Rugby: Favourites show hot early form

By Peter White

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Rangiuru centre Elijah Nicholas passes in the tackle of Mount Maunganui's Matt Golding in the opening round of Baywide club rugby. Photo/Andrew Warner
Rangiuru centre Elijah Nicholas passes in the tackle of Mount Maunganui's Matt Golding in the opening round of Baywide club rugby. Photo/Andrew Warner

The opening round of the new Baywide club rugby season kicked off on Saturday under hot summer temperatures that stretched the players' pre-season conditioning to the limits.

But no matter what the weather gods may throw at the players, it was business as usual for the perennial title favourites as Tauranga Sports, Mount Maunganui and Te Puke Sports all started the new season off with bonus point wins.

Defending champs Tauranga Sports sported a new look side as they scored five tries to four in a spectacular opening clash at Rangatau's home ground in Maungatapu.

Gone was last year's Steamers-laden squad as a new youthful core of players, including four stepping up from colts and First XV rugby, showed plenty of resilience to defend a torrid final 10 minutes from Rangataua.

Mount Maunganui were honoured to play the first Baywide game at promoted Rangiuru's impressive Centennial Park and trailed the fired up home side at halftime. But a dominant forward pack, and fortuitous intercept try, saw the Mounties through to a valued win against Rangiuru, coached by two former Bay of Plenty greats in Peter Woods and Mark Basham.

Te Puke Sports jumped out to a match-winning 18-0 lead at halftime away to Greerton Marist and then held off a late flourish from the home side to win 24-19.

Steamers winger Elliot Hagan and last year's Tauranga Boys' College pivot Dan Hollinshead enjoyed winning debuts.

Whakarewarewa won the Rotorua derby against Rotoiti 14-6 while Opotiki showed they will be as tough as ever to beat at home by knocking over Te Puna 24-14.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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