Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Rugby: Derbies add spice to championship

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Tauranga Sports first five John Dodd in possession against Te Puke Sports back in May.
Tauranga Sports first five John Dodd in possession against Te Puke Sports back in May.

As much as the opening round matters to players, coaches and supporters, it is the Baywide Championship round that will be remembered in years to come.

Adding intrigue to tomorrow's championship opener is the return of the "three eights" format that proved popular several seasons ago.

Premier One, Premier Two and Division One grades of eight teams will take centre stage, with Mount Maunganui Sports the form team after winning the opening Premier round by seven points from Tauranga Sports.

The Mounties face a stern test away at Te Ariki Park against an in form Rangataua side while another local derby with intensity is between Te Puna and Greerton Marist at Maramataga Park.

In a repeat of last year's final, Te Puke Sports host Tauranga Sports at Murray Salt Stadium.

Te Puke finished the end of round one last weekend with a convincing win under lights over Arataki but defending champs Tauranga Sports were given a staunch reminder of how competitive the top eight is after being beaten at home by Whakatane Marist.

Tauranga Sports coach Zane Winslade admits that defeat has taught his team a few valuable lessons.

"Whakatane Marist really played well last week and we'll be better because of that," he said. "A loss like that is probably a lot more beneficial than having a comfortable win, so in that respect I am glad we've had that experience and we will use it as a chance to learn and move forward.

"Through solid set piece and an aggressive defence we are hoping to expose some weaknesses in Te Puke and capitalise on the opportunities that show up in front of us.

"We have a special emphasis on winning the collision and the gain line."

Te Puke Sports coach Craig Jeffries says this is always a difficult time of the year for everyone involved with teams.

"June historically has been a tough month for club rugby, with pressure on numbers due to flu and injuries. This year it certainly looks like again that is going to be the case with a number of players unavailable," Mr Jeffries said.

"But, ready or not, the championship round is here, and we've got Tauranga Sports first up. They are always a huge challenge and this year especially so when you factor in they have lost a couple recently, which will fire them up, and the sound hiding they gave us in the first round. But we have been quietly going about our work and have started to improve so I'm hoping for a much better effort this time around."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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