Baywide semi-finalists found after frantic final round

By Peter White

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Te Puke Sports v Te Puna Baywide rugby game. Terence Hepetema celebrates a try to Mike Bidois. Photo/Andrew Warner.
Te Puke Sports v Te Puna Baywide rugby game. Terence Hepetema celebrates a try to Mike Bidois. Photo/Andrew Warner.

The sudden change of emotions among the Te Puna players minutes after the final whistle on Saturday told a sad story.

The euphoric scenes after they held out Te Puke Sports for a 34-28 win quickly subsided as news filtered through Rotoiti had upset leaders Mount Maunganui Sports.

That ended Te Puna's Premier 1 semifinal hopes as they finished fifth, a point behind Rotoiti with Tauranga Sports third, Rangataua Sports second and Mount Maunganui top.

Te Puna's clash with Te Puke at Murray Salt Stadium on the "It's Not OK" campaign awareness day was worthy of a final but both sides have missed the cut for semifinals.

Te Puna looked up for the battle more so than their hosts for much of the game and led 20-14 at the break with live wire No 8 Hamish Boyce scoring two tries.

They scored two more in the second half to Shahn Eru and Mike Bidois, and with Keegan Long kicking goals from everywhere they led 34-14 with 15 minutes left.

Cue Te Puke to finally fire up and they flew home with Hayden Anderson and Aidan Ross touching down. The final play was a frantic dive for the ball over the Te Puna line with the bounce of the ball favouring the visitors.

Te Puna coach Daniel Quate was rightly proud of his team's achievements this season.

"Today was brilliant. We carried on from last week (Tauranga Sports) where I thought we played really well. It was only 5-3 but we played a heap of attacking rugby for that five.

"Last time we played Te Puke they pushed us around at scrum time and I think we got one over them there, our lineout was good as well and obviously we just hung in there at the end.

"Our fitness levels are much better than other clubs realise.

"We timed our run reasonably well so it would have been nice to have got another week.

"But to knock over Te Puke, Mount and Tauranga in one season, I don't think we have done that for a long time so we will take that out of it anyway."

Te Puna completed a proud double over Te Puke after winning the early game 32-20 to finish top of the Development 1 division.

A point worth noting looking ahead to the grand finals day to be held on August 6 is none of the Bay of Plenty Steamers players will be allowed to play in any final.

That may not be quite as destructive for the top clubs as in past years as the talent has been spread well across the Bay of Plenty this season. Premier 2 clubs Arataki and Whakarewarewa have three and four squad players respectively.

In next Saturday's Premier 1 semifinals Mount Maunganui host Rotoiti at Blake Park and Rangataua are home to Tauranga Sports at Te Ariki Park.

In Premier 2 top qualifier Whakarewarewa will host Arataki and Paroa host Poroporo while Judea and Rangiuru have home semifinals after finishing top of Division 1.

Full results, points tables page 27

- Bay of Plenty Times

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