Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

Baywide semifinals up for grabs in final round

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Mount Maunganui Sports Zar Lawrence races away to score against Tauranga Sports. Photo/Andrew Warner
Mount Maunganui Sports Zar Lawrence races away to score against Tauranga Sports. Photo/Andrew Warner

The 2016 Baywide club season is one of the most competitive in recent memory.

That is certainly the case in the top Premier 1 division with just tomorrow's final round to play before the semifinals next Saturday.

Drake Mount Maunganui Sports (28) and Rangataua Sports (23) will host semifinals but any two of Te Puke Sports (17), Tauranga Sports (16), Rotoiti (16) and Te Puna (14) will be their opponents.

On recent form it is anyone's guess who will make it.

The draw can be a cruel beast at this time of the year and certainly Rotoiti would have preferred not to be facing runaway leaders Mount Maunganui.

But they do have them at home at Emery Park where visiting teams often leave with just the memorable view across the lake for their troubles.

Defending champs Tauranga Sports have lost their last two games and travel to Whakatane Marist in desperate need of points and a confidence boost. They should prevail against a weakened Marist side but there have been plenty of upsets this season.

Without question the game of the round is at Murray Salt Stadium where Te Puke host Te Puna in what should be a ding-dong battle for a semifinals berth.

The boutique stadium will be rocking with a full house there to support Te Puke's charity fundraiser day for "It's Not OK" campaign, which will not help Te Puna's chances.

Both coaches say their teams are excited about the occasion and the hope of a semifinal reward for winning.

Te Puke mentor Craig Jeffries says everything is on the line in the last round for both teams.

"It is great for the spectators but not so flash for the stress levels of the coaches, but it's been like that for a few weeks now so I guess we should be becoming accustomed to it," he said.

"Te Puna will be on a bit of a roll after their win over Tauranga Sports last weekend and will be a mighty challenge as they kept themselves in playoff contention by doing so."

Te Puna are boosted by the return of Steamers midfielder Terrence Hepetema, who played a key role in the 5-3 win over Tauranga last week.

"It was nice to welcome Terrence back after an injury lay off and his contribution was immense," coach Daniel Quate said.

"Leading into this week's game it's great to have our representative players back for both trainings. Like all clubs we've had to make do with only having those guys for one session these last five weeks to accommodate Steamers squad trainings.

"To have them for both will be really beneficial and we're also hoping Shahn Eru will be available for selection this week.

"If we are lucky enough to get him back
we'll be close to our full complement of players which is rare for this time of year.

"I'm expecting Te Puke to be very strong at set piece and play quite a direct game.

"It should be a very exciting day with a lot riding on it."

Draws, points tables Page 27

- Bay of Plenty Times

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