridge than Easter’s 5-0 scoreline might suggest, and their game against Papamoa could go either way.

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Game of the week

Cambridge and Taupo were both title contenders last season, with Cambridge finishing their season strongly, and Taupo fading away towards the end of their campaign.

It appears both have hit the ground running in 2024.

Both have potent attacks, scoring five goals apiece in their opening games, and they have solid defences.

Taupo on the attack in their Easter Saturday game against Claudelands Rovers. Photo credit: Rachel Lilburn.

Saturday’s match between them at Taupo’s Crown Park could well prove to be an important factor when the end of season table is calculated.

Taupo’s captain Joe O’Donoghue is the key cog in his side and Cambridge will need to subdue him. He scored twice last week, and averaged close to a goal a game in a disrupted season last year.

Cambridge have an outstanding striking duo in last season’s Golden Boot winner Josh Clarkin and newcomer Bailey Webster, signed from Unicol in the off-season.

Webster struck a hat-trick in his debut for Cambridge, exploiting space left behind Ngongotaha Lake’s back line.

If Taupo’s defenders drop deep to close that threat, Clarkin will run at them.

It makes for an intriguing match-up.

Player to watch

Former Taupo player Kjay Morehu (21) scored a double for Waikato Unicol, inspiring last week’s comeback to beat Papamoa 4-3.

Over summer, Unicol last Levi Clark (Ngaruawahia United), Harry Christenson-Rose (Ngaruawahia United), Bailey Webster (Cambridge), Donovan Latham (Cambridge), and Thomas O’Leary (Claudelands Rovers), all attacking threats.

Could Morehu be the goalscorer to fire Unicol up the table for another season?

He should get chances at home to Te Awamutu.

Ollie Giles-Miller is likely to be between the goalposts for Unicol, giving him the chance to play against his former club.


Games to be played on Saturday April 6, 2024

Taupo v Cambridge
Crown Park, Taupo, 3pm

Waikato Unicol v Te Awamutu
Waikato University, Hamilton, 3pm

Ngongotaha Lakes v Papamoa
Tamarahi Reserve, Ngongotaha, 3pm

Claudelands Rovers v Otumoetai
Galloway Park, Hamilton, 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.

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