Emma Main chased by Darnelle Hace
Serena Murrihy (20) goes close with a header
Emma Main and Emma Clarke thwarted by
A five goal salvo in eleven minutes inspired the Junior Ferns to a 12-0 win over New Caledonia at the OFC U-19 Women's Championship at Ngahue Reserve on July 17, but Gareth Turnbull's charges squandered a host of other opportunities as they charged relentlessly on towards a place in the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Finals in France.
Both Sammi Tawharu and Dayna Stevens spurned openings inside the first four minutes of a contest in which the New Caledonians offered brief but solid spells of defensive resistance, but after Malia Steinmetz and Emma Main had combined to present Tawharu with a great chance which she spurned in the thirteenth minute, the floodgates opened with a vengeance.
Deven Jackson, making her first appearance at the tournament, led a fourteenth minute charge past two opponents before feeding the overlapping Michaela Foster, who delivered a delicious first-time cross which Tawharu deftly turned home.
Within sixty seconds, the lead had been doubled, Steinmetz releasing Stevens through the inside right channel from where she delivered a cross into the stride of Nicole Mettam, who swept the ball high into the net from the edge of the penalty area.
There was very nearly a third goal sixty seconds later, with Main's marauding run down the left culminating in a cross towards Stevens which lured New Caledonian goalkeeper Karine Xozame off her line.
The custodian did enough to put Stevens off on this occasion, before showing a clean pair of heels to win a race for the ball and hoof it into touch. There was to be no respite for the fleet-footed 'keeper, however, as the Junior Ferns were just beginning to warm to the task ahead of them.
Twenty minutes into the contest, a Liz Anton pass eventually found its way to Main, who scythed inside past two opponents before feeding Tawharu. Her low cross to the far post found Jackson racing in - 3-0.
Two minutes later, Steinmetz caused the New Caledonians problems aplenty en route into the penalty area, where her low cross to Tawharu would have presented the striker with a goal on a plate had Xozame not blocked the effort with her leg. Main was first to react and guided the rebound over the line.
The final goal of this initial salvo materialised in the 25th minute, and saw Foster and Main combining on the left. The latter raced clear of the defence before beating Xozame all ends up at her near post, despite the 'keeper's acrobatic attempt to deny the scorer her second goal of the game.
Steinmetz's weaving runs past multiple challenges have been a highlight of the Junior Ferns' play thus far, the ball seemingly magnetised to her boot as she veers this way and that on her way towards the target.
Another such mesmerising run left three players in her wake in the 31st minute of this contest, but the reward which was due the perpetrator wasn't forthcoming, due to Xozame's fine parried save to her left. Steinmetz sent the rebound blazing over the bar.
Two minutes later, two of the Junior Ferns' defensive starlets gave New Caledonia another threat to ponder, as if the six players ahead of them weren't providing enough already! Anton's raking ball wide found Emma Clarke surging forward from deep, and the fullback's subsequent cross-shot only narrowly missed the far post.
After another brief spell of stubborn defensive resistance by the New Caledonians, and an injury break arising from Xozame colliding with one of her defenders, the Junior Ferns resumed their goalscoring ways in the 42nd minute.
Steinmetz gathered a Marie-Laure Palene free-kick and promptly redirected the ball to Tawharu, whose lay-off invited Jackson to run on and ram the ball past Xazome for the sixth goal of the game.
It was at this point that the New Caledonians began to offer an attacking threat of their own, with Nadia Olla forced to save an effort from Alice Wenessia in the 44th minute, a raid to which the Junior Ferns responded by scoring their seventh goal of the game.
Olla rolled the ball out to Anton, who quickly assessed her options and pinged the ball downfield, Stevens her target. Had the striker not had an opponent's boot in the vicinity of her ear, she would have flicked the ball on near the edge of the penalty area. In the end, the bounce did the job, Tawharu dashing in behind to execute a delightful close-range finish - 7-0.
Now the raft of misses began. Before half-time, Anton released Main through the inside left channel, the striker streaking clear of the defence before unselfishly looking to present Jackson with a goal on a plate. Palene's intervention thwarted that prospect, while Main was denied by Xazome as she looked to guide home the rebound.
Straight from the kick-off at the start of the second spell, Xazome denied Main again, with Stevens guiding the ricochet onto the crossbar from close range, before herself being denied by the goalkeeper three minutes later.
Jackson then curled one past the post before Tawharu lazily fired over the bar five minutes into the second spell, Jackson having allowed Stevens' pass to run through her legs to present the number nine with a chance on a plate.
New Caledonia played the resulting goal-kick short, and were punished mercilessly for what is a rather juvenile tactic to employ at this level. Foster pounced on the ball and wasted little time in picking out Tawharu, whose shot was parried by Xazome. Stevens this time made no mistake in despatching the rebound - 8-0.
After Tawharu had shot tamely at Xazome, Mettam flighted a 55th minute free-kick into the no man's land between goalkeeper and defenders. Main, flying in, sent the ball flying past Xazome with a bullet header to complete her hat-trick - 9-0.
A flurry of chances followed. Mettam saw her twenty-five yard free-kick turned round the post by the flying figure of Xazome, who looked on as captain for the day Rebecca Lake sent a header from Tawharu's cross flashing over the bar, the same piece of woodwork being hit by Jackson in the 59th minute with a header from a Stevens cross.
The supplier of that opportunity then contrived to hit the bar herself from six yards two minutes later, after Steinmetz and Tawharu had contrived to prise open the New Caledonian defence, before Main sent a header flashing over the bar from a Tawharu cross.
A flurry of substitutions, injury breaks and offside calls punctuated the next fifteen minutes of play, the lone opportunity of note materialising in this time being one inspired by Steinmetz, whose gorgeous through ball was turned on by Tawharu into the stride of Main's darting run, the striker being well thwarted by Xazome inside the area.
It needed something a little unorthodox to fire the Junior Ferns into double-figure territory, and Foster provided it, direct from a corner, ten minutes from time. That goal sparked another brief flurry of goalmouth activity, with the goal of the game materialising three minutes later.
Substitute Grace Jale thundered a twenty-five yard screamer into the top corner of the net after latching onto the rebound from a Stevens shot, which had been blocked by the massed ranks of New Caledonian defenders on the goal-line as the Francophone side scrambled to stave off another Junior Ferns raid.
After substitute Serena Murrihy had sent a header flashing over the bar from a Foster corner, the scoring was completed three minutes from time by Tawharu, who found the top corner of the net from twelve yards to complete her hat-trick after Steinmetz, Jackson and Clarke - a beautifully weighted cross - had combined to contrive the opening.
More goals should have followed before the full-time whistle, with Main denied by Xazome before Palene blocked a goalbound twenty-yarder from Jale, prior to a spellbinding raid involving Murrihy, Clarke, Jackson and Main culminating in a cross intended for Jacqui Hand to tuck away.
This was intercepted, but Tawharu was swiftly onto the loose ball, only to be denied at close quarters by Xazome, who did well to see out the match after that first half collision with a team-mate initially saw signals being made to replace her, a situation which would have resulted in a final scoreline far in excess of the 12-0 outcome recorded.
In other matches, a late equaliser earned ten-woman Fiji a 2-2 draw with Samoa on a day overshadowed by news of the shock death of Fijian goalkeeper Francine Lockington, who would have been participating in this tournament but for falling ill in the days immediately prior to it.
Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea came from behind to down Tonga 4-1 to emerge as the only team which could possibly prevent the Junior Ferns from fulfilling their French ambitions.
The Junior Ferns are dominating the race for the Golden Boot, with Hannah Blake, Main and Stevens each having scored six goals, one less than Tawharu, the current leading markswoman. PNG's Nicollete Ageva, with five goals, rounds out the top five.
Junior Ferns: Olla; Clarke, Lake (Murrihy, 61), Anton, Foster; Steinmetz, Mettam (Jale, 72), Jackson; Stevens (Hand, 61), Tawharu, Main
New Caledonia: Xozame; Sakilia, Palene, Hnanaganyan, Hace; Broustet (Takamatsu, 72), Cawa, Ilengo, Xowi (Ihmeling, 69), Forest (Humunie, 79); Wenessia
Referee: Rani Perry (Tahiti)
Karine Xozame flies to her right to save
New Caledonia line-up
The NZ bench during the national anthem
The Junior Ferns line-up
Deven Jackson scores goal number six