Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Rugby: Top eight battle starts

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Tauranga Sports winger Phillip Togotogorua touches down in last week's win over Te Puke Sports.
Tauranga Sports winger Phillip Togotogorua touches down in last week's win over Te Puke Sports.

Tension is building at both ends of the points table with just three matches to play in the opening round of the Baywide Premier competition.

At the end of the round the 12-team Premier and Division One divisions will be split into three eight-team competitions in round two - Premier, Premier Two and Division One.

So the battle to make the top eight takes on huge importance.

In one of the tightest competitions in recent years there are six teams still not certain of making it in to the new Premier division.

The top three of Whakatane Marist (35 points), Tauranga Sports (34) and Mount Maunganui Sports (33) will fight out the first round title over the next three weeks.

But with four points for a win, any one of the next six clubs could drop into the bottom four.

Te Puna (23), Rangataua Sports (22), Te Puke Sports (22), Rotoiti (19), Whakarewarewa (17) and Greerton Marist (17) are locked in a battle royale.

Tomorrow Te Puke host Whakatane and Rangataua welcome Whakarewarewa in games with impact at both ends of the top eight calculations. Greerton and Te Puna have more favourable draws hosting Eastern Bay clubs, while Rotoiti are home to improving Arataki.

But the game of the round is at Blake Park.

In-form Mount Maunganui and Tauranga will do battle.

Mount Maunganui coach Rodney Voullaire says it is quite easy to get his boys up for the Battle of The Bridge game.

"Both teams are top eight contenders so it will be great to be able to let the reins off the boys and let them have some fun with it. This will be great to see for both teams," Voullaire said.

"The best thing about last week's match was we had the opportunity to trial some new guys and give the guys off the bench a whole lot of game time.

"Our main goal is to win the competition. We have little goals to complete also, which we have been completing game by game, but also to make top eight which we have done."

Tauranga Sports' coach Zane Winslade says they will approach this game the same as they have done in the last few.

"Playing the Mount is a big test for us and the team is looking forward to it, but it doesn't matter who we are playing - we remain focused on our own game and raising our standards every week," Winslade said.

"Key focus is executing our core skills to a higher standard than last week and in addition to that we need to improve our discipline at the breakdown.

"This week we will be working a lot on our skill development and execution and building on some other things that will be important in the second round of the competition."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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