Baywide rugby semifinals this Saturday

By Peter White

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FINALS PRESSURE: Rangataua Sports and Tauranga Sports will meet in one of the semifinal matches across the Bay of Plenty tomorrow. PHOTO/FILE A_090416aw13BOP
FINALS PRESSURE: Rangataua Sports and Tauranga Sports will meet in one of the semifinal matches across the Bay of Plenty tomorrow. PHOTO/FILE A_090416aw13BOP

It was on a sultry, late summer weekend in March when the 2016 Baywide competition began across the far-flung Bay of Plenty region.

From Katikati to Opotiki aspirations were high among players, spectators and club officials that perhaps this would be their year to add a trophy to the dusty cabinets that are pride of place in most clubrooms.

Who gets a new piece of silverware will become clearer after tomorrow's semifinals across the various divisions of the Baywide competition.

At the top end in the Premier 1 grade neutral rugby supporters will be pleased to see Rangataua Sports are hosting a semifinal against Tauranga Sports at Te Ariki Park.

Last season Rangataua finished eighth and back in March not many of even their most staunch supporters would have backed them to get this far.

The combined rugby experience and leadership of flanker Matt Clutterbuck and halfback/first-five Ruki Tipuna has been formidable and with Steamers Lalakai Foketi and Chase Tiatia cutting loose in the backline they have been hard to beat.

Defending champions Tauranga have won more titles than any other club but this season has been anything but a vintage one while Te Ariki Park has not been a lucky place for them over the years.

Rangataua coach Aramahou Ririnui says winning the Baywide title for the first time is now in their sights.

"But we have to get over the next hurdle first and that's beating Tauranga Sports at home," he said.

"Without a doubt Tauranga Sports will bring their A game on Saturday, because of the result the last time we met (won 31-30) and also having played in semifinals before.

"We are ready for the game with a good mixture of talented, young and experienced players, who can be relied on to do the job."

For Tauranga coach Zane Winslade the focus is to continue to play with pace and composure.

"We know Rangataua will look to spoil, and deliberately slow down our ball, so we want real accuracy in what we are doing in those areas.

"We have a lot of respect for Rangataua and we know we are going to have to work bloody hard for 85 minutes to win it but we are also going to enjoy the challenge and embrace the opportunity."

All season long Mount Maunganui Sports have been the team to beat.

They won the first round title and have cruised into their home semifinal against Rotoiti at Blake Park.

Speed to burn out wide has troubled their opponents all season and if new Steamers fullback Isaac Te Aute and Mason Walker get some space watch out.

Veteran captain Chris Elvin and Matty Axtens are a force in the loose and the front row of Solomona Sakalia, Seb Siataga and Leigh Hughes will not back down to anyone.

Last week at Emery Park Rotoiti upset the form book by beating the Mounties and the team from beside the beautiful Lake Rotoiti just love being the underdogs.

They will miss Steamers hooker Joseph Royal (broken thumb) but have a top performing pack driven by Zac Hohneck and Baden Wardlaw.

Semifinals draws Page 31

- Bay of Plenty Times

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