Junior Rugby: Selection controversy lingers

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Fallout from Saturday's contentious Western Bay of Plenty JMC junior rugby finals day could linger for weeks after Mt Maunganui Sports won the under-11 final at Blake Park using players who had earlier been stood down from taking part in the playoffs.

Mt Maunganui, unbeaten for four seasons in JMC, downed Tauranga Sports 17-8, with the game going ahead after several weeks of controversy around Mount's use of four players who were dispensated at the start of the season to play down a grade in the under-11s when their age meant they should be playing in the under-12 grade. Te Puna complained ahead of their semifinal against the Mount, questioning Mount's use of the players when all four had trialled to play rep rugby in the Ellis Shield under-12 side.

Two of the players were stood down from taking part in the playoffs at a special meeting of the Western Bay JMC committee, while the others were deemed to be under the maximum weight limit for the under-11 grade and allowed to play.

Mount appealed the ruling on the grounds the dispensation rules were unclear and open to interpretation, and no rival teams had requested during the season that any of the dispensated players be stood down because they were too dominant in games.

Mount's appeal was dismissed by the JMC committee.

Two of the boys were named to play in the semifinal, with Tauranga Sports giving assurances they wouldn't force either player to miss the final, and, despite not being listed in the programme, Tauranga Sports gave in to Mount Sports' pleas and let them play 10 minutes each - a decision that has angered many Tauranga Sports parents:

"The Tauranga Sports coach, being the good guy he is, let the two boys take the field just to save anything unsavoury occurring, but there's plenty of people unhappy with what has gone on, the threats that were made and the way Mount went about it, effectively thumbing their nose at the Western Bay ruling.

"Under-11 rugby should be about fair play and these boys are outstanding players, which isn't the way it was represented at the start of the season when they were given dispensation to play down from their proper grade. They should have played in their right grade and it's made a mockery of the whole thing."

Mount Sports also savoured victory in the under-10 final, beating Tauranga Sports 47-22. Paengaroa's Eastern Districts won the other two titles on offer - the under-12s 47-17 over Papamoa and the under-13s, with a last-minute penalty giving them a 32-31 win over Te Puna.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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