Rotoiti have started the Baywide Premier 1 competition with a bonus-point 34-22 win over Tauranga Sports, quite the turnaround from the 58-15 hammering they received last time the two sides met.
For long periods the game, played at Rotoiti's Emery Park on Saturday, looked like it could easily go either way, but Rotoiti's class and superior scrummaging got them across the line.
Rotoiti put themselves under pressure early on after failing to deal with the kickoff. Tauranga sensed the opportunity and, after a patient spell of possession, winger Tyrone Keith sliced through a gap on the right to score the opening try.
Rotoiti hit back shortly afterwards and it was their hard-running forwards who set the platform, rumbling into the Tauranga 22m. After turning down a couple of easy kicks at goal, they made the breakthrough when second five Whakataki Cunningham scooped the ball up from the back of the ruck to dive over next to the posts. The try was converted and the score was locked at 7-all.
Both sides had good spells of possession during the first half but a lack of killer instinct and some inspired defence meant scoring opportunities were limited. Tauranga kicked a penalty to lead 10-7 before Rotoiti's Abraham Tito crashed over from close range. The try was converted and Rotoiti led 14-10 at the break.
Rotoiti kicked a penalty early in the second half to lead 17-10 before extending the lead to 24-10 through a try to Steve Coffin from close range.
Tauranga Sports kept themselves in the hunt with 20 minutes to play when second five Jone Lagibola made a rapid cut inside from the left wing to score under the posts. The conversion reduced the deficit to 24-17.
Rotoiti won a penalty in front of the posts and there was some debate among the players, who knew they needed one more try for a bonus point, before they decided to take the three points on offer and a 27-17 lead.
Tauranga Sports refused to go away and with 10 minutes left they were in again through flanker Jeriah Mua to make it 27-22 to Rotoiti and ensure a nervy finish for the home side.
There were several stages throughout the second half in which Rotoiti were under pressure, but it seemed their forward pack grew stronger as the game went on and got them out of a few sticky situations with some monster scrummaging.
They spent the last five minutes camped inside the Tauranga 22m, throwing everything at their opposition in search of a bonus point. They made the breakthrough right on fulltime through winger Tumua Cunningham to cap off a perfect start to Premier 1.
Rotoiti coach Richard Francis said all the credit for the win had to go to his forward pack.
"It's a good start, we just stayed in the arm wrestle in the first half and we always knew at the back end of the game we were going to bring on some energy and it worked today. Our forward pack as a whole got us the win today.
"That was the turning point, bringing on fresh players to dominate at scrum time. Tauranga are a good side though, they'll be thereabouts at the end," Francis said.
Tauranga Sports coach Euan Mackintosh said it was a competitive game, but he wanted his side to "stay in it" for the full 80 minutes.
"We had passages of good play. When we've got the ball and we're playing the way we want to play we're scoring good tries, but it's not enough to do that and then not be able to exit properly," Mackintosh said.
Farmlands Co-operative Baywide Club Rugby results
Farmlands Co-operative Baywide Premier 1
Whakarewarewa 24 v Greerton Marist 21
Te Puna 39 v Rangataua 24
Rotoiti 34 v Tauranga Sports 22
Te Puke Sports 34 v Mount Maunganui Sports 0
Farmlands Co-operative Baywide Premier 1 Development
Greerton Marist 17 v Whakarewarewa 10
Te Puna 53 v Rangataua 7
Tauranga Sports 37 v Rotoiti 12
Te Puke Sports 27 v Mount Maunganui Sports 17
Farmlands Co-operative Baywide Premier 2
Te Teko 25 v Waikite 15
Rangiuru 41 v Ngongotahā 40
Arataki 65 v Whakatāne Marist 26
Ōpōtiki 67 v Paroa 5
Farmlands Co-operative Baywide Premier 2 Development
Te Teko 55 v Waikite 14
Ngongotahā 35 v Rangiuru 5
Arataki 26 v Whakatāne Marist 17
Ōpōtiki 40 v Paroa 24
Farmlands Co-operative Baywide Division One
Kahukura 25 v Murupara 21
Ruatoki 30 v Papamoa 17
Marist St Michael's 45 v Poroporo 21
Judea 17 v Waimana 5