It was four months ago when rugby players across the Bay of Plenty began the journey to make the semi-finals of the Farmlands Co-operative Baywide competition.
Now, after 18 games, that moment arrives at 2.45pm tomorrow for Premier 1, Premier 2 and Development teams, with the final configuration of the top four not decided until the final whistle blew last weekend.
In Premier 1, the inside running to the final rests with Te Puke Sports. They have been clearly the best team in the competition since the outset of the Championship round and are clear favourites to take their third Baywide title after previous success in 2011 and 2012.
In recent matches they have put 50 points or close to it on title rivals Te Puna, Tauranga Sports and Greerton Marist, ahead of tomorrow’s semi-final showdown with defending champions Mount Maunganui Sports.
The team with the famous pirate logo may not have the most Bay of Plenty Steamers or even Academy players, but sometime in sport it is the sum of the parts that matters rather than a few individual stars. Certainly Te Puke’s pack has not been bettered this season, and they have the best halves combination in Luke Campbell and Jason Robertson.
Early season leaders Te Puna host the other semi-final against eight-time champions Tauranga Sports at the natural amphitheatre at Maramatanga Park.
Te Puna, in the play-offs for the first time, have steadied after a form slump last month and, if given the opportunity, have the backs to cut any defence to pieces.
The last match between the sides saw Tauranga Sports show their title credentials in a superb opening 40 minutes. This game is certain to be tight.
In Premier 2, Arataki and Rangiuru have made the semi-finals and a start in next year’s Premier 1 opening round, which was a major goal when they kicked off their seasons.
Te Teko host Arataki in one semi tomorrow with Rangiuru away to Opotiki in the other.
In the Baywide women’s semis, to be played at 1pm Sunday, Rangiuru are at home to Whakarewarewa while Rangataua Sports host Waikite.