The decision to revert back to a format of three tiers of eight teams in the Baywide Championship proved to be the right one in Saturday's opening round.

Club delegates made the call to move away from two 12-team divisions with the bigger picture of producing a stronger Bay of Plenty Steamers squad. To do that the top end of the club game had to be stronger by having fewer teams contesting each grade.

The Bay union also stood firm to insist a spread of the top talent around the clubs to ensure a more competitive playing field.

The Premier 1 scores from Saturday would indicate the new format is working with one match drawn, two won by seven points and the final game decided by just four points.


As far as competitive, hard-fought rugby goes it does not get better than that.

Te Puke Sports and Tauranga Sports had top billing in a repeat of last year's final and while injury and illness meant both sides were missing key players, the game was a typically intense battle throughout the 80 minutes.

Tauranga came away from Te Puke with the four points after a 19-12 win but they were the first to admit it could have gone either way.

Te Puke's usual sharp shooters Luke Campbell and Dan Hollinshead were unusually profligate kicking for goal while handling errors hurt the home side in the first half. But like the Crusaders, a history of success means a lot when the going gets tough and Tauranga knew how to hold on to win with their dominant set piece a force.

Steamers back Nick Evemy scored a 90m runaway try in the opening half that set up a 14-0 halftime lead for Tauranga in a telling moment. But Te Puke had every right to be disappointed they did not win a penalty from the ruck before Evemy struck.

Tauranga coach Zane Winslade said they would happily take the win.

"We reacted well and managed to score a couple of tries against the run of play and that was crucial. We probably weren't at our best in terms of looking after the ball or using our possession wisely," Winslade said.

"I feel we could have lost the game or drawn it if a few things hadn't gone our way but I am happy with the way our guys lifted their intensity this week at training."

In a first, Tauranga fielded three members of the Honey family with brothers Steve, George and Josh filling the back three positions.

In other games, Whakatane Marist and Rotoiti drew 22-22, Greerton Marist scored three tries to one but lost 29-25 to Te Puna thanks to seven penalty goals kicked by Keegan Long, while Drake Mount Maunganui Sports won a tough battle with Rangataua Sports 29-22 to retain the Jordan Cup.

In Premier 2 Arataki enjoyed a 55-5 win over Ngongotaha, and Whakarewarewa defeated Waikite 55-0, while Rangiuru and Judea got off to winning starts in Division 1.