Bay of Plenty is a proud rugby union that has contributed richly to the long and distinguished history of the game in New Zealand. The union the inaugural winner of the NPC in 1976 has experienced equal measures of agony and ecstasy throughout its history, but one thing it could never be accused of, being boring.
Bay of Plenty based players were amongst the most prominent in the formative years of the game, but it was not until 1911 that the Bay of Plenty Union was fully affiliated to the national body. Up until this time the Bay of Plenty Union was included within the South Auckland union boundaries. As the boundaries of the new Union grew, and new Sub-Unions were formed, the union achieved its first national representation when A.L. McLean was selected for the All Blacks in 1921. McLean was the first of 23 men who have represented New Zealand while wearing the blue and gold hoops, in addition to the many players who received their rugby education in the Bay of Plenty before achieving higher honours elsewhere. As the heartland of Maori rugby the region has produced a large number of Maori All Blacks, while age group and secondary school teams from throughout the union have also established a long and successful heritage that is the envy of many. We are proud to have All Blacks Sam Cane and Nathan Harris representing the Bay of Plenty and Tom Franklin dotting the Maori All Blacks Jersey. We are widely represented across both the New Zealand All Black and Black Fern Sevens Teams with long time campaigner Scott Curry captaining the side is joined by Joe Webber, Regan Ware, Teddy Stanaway and Issac Te Aute. Michaela Blyde and Kelly Brazier are our two notable campaigners representing the Blue and Gold in the Black Ferns Sevens. Brazier is also joined by Lesley Ketu to roundup our representative players for the Black Ferns. There are also a number of Steamers players who have been selected to play Investec Super Rugby including, Aidan Ross, Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Liam Polwart, Chase Tiatia, Sabastian Siataga, James O'Reilly and Mitchell Karpik are among a long list of first class players who began their rugby careers in the Bay of Plenty.
Bay of Plenty has a proud history of rising to the occasion for major matches, although it was not until 1970 that the Bay achieved its first victory over international opposition (Fiji by 14-8). On many occasions, often as part of combined teams in the first half of the 20th century, the Bay has pushed touring teams to the limit in memorable encounters that have ranked as the toughest provincial matches on tour. Although often gallant in defeat the Bay has also recorded some memorable victories over stronger opposition - the 1982 Wallabies were thrashed by 40-16 in Rotorua a week after having defeated the All Blacks, and again in 1990 the same nation was lowered 12-4 one year out from their World Cup victory.
Bay of Plenty has also challenged many times for the Ranfurly Shield. Most Bay supporters can recall a number of heart stopping games where the Bay were unlucky or 'robbed' of the chance of victory. However, 2004 saw this changed when the Bay successfully lifted the 'Log' from Auckland on August 15th.
Bay of Plenty also has distinction of being the first side to ever win the NPC Championship when it triumphed in 1976. From the heights of '76 came the depths of 1977 with relegation to the second division, but this setback was short-lived with promotion straight back into the top flight in the following season. Fortunes fluctuated until 1991 when defeat by King Country sent the Bay back to Division II where it remained until the 2000 season. Under the coaching of national sevens coach, Sir Gordon Tietjens, and captaincy of Clayton McMillan, the Steamers defeated second division rivals Nelson Bays in a titanic final at the Tauranga Domain in late October 2000, and returned to the top division for the first time in ten years.
The 2003 season was one of the best years for the Steamers since 1976. The team finished 5th in the first division and the season included wins over North Harbour, Northland, Southland, Taranaki, and the first win in 23 years over Auckland. The season saw Damon Kaui play his 100th game for the union in the win over Italy, and the Steamers were unbeaten at home.
2004 was even better- with an historic Ranfurly Shield challenge and victory over Auckland in Round 1 of the Air NZ NPC- the first time in their 103 year history that the Bay have held NZ rugby’s most prized trophy- and a fantastic way for stalwart player Paul Tupai to celebrate his 100th game for the province. A successful defence against Waikato saw a huge crowd at Mount Maunganui’s Blue Chip Stadium, before Canterbury (armed with plenty of current and ex- All Blacks) finally wrestled the Shield away in an epic battle which went right down to the final whistle when Grant McQuoid was millimeters away from securing a draw. BUT 2004 was by no means finished for the Steamers- all remaining games were won home and away, securing a semi final against Canterbury, this time at Jade against a full strength red and black machine. Canterbury were too strong, but against public expectation, Bay of Plenty’s 3rd place finish in the Air NZ NPC capped off an amazing year and saw several Bay players achieve Super 12 selection.
2005 wasn't quite the success that 2004 was. A highlight was hosting the first match in the DHL NZ Lions Series at Rotorua on June 4th. The Bay came back from a 17-0 deficit to go in at halftime level. The lack of games prior to this match however took it's toll, with the Lions going on to win 34-20- a valiant effort and a sign to the Lions that NZ teams were not prepared to lie down and take it. The Bay had another crack at the Ranfurly Shield against Canterbury in Christchurch on August 20th but could not pull off the upset. Plane loads of supporters enjoyed a great time in Christchurch however! The rest of the 2005 Air NZ NPC was an up and down affair resulting in wins over Taranaki, Waikato and Northland- and some close run losses to Southland and Wellington and a final position of 8th on the table. Kevin Senio made the All Blacks, and Ben Castle and Bernie Upton were both included in the Junior All Blacks tour of Australia. The year also saw the farewells of Kevin Senio (Canterbury),Wayne Ormond (to Japan), Adrain Cashmore (to Wales). and the departure of veteran Paul Tupai heading overseas after 115 games for the province- likely the last Centurion we will see for some time
Like the 2002 season, 2013 was a roller coaster ride for the Steamers, as they battled to retain their top 7 ITM Cup Premiership status and dropped to the Championship division in 2014. 2014 season saw the Steamers rebuild with their young team. For the past two seasons under coach Clayton McMillan the Steamers have progressed to the Championship Semi-Final.
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