Club rugby competitions are ready to hit full stride

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

Waking up to a chill in the air in recent days tells Sideline Sid that the cricket gear has been put away for the winter break, and that the local Baywide club rugby competitions are ready to hit full stride.

A shortened Baywide Premier first round competition, where teams play just nine games in the 12 team first round, has put extra pressure on the contenders to make the top eight that will fight out the premiership in June and July.

The Baywide promotion/relegation, where the bottom four drop down to contest the premier two championship, sees every game as a must win encounter from season start.

Defending premier one champions Te Puke Sports have carried on from last year and sit alone at the top of the standings, with an unbeaten beginning to the season.

Two points back, lurks a newcomer to the top echelon, in last years premier two winner in Rangiuru, who have posted two victories and a draw.

Under the mentoring and guidance of former All Black and New Zealand Sevens star Tanerau Latimer, the Te Puke region side will worry a few opposing coaches, who face Rangiuru in the upcoming qualifying rounds.

There is a logjam two further points back, with Whakarewarewa, Rangataua, Te Puna, Mount Maunganui and Rotoiti all sitting on eight points apiece, from two wins and a draw.

With no bonus points available this season, there is extra urgency on teams to nail close encounters and not rely on getting within seven points or grabbing four tries, to pick up consolation points.

While it's early days, multiple Baywide premier champions Tauranga Sports sits in the early danger zone being two points in arrears of Greerton Marist, in ninth place in the standings.

Already in trouble and facing relegation to the premier two division in the second part of the season, are Arataki, Te Teko and Opotiki, who languish without a win at the bottom of the standings.

Looking into his crystal ball, Sideline Sid is prepared to put his top eight predictions on the line, in this weeks blog.

Te Puke Sports are hot favourites to top the premiership qualifiers and take out the premier first round trophy.

With the bottom three sides, already looking likely to be relegated to the premier two division, there will be a likely arm wrestle for the remaining seven spots in the top echelon.

My picks (in order) to make the premier one cut, are Te Puke Sports and Te Puna who provided Whakarewarewa with a 52-26 loss wakeup call last weekend, with Mount Maunganui, Rangataua, Rangiuru and Whakarewarewa hot on their heels. However the final two places could be a race to the line, between Tauranga Sports, Rotoiti and Greerton Marist, with this writer seeing Greerton missing the top eight.

However, only time will tell - with inclement weather and injury tolls, coming into play, of who will progress and who will be relegated.


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