Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Rugby: Matches kept tight as winter bites

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Rangataua Sports and Te Puna forwards battle for possession in tough conditions at Te Ariki Park on Saturday. Photo / Andrew Warner
Rangataua Sports and Te Puna forwards battle for possession in tough conditions at Te Ariki Park on Saturday. Photo / Andrew Warner

Winter rugby conditions hit the Western Bay of Plenty with a vengeance on Saturday.

Spectators, fullbacks and wingers shivering with the cold, mud-covered jerseys and faces making it almost impossible to identify the players, and cold showers at some venues - it was a tough day all round.

The difficult conditions meant mostly low scoring and forward-dominated battles in the Baywide Premier 1 round three matches.

Leaders Mount Maunganui Sports won a war of attrition against Te Puke Sports 17-13 at Blake Park, Greerton Marist edged Whakatane Marist 18-17 in a deserved away victory, while Tauranga Sports reversed their round one home defeat to Rotoiti with a 12-5 win at Tauranga Domain.

But Rangataua Sports proved the exception to those close margins with a 24-0 bonus-point win at Te Ariki Park over in-form Te Puna.

Three weeks ago Rangataua won a thriller between the sides at Te Puna but this result was never in doubt from the moment mobile prop Kemble Smith won the race over the line after a lazy clearance from Te Puna first-five Keegan Long was charged down.

Former New Zealand Maori, Hurricanes and Steamers halfback Ruki Tipuna, playing at first-five outside the promising Akira Mako, slotted the conversion from out wide.

It was the first of many telling contributions from the experienced Tipuna who guided his team around the sodden field like he had his own personal GPS device.

Tipuna set up Rangataua's second try with a superb touch finder to within 5m of Te Puna's line. Rangataua captain Matt Clutterbuck won the lineout and with help from a couple of eager backs his pack pushed over the try line.

Referee Shane McDermott awarded the try to second-five Paranihi Lovett.

Up 12-0 at halftime Rangataua were determined not to let the pressure off as they did last week in letting Rotoiti grab a late draw.

Te Puna helped their cause no end with poor handling that turned over a glut of possession to the home side.

Tipuna clinched the match when he reacted quickest to scoop up the ball lying clear of a ruck on the Te Puna side to score unopposed.

His conversion attempt from out wide hit the power lines but at 17-0 it was all over.

Lock Ezra Johnson burst clear after a smart pass from Frost to clinch the deal 24-0 and send Rangataua into a share of second place on the table with Te Puna.

Tipuna said just making the top four playoffs was not the goal driving Rangataua.

"Once we got our attitude right like we did today, if we can keep that right there is no reason why we don't win it rather than top four. We are a good team," he said.

"To get a win today with four tries and to keep them scoreless was pretty awesome.

"Until today we had been playing well in patches so after last week we had a chat about how to win games and close games out, so we focused on that today and we looked good."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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