A place at the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup is within touching distance for New Zealand after a third comprehensive victory in as many matches during Oceania qualifying at Ngahue Reserve in Auckland.
On the receiving end this time was New Caledonia, who put in a determined showing but couldn’t contain the class of the home nation and prevent them taking a significant step towards France with a 12-0 victory in the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship.
Coming hot on the heels of almost identical high-scoring triumphs over Papua New Guinea and Fiji, today’s encounter followed a similar pattern to those earlier games with New Zealand controlling possession and earning the goals their dominance deserved.
Coach Gareth Turnbull continued in his policy of members of the team’s senior leadership group sharing the captaincy with defender Rebecca Lake taking the skipper’s armband on this occasion. The player who had worn it in the previous game, goalkeeper Anna Leat, was rested while six other changes were also made as Turnbull again made full use of his squad depth.
New Caledonia did offer stern resistance in the opening stages and it took until the 15th minute for Sam Tawharu to open the scoring, the striker prodding home a Michaela Foster cross from close range. It was 2-0 just a few seconds later when Deven Jackson teed up Nicole Mettam for a neat finish and Jackson assumed the role of goalscorer herself soon after, volleying in from the six-yard box on 20 minutes.
The Francophones were not likely to be able to come back from 3-0 down and could do little as the goal rampage continued, Emma Main hitting a quick-fire double before Jackson and Tawharu likewise completed braces as New Zealand took a seven-goal lead into the break.
Dayna Stevens made it eight early in the second period and it became a memorable day for Main a few moments later as she turned her double into a hat-trick with a header. New Zealand had to wait until the 80th minute to hit double figures as an in-swinging Michaela Foster corner found its way into the net before the best individual goal of the game arrived, substitute Grace Jale rifling an unstoppable shot into the top corner from well outside the box.
And there was still time left for Tawharu to join Main in hitting a hat-trick, stroking in a well-placed half volley for 12-0 in the dying stages.
Despite winning by such a large margin, New Zealand were far from at their best for long periods and the hat-trick heroines were in agreement on the area that needs most attention.
“I thought we held the ball pretty well for periods of time but we need to finish more of our opportunities in the box – we really need to work on that,” Tawharu said. “But I thought we played the ball around well and used the wide spaces with our fullbacks getting forward really well.”
Main concurred that finishing will be on the agenda ahead of the next game against Samoa.
“We definitely improved on the last match, although we should’ve probably put more goals away than we did,” the pacey winger said.
“I think our aggression was a lot better in this game than in the past ones which was good to see. We’ve executed how we want to play really well but we have to keep striving to get better.”
It was not the first time Main had struck a hat-trick for her country but she was delighted to do so on home soil this time.
“It was quite special with it being at home and scoring a hat-trick in front of a home crowd, I’m quite happy about that,” she said.
New Zealand remain the only undefeated team in the competition and are now well in control with maximum points from their three matches. With their only remaining games against the winless pair of Samoa and Tonga, Turnbull’s charges are heavily favoured to complete the job and book a berth in France with two more wins.
They will look to take the next steps in that aim with another victory over Samoa on Friday.
New Caledonia 0
New Zealand 12 (Sam Tawharu 15’, 45’ + 1’, 88’, Nicole Mettam 16’, Deven Jackson 20’, 42’, Emma Main 22’, 25’, 55’, Dayna Stevens 50’, Michaela Foster 80’, Grace Jale 84’)
New Zealand: 13. Nadia Olla (GK), 3. Rebecca Lake (20. Serena Murrihy 62’), 4. Elizabeth Anton, 7. Emma Main, 8. Malia Steinmetz, 9. Sam Tawharu, 12. Emma Clarke, 15. Michaela Foster, 16. Nicole Mettam (6. Grace Jale 72’), 17. Dayna Stevens (11. Jacqui Hand 62’), 19. Deven Jackson
Substitutes not used: 1. Anna Leat (GK), 2. Saskia Vosper, 10. Hannah Blake, 14. Claudia Bunge
Coach: Gareth Turnbull
OFC U-19 Women’s Championship Draw
(Ngahue Reserve, Auckland)
Friday 21 July, 10am
Monday 24 July, 10am