Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Rugby: Battle heats up for final spots

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Captain Matty Axtens (left) and Jonty Woods have been key players driving Mount Maunganui Sports to the top of the Baywide Premier competition. Photo / Andrew Warner
Captain Matty Axtens (left) and Jonty Woods have been key players driving Mount Maunganui Sports to the top of the Baywide Premier competition. Photo / Andrew Warner

Who will fill the last place in next round's top eight Premier competition may well depend on the winner of the clash between Greerton Marist and Whakarewarewa tomorrow.

Greerton hold eighth place, on 22 points, with Whakarewarewa a point behind but both teams are just a win away from moving past Rangataua Sports (23) and Rotoiti (23) who clash at Te Ariki Park in Maungatapu.

With just two rounds to go it will be an intriguing battle for the final places.

Greerton Marist and Whakarewarewa meet at Greerton Park after they both won last weekend.

But Greerton Marist coach Kevin Lee says they will need to improve to meet the challenge from Whakarewarewa.

"They have strong forwards, a strong midfield and a couple of key game winners including Te Rangi Fraser," Lee said.

"We will have to overcome them by having some luck on our side and hoping they have an off day."

Whakarewarewa coach Kopae Irihei says "a win is the most important thing for everyone this weekend, not just us but Rangataua, Rotoiti and Greerton too".

"There is only one point that is separating us so we are all fairly desperate for a win this weekend. It is a do or die weekend.

"We need to win. We will kick on where we have gone from the last couple of weeks. Even though we may have struggled, it is important just clicking over those wins. It has been a telling factor for us as long as we keeping our head in there we are still in the right place.

"Nothing changes in terms of our preparation. We have been watching with interest what has been happening with Rotoiti, Rangataua and Greerton over the last few weeks with the video analysis.

"But I am sure they have all been doing the same thing. For us it is about getting our structures right, our lineouts and scrums. We have made huge improvements this year and hopefully our backs see a bit of ball this weekend with weather permitting."

At the other end of the table second-placed Whakatane Marist will want to get over their hiding from Te Puke Sports with a good performance at home against leaders Mount Maunganui Sports.

The race for the Division 1 title and one of four spots available in the new Premier 2 division is just as tight.

A key match tomorrow is between Waikite and Rangiuru in Rotorua.

"Every game from now on, the next two games especially, are very important. We need to win both of them to secure our place in the top four," Rangiuru coach Joby Reid said.

"Waikite have a very strong forward pack, they have always played their game on a forward game, so we need to be up to the task ourselves."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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