Baywide rugby premier matches

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian
www.sunlive.co.nz

The last throw of the dice will take place in Baywide rugby premier matches this Saturday, in the last round of the championship qualifying round. 

A general consensus around the traps since the Baywide title chases kicked off in the balmy days of autumn, is that this is the most competitive top echelon competition for many a season. 

Since defending title holders Rangataua defeated Mount Maunganui 11-3 in replay of last years final, the intensity and upsets have provided riveting interest for Western Bay club rugby fans at the end of each week. 

Entering the last round of qualifying play, where four teams will hang up their boots until next year - Te Puke Sports and Rangataua share top spot on the points ladder from Mount Maungaui who lurk a solitary point in arrears.

Rotoiti round out the top round with Te Puna in close attendance. 

Patrons running late at Blake Park on Saturday are likely to have a long walk to catch Mount Maunganui squaring off with Te Puna.

It is desperation stakes for the blue and black brigade from the Western Bay extremities, who must defeat the Mounties to grab a spot in the playoffs.  

While the Mount team will fancy their chances, Te Puna will have a large band of supporters on hand to give their favourites plenty of vocal support.

For mine, it's a 50/50 encounter with the match likely to be in doubt, until the referee's whistle signals full time.  

The roller-coaster ride that many of the contenders have experienced this season is typified by Tauranga Sports.

Crowned first round winners at the end of May, the Tauranga Domain based side has struggled in the championship round and currently sit in seventh place on the standings. 

The multiple Baywide premier title holders are sure to want to knock Rangataua of the top of the perch, when the two sides meet at Te Ariki Park on Saturday.

A Rangataua win would guarantee a home semi-final the following week with defeat likely to ensure a trip on the road. 

A similar scenario awaits current joint competition leaders Te Puke Sports, who host Greerton Marist at Murray Salt Stadium. 

The formbook suggests that Rotoiti will take out the fourth place in the playoffs, when they play arch rivals Whakarewarewa, close to the shores of Lake Rotoiti.

However, there is no Baywide rugby matches more fiercely contested than the encounters between the two time-honored Rotorua clubs. 

The one certainty is that the Development One title decider will be an all Western Bay affair.

Te Puna currently leads Te Puke Sports, Greerton Marist, Mount Maunganui and Tauranga Sports with Rangataua, Whakarewarewa and Rotoiti out of contention.

Arataki have set their sights on the Premier Two title, ever since they narrowly missed a berth in Premier One qualifying competition.

An unbeaten second half of the season, suggests that Mount Maunganui peninsula contenders will wear the favorites tag entering the playoffs. 

Further down the road at Gordon Spratt Reserve, Papamoa are also eying Baywide silverware, in the Division One championship.

Their biggest challenge is likely to come from defending Div One champions Te Teko but they look a good shot to make the Division One Grand Final on the first Saturday in August.

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The Sun going down over the water @ Sulphur Point. Photo: Casey Fredericks.

Send us your photos from around the Bay of Plenty. kendra@thesun.co.nz