PREVIEW: Challenge Shield adds spice to Southern Conference weekend

By Jack Sharp

Te Awamutu might be without a win and bottom of the league but they could lift their first trophy of the season on Saturday.

Ngongotaha goalkeeper Andrew Gibbs shows off the newly-won shield.

The Waikato side are bottom of the Lotto NRFL Southern Conference but travel to play Ngongotaha Lakes, the side just above them on the table.

And if they can pinch their first win of the season, they’ll also go home with the WaiBOP Federation Challenge Shield.

The Shield, introduced more than a decade ago to inject extra spice to WaiBOP’s top men’s division, operates like rugby’s Ranfurly Shield with the holder having to accept challenges when playing at home.

The latest holder is Ngongotaha Lakes, who took it from Papamoa last weekend with a 3-2 win, thanks to goals from Hayden Chapman, Harlem Simiona and Steffano Riley.

The shield goes on the line straight away, turning a bottom-of-the-table clash into a match that has an immediate reward.

With leaders Cambridge and fourth-placed Taupo involved in the third round of the Chatham Cup, only two games go ahead in the Southern Conference.

Otumoetai lost 1-0 last round to second-placed Claudelands Rovers but get the chance to find winning form again with the visit of 2023 champions Waikato Unicol.

Golden Boot

17 — Bailey Webster (Cambridge)
12 — Krishaant Singh (Claudelands Rovers)
10 — Jack Boland (Otumoetai)
8 — Jack Connor (Cambridge), Josh Clarkin (Cambridge)
7 — Henry Stephen (Claudelands Rovers), Andrew Cooper (Papamoa), Kjay Morehu (Waikato Unicol)

Fixtures

Games to be played on Saturday Month , 2024

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

Otumoetai v Waikato Unicol
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. You can show your appreciation for his work by buying him a coffee.

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