Onehunga end Melville’s golden run
Melville will concentrate on the northern league for the rest of the 2018 season after being beaten 3-1 in the Chatham Cup by holders Onehunga Sports at Gower Park.
It was Melville’s first loss of the season, ending an 18-match unbeaten run – and Onehunga were well worth their win.
But they had to come from behind to move into the quarterfinals at Melville’s expense for the second successive season.
Melville were without Luke Searle, Mark Jones, Wade Molony, Liam Steffert and Stafford Dowling, but rattled Onehunga when they took the lead after Liam Hayes dispossessed Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi and strode through the centre to calmly slot a goal with his left foot.
It was good reward for Hayes, who along with skipper Aaron Scott, was a stand-out for the Unicorns.
But Onehunga quickly struck back with two stunning strikes from Tekapo footballing product Boon Ozawa before half time.
Losing was a new experience for many Melville players. For Josh Davies, Ernest Pidoke, Federico Marquez, Dilan Nanayakkara, Levi Clark, and Harry Christensen-Rose it was the first time they had played in a beaten Melville team.
But the day was mostly about Onehunga, who were lethal and exact on the break, and able to expose Melville weaknesses like no other team has this season.
Onehunga coach Hiroshi Miyazawa was delighted with the win, noting in his aftermatch speech that his team had been “chasing the shadow” of last year’s Onehunga team and was only now coming right.
And he praised the Gower Park set-up.
“We prefer to play our matches at home, but we don’t mind coming here,” he said. “It is not just the great pitch, but you have welcoming, warm people in your club. And we have heard really good things said about you this season.”
Melville co-coach Sam Wilkinson described Onehunga as “a classy, quality team with good players everywhere”.
“Onehunga are the benchmark for where we aspire to be.”
Wilkinson said the difference between the teams was the quality of the goals.
“As the game wore on we got stretched and they took their chances so well, whereas our play tended to break down in the top third.”
Wilkinson also celebrated the performance of his back two of Flynn O’Brien and Scott, despite often being under pressure.
The good news is the loss means Melville have avoided the potential poisoned chalice of drawing an away tie in the South Island in the quarterfinals, and can now focus on completing the job in the northern league where they lead the first division by nine points ahead of a home game against Waitemata on Saturday.
# The match also marked the debut of Melville live-streaming a Gower Park match on Facebook, with guest commentary from members of Melville’s 2003 Chatham Cup final team, Jeremy Flield and Steven Holloway.
The footage, commentary, and quirky on-line comments can be viewed on Melville’s facebook page.