Another chapter in the history of the Tauranga Domain was written last Saturday, with the two 2020 Western Bay of Plenty Rugby titles fought out at the green oasis on the fringe of the city's CBD.

While spectators numbers were a fraction of the numbers that would have flocked to the ground under normal circumstances, the separation of club supporters into one-hundred person groups, provided a safe environment for the Tauranga Sports, Te Puna and Judea fans, who signed in to the Central City ground.

Today's technology enabled a large on-line viewing audience, with the two encounters live screened with accompanying commentary.

Players and sports fans alike who have been drawn to the Tauranga Domain for over 140 years, owe a debt of gratitude to the early settlers who had a vision for a sporting base, which sits today in the heart of the city centre.

In 1873, a number of Tauranga residents applied to the Government Native Minister for a public park in the emerging town. Although their first choice was an area between the Huria Marae and the newly formed road to Waihi, the Government handed over the more central area for the Tauranga Domain.

Five years later the Wharepai field was added, so named because of the proximity to David Asher's Wharepai boarding house. During 1881, the adjacent northern portion was identified as a secondary school site in the future, but was added to the Domain when not required for education purposes.

A Domain Board was established to administer the combined area. Money for the upkeep was obtained by leasing the land for grazing which caused almost more problems than it solved. The athletics and rugby clubs disliked using land where the cows left their calling cards and the cattle ate the laboriously hand planted shrubs and trees planted by volunteer labour.

The Tauranga City Council website tells us that a well maintained cricket pitch was in operation by 1888. Football and cricket pavilions were constructed in the 1890s, with bowls, tennis, croquet and hockey played on a regular basis. A band rotunda was built in 1894.

It is likely that direct descendants of both the Te Puna and Judea rugby clubs, that have both held one-hundred year centennial celebrations, took part in the rugby action at the Tauranga Domain at the weekend.

The entree to the main attraction was the Western Bay Development final, which saw Tauranga Sports overcome a determined Judea offensive, to break loose in the final quarter in posting a 38-13 victory.

The big dance at the Domain, lived up to the hype of being a replay of last years Baywide finale, where the Te Puna Blue and Black brigade claimed their first Baywide premier crown.

Tauranga Sports made the early running and entering the last fifteen minutes, seemed in control, before Te Puna came back to narrow the gap to less than a converted try. In spite of Te Puna making several defiant charges, the Tauranga Sports defence held, to see them take out a narrow 32-26 win and lift aloft the Western Bay Rugby big prize in triumph.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian