Sports correspondent & historian
We are now leading into the business end of the Baywide rugby year for the remaining contenders.
Baywide highs and lows during the club season will range from the disappointment of underperformance, to what might have been with a little luck, through to the hopes of victory in semi-final and finals action for the remaining contenders.
Western Bay of Plenty teams feature predominately in this weekend’s semi-finals, with the premier one and Premier One Development title races being Western Bay shutouts.
Te Puna finished as top qualifier in premier one, after thrashing previous Baywide champions Tauranga Sports 58-12 at the domain on Saturday. They play the big improvers of the season in Greerton Marist at Maramatanga Park in the weekend semi-finals, with the top echelon grand final being fought out at the Western Bay rural park if the blue and black brigade prevail.
In other premier one semi-final match, Tauranga Sports take on defending title holders Te Puke Sports at the Tauranga Domain.
There has been plenty of debate on the sidelines during the season about the merits of Baywide finals day being at a central venue, or that the highest qualifier in the semi-finals is rewarded with a home game.
Central venues such as the Rotorua Stadium or the Tauranga Domain, would bring rugby fans from throughout the Bay together for a festival of rugby. However, there is much support for taking the individual finals to clubs, where hospitality is showered on home fans and visitors alike.
Te Puna will also host a premier one development semi-final, with their second fifteen posting an unbeaten record in the second half of the season. Te Puna will be heavily favoured in their centennial year, to defeat Rangataua and host the development final. Defending champions Te Puke Sports will host Tauranga Sports in Te Puke.
Should Te Puna and Te Puke Sports meet in the Development final, it will be the third successive occasion that the two sides have met in the Baywide championship decider, with Te Puke Sports prevailing in the last two seasons.
Judea is the little Western Bay club that can - reaching the division one playoffs for the third year in a row. When they square off with Murupara at Maharia Winiata Park, they will be looking to put last year’s semi-final disappointment behind them. After the full and extra time scores were tied, they had the heartbreak of elimination on the toss of a coin.
Arataki finished in third place in the premier two regular season and will travel to the Sulphur City to play Marist St Michaels for a berth in the final. Katikati and Eastern Districts could meet in the division two final if they defeat Galatea/Waiohau and Edgecumbe respectively. The big prize in the division two competition is a permanent Baywide berth next season.
As is customary at the end of a season, Sidline Sid likes to give out his hypothetical awards to a few of the winners and losers. His most improved Baywide team is the Greerton Marist premiers who have made the semi-finals for the first time. His rollercoaster ride of the years goes to Te Puke Sports firsts, who dominated the first round competition with an unbeaten record, before having to work hard to book a place in the playoffs.
The comeback of the year is Reporoa, who have made the semi-finals on their return to Baywide rugby after time in the wilderness of the sub-union footie. How the mighty have fallen award, is given to Rotoiti, who started the season in the premier ranks before they dropped down to fivision one where they finished with a solitary win.