The Farmlands Co-operative Baywide rugby season can be compared with a 1500m race on the track.
There is the early jostling for places, sorting out who is going to make the main pack in the first two laps to contest the sprint home and can the pacesetter hang on to contest the final sprint down the back straight.
We have had all of that and more so far in this season's opening round of the Premier grade, with pacesetter Te Puna leading from the start to be well clear with two weeks left to play. Rotoiti, Tauranga Sports and Te Puke Sports make up the top four with Greerton Marist, Mount Maunganui Sports, Rangataua Sports and Whakarewarewa in the pack making up the top eight.
Arataki, Ngongotaha, Paroa and Whakatane United have fallen off the pace and will contest the second tier Premier 2 competition.
In wet weather on Saturday there was a ferocious battle of the forward packs when Te Puke hosted Rotoiti at Murray Salt Stadium.
The visitors from Rotorua dominated possession but in wet conditions playing territory is the key to winning. Against a fired-up Te Puke defensive line, they struggled to make any headway.
Defence was the heart and soul of Te Puke's 22-10 victory.
The tireless loose forward trio of captain Danny Underwood, Jacob Jansen and Joe Johnson led the staunch tackling effort while centre Declan Barnett made the biggest individual tackles of the day.
Jason Robertson put on a master class in the key pivot role of first-five eight, keeping the ball in front of his forwards towards the corners and not missing a kick at goal.
Robertson played in Japan alongside Dan Hollinshead last year and is contracted to Bay of Plenty Rugby. He attended Aquinas College and after an earlier stint with Waikato says he is loving being back in the Bay.
Other stand-outs on a difficult day for rugby were mobile locks Tim Bond, home from a season with the Sunwolves in Japan, and Lars Morrice.
Te Puke player/coach Matt Wallis says defence is all about attitude.
"There are times we can get offside and get a bit excited but I was happy with the effort. They are getting fitter with what we are doing each week at training and that is starting to pay off.
"The result didn't really matter so much to us today. We are about continuing to get better and continuing with our effort. Obviously we want to keep winning but we are looking for opportunities for guys to step up and keep moving forward to the start of the second round."
Rotoiti coach Richard Francis was disappointed with the lack of tactical awareness shown by his team with a large share of possession to play with.
"We just took wrong options with the ball and didn't play the right end of the field. We did a lot of work in our own half but should have been kicking for the corners like they did in the first half.
"It is always good to lose though because you find out where your weaknesses are."
In division 1 Rangiuru had a remarkable 48-0 win away to Waikite.
Farmlands Co-operative Premier
Rangataua 81 Paroa 3, Te Puke Sports 22 Rotoiti 10, Mount Maunganui 15 Ngongotaha 3, Tauranga Sports 107 Whakatane Marist 10, Te Puna 53 Arataki 0, Greerton Marist 23 Whakarewarewa 16.
Judea 36 Waimana 10, Marist St Michaels 18 Ruatoki 17, Te Teko 41 Kahukura 14, Rangiuru 48 Waikite 0, Opotiki 39 Papamoa 7, Poroporo 18 Murupara 0.
Te Puke Sports 52 Rotoiti 12, Mount Maunganui 22 Ngongotaha 22, Tauranga Sports 26 Whakatane Marist 0, Te Puna 39 Arataki 0, Greerton Marist 10 Whakarewarewa 0, Rangataua won by default from Paroa.
Toi Ohomai Baywide Secondary Schools
Baywide 1st XV Division 1
Western Heights High School 14 v Rotorua Boys' High School Barbarians 10
Tauranga Boys' College II 19 v Te Wharekura O Mauao 22
Rotorua Boys' High School II v Trident Heights High School — no result received
Baywide 1st XV Division 2
Otumoetai College 0 v Te Puke High School 38
Tauhara College 32 v Whakatane High School 0
Tauranga Boys' College III 7 v Aquinas College 36
Papamoa College 28 v Bethlehem College 12
Baywide 1st XV Division 3
Reporoa College/John Paul College II 27 v Tarawera College 5
Rotorua Boys' High School 15A v Mount Maunganui College — no result received
Opotiki College — Bye, Katikati College — Bye