Peter is a sports writer at the Bay of Plenty Times

BOP Steamers clinch semifinal place

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DETERMINED: Regan Ware, right, tackles Matt Garland from Hawke's bay. PHOTO: Hawkes Bay Today
DETERMINED: Regan Ware, right, tackles Matt Garland from Hawke's bay. PHOTO: Hawkes Bay Today

Bay of Plenty Steamers will play semifinal football this weekend after a 26-24 bonus point win over Hawke's Bay in Napier on Saturday.

But it was a close-run thing in the end after Hawke's Bay scored two late tries to nearly catch the Steamers.

The five points clinch fourth place and a Mitre 10 Cup Championship semifinal against top qualifiers Otago in Dunedin on Saturday.

Saturday's win was far more comprehensive than the score suggests with the Steamers winning every statistical battle and leading 26-10 with nine minutes to play.

Captain Culum Retallick made special mention of his forwards after his 102nd match for Bay of Plenty at the ground where he made his debut back in 2007.

"We definitely had them under heaps of pressure at set piece scrum and lineout but we just couldn't quite finish them off. But it is very pleasing and our set piece has been really good," he said.

"We are happy that we could do it two weeks in a row with our scrum so that's great.

"They came back hard at us in the end and we were lucky to hang on but we will take it and we will go next week.

"We got a few good tries but we probably let them into the game with our few little errors which cost us but we will learn from it and make sure we don't do it next week."

There were confusing cries of "come on the Bay" from both sets of fans at the kick-off in Napier but it was the blue-and-gold Bay who were clearly the better side throughout.

The first six penalties went the Steamers way but 19 minutes of pressure in the Magpies 22 came to nothing with poor attention to detail at key moments and uncertainty in the backline.

Halfback Te Aihe Toma took off from a scrum 23 metres out to break the deadlock with a brilliant solo effort that was matched by his opposite Brad Weber on a rare attacking foray by the Magpies.

Totally against any reason or logic the Magpies led 10-7 at the break.

It only took a minute after the resumption for replacement fullback Chase Tiatia to show what a loss he has been since breaking his leg in round one, as the brilliant attacker split apart the Magpies.

Centre Lalakai Foketi scored 17 phases later and the game looked all over after prop Solomona Sakalia scored and then a penalty try was awarded to the Steamers after dominant scrums on the goalline.

Leading 26-10 the Steamers had the game in the bag it seemed.

But after a yellow card against Henry Stowers, centre Jonah Lowe scored two late tries to close the gap to 26-24 with a minute left.

Hawke's Bay attacked again and with Bay of Plenty fans praying for a mistake, replacement flanker Matty Axtens, who has hardly played all season, intercepted a pass to finally put an end to the game.

Bay of Plenty 26 (Te Aihe Toma, Lalakai Foketi, Solomona Sakalia tries; penalty try; Dan Hollinshead 3 cons) Hawke's Bay 24 (Jonah Lowe 2, Brad Weber tries; Ihaia West 3 con, pen) HT: 10-7 HB

- Bay of Plenty Times

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