Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Rugby: Standout sides continue to impress

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Western Heights High School and Te Wharekura o Mauao continue to be the 1st XVs to beat in the Bethlehem Coachlines Secondary Schools division one competition.

The two standout teams this year added to their impressive run of form with comfortable wins on Saturday.

Western Heights easily accounted for Otumoetai College 52-3 in Rotorua while in the local derby Bethlehem College put up a spirited second half performance before succumbing 34-7 at home to Te Wharekura o Mauao.

Bethlehem got off to the perfect start on their own home pitch with a try to flanker Greg Lees, converted by Xavier Albert within three minutes of the start.

But despite all their endeavour, particularly in the second half when they dominated territory with a strong tail wind, Bethlehem were unable to score again.

Much of that can be put down to outstanding defence from Te Wharekura o Mauao, who look well drilled and capable of scoring from deep in their own half.

Centre Te Aparua Tata finished off a good team effort to score their first try, followed soon by a barnstorming run to the tryline by second-five Kiripa Clarke.

Flanker Taituha Woller scored to stretch the lead further before the best individual effort of the game came from left winger Joe Dinsdale, who took off from halfway and skinned the defence with a classic winger's outside swerve.

Leading 24-7 at halftime, it did not take Te Wharekura o Mauao long to add to their tally when halfback Ronin Ainsley slid over.

Fullback Jake Gardiner made it 34-7 with a fine individual effort but credit to Bethlehem for dominating the final 20 minutes of the match, even if handling errors under relentless defensive pressure cost them a try or two.

Te Wharekura o Mauao assistant coach Rewi Hamilton praised his team's defensive effort.

"Our strength today was our communication on defence. Our fullback [Jake Gardiner] works well monitoring the line, talking up the defensive line so that was excellent," Hamilton said.

"A good game is always won on good defence. The boys work hard on defence and they work as a unit to achieve that. We like to play direct actually but after that the space seems to open up for the boys to show what they can do."

Bethlehem coach Brendon Phillips is pleased with the progress his side has made.

"I am pretty happy with where we are at," he said. "Five games on the road, which was just the way the draw ran, was difficult but it built a bit of toughness in our boys.

"Wharekura and Heights have been the two teams to beat all season. [Today] we fell off a few tackles, lost a little bit of intensity and we also lost two players in the warm-up with illness."

Bethlehem College play Aquinas College at 6pm at Te Puna's Maramataga Park tomorrow night before both teams leave this weekend to compete in the Gold Coast Rugby Carnival.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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