Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

BOP Steamers lose thriller 39-34 to Counties Manukau

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CLOSE DEFEAT: Hugh Blake, pictured against Taranaki last week, was a key player for Bay of Plenty in the loss to Counties Manukau. PHOTO: File
CLOSE DEFEAT: Hugh Blake, pictured against Taranaki last week, was a key player for Bay of Plenty in the loss to Counties Manukau. PHOTO: File

Bay of Plenty Steamers made a storming finish to Sunday's clash with Counties Manukau Steelers to claim two bonus points before losing 39-34 in Pukekohe.

In a somewhat bizarre Mitre 10 Cup crossover match, there were 10 tries scored and about as many tackles made between second-tier Championship Bay of Plenty and Premiership side Counties Manukau.

The Steamers led 15-11 at the break after tries to Monty Ioane and Hugh Blake but were hit by a scoring burst of 28 points in 17 minutes after halftime that clinched the game for the Steelers.

The first half was blighted by shambolic scrummaging with referee Paul Williams unable to sort the mess out.

The Steamers got off to a lively start leading 8-0 after five minutes.

A penalty from first ruck after the kick-off was converted by former Italian first-five Kelly Haimona.

After he missed touch from a penalty, Counties Manukau botched an attempt to run the ball out and Ioane snapped up the loose ball to score in the corner.

A simple move saw flanker Blake score his first try for the Steamers before Sam Vaka split the Steamers defence from 30 metres out only for desperate defence from fullback Te Rangi Fraser cut him down a metre short.

Jordan Taufua scored for the Steelers just before the break.

Steamers captain Culum Retallick suffered an ankle injury and was replaced at halftime by Troy Callander, with Blake taking over as skipper.

The home side started the second half attacking the Steamers up the middle and finding holes at will.

Lock Viliame Rarasea crashed over before it got much worse for the Steamers when Ioane knocked down a certain scoring pass. The result was a penalty try, yellow card for Ioane and 25-15 lead to the Steelers.

They were in again for two more tries as the Steamers fell off tackles to trail 39-15.

Then the Steamers fought back, sparked by electrifying breaks from replacement Ruki Tipuna to gain two valuable bonus points, with tries to reserve hooker James O'Reilly, winger Regan Ware and a second to Ioane to close the gap to 39-34.

But the clock was against them in the end.

"We were just not clinical at times and missed a few too many tackles down that 10, 12 channel. When these boys make breaks they are hard to stop," stand-in captain Blake said after the game.

"We are definitely happy with the two points but two weeks in a row we have had to come back.

"There was a patch in the middle where we were not quite good enough so we will look to improve on that this week and hopefully get the win next game (v Otago on Sunday at Tauranga Domain)."

Counties Manukau 39 (Jordan Taufua, Viliame Rarasea, Sione Molia, Sherwin Stowers tries, penalty try; Piers Francis 4 con, 2 pen) Bay of Plenty 34 (Monty Ioane 2, Hugh Blake, James O'Reilly, Regan Ware tries; Kelly Haimona con, pen; Te Aihe Toma 2 cons) HT: 15-11 BOP

- Bay of Plenty Times

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