Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Rugby: Te Puna seek revenge against rivals

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Zar Lawrence is part of an in-form Mount Maunganui Sports backline to front up against Te Puke Sports tomorrow. Photo / Andrew Warner
Zar Lawrence is part of an in-form Mount Maunganui Sports backline to front up against Te Puke Sports tomorrow. Photo / Andrew Warner

Te Aihe Toma normally spends Thursday night training with his Te Puna team at Maramatanga Park.

But yesterday he was in Oamaru as the starting halfback for the Highlanders in their friendly against the Crusaders.

The multi-talented 23-year-old got the call-up with both regular Highlanders halfbacks Aaron Smith (All Blacks) and Fumiaki Tanaka (Japan) away on international duty.

Toma has been in the Bay of Plenty Steamers squad for three seasons without having a regular starting role but has been on the radar of Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph for the last two years.

But Toma's good fortune means he will miss captaining Te Puna against Rangataua Sports tomorrow in what promises to be a typically robust encounter between the two arch rivals.

Te Puna lie second in the new Premier 1 competition after two wins with Rangataua just outside the top four following a loss and a draw.

Rangataua are never easy to beat at their home ground of Te Ariki Park and, with a big crowd expected, will not lack encouragement.

"Every game in the top eight competition is going to be a tough one," coach Aramahou Ririnui said.

"Our approach into this weekend's game against Te Puna will be as per usual. Our focus is to trust our systems on attack and defence.

"Te Puna have had two wins in the two games played thus far, so they are on track to making the top four. However we will be concentrating on what we need to do to win on Saturday."

Te Puna will not lack motivation after losing at home to Rangataua three weeks ago.

"The last time we played is still very fresh in our minds when Rangataua managed to come away with the win at Maramatanga Park," Te Puna coach Daniel Quate said.

"We were really disappointed with that result and happy not to have to wait very long for another shot at them. Just like other weeks, our set piece remains a focus, along with our defence around the edges of the breakdown where they can be quite effective."

While that drama is unfolding at Maungatapu, high flying leaders Mount Maunganui Sports host Te Puke Sports at Blake Park.

After defeating Tauranga Sports 44-20 last week the Mounties will be eager to do the same to Te Puke.

The key to that is whether Te Puke allow their potent attacking weapons the freedom to run amok.

Mount Maunganui's in-form try-scoring fullback Isaac Te Aute grew up in Te Puke so will be a marked man, but closing down space for him and fellow sprinter Mason Walker is no easy task.

Te Puke travel to Blake Park in good form themselves after beating Greerton Marist 48-20 last week.

In the Baywide Premier 2 competition Whakarewarewa take on Arataki in Rotorua.

Arataki lost to Paroa last week which coach Marty Bourke said highlighted a few areas that "we needed to tidy up on and ... some of the core duties we were not doing well".

"We know how good Whakarewarewa have been playing and how they were unlucky to miss out on top eight. We need to do the basics better this week if we want to be competitive against them."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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