Rugby league: Home derby early grand final - Pikiao coach

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BIG CLASH: Pikiao will meet Ngongotaha in tomorrow's Rotorua derby. Pictured is Pikiao player Pirikawana Taiatini (with ball) playing against Central this season. PHOTO/BEN FRASER 180514BF14
BIG CLASH: Pikiao will meet Ngongotaha in tomorrow's Rotorua derby. Pictured is Pikiao player Pirikawana Taiatini (with ball) playing against Central this season. PHOTO/BEN FRASER 180514BF14

Tomorrow's Rotorua derby between Pikiao and Ngongotaha feels like a grand final, says Pikiao coach Doug Unuwai.

Rotorua's two best rugby league teams will meet at Puketawhero Park in the Bay of Plenty District premier competition.

"Pikiao and Ngongotaha are big rivals and to us it is a really big game," Unuwai said. "Playing them is like playing in the final each year."

The round nine fixture has extra significance tomorrow, with both teams currently locked on 12 competition points.

Meanwhile, the top four sides in the premier competition - Pacific (Tokoroa), Pikiao, Taupo and Ngongotaha - are only separated by two competition points.

Unuwai said it was the closest he had seen the table in years and a win tomorrow was very important.

He said he had a big pool of players to pick from with plenty of players turning up at trainings.

"It gives me a headache, but a good headache," he said.

"I used to have headaches thinking about who will turn up and if I could get a team together, but now the depth in the club is really good."

Unuwai said Ngongotaha were the dark horse in the competition this year and were playing good footy.

Ngongotaha recorded a run of five straight wins earlier this season which featured a big win against defending champions Pacific.

Similar to Pikiao, Ngongotaha have brought up a number of their under-18 players this year.

There should be a good crowd at Puketawhero Park tomorrow with three other premier and reserve grade games played there.

Central (Rotorua) will host Forestland (Tokoroa) tomorrow at Puketawhero.

Central defeated Mangakino in a close match during the last round, but the win was overturned for fielding unregistered players.

In the other premier match tomorrow, Pacific will play Taupo in a top-four clash at Memorial Park in Tokoroa.

This weekend is also the last round of competition before the first representative teams are chosen.

The Town versus Town and Country versus Country matches will be played next weekend as selection matches for the Town versus Country match on July 5.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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