Rugby: Steamers drop first match to Taranaki

By Greg Taipari

Taranaki opened the ITM Cup account with a 37-22 win over the Bay of Plenty Steamers at Baypark Stadium on Saturday.

In front of about 8000 it took time for combinations to work between last season's premier championship's third (Taranaki) and fourth (Steamers) place getters.

The first scoring opportunity came in the fifth minute in the form of a penalty 15m in front when Taranaki were caught offside on defence, which Steamers' fullback Kenny Lynn made easy work of.

Taranaki were able to level the score three minutes later when the Steamers were pinged for the same offence and Beauden Barrett had no trouble converting the 40m kick.

Both sides showed plenty of enterprise at the breakdown and looked to get their pace men room to show some of their magic. Steamers winger Lelia Masaga looked dangerous often beating the first tackler as did Taranaki winger Waisake Naholo.

The visitors showed they are dangerous at broken play when they turned the Bays ball over on the right hand side spun it left to give Left winger Frazier Climo some space but the final pass was forward ruining a certain try.

Taranaki broke the Steamers line again two minutes later and were awarded a penalty when Lynn was penalised for a high tackle just outside the Steamers 22m which Barrett converted to take the score to 6-3 in the 18th minute.

With blind flanker Warren Lippi-Smith being replaced due to a suspected broken forearm, Tanerau Latimer showed his class stealing Taranaki's ball inside the Bays half which led to a Masaga try at the other end.

However, Taranaki would soon have their own try five minutes later when James Broadhurst busted over for what was an easy try after some sustained pressure, which Barrett converted.

The try seemed to fire up the visitors who were finding gaps in the Steamers defence but Taranaki struggled to finish with the final pass often going astray or being dropped.

Taranaki's second try came five minutes before the break. It was a solo effort from Naholo who received the ball from a lineout 10m inside the Bays' half he beat two weak tackles and out paced Lynn to score and for Barrett to convert.

Bay of Plenty had the chance to narrow the gap just before the break from a Lynn penalty for an offside infringement 35m out but the kick strayed to the right.

However, with time up on the clock Lynn was given another opportunity when Willie Rickards was sin binned for laying over the ball but again the kick missed to leave the score at 20-8.

After the break the Steamers looked to play territory trying to pin Taranaki in their own half but Barrett showed his game reading skills when he intercepted a Nick McCashin pass to run 60m to score under the post and covert to take the score to 27-8 in the 50th minute.

Although the Steamers showed at times their scrum could compete, the blue and gold often were guilty of not enough urgency at the breakdown and giving too many turn overs at crucial moments.

The home side's first real opportunity to post some second half points came 18 minutes into the spell. From a penalty they opted for a lineout. The Bay took clean ball and tried to move it right but again the visitors were able to spoil at the breakdown and turned the ball over.

Bay of Plenty were kept in the game by Taranaki's mistakes rather than any real attacking creativity. But opportunity was all the Steamers needed when Luke Braid found some space on the blindside from a ruck just outside their 22m. He passed to Latimer who found Jamie Nutbrown. Nutbrown's pass was knocked down but quick recycled ball gave Culum Retallick space 10m out crashing over for the Steamers second try which McCashin converted.

The try lifted the home side and they began to string some passes together however like Taranaki in the first half the Steamers were unable to get the final pass to stick and the opportunity was lost.

Bay of Plenty gave Barrett the opportunity extend the lead by three after the home side were marched 10m for kicking away the ball after being penalised at the ruck to take the score to 30-15 with seven minutes left on the clock.

The home side scored their third try with three minutes left on the clock when Lance MacDonald was put through a gap after some sustained pressure from his forwards who were camped on Taranaki's line. McCashin nailed the conversion to narrow the gap to 30-22.

But it would be the home side who would have the last say when Barrett ignited a move deep inside his own half which would be eventually finished off by Taranaki captain Jason Eaton in the corner. Barrett showed his class again and nailed the final conversion to finish with a 100 per cent kicking effort.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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