The 2019 Baywide Rugby season has been full of twists and turns and the last weekend of round one was no different. The 12 teams in the Premier grade were each battling for one of eight places in Premier 1 for the second phase of the competition and while the top seven were already decided, there were four teams still in the running for the eighth spot. All Rotoiti, Rangataua, Arataki and Te Teko could do was win their own games and then hope the other results went their way. Sports reporter David Beck runs his eye over how things panned out.
When Rangataua hosted Ōpōtiki at the weekend, they knew a win would all but secure their passage back into the Premier 1 division for phase two of the Baywide Rugby competition.
While they went into the final round level on points with Rotoiti, Arataki and Te Teko, the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union rules state that when two teams finish with the same number of competition points it is the side who won the head-to-head match between the two who finishes higher in the standings.
Rangataua did their part, hammering last placed Ōpōtiki 62-14, and were then able to celebrate as the other results rolled in and confirmed they were through. Te Teko lost to Te Puna and while Arataki beat Rotoiti 59-19, the fact they lost to Rangataua earlier in the season meant they missed out.
So the eight teams who will play in Premier 1 during the next round are Te Puke, Te Puna, Greerton, Rangiuru, Whakarewarewa, Tauranga Sports, Mount Maunganui and Rangataua.
Arataki, Rotoiti, Te Teko and Ōpōtiki will join the top four from Division 1 - Ngongotahā, Ruatoki, Marist St Michael's and Waikite - in Premier 2. Kahukura, Paroa, Murupara, Whakatāne Marist, Reporoa, Poroporo, Judea and Pāpāmoa will remain in Division 1.
Ōpōtiki's introduction to the highest level of Baywide rugby was tough one. They finished third in Premier 2 last year to start this season in the Premier grade but learned the hard way how big a step up it was, finishing last with nine losses from nine games. However, coach Richard Howe said there were positives to take from the experience.
"We had quite a few injuries from the start so we did start the season on the back foot. It's the nature of the game and the physicality, you're going to get injuries and we only have a limited number of players.
"But there were games where we competed and we have a lot of potential in our team. Most of the games we played pretty well in the first half but in the last 20 minutes is when teams piled points on us."
He said Ōpōtiki would re gather and approach the Premier 2 competition knowing if they can string a couple of wins together they can turn things around.
Meanwhile, at the top of the Premier grade, defending champions Te Puke had already cemented first place going into the weekend but had their unbeaten record and pride to play for against local rivals Rangiuru on Saturday.
Te Puke made a big statement and will carry valuable momentum into the second phase with a 50-27 win. Manager Ross Flexman said the atmosphere at Centennial Park on Saturday was second only to that of a final.
"There was a big crowd and it was a fantastic game. The boys played well, Rangiuru jumped out to a 12 point lead in the first 10 minutes but our boys settled down and it was 22-20 at halftime to Te Puke."
Flexman said the secret to Te Puke's success so far this year was simply self belief.
"It's just the boys believe in themselves and we were lucky from last year's team we only lost about four or five players.
"[Heading into the second phase of the competition] number one is we have to get into a semifinal and hit the finals. We just have to improve on our mistakes, the areas letting us down, review the videos, have a look and then work on it. The boys are all aware that we've got a big target on our back, we've known that from day one."
In Division 1, high-flying Ngongotahā maintained their own unbeaten record with a 26-8 win over Murupara on Saturday and will be one of the favourites in the Premier 2 competition.
Ruatoki were also already through to Premier 2 and finished the round on a high with a 46-12 win over Whakatāne Marist. Marist St Michael's beat Poroporo by default and Waikite beat local rivals Kahukura 19-13 to claim the other two spots in Premier 2.
Baywide Club results
Te Teko 17 Te Puna 45, Tauranga Sports 30 Greerton Marist 14, Rangataua 62 Ōpōtiki 14, Rangiuru 27 Te Puke 50, Rotoiti 19 Arataki 59, Mount Maunganui 31 Whakarewarewa 40.
Premier Development: Te Teko 0 Te Puna 47, Tauranga Sports 24 Greerton Marist 23, Rangataua 68 Ōpōtiki 5, Rangiuru 0 Te Puke 58, Rotoiti 24 Arataki 29, Mount Maunganui 29 Whakarewarewa 20.
Division 1: Whakatāne Marist 12 Ruatoki 46, Paroa 29 Reporoa 26, Ngongotahā 26 Murupara 8, Marist St Michael's def Poroporo by default, Kahukura 13 Waikite 19, Pāpāmoa 27 Judea 43.
Western Bay Senior Reserves: Eastern Districts 26 Te Puna 10, Matakana Island def Judea by default, Tauranga Sports 26 Greerton Marist 0, Katikati the bye.
Central Bay Senior Reserves Final
Ngongotahā 14 Marist St Michael's 25.
Eastern Bay Senior Reserves Final
Edgecumbe 22 Waimana 22.
Round one winners
Te Puke Sports
WBOP Senior Reserves:
CBOP Seniors Reserves:
Marist St Michael's
EBOP Senior Reserves:
Edgecumbe and Waimana (draw)
Baywide round two divisions
Te Puke, Te Puna, Greerton, Rangiuru, Whakarewarewa, Tauranga Sports, Mount Maunganui, Rangataua.
Arataki, Rotoiti, Te Teko, Ōpōtiki, Ngongotahā, Ruatoki, Marist St Michael's, Waikite.
Kahukura, Paroa, Murupara, Whakatāne Marist, Reporoa, Poroporo, Judea, Pāpāmoa.