Three yellow cards and a red, persistent whistle blowing and passionate supporters venting their feelings ... welcome to the opening day of the 2015 club rugby season.

The revamped Western Bay Premier and Development grades began on Saturday in what is supposedly a gradual easing into the season before the Baywide round begins on May 2.

But no one told the players at Murray Salt Stadium as perennial rivals Te Puke Sports and visitors Tauranga Sports hoed into each other like it was grand-final day. Tauranga held on to claim a 20-16 victory despite being a man down for the final 15 minutes.

Former Steamers captain Wayne Ormond wins a lineout for Tauranga Sports against Te Puke Sports.
Former Steamers captain Wayne Ormond wins a lineout for Tauranga Sports against Te Puke Sports.

Steamers legends of different eras, Culum Retalick and Wayne Ormond, were part of a hard-working Tauranga pack well led by captain Carl Axtens, while Te Puke blooded a top prospect at openside flanker in Jacob Janson.


There was much to like about the effort and mostly positive intent shown by the players but referee Brett Johnson seemed to find fault at almost every breakdown as he whistled a merry tune that fell on deaf ears around the ground.

Players and spectators were left bewildered at the number of penalties and set pieces that ruined the spectacle.

The lack of cohesion and phase play contributed to off-the-ball niggle that blighted the game. Halfbacks by nature are the smallest players on the park and need the most protecting from cheap shots but both Te Puke's Jonno Kitto and Tauranga's Brent Hamlin were pounded throughout the game.

Tauranga Sports debutant John Dodd, wearing the No10 jersey, was sent off after two yellow-card offences.

It was a shame for Dodd, who is back from playing in Russia, as he looks a welcome asset to the Bay's first-five ranks.

His opposite, Dan Hollinshead, just back from NZ Under-20 trials along with prop Aiden Ross, controlled play well for Te Puke.

The two fullbacks new to this level in Tauranga's Jesse Dodundki and Te Puke's Robbie Jones looked outstanding counterattackers and with luck they may get a chance to run the ball more in future games.

Tauranga Sports 20 (Dan Crowther, Hamish Gosling tries; John Dodd 2 cons, pen; Nick Evemy pen) Te Puke Sports 16 (Gideon Uelese try; Dan Hollinshead con, 3 pens). HT: 13-13.