Rugby: Tight battles
The race for the Stan Meads Cup semifinals will go down to the wire with three teams in each of the two sections having the opportunity to qualify for the top four crossover play-offs next weekend.
A battle will take place in section one, where Central (Rotorua) Bay of Plenty will host Eastern Bay of Plenty at Emery Park at the Rotoiti Rugby Club headquarters.
With a win apiece and separated by a solitary point, the winner of the Bay of Plenty sub-union clash will book a semifinal berth.
To give the encounter an extra edge, the Bay sub-union prize of the Te Hurinui Apanui Shield will be on the line.
While the form book suggests defending Stan Meads champions Te Awamutu should defeat Thames Valley B and book a home semifinal - the Valley team will be primed for combat.
In their first match, the Valley side led Eastern Bay at halftime and they also put up a brave showing against Central Bay last weekend.
Te Awamutu will take the Peace Cup into the Heartland curtain-raiser at the Paeroa Domain.
The long-time Auckland provincial trophy has undergone a new lease of life since becoming the Stan Meads Cup challenge trophy, which is on the line in the round robin play and crossover semifinals.
Piako earned their place at the top of the section two standings with a solid win over Western Bay of Plenty in the Western Bay last weekend.
The team, centred on Morrinsville with support from Matamata and Cambridge, played no-frills rugby to defeat Western Bay 34-20.
This week, they meet Hamilton with the winner likely to book a home semifinal.
The failure of Western Bay to take any bonus points from their match-up with Piako could cost the Bay of Plenty side dearly.
Even if they defeat King Country B at Greerton Park in the Western Bay, they could still fail to qualify for the semifinals.
The King Country visitors will be no pushover as they gave Hamilton a huge fright last week leading by 10 with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
Stan Meads Cup draw: September 1 - Week Three: Central Bay of Plenty v Eastern Bay of Plenty, Emery Park - 2.30pm
Thames Valley B v Te Awamutu, Paeroa Domain - 12.30pm
Western Bay of Plenty v King Country B, Greerton Park - 2.30pm
Piako v Hamilton, Campbell Park Melville - 2.30pm
Section One: Te Awamutu 9, Eastern Bay of Plenty 6, Central BOP 5, Thames Valley B 0.
Section Two: Piako 9, Hamilton 7, Western BOP 5, King Country B 0.
Tennis: Valuable practice
This year's Kiwifruit Coast seniors tennis tournament was played in perfect conditions last weekend and gave the host club, Gate Pa, a chance to show off their renovated clubhouse.
More than 140 players from all over the North Island competed in three divisions in the men's and women's sections.
The tournament gave several players valuable practice before heading to Croatia next month for the world senior tennis champs.
Top seeds in men's division 1, Gate Pa's Peter Blow and Otumoetai's Jason Young lived up to their top seeding.
However, they were pushed in a competitive semifinal by Jeff Crichton (Ak) and Mike Clapshaw (Nthl) before coming through 11-8.
In the final, watched by a large gallery, they proved too strong and polished against Feleti Sofele (Ak) and Ken McIntyre (Waik).
Young's powerful groundstrokes off the forehand combining with Blows' deft net touches meant they were always in control in the final.
Service strength meant their opponents were always on the back foot having to come up with exceptional returns to exert some pressure on their opponents.
Blow and Young won 11-5 in a highly entertaining and skilful final.
The women's division 1 final went all the way with surprise finalists, the well-performed combination of Ann Volmuller/Deb Willumsen (BOP), pushing favourites Penny Smith (NthH) and Maurren South (WBOP) to 11-10 with the tiebreaker going to 11-9.
These two combined well with the forehand power of Smith allowing South to pick off returns at the net.
Mens: Division 1 Peter Blow/Jason Young (WBOP); Division 2 Tim Hughes (WBOP)/Ray Bos (Waik); Division 3 Bryn Williams/Neville Stevenson (Nthl)
Womens: Division1 Penny Smith (NHrb)/Maureen South (WBOP); Division 2 Sylvia Wilmhurst (WBOP)/ Sandra Glennie (Wang); Division 3 Caro Gately/May-Anne Woods (Waik)
Mixed: Division 1 Ken McIntyre/Cassandra Kidd (Waik); Division 2 Mike Ross (WBOP)/Karen Cranston (Wang); Division 3 John Sturkenboom/Mary-Anne Woods (Waik).
Rugby: Comps kick-off
Trial matches, team selection and pre-season encounters are now behind the five Bay of Plenty representative teams, who all kick off their Northern Region competitions tomorrow.
The Bay of Plenty Development team are straight into the fray with a trip to the City of Sails to play Auckland B.
With huge catchments of players, the Auckland side have a number of players pressing for first-team berths and are sure to give the Bay visitors a torrid introduction to Auckland representative rugby.
However, the Bay Development team had a good warm-up for this weekend's clash when they played a strong Taranaki Development team in the Steamers curtain-raiser at Baypark last weekend.
They led the Taranaki side by seven at halftime and then emptied their bench to give all players a run, before going down 52-36.
A home game at Te Ariki Park awaits the Bay Under-20 team.
The cream of the Bay of Plenty age group players will also meet their Auckland counterparts in what is expected to be another tough assignment. Coaches Kane Parker and Jamie Davis were heartened by their side's performance in a pre-season hit-out, when they held the Taranaki Under-20 team to a 34-all draw.
Also making the journey to Auckland is the Bay of Plenty Under-18 representatives who will meet Auckland East.
With players drawn from Bay of Plenty secondary schools, there is always a mix of city youngsters and their country cousins.
The geographic spread of the Bay of Plenty team is illustrated with players drawn from Trident High School to Reporoa College, alongside strong representation from the Tauranga and Rotorua secondary schools.
The two Bay of Plenty Under-16 representative sides are on the road with the A team travelling to North Harbour while the B team will play Waikato.
Both teams had successful warm-up encounters for their first round of the Northern Region competition.
The As squeezed past Hawke's Bay 24-21 in their traditional fixture in Taupo, while the B team defeated Thames Valley 28-5.
BOP Development v Auckland B, Mount Wellington War Memorial Park - kick-off 2.30pm
BOP U20 v Auckland, Te Ariki Park - kick-off 2pm
BOP U18 v Auckland East, Bell Park Auckland - kick-off 1pm
BOP U16 A v North Harbour, East Coast Bays RC
BOP U16 B v Waikato, Waikato
Women's rugby: Back from dead
In tandem with the establishment of women's sevens in the Bay of Plenty is the revitalisation of the Bay of Plenty women's rugby competition.
Three club teams and a Bay of Plenty Secondary Schoolgirls team kicked off the Baywide competition in mid-August.
In addition, the Bay Secondary Schoolgirls representatives will play in a provincial schools competition sandwiched in between the Baywide rounds.
One of the major advocates for a Bay women's rugby competition is former Black Fern and Opotiki women's coach Exia Edwards. "While women's rugby has been alive in a couple of Bay clubs, the teams have been playing just one game a season for the past few years. After a highly successful women's tournament last year, there has been a desire to play more than one game a year."
Opotiki and Rangitaiki will represent the Eastern Bay alongside Rotorua's Ngongotaha and the Bay Secondary Schoolgirls.
The Bay youngsters are also playing in a regional schoolgirl tournament, with the draw accommodating the Bay girls, allowing them to play in both competitions.
"I have been coaching the Opotiki Sports women's team since 2000 and are happy to co-ordinate the draw, with the response from the players having been overwhelming," Edwards said. "This is a great opportunity to develop our young players and for the more experienced players to get back into quality rugby."
This Saturday Ngongotaha will host Opotiki Sports, while the Bay Secondary Schoolgirls will play Counties Manukau in the first round of the Regional Secondary Schoolgirls competition.
Bay of Plenty Rugby Women's competition draw
1st September: Ngongotaha v Opotiki Sports, Ngongotaha.
8th September: Rangitaiki v Opotiki Sports, Edgecumbe Domain
15th September: Opotiki Sports v Ngongotaha, Opotiki; BOP Secondary Schoolgirls v Rangitaiki, Rugby Park Whakatane
22nd September: Rangitaiki v Ngongotaha, Edgecumbe Domain
29th September: Ngongotaha v Rangitaiki, Ngongotaha Domain; BOP Secondary Schoolgirls v Opotiki Sports, Rugby park Whakatane
Provincial Secondary Schoolgirls Draw
1st September: BOP Secondary Schoolgirls v Counties Manukau, Counties Manukau
8th September: BOP Secondary Schoolgirls v Waikato, Bay of Plenty
22nd September: Northern Region Finals Day,