Today's Baywide Premier game between Rotoiti and Whakarewarewa has all the ingredients of a scintillating match-up.

The Tai Mitchell Shield is up for grabs, the game is being played on Anzac Day, a day of remembrance, and these are two sides who love nothing more than getting one over their local rivals.

The hosts Rotoiti moved into the top four with a 79-7 hammering of Whakatane Marist on Saturday. The comfortable manner in which they won gave them the chance to rest players towards the end of the match, knowing they had a short turnaround before the midweek game against Whakarewarewa.

Meanwhile, Whakarewarewa received a confidence boost via a last-minute 27-25 win over Te Puke. That result moved them into sixth place.


Rotoiti captain Baden Wardlaw said his side was prepared for a physical battle.

"That's always been the case when it comes to Whaka. It's always a hard-fought local derby no matter where we are on the standings or who's in form. Both teams are equally passionate when it comes to these games and when you throw in the Tai Mitchell on the line and it being Anzac Day, the boys are pretty fired up."

Rotoiti's winger Shilo Cullen in action against Ngongotaha earlier this season. Photo / Ben Fraser
Rotoiti's winger Shilo Cullen in action against Ngongotaha earlier this season. Photo / Ben Fraser

Wardlaw said it was always a game the players looked forward to and the fact it was being played on Anzac Day made it even more special.

"We've talked a bit this week about Anzac Day - we all put on our private Facebook page what it means to us and put up photos of our grandfathers who fought in the war. That was a pretty cool idea from our coach Richard Francis."

Wardlaw has long led from the front for Rotoiti and is starting to be recognised for higher honours. He made his Bay of Plenty Steamers debut last year, spent four weeks playing in the Chiefs development squad and is now in camp as injury cover.

"They always give me clearance to come back and play for Rotoiti. I'm learning heaps, the knowledge I'm gaining from that Chiefs camp is unreal.

"I definitely try to bring that back to the club and help out the other boys."

Whakarewarewa head coach Boxer Smith said his players were looking focused ahead of the game.


"We're talking about the Tai Mitchell Shield being up for grabs and playing with a bit of pride in the local derby, putting it all on the line for that.

"It's huge, it's always huge. This has been the Rotorua derby for a few years now and they boys will be up for it, they're excited."

Whakarewarewa's Matt Garland in full flight against Te Puke. Photo / Stephen Parker
Whakarewarewa's Matt Garland in full flight against Te Puke. Photo / Stephen Parker

Smith said one of Rotoiti's strengths was the size and power of their forward pack.

"We have to at least hold our own, if not dominate in that area to allow our backs a bit of freedom. We've got some good young backs who are really stepping up this season.

"It is special to be playing on Anzac Day and that's another thing we've talked about - remembering those who went to war for our country. A lot of the boys have ancestors who fought in the war, so it's even more special."

Rotorua's other Premier side Ngongotaha sit in ninth place after a win over Paroa at the weekend. They face a tough trip to first-placed Te Puna today.
Baywide Premier Club Rugby Draw
Today (Premier kick-off: 2.45pm, Development kick-off: 1pm):
Greerton v Tauranga Sports at Greerton Park, Paroa v Whakatane Marist at Lawson Park, Rotoiti v Whakarewarewa at Emery Park, Te Puna v Ngongotaha at Maramatanga Park, Te Puke v Arataki at Murray Salt Stadium.

Baywide Division One Draw
Today (kick-off: 2.45pm):
Kahukura v Judea at Kuirau Park, Te Teko v Murupara at Dunderdale Park, Waikite v Ruatoki at Bellvue Road, Marist St Michael's v Opotiki at Marist Park, Waimana v Rangiuru at Waimana Domain, Poroporo v Papamoa at Poroporo Park.