On Taranaki anniversary weekend, New Plymouth Rangers hosted the Taranaki Masters Football tournament at Merrilands Domain. The sun came out and so did the wind in great force, encouraging teams to keep the ball on the deck and to feet, although this is a given at most masters tournaments anyway. Six teams were competing for the title and were set the gruelling task of playing 5 games in the one day in a straight round robin league format. This is always a tough ask for anyone but when you put 80 men ranging in age from 35 to 60 in stifling heat for the day and ask them to run around for over 3 hours, it is a recipe for disaster. Luckily before the competition began, tournament organiser Monty Ammundsen reduced each game from 40 minutes to 30 minutes in an attempt to look after player welfare.
This change ultimately might have worked against the New Plymouth Rangers Masters team who had compiled a very young fit “old man” team for the day. In another tactical move that backfired, Rangers captain Michael Somers had recruited a 16 man squad which consisted of 1 goalkeeper, 4 midfielders and a massive 11 defenders. Keeper Jeff Yates made one save in the first game against Palmerston North Marist and then should’ve joined the lads on the deck with a cold one for the remainder of the day. The result of our strength in defenders was clear with 5 clean sheets and a very sunburnt keeper. The quality of the defending was also the foundation for the team to dominate possession and territory all day which would surely create enough opportunities to score goals and win the tournament. Well we were wrong and in hindsight, a striker or even two strikers should’ve been on our wish list to unlock the defences we came up against. Attacking midfielder Oz Osbourne was asked to play up top for most of the day and did a sterling job at linking in the other “midfielders” but nothing seemed to drop for anyone. Rangers scored 5 goals with the pick of the bunch being a long range drive into the top right corner from star fullback Phil Hood.
At the end of the day, the unbeaten Rangers had collected 11 points from three wins against PN Marist Banshees, Waitara and Peringa and two draws against Inglewood and PN Marist Masters. This wasn’t enough however as Peringa had compiled 12 points by winning four games with their only loss coming against Rangers in their final game. Peringa put the ball in the back of the net more than anyone else and deserved to win the tournament taking the gold, Rangers took silver and Inglewood took bronze.
From the Rangers committee we would like to thank all the teams who entered (especially the two teams from PN Marist), the referees, the women’s team who put the food together and all the players who made it such a good day out.