Bay of Plenty Steamers completed an unbeaten pre-season campaign with a pleasing 22-21 victory away to Auckland this afternoon.
Sure it was not an official game but any win over Auckland is meritorious, and there was much to like about the Steamers tenacity on defence against a side full of Super Rugby talent.
Flanker Henry Stowers opened the scoring for Bay of Plenty with a try before two quick tries had Auckland ahead 14-5. Isaac Te Aute replied but Auckland went over again to lead 21-10 at the break.
The second half scoring was dominated by the Steamers with a try to Chase Tiatia closing the gap to 21-10 before in the final play of the game halfback Te Aihe Toma scored right on fulltime. Dan Hollinshead converted from wide out to secure the victory.
Steamers assistant coach Rodney Gibbs says "it was definitely a step up from last week against Northland which was ideal really and just what we needed".
"The scrum looked real good and that was a real plus for me. It gave us a really good platform. Defensively we were really good in the most part.
"There were a few little lapses out wide but in general it was pretty solid and we got a bit of momentum going on attack.
"All the teams are learning with the new laws how important it is to have possession and get into their attacking half, and just be patient with it, because it is very hard to get it back."
Gibbs is pleased with how the new players in the Bay of Plenty squad have settled in and the four day camp based at College Rifles was of great benefit.
"They have all fitted in really well. These camps where they live together and sleep in the same areas are hugely beneficial.
"To get a result today, although the score wasn't relevant, is a real confidence boost going into next week I think."
For Toma scoring the winning try was a nice way to get back in with his team mates after spending the last month of the Super Rugby campaign with the Highlanders.
He says working with All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith was a great help.
"We had a good relationship. He helped with things and gave me little pointers and how to get quicker passing from lineouts," Toma said.
"The one piece of advice he gave me is to think smooth so every pass is smooth and every kick is smooth."