Baywide rugby returns to Matakana Island

By James Perry

Premier rugby returned to Matakana Island yesterday when Te Puna moved their Baywide Premiership clash with Whakarewarewa to the island. It was a day to celebrate the links between the two clubs and the Island.

The football bond between Te Puna and Matakana Island are long established and are still active today.

Tame Kuka, Te Puna Kaumātua says Matakana Island people have for a long time Te Puna Rugby, and Te Puna have decided taking a premier game to the Island is a way of giving back, helping raise money for the Island's own rugby club. As well as ensuring the next generation knows the connection.

Te Puna captain Te Aihe Toma is one such Matakana Island local who is returning home, "Personally it's a great opportunity for me to come back to my home roots. Not only staying in Te Puna but to bring it over to the Island where we also bred a lot of people who come through and play for Te Puna as well."

Whakarewarewa captain Jesse Mason-Grant enjoyed the experience, saying, "You really can't beat it, eh. We definitely made history today. And it's good to get the smaller communities involved with the Bay of Plenty rugby."

There have been many Whakarewarewa players over the years who have links back to Matakana, and even now there are some players who can trace whakapapa back to Matakana Island. Whakarewarewa kaumātua John Tapiata, says when Te Puna asked them to celebrate this day with Te Puna, they said they will be there.

It's not every day rugby teams travel to a game on a barge, or even on the back of a tractor. But regardless of the method of transporta game is still a game, regardless of the method of transport.

Te Puna held a 20-8 score at the break. But Te Puna showed the fans why they're currently sitting at the top of the Baywide table, eventually running out 46-14 victors. Scoring some enterprising long range tries on the way.

Mason-Grant says, "It was definitely a game of two halves, I think Te Puna definitely brought it out there and showed their class. And definitely proved why they're leading in the top 8 premier division."

Toma agreed it was a game of two halves, adding "We knew they were going to bring it right through. It was just a matter of absorbing that and waiting and striking in those key moments."

As the cliche says, rugby was the winner on the day. But maybe Tapiata sums up the day on Matakana better when he acknowledges the Matakana Island hospitality as being the embodiment of the philosophy, love and respect one another.