Rugby: Big pressure games for six Bay clubs

Three matches between six teams sitting either side of the cut-off for semifinal places makes for an intriguing weekend of action in the Bayfair Baywide premier club-rugby competition.

The action is sure to be fierce with no fewer than five teams within one four-try bonus point win of fourth place.

Rotoiti will be out for their fifth straight win when they tackle Greerton Marist at Emery Park. The Central Bay of Plenty side, which seemed to be only making up the numbers after a loss to Paroa left them with a 3-6 record after nine rounds, have reeled off wins against Te Puke, Mount Maunganui, Opotiki and Whakarewarewa over the past month to put them right back in the hunt.

Only runaway leaders Tauranga Sports, Te Puke Sports and Greerton Marist have at least as many wins as Rotoiti's seven, with the sixth-placed side's two bonus points - second worst in the competition behind Paroa's one - proving the main hindrance to them reaching a top four spot.

The in-form side will however be well down on firepower following a tough week for the club's forwards.

Impressive flanker Jesse Acton had his season effectively ended on Tuesday when he sustained a broken leg in the opening moments of the Bay of Plenty Wasps' preseason match against the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium, while Joe Royal will not play after sustaining lacerations to his face in an alleged incident of foul play involving Te Puke Sports' Simon Chisholm, who will face the judiciary on Friday.

Marist will be out to cement their place in the playoff picture after wins against Paroa and Rangataua and losses to Tauranga Sports and Te Puna in the last month.

Opotiki's clash with Mount Maunganui is another match with plenty riding on it. The teams are in fifth and seventh place on the ladder respectively, and are both within one win of Te Puna in fourth-place.

The sides are coming off conflicting results in round 13, with Opotiki sure to be full of confidence after downing Whakarewarewa 38-8, while the Mount will be looking to get back on track after consecutive defeats to Rotoiti and Tauranga Sports in the last fortnight.

Te Puna will aim for their third win on the trot against desperate Rangataua at Te Ariki Park.

Rangataua are tied on 13 competition points with Paroa in a two-way race to avoid relegation, so every match from here on out is hugely important for both sides.

Rangataua are undoubtedly the hard-luck story of this year's competition. Their one win, one draw, eleven loss record fails to illustrate how many close games they have been in against quality opposition, with seven bonus points testament to the fact that they have only occasionally been convincingly outclassed so far this season.

The men of Te Ariki Park are on a collision course with Paroa set for July 13, but every point from now on will prove crucial come season's end.

Tauranga Sports have no such concerns. They remain perfect after 13 rounds and are faced with the very real proposition of running the table in the regular season.

What may prove most interesting over the next month-and-a-half is how coach Mike Rogers manages a roster that will be depleted come semifinal time due to a number of players being on Steamers duty.

It wasn't that long ago that Whakarewarewa were right in the hunt for a top four spot, but five defeats on the trot leaves them in a must-win situation this weekend at home against Te Puke Sports.

Greerton Marist sit in third place just five points back.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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