Must-win encounters for championship contenders.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

With just five rounds of round robin play in the Baywide rugby competitions before the top four are found in each grade to fight out the playoffs - each of the next five weekends will produce must-win encounters for the championship contenders.

The championship rounds in the middle of winter usually turn into battles of attrition every seven days, as inclement weather and the injury toll make their mark on the playing ranks.

Media and public attention shines on the Premier divisions, where players are striving to give their all for their club and - in many instances - impress the Bay of Plenty selectors who lurk on the sideline, notebooks in hand.

However, battling away with little publicity, on grounds spread throughout the region without many of the luxuries of premier clubrooms, are the lower echelons of the Baywide competitions.

Last Saturday saw the start of the Baywide Division Two competition, where two teams apiece from the Bay of Plenty Sub-Unions, battle it out for a permanent Baywide place next season.

The lure of a permanent Baywide spot is a great recruitment tool for a number of the smaller clubs spread throughout this vast rugby-playing region.

This seasons Div Two contenders reflect the face of Bay of Plenty rugby, with a mix of city, country towns and rural communities.

Eastern Pirates, who call Rotorua’s Neil Hunt Park home, have a proud history including two Baywide premier crowns in the 1990's.

Katikati, Edgecumbe and Matata Rugby Clubs play a big part in their local communities and will have plenty of vocal support on the sidelines.

Likewise, Eastern Districts who call the Paengaroa Domain home along with Reporoa, draw on support from their local fans.

For the record, Edgecumbe edged Eastern Pirates by a solitary point in the opening round, Katikati were too strong for Eastern Districts in a Western Bay local derby winning by 25, with Reporoa putting 50 unanswered points on Matata.

Division One has plenty to fight for at both ends of the standings. For the victor there is a Baywide trophy to put in the club trophy cabinet, while relegation to local club rugby awaits the side that finishes at the bottom of the points ladder.

Ruatoki and Judea have two wins in the first two rounds, followed by Murupara, Kahukura and Papamoa with one win apiece, with Paroa, Poroporo and Waimana without a W on their ledger card.

Perusal of the Premier One championship title race, sees Te Puna continuing their assault on the season Baywide trophies after taking out the First Round crown.

So far this season they have posted an unbeaten record, albeit a first-up draw with Rotoiti.

Te Puke Sports and Whakarewarewa, have also posted two victories apiece in the opening championship rounds.

The quality and intensity of the top-grade competition, is shown by defending champions Mount Maunganui sitting at the bottom of the standings, after two heavy defeats by Te Puke Sports and Tauranga Sports.

This grizzled Bay rugby fan, selections, to fight out the Baywide top Division title are Te Puna and Te Puke Sports.

Having seen all eight contenders in action since the title race kicked off - the two Western Bay contenders have plenty of attributes necessary for Baywide success.

Te Puna has a quality forward unit and an explosive back line that can turn defence into five-pointers at the drop of a hat.

The Pirates from Te Puke have serious tall timber in their forward pack and a goal kicker with one of the best strike rates in the competition.

The real intrigue will come from the five others contenders in Rangataua, Greerton Marist, Tauranga Sports and the two Rotorua sides of Rotoiti and Whakarewarewa, as they chase post sections places.




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