It is often said that success in rugby has to start up front with the eight players in the forward pack.

Bay of Plenty's pre-season hitout with Waikato in Hamilton on Saturday was memorable not for the score - Waikato won 31-21 - but for the dominance of the Bay of Plenty scrum.

It has been some time since a Steamers pack has walked a Mooloo pack back like it did at Beetham Park on Saturday.

It was clear evidence of much-improved depth in the 2017 Steamers as the replacement front row in the second half had just as much dominance as the starting three.

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Typical of pre-season games, there was plenty of endeavour, but too often the final pass went to ground. But it was heartening to see the new apprenticeship scheme in operation, with four Bay of Plenty players outside the main contracted group getting game time.

The battle for the starting hooker role should be more competitive than any other position with Liam Polwart, James O'Reilly and Sebastian Siataga all having Super Rugby experience.

New to the Steamers are lock Tom Franklin and No 8 Tyler Ardron, who both impressed in a physical encounter against Waikato where every ball was scrapped for and plenty of scuffles off the ball were testimony to what the game meant to both teams.

Franklin is a regular starter for the Highlanders, played for the Maori All Blacks against the British and Irish Lions and is part of the All Blacks wider training squad. His impact will be massive in this cup campaign.

Ardron is a Canada international and talked of as a likely captain at the next Rugby World Cup. If it was not for the accent you would think he is another typical home grown No 8 from a long line of tough characters at the back of the Steamers scrum.

Outside them, former All Black first-five and Steamers star of the past Mike Delany looked 10 years younger than his 36 years and will form one of the best combinations in the Mitre 10 Cup with former Counties Manukau halfback Richard Judd.

Against Waikato, there were plenty of good individual breaks from quick men Chase Tiatia, Elijah Nicholas and Monte Ioane, but also plenty of rustiness to get rid of before Sunday's opening game against Northland in Whangarei.

Centre Lalakai Foketi says overall it was a good hitout.

"From the backs' point of view we were pleased with our first phase hitting the ball up the middle. We got to where we wanted to go but Waikato were really good at slowing the ball down and we just couldn't get any momentum and do what we wanted to do.

"We will take a lot out of it but the big thing for us was to clean that first ruck and get people in the right places."

Flanker Hugh Blake, who captained Scotland to win the London leg of the HSBC Sevens earlier this year, also wanted more continuity in phase play.

"It is the picture that pre-season paints but it is easy fixes for next week so we can build on it."


Mitre 10 Cup
Bay of Plenty v Northland
Whangarei, Sunday August 20, 2.35pm.