Rugby: A showdown with style

By Ben Guild

Tauranga Sports has set the bar high so far this year.Vaughan Bidois, Te Puna coach The old boxing adage goes that styles make fights.

It was that way with Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, and with Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti.

In that spirit, the premier Baywide rugby clash between Tauranga Sports and Te Puna this weekend shapes as quite a scrap.

Tauranga Sports coach Mike Rogers is happy with how his side has been travelling and is looking forward to a good game of running rugby against an expansive Te Puna outfit.

"Te Puna is a really good team. They play differently to most of the other teams - they're willing to take us on a little bit wider which is good," said Rogers.

"We end up having some pretty good battles with them with plenty of attractive rugby from both teams. We always look forward to playing them because we know that they will have a go.

"For us it's about sticking to what we do and having the confidence that we might not break them down in the first minute - it might take 60 or 70 minutes - but it's about having that belief that it will come."

Te Puna coach Vaughan Bidois concurs, saying his side is fizzing ahead of a test against the only remaining undefeated side left in the competition.

"We're looking forward to it. Tauranga Sports has set the bar high so far this year, they're a pretty well structured and clinical team that likes to play with a bit of width so we've been trying to work on countering that this week. The boys are pretty excited about the opportunity.

"A win would be huge because we've only ever beaten them once before."

His side has its work cut out - no side has been able to prevent the title favourites from reaching 20 points so far this season.

Tauranga Sports' thumping of Te Puke Sports last week has given them an eight point lead at the top of the table, with the defending champions suddenly surrounded by three other teams looking to push themselves into position for a home semifinal later in the year.

Greerton Marist and Te Puna sit in third and fourth place respectively - just one point behind Te Puke Sports - with fifth-placed Whakarewarewa a further point back.

The match between Whakarewarewa and Greerton Marist is another fixture with top four implications.

Marist are unbeaten in the last month after starting the season with two consecutive defeats - one an inexplicable loss against Paroa in round two.

Whakarewarewa have a four win, two loss record after six rounds, but those victories have been against the bottom four sides in the competition.

Their two defeats have come against the two top teams, so upcoming matches against Marist, Mount Maunganui and Te Puna will give a reasonable guide on the team's prospects.

Te Puke Sports will attempt to get their campaign back on track when they host Opotiki at Murray Salt Stadium.

Coach Craig Jeffries admitted his side were soundly beaten by the competition leaders last week, but his unit should have a better time of it this weekend despite missing a couple of key forwards.

A loss would undo their good work and place them on the brink of falling out of the top four for the first time this year.

Opotiki are coming off handing out a 41-11 hiding to Paroa in round six, their first win since the opening round.

Mount Maunganui and Rangataua host Paroa and Rotoiti in the round's other matches.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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