Just a few centimetres were the difference between a last-second victory and a disappointing defeat for the the Bay of Plenty Development team against Auckland Under-21s played at Rangataua's Te Ariki Field on Saturday.
The young Aucklanders held a slender 13-9 lead going down to the wire, when the Bay's dynamic, attacking fullback Steven Honey latched on to a pass and made a dash for the match-winning try.
But to his dismay, and to the credit of the Auckland defence, a desperate dive shoved Honey into touch in the corner.
It was an eventful end to a game that struggled to reach any great heights, with the stiff end-to-end breeze causing plenty of issues. Bay had first use if it and ripped into their early work, buoyed by the senior team's magnificent victory over Auckland on Friday night.
Auckland took 15 minutes to get out of their half in anything like a meaningful attack, but all the hard work done up front by the Bay pack was wasted through conceding tackled-ball penalties and some misdirected passing in the backline.
Many spectators, and no doubt the youthful Aucklanders, were surprised to see Wayne Ormond locking the Bay scrum. The man who captained the Steamers to their only successful Ranfurly Shield challenge in 2004 is now 35, but looked as imposing as ever in the tight stuff and was a prominent voice on the field to guide his much younger charges.
Another player in the frame for a recall to the big stage of the ITM Cup is first five Willie Ripia. The former Steamers pivot controlled play nicely with his astute kicking and has one of the best wide passes of any No10 in the country.
Repia kicked the Bay to a 6-0 lead at the break, which was not enough after all the territorial dominance. NZ under-20s hooker Nathan Harris was prominent in the first stanza, impressing with accurate lineout throwing considering the conditions and his liking to run wide with the ball.
The loose-forward mix of No8 Matt Clutterbuck and flankers Luke Perrott and Dan O'Rourke tackled well and fought for possession with great vigour. On this performance there can be no other union in the country with better depth in the loosie department.
Auckland used the conditions well in the second spell and, as expected, dominated field position. Bay broke out with some counterattacking raids from deep within their territory, most sparked by livewire replacement midfielder Nick Evemy.
Ahead 9-3 moving into the final 10 minutes, Bay looked destined to grind out the win, but the Aucklanders had other ideas. First they rumbled over in the corner to close the gap to 9-8 and a minute later NZ Universities centre Liam Steel made a classic break to set up what became the matchwinner. There was time for one last Bay raid, and Honey's last-ditch effort, but it was Auckland who took home the points.
Auckland Under-21s 13 (Otela Katoa, Shea Ili tries; Lati Fosita pen)
BOP Development XV 9 (Willie Repia 3 pens).