Sport in the Bay
Whakarewarewa versus Rotoiti is as intense a local derby as you are ever likely to find in club rugby.
The pride of the region is at stake with everyone involved in the match – playing or watching - having grown up with the rivalry.
Winning the Baywide competition or at least securing a spot in the top eight Premiership is a key goal but getting one over their neighbours in this fixture is what excites the staunch supporters of both proud clubs.
With none ever taking a back step the passions can sometimes spill over. But after a handshake and a hongi it is all forgotten and the after match celebrations can begin.
Usually the games are close but last Saturday the home side Whakarewarewa were too strong in winning 55-7.
The sight of Rotoiti’s former captain and Bay of Plenty Steamers lock Baden Wardlaw having a mighty game for Whakarewarewa may not have sat well with his former team or supporters. But in the modern age club hopping is far more common than it once was.
Whatever the reason for his move, Baden proved that his time under the tutelage of Clayton McMillan and the other Bay of Plenty coaches has paid massive dividends. Look for him to be a force to be reckoned with for the Steamers later in the year at Mitre 10 Cup time.
As for Baywide Premiership standings, the big win for Whakarewarewa puts them fifth equal with Tauranga Sports on 16 points after seven of the opening 11 rounds of rugby to find the top eight teams to compete for the Baywide title.
Their position in the top eight should be safe enough. They have a big game this coming Saturday at Paurenga Park against Rangiuru Sports who are the second best team in the competition so far behind their local rivals Te Puke Sports.
Rangiuru’s player/coach Tanerau Latimer has proved to be an inspiration on and off the field with the former All Blacks, Chiefs, Steamers and All Blacks Sevens legend making the difference.
Another player to stand out has been new captain Isaac Te Aute. The former Rotorua Boys’ High School superstar now looks comfortable at halfback after growing up playing winger or fullback.
His natural speed from the base of the ruck and snappy passing is reminiscent of All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith plus Isaac can fill a utility role off the bench.
But the outlook is not so bright for Rotoiti. They are in the middle of a real scrap to fill the eighth position on the Premiership table. The loss to Whakarewarewa has Rotoiti on eighth points along with Rangataua Sports and Te Teko.
One of those three will likely fill the last spot. Rotoiti are away to unbeaten Te Puke Sports this weekend so will look to target Arataki at their scenic home ground at Emery Park on May 18.
That game is an absolute must-win.