The Bay of Plenty Steamers have produced a nine-try annihilation of the Southland Stags in a 57-0 win at Rotorua International Stadium tonight.
On a night during which the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union celebrated Maori rugby, the scene was set when the Steamers ran out to a guard of honour from some of the region's former Maori All Blacks.
Southland were given an early opportunity when Steamers first five Mike Delany dropped the ball cold 30m from his own line. Southland then won themselves a penalty 22m out, but first five Scott Eade missed the shot at goal.
Seven minutes in it was Bay of Plenty who opened the scoring. They had a scrum near halfway and worked a set play to the right which put winger Monty Ioane into space. He charged into the Southland 22 but was tackled high. With the resulting penalty the Steamers kicked for touch, before winning the lineout and setting a maul.
The maul was taken down illegally by Southland inches from the try line and the Steamers were awarded a penalty try to take a 7-0 lead. Southland No8 Elliott Dixon was sent to the sin bin for his part in taking down the maul.
The wet, bog-like pitch did not lend itself to open, free-flowing rugby, so territory was crucial. Both sides were eager to kick for the corners. That is until Steamers winger Joe Webber decided he'd had enough and decided to run the ball from inside his own 22.
It turned out to be a great decision as he beat several players with blistering pace, into the Southland 22, before offloading inside to put flanker Hugh Blake in for a try next to the posts. Delany converted and the Steamers led 14-0.
After 21 minutes Bay of Plenty had their third try, on the back of a long period of possession inside the Southland 22. They were patient and kept the ball in hand for multiple phases before shifting right where second five Terrence Hepetema threw a perfect cut out ball to put winger Monty Ioane over in the corner. The Steamers led 19-0.
The Steamers scored the bonus point fourth try 31 minutes in and it was all down to busy halfback Richard Judd who caught Southland napping. Bay of Plenty had a scrum inside the Southland 22 and Judd spotted an opening on the blind side. He took off from the back of the scrum to score in the corner and give his side a 24-0 lead.
Southland had a period of possession on attack at the end of the first half but some resolute goal line defence from the Steamers was enough to keep them at bay.
Early in the second half Southland were down to 14 men when Elliot Dixon was sent for an early shower as he was shown a second yellow, and therefore a red card, for a high tackle on Judd.
The second half was a scrappier affair, as both sides struggled to hold onto the ball. However, in the 54th minute Delany produced a piece of magic which led to his side extending their lead.
He received the ball in the Southland 22 and, knowing his side had an advantage for a collapsed maul, put a chip kick over the defensive line. Southland failed to gather the ball and Bay of Plenty centre Lalakai Foketi dived on it to score. Delany converted and the Steamers led 31-0.
The 14-man Southland Stags worked tirelessly to get themselves back in the game and had a decent spell of possession inside the Steamers' half. But, it came to a disappointing end when Ioane snatched an intercept and blitzed the covering defence to score under the posts. Delany extended the lead to 38-0 with the conversion.
Minutes later Bay of Plenty had another try and again it was Delany pulling the strings. The veteran showed he still has plenty left in the tank when he took off down the left-hand side of the field, into the Southland 22, before putting Hepetema in to score on the inside and make the score 43-0.
With seven minutes left to play, the Steamers secured a half century of points when No8 Jesse Parete crashed over from the back of a scrum and the try was converted by reserve first five Luke Campbell to make it 50-0.
Hepetema put the cherry on top for the Steamers when he ran onto a Campbell chip to score under the posts. Campbell converted and the Steamers won 57-0 in their most dominant performance of the season.
After the game Parete, who now has three tries in as many games at Rotorua International Stadium, credited his teammates for his try scoring feats.
"It's the front rowers, they're doing the work, doing the mahi. All I have to do is pick it up and go.
"The boys went hard tonight, even with the short turn around. We had a couple of days but the boys all did their recovery and we got into it," Parete said.
He put the win down to the work rate and desire of his side.
"There were quite a few passages of play where all the boys were getting up in a good line and staying connected, it was good."