Te Puna pip Sports in thriller
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.
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.