The Farmlands Co-operative Baywide club rugby season showcased the abundant talent within the region.
Te Puke Sports and Rangiuru took the major spoils in the men’s competitions, with Te Puke winning both the Premier 1 and Development titles and next door neighbours Rangiuru the Premier 2 title.
Rangiuru won an extra time thriller 36-32 against Opotiki played in the Eastern Bay and will contest next year’s Premier 1 round one competition.
Te Puke needed all their significant rugby smarts to eventually subdue a magnificent defensive effort from first-time finalists Te Puna in the Premier 1 showdown.
The final scoreline of 27-13 may indicate a comfortable win for the home side but it was anything but. Only in the final 10 minutes through the boot of new Steamers first-five Jason Robertson did Te Puke make safe their third Baywide title.
Te Puke enjoyed a lion’s share of possession and territory in the first half but were repelled time after time on their own line by an inspired defensive effort, highlighted by some huge hits from centre Will Ngatai and winger Tana Tuhakaraina, to the delight of their large travelling support.
The dominant figure among the forwards was Te Puke lock Kane Le’aupepe, who scored the opening try of the match and led by example throughout. The former Wellington Lion is sure to be a success for the Bay of Plenty Steamers in the Mitre 10 Cup.
Te Puke’s lead at the break was just 11-10 after a typical dart for the line saw Te Puna captain Te Aihe Toma score. The margin stayed the same until the 68th minute when former Blues Under 18 centre Lalomilo Lalomilo slipped off a rare missed Te Puna tackle and raced 40 metres for the match-winning try.
The celebrations at full time were heart felt and deserved for the Te Puke players and coaches, while there was plenty of pride among the Te Puna supporters for their brave team.
It was a special rugby day to savour.
In the women’s final, home side Rangataua Sports edged Rangiuru Sports in a 22-21 thriller.
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