Veteran first-five Mike Delany had two golden opportunities to win the game in the dying minutes for Bay of Plenty against Counties Manukau at Tauranga Domain yesterday.

But his usual pin-point accuracy deserted him from a 40 metre penalty and a post-siren drop goal attempt to end the game in a thrilling 31-31 draw.

The Steamers bagged three points to move into third place on the Championship table but the two points that went begging in the breeze at the Domain may be crucial in the final mix for semifinal places.

They matched the Premiership Steelers in all aspects and until three key injuries to tight forwards had dominated the scrums and out-muscled their opponents at the breakdown.

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As part of Bay of Plenty Rugby's Heritage Day, the Steamers ran onto the Domain through an esteemed group of past stars who played against various British and Irish Lions teams going back to 1959.

It must have inspired the 2017 wearers of the jerseys as they started with passion and purpose. Centurion Culum Retallick made a rare burst from a maul but Richard Judd, against his old province, dropped the ball cold with a try under the posts at his mercy.

No matter though, as livewire No 8 Jesse Parete then broke away to set Joe Webber for the corner. From the defensive lineout Judd charged down the clearing kick for a simple try to prop Solomona Sakalia.

Mike Delany converted for an early 7-0 lead which became 14-0 after in-form midfielder Terrence Hepetema crashed over.

But the Steelers bounced back quickly with two quick tries to openside flanker Fotu Lokotui and halfback Augustine Pulu.

The Steamers finished the half strongly with Delany kicking a penalty to give the Steamers a narrow lead at halftime but the loss of three key forwards in Retallick, Sakalia and hooker Liam Polwart was crucial.

The Steelers scored immediately after halftime through winger Albert Nikoro and centre Nigel Ah Wong to lead for the first time but once again the match was tied up when Lalakai Foketi scored out wide to get the Steamers back to 24-24.

Parete scored under the posts after a great set piece from the Steamers to open up a seven-point lead after 26 minutes but the Steelers would not go away. Liam Daniela tied the game up and set up a frantic final five minutes with Delany missing the match-winning chances.

Bay of Plenty captain Keepa Mewett says the draw feels like a loss but with Auckland next Saturday at Eden Park there is plenty to look forward to.

"Outside of the three points we received the boys are pretty gutted to be honest.

"Auckland is a chance to get a big scalp and it will be a tough away trip. At least we get a little bit of time to recover this week."

Bay of Plenty 31 (Solomona Sakalia, Terence Hepetema, Lalakai Foketi, Jesse Parete tries; Mike Delany 4 cons, pen)
Counties Manukau 31
(Fotu Lokotui, Augustine Pulu, Albert Nikoro, Nigel Ah Wong, Liam Daniela tries; Baden Kerr 2 con; Luteru Laulala con).
Halftime 17-14 Bay of Plenty