Sports correspondent & historian
Parking was at a premium at Maramatanga Park last Saturday, when Sideline Sid caught up with his first club rugby game in nearly a year.
The delayed start to this seasons abbreviated club rugby competition has seen local rugby fans show their support for the number one game in the country in record numbers.
Last weekend, Te Puna hosted traditional rivals Rangataua, with games between the two proud Maori clubs stretching back over a century.
While the honour of the oldest club in the Bay of Plenty belongs to Katikati, both Rangataua (2007) and Te Puna (2019) have celebrated one hundred years of playing rugby football.
Katikati Rugby Club, who sits in the divide between Bay of Plenty and Thames Valley, was established in 1880 and has the dual distinction of being a foundation clubs of both the Bay and the Valley Rugby Unions.
Rangataua and Te Puna have proud traditions to call upon as they prepared for battle last weekend.
The Rangataua name was the first engraved on the (then) Tauranga Rugby Union championship prize of the Jordan Cup, in 1913.
Te Puna wasted little time in creating their own piece of local rugby history, taking out the Jordan Cup in their debut season and then winning a further four straight Tauranga rugby championships.
The Western Bay of Plenty second round encounter at Maramatanga Park, played before around one thousand extremely vocal supporters from both clubs, was an all action contest that ranged up and down the field for the entire eighty minutes.
The game was up for grabs at halftime, with the home side holding a narrow 12-5 advantage.
Te Puna attacked from the opening whistle of the second spell, going on to be rewarded with a 41-12 victory.
One of the few bright spots delivered by the coronavirus pandemic, is the number of players who have returned home from overseas rugby duty and are turning out in the 2020 Western Bay of Plenty premier title race.
Two rounds into the cut-throat competition, where teams get just a solitary shot of defeating their rivals, longtime Baywide contenders Tauranga Sports and Te Puke Sports have laid down the gauntlet to the other contenders.
Tauranga Sports had a solid 19-3 win over 2019 Baywide premier titleholders Te Puna in the opening stanza, before backing up with a 40-17 defeat of Greerton Marist in round two.
Te Puke Sports opened their 2020 campaign with a hard fought 16-8 win against Mount Maunganui, and then ran over Arataki 66-5 to sit astride the points ladder.
Two losses have propelled Mount Maunganui to the near bottom of the competition standings, with just a solitary point.
The intensity of the competition sees the Mounties with their backs to the wall, when they travel to play Te Puna at home at Maramatanga Park in round three.
Victory for the green machine against Te Puna will keep them in the hunt for a semi-final berth - while the stain of defeat will put the playoffs (almost) out of reach.