What a rollercoaster the last couple of weeks have been for Tauranga Sports.
In the final game of the Premier 1 round robin they were hammered 58-12 at home by Te Puna. It was a game during which Tauranga struggled for continuity in attack and a real momentum killer going into the knockout stages.
On Saturday, they hosted the defending champions Te Puke in the semifinals and produced quite the turn around. Tauranga Sports were back to their attacking best as they ran in tries from all over the field to win 49-32 and book their spot in the final.
Tauranga Sports coach John Dodd was visibly emotional after the game, swelling with pride at what his team had achieved.
"I'm just so proud of the boys, we had to come through a bit of adversity. We haven't got the deepest squad this year and some of those guys had to go 80 minutes and played some awesome attacking rugby.
"I think last week, Te Puna did a really good job of disrupting how we played. I thought the way that Te Puke play would suit our attack system and I was confident that if we came here today and played like we have been the last few weeks we could take care of business.
"It was always going to be a massive effort on defence, that was our focus this week. If we could stop them on defence our attack would take care of itself, I'm really proud of the effort."
The match was effectively won by Tauranga Sports either side of halftime.
The first half was predictably tense and hard-fought as each side sized up their opponent. However, with the scores locked at 13-all, Tauranga winger Connor Fifita finished off a nice attacking play to score under the posts. The try was converted and Tauranga took a 20-13 lead into the break.
Five minutes into the second half, Fifita was in for his second, this time on the back of a miraculous offload by fullback Peni Lasqa Jnr.
Tauranga Sports ran in another two tries in quick succession and 15 minutes into the second half they had cruised to a 39-13 lead.
That is when Te Puke started to mount a comeback. Bay of Plenty Steamer Luke Campbell and New Zealand Under-20 star Cole Forbes came off the bench in the second half and were both heavily involved.
Campbell showed typically excellent support play to finish off a scoring move and reduce the deficit before Forbes set up a try for second five Dan Hollinshead with a perfect offload.
Te Puke scored a third try in quick succession, through winger Declan Barnett, and were right back in the contest, trailing 39-32 with 15 minutes to go.
The crowd were right into it at this stage and it appeared to be a fairly even split of home and away supporters, riding every moment with great enthusiasm.
With about seven minutes left on the clock, Tauranga were awarded a penalty 40m out which second five Seamus Bardoul kicked to extend the lead to 10 points.
Tauranga added another converted try in the dying moments to send the home crowd wild and book a place in the final.
Te Puke manager Ross Flexman said "things just didn't go our way".
"There were a couple of intercepts there that they capitalised on. They started out well but our boys came back in the second half. I thought they were coming through there but it just wasn't our day."
He said it had been a good season but disappointing to fall at the final hurdle.
"You want to go right to the final but that's sport. Tauranga played well and deserved their win. They played a good game, put a lot of pressure on us and capitalised."
In the other semifinal, Te Puna were clear favourites to beat Greerton at home. However, nobody told Greerton that.
The away side tossed out the form book and punched well above their weight, as they have done all season, to hold a slim one-point lead in the final stages of the match.
But, it was not to be. Te Puna kicked a drop goal at the death to snatch victory and ensure they will play a home final in their centenary year.
Baywide Men's Club Rugby Semifinal Results
Te Puna 33 Greerton Marist 31, Tauranga Sports 49 Te Puke Sports 32.
Premier 1 Development:
Te Puna 49 Rangataua 7, Te Puke Sports 36 Tauranga Sports 27.
Te Teko 15 Waikite 0, Marist St Michael's 24 Arataki 22.
Premier 2 Development:
Ngongotahā 29 Marist St Michael's 13, Te Teko 22 Opotiki 12.
Paroa 18 Reporoa 10, Judea 18 Murupara 17.
Katikati 92 Galatea/Waimana 17, Edgecumbe 37 Eastern Districts 11.