Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Bay of Plenty has belatedly rediscovered its form after a thrilling 38-35 victory in Tauranga over Northland, but the Steamers are just squeezed out of the semi-finals.
The Steamers ran in six tries, four in a dominant first half, when they led 26-7 under another warm sun over Tauranga Domain. Some of the continuity and skills among the forwards, especially lock Kane Leaupepe, was outstanding.
Prop James Lay opened the account, driving over after several phases. His fellow front-rower Jeff Thwaites followed soon afterwards, in a movement starting with flanker Mitch Karpik.
Centre Liam Steel then scored by the posts after a 17-phase movement.
Young right wing Emoni Narawa showed a step, fend and clinical finish to score a try on debut. He also started the move that set up left wing Fa’asiu Fuatai. Unfortunately he was then carted off with a broken leg.
The depleted Taniwha missed no less than 19 first half tackles, but they were on the board when flanker Aorangi Stokes scored. It was a glimmer of hope for the visitors. They needed that.
When Ropate Rinakama crossed, the third front-row try of the day, the Taniwha had pulled it back to 26-14. But the Steamers were able to keep their noses in front with an opportunist effort to fullback Chase Tiatia.
With three minutes to play, it was game over at 38-21 to Bay of Plenty, but Northland was not finished. Two pieces of Scott Gregory magic handed the Taniwha two bonus points. His bust and offload set up Tamati Tua and then, on the stroke of fulltime, he again split the tiring Steamers defence to put wing Jordan Hyland in the corner.
Northland will now regroup to face top qualifier Waikato in the Championship semifinals. The Taniwha finish on 24 points, while the Steamers finish fifth on 21.
Bay of Plenty 38 (James Lay, Jeff Thwaites, Liam Steel, Emoni Narawa, Fa’asiu Fuatai, Chase Tiatia tries; Kaleb Trask 4 con) Northland 35 (Aorangi Stokes, Ropate Rinakama, Noah Cooper, Tamati Tua, Jordan Hyland tries; Jack Debreczeni 3 con, Wiseguy Faiane 2 con) HT: 26-7 BOP