Te Puna pip Sports in thriller

Te Puke Times - - SPORT -

Just one point sep­a­rated the top two teams in the Bay­wide Rugby Premier­ship after a ti­tanic strug­gle at Mara­matanga Park last Satur­day.

Te Puke Sports sup­port­ers gave their usual loud vo­cal sup­port to their pre­mier team’s bat­tle with Te Puna. The re­sult­ing ac­tion pro­duced one of the best dis­plays of topech­e­lon club rugby seen in re­cent sea­sons.

The two Bay­wide 2018 cham­pi­onship con­tenders had a huge bat­tle of at­tack and de­fence, with both sides tak­ing few back­ward steps. The close­ness of the con­test was re­flected in the fact that each side scored three tries and three goals, the 22-21 score­line com­ing from one of Te Puna’s goals be­ing a penalty, while Te Puke’s were all con­ver­sions.

Te Puna winger Tana Tuhakaraina scored a try after 10 min­utes to give the blue-and­black brigade an early edge. With the clock tick­ing down in the first half, Ja­son Robert­son crossed for Te Puke Sports after good work down the left by winger Cur­tis Deane, and con­verted to give the vis­i­tors a nar­row 7-5 lead at the break.

After the break, a con­verted try to Zane Kapeli put Te Puna into the lead, with a Reece Macdon­ald penalty goal ex­tend­ing the Te Puna ad­van­tage to eight points. Te Puke’s Lalomilo Lalomilo came off the bench with dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect, fin­ish­ing off a sweep­ing at­tack and the con­ver­sion re­duced the deficit to a soli­tary point.

Kapeli grabbed his sec­ond try of the match and then Lalomilo Lalomilo did the same, to give Te Puna a pa­perthin 22-21 lead with min­utes re­main­ing.

The game con­cluded the Bay­wide Pre­mier First Round com­pe­ti­tion, which saw Te Puna take out the ti­tle with an un­beaten record while Te Puke Sports fin­ished just two points out­side the top four.

This Satur­day sees the start of the seven-week race to qual­ify for the Pre­mier Cham­pi­onship top four, who will play off for the Bay­wide ti­tle. Te Puke Sports start the sec­ond round with an away game at Mount Maun­ganui, kick­ing off at 2.45pm.

The en­tree to Satur­day’s main at­trac­tion was also a en­ter­tain­ing en­counter — with the Te Puna and Te Puke Sports De­vel­op­ment sides meet­ing for the first time since Te Puke de­feated Te Puna in ex­tra time in last sea­son’s Bay­wide De­vel­op­ment cham­pi­onship fi­nal.

Last Satur­day, Te Puke Sports made the early run­ning to lead 17-10 after the first 40 min­utes.

Te Puna stormed back to hit the front 20-17 and hold on to claim the win and the De­vel­op­ment First Round crown.

Rangiuru took out Di­vi­sion One First Round hon­ours sit­ting on the side­line, with Mu­ru­para de­fault­ing.

Their quest for a place in next sea­son’s Bay­wide Pre­mier com­pe­ti­tion be­gins on Satur­day with what is sure to be a tough test against vis­i­tors Ngongo­taha¯ in the open­ing Pre­mier Two game.

East­ern Dis­tricts kick off their Di­vi­sion 2 cam­paign on Satur­day with a home game against Katikati, the only side to have beaten them this sea­son, at 2.30pm.

PHOTO: STU­ART WHI­TAKER

Ja­son Robert­son goes in for Te Puke’s first try which he also con­verted to give his side a 7-5 half time lead against Te Puna.

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