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'The little (rugby) club that can' is a title that could well be applied to the Judea Rugby Club, tucked away in Maharaia Winiata Park off Sutherland Road, which overlooks the Tauranga inner harbour.

Judea have overcome the odds to book a place in the Western Bay of Plenty Rugby Development championship final, to be played out in the early action at the Tauranga Domain on Saturday.

Tauranga Sports, who will play Judea in the development finale, come from the other spectrum of Tauranga rugby history and player numbers.

While early newspaper reports suggest that rugby was played by a Judea team as far back as 1895, the first year of participation in the Tauranga Rugby Union in 1910 became the benchmark of the clubs establishment.

The 1910 competition was made up of teams representing Judea, Rangataua, Matakana Island, Matapihi and the Star team, which was reported as being the only pakeha side in the competition.

Times were very different at the start of the 20th century, with Judea being a small community out in the country.

Travel was a major factor in getting to the scheduled games, with horse and carts the main form of transportation, along with the journey over the water to Matakana Island.

The history of the Judea Club is intertwined with the local community, with many of its members still living within walking distance of the club.

Today's one team club put together a plan to play Baywide rugby around a decade ago and, in 2014, won the Baywide qualifying competition to earn a season-long Baywide place.

By contrast, Tauranga Sports are a much more recent addition to Western Bay of Plenty rugby.

Tauranga Sports became the face of change in Western Bay rugby, when Tauranga Old Boys' and Otumoetai Cadets amalgamated to form Tauranga Sports Club in 1988.

Tauranga Sports set a platform for success by building a sound administration base from the start.

They were first rewarded with Baywide premier rugby success in 1999, winning the Baywide premier title and going on to repeat the notable milestone on seven further occasions.

Baywide Colts and Development team winning photographs also adorn the walls of the Tauranga Domain-based club rooms.

The main attraction at the Tauranga Domain on Saturday, is another century-old club squaring-off with more recent tradition, when Tauranga Sports host Te Puna in the Western Bay of Plenty premier title-decider.

Te Puna was also established when horse was king, with the club celebrating their centennial season last year, in winning the Baywide Premier and Development titles along with the Western Bay Senior competition.

Last weekend’s preliminary playoffs, showed that the previous round-robin preliminary results count for nothing, when Te Puna won an arm-wrestle with Te Puke Sports at Murray Salt Stadium in Te Puke.

Just seven days previously, Te Puke Sports had run away from Te Puna at their home base at Maramatanga Park, with a 50 points to 26 victory.

Tauranga Sports had to dig deep to keep their season record intact and book their berth in the premier final, with a come from behind 29-20 win against Rangiuru, after trailing by 17 points at half time.

One of the features of the short and sharp 2029 Western Bay rugby championships has been the extremely tight results during the competitions.

It's exemplified by Judea's progression to the Development final.

On the opening day of the season, Rangataua defeated their royal blue and white opponents, 15-14, before Judea clawed their way to victory in last weekends play-offs with a hard fought 27-24 win.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian
www.sunlive.co.nz