Rotoiti have played their hand just right and come up with a royal flush, securing a home semifinal against Rangataua.

They did their part on Saturday with a bonus-point 31-12 win over Whakarewarewa before the stars aligned and losses for Rangataua and Te Puke meant Rotoiti finished the round robin in second place.

The result also means the Tai Mitchell Shield will remain in the Rotoiti trophy cabinet until next season.

They have found a formula that works in recent weeks - battering opposition teams up the middle with their monster forward pack.


Just as you have to boil the spuds before you can mash them, you have to win the battle up front before you can spread it wide, and that's exactly what Rotoiti did on Saturday.

It was a nervy start to the game as both sides produced handling errors in pursuit of dominance, but Rotoiti showed great confidence when awarded a penalty inside the Whaka 22 and opted for a scrum rather than a shot at goal.

The decision paid off as they shifted the ball left, No 8 Jesse Acton produced an offload before the ball was shifted wide for winger James Solomon to score in the corner.

First five-eighth Whakataki Cunningham, who had the ball on a string all afternoon, produced an inch-perfect conversion from the sideline to make it 7-0.

Rotoiti had Whaka camped in their own half and after about 30 minutes they had their second try.

They had a scrum inside the Whaka 22 on the right hand side of the field.

After several phases flanker Joshua White made a good burst up the middle before producing a perfect offload for hooker Willie Royal to score under the posts.

Whaka had opportunities to assert some dominance but every time they began to build some momentum their handling let them down.

Right on halftime Rotoiti extended their lead on the back of a penalty.

Again they turned down a shot at goal, knowing a bonus point for four tries could be crucial, and kicked for touch inside the Whaka 22.

From the lineout the forwards kept the ball in hand for several phases before shifting it right where Cunningham straightened up, stepped his man and crashed over to score.

Rotoiti led 21-0 at the break.

SPEED: Rotoiti's Te Ra Whata attempts to evade the Whakarewarewa defence. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER
SPEED: Rotoiti's Te Ra Whata attempts to evade the Whakarewarewa defence. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER

Whaka showed they weren't going to make things easy for their local rivals and came out strong in the second half.

They were rewarded when centre Chauncy Edwardson straightened up inside the Rotoiti 22, drew defenders in and put winger Reuben Edwards over in the corner.

Leading 21-5, it was Cunningham's boot which got Rotoiti back into decent field position.

The ball fell to Rotoiti halfback Shaquille Stone off the back of a lineout and he showed blistering pace to race through a big gap and score the bonus-point try.

With 10 minutes left to play Rotoiti cemented the win when Acton went blindside off the back of a scrum and cruised over untouched to score and make the lead 31-5.

However, the fun wasn't over for the huge crowd that had gathered as Whaka finished the game with one of the tries of the season.

They won a penalty on their own tryline and, with nothing to lose, decided to produce some champagne footy.

They took a quick tap and spread the ball wide before charging upfield. The backs produced offload after offload to navigate their way around desperate defenders before first five-eighth Ryubyn Vaipo dived over under the posts.

Rotoiti coach Willie Royal said it was an "awesome" effort from his side.

"I was a bit apprehensive today, I didn't know how the day would go.

"I think we played good structured, solid rugby and the forwards did the job again. As long as they are going well we are in the hunt.

"We competed well at the breakdown, turned over their ball which put pressure on them. They have a good backline but we stopped them getting good ball," Royal said.

He said retaining the Tai Mitchell Shield meant a lot to the club.

"We were thinking about playoffs as well, but we said if we play for the shield it will take care of the playoff spot.

"Whaka did well. They haven't had the best of seasons but they deserve congratulations for sticking with it."

Whaka coach Joe Savage, whose side's injury woes were highlighted by the fact he played in the front row, said Rotoiti took their opportunities and "stuck to their guns".

"They played a simple style and we just failed to make those crucial tackles at crucial times.

"We try to play a high tempo style of rugby but it didn't work for us today."

He was pleased with the way his side fought back in the second half.

"We showed a lot of character at times.

"Obviously at the beginning of the year we were looking at finishing top four and making semifinals, and we started the season that way, but unfortunately couldn't pick up a win in the second round."

He was proud of the way his side continued showing up in what was a tough season.

"The guys that turn up week in and week out, Tuesdays and Thursdays, definitely deserve a beer tonight.

"All the best to Rotoiti, I hope they do it and bring that cup back these ways, back to central Bay where trophies belong."