Demon-like defence has secured Rotoiti a berth in this year's Baywide premier club rugby final.
In a nailbiter against Tauranga Sports, Rotoiti smashed and bashed any player who wore a white and blue jersey and carried a ball. On a damp and windy Tauranga Domain, Rotoiti beat the home side 13-10 at the weekend, booking themselves a finals berth against Te Puke Sports on the same turf on Saturday.
Almost like a repeat of last year's semi-final between Tauranga Sports and Whakarewarewa, the home side started slowly and never really fired.
The normally reliable boot of Tauranga's first five-eighths Nic Evemy was off target, landing only one from three.
On the other hand, Rotoiti took every chance on offer with first five Whakataki Cunningham, opening the scoring with a penalty at the six-minute mark and kicking three from three.
If Tauranga had a game plan, it was either forgotten or lacked imagination with the side continuously running it one out from the ruck and meeting a wall of Rotoiti defenders who were more than happy to try and ground each player into the muddy pitch. The only Tauranga forward who looked threatening was big Pingi Talaapitaga who busted through a tackle to offload to Evemy who ran 20m to score Tauranga's one and only try, in the 11th minute, which he converted.
On the rare occasions when Tauranga did run the ball wide they managed to find space and get over the advantage line but those moments were too few to make any real impact.
With the wind at their backs, Rotoiti opted to keep the ball in hand rather than kick and were soon awarded for their perseverance at the 18-minute mark, when Tauranga were pinged at the breakdown for not releasing the tackler. Cunningham landed the 30m kick and the score would remain 7-6 until the break.
One of the biggest match-ups was between to two No8s: Rotoiti captain Jesse Acton and Carl Axtens. Acton probably won the tussle, showing his class off the back of the Rotoiti scrum, which often found itself going backwards at scrum time.
But both players showed class in the tussle and would have kept Steamers coach Kevin Schuler, who was watching from the sideline, a happy man with his decision to select both players for Bay of Plenty this season.
Like the first spell, Tauranga were caught napping after the break. From the kickoff, Rotoiti found a little gap down the left flank. Winger Willie Seywell grubber-kicked through for Tauranga's fullback Jeremy Cave to pick the ball up 5m from his goal line. Instead of kicking for touch he held his ground, was scragged by the Rotoiti chasers and driven back over his line for a 5m scrum feed to the visitors.
From the scrum, the ball squirted out the back, halfback Curtis Van Der Hayden scrambled for it, ducked under the tackle of his opponent Lewis Hancock and found open space on the blindside to score in the corner. Cunningham converted to make the score 13-7.
A Hancock penalty 10 minutes later took the score to 13-10 and despite several forays by both sides into each other's halves neither side could add any extra points. Tauranga had a chance to level the score on the hour when Rotoiti were penalised for offside but Hancock couldn't convert.
In the last 15 minutes Tauranga threw everything into their attack to try to score but Rotoiti's defence was solid and they deserved the victory.
Rotoiti coach Wayne Ormond said he was proud of his side's efforts.
"It was pretty physical and the boys knew they would have to work hard. I think we set the level in that first 20 [minutes] but it was whether we could do it for 80 minutes and [they] showed they could.
"Their character showed through, our fitness levels were behind [Tauranga] but our character pulled through."
Ormond said his captain's performance to get over the advantage line from the back of the scrum was the catalyst for the team's win.
"That's been his quality all year and I think one of the reasons he has been given the honour to [make] the Bay squad."
Acton said the team were determine to exact revenge for their last performance against Tauranga, when they were beaten 78-5.
"Words can't describe how I feel about the win. It's wicked, from the hiding they gave us, to beat them this time, it's pretty special."
To fall at the penultimate hurdle a second year in a row was gut wrenching for Tauranga captain Adam Robinson, who had to watch more that 45 minutes of the match from the sideline after suffering an injury.
"To be honest, I just think Rotoiti played are really outstanding game. We made mistakes at crucial times and Rotoiti's defence is unreal. I think our defence was really strong in the first half.
"Our only blunder was [3 minutes] after the [break] which let them get that try, which ultimately let them win the game really and both teams defended like mad ... They just manned-up against us."