First five-eighth Mike Delany scored a try deep into stoppage time to hand Bay of Plenty a thrilling 24-21 win against Counties Manukau in a national provincial championship rugby match in Mt Maunganui today.
Having fought their way back from 0-14 down to lead 17-14, it then appeared the home team had blown victory when impressive Counties Manukau centre Siale Piutau crossed with 10 minutes remaining to give his team a 21-17 lead, against the run of play in the second half.
But a string of penalties in the dying minutes handed the Bay the field position they needed and the pressure told, with Delany crashing over after a quick tap close to the line.
The win takes them above Counties on the points table, moving from 10th to eighth. On 21 points, they are level with seventh-placed Northland.
Counties Manukau remain in the hunt for the top seven but will look back on three points squandered after they made full use of the stiff breeze at their backs in the first half to led 14-0 just before the break.
Their midfield pairing of Reynold Lee-Lo and Piutau were particularly threatening and it was Lee-Lo's line-break and subsequent support from Piutau that led to the first try, lock Taiasina Tuifua crashing over from a ruck.
The chances were few and far between for Bay of Plenty and they conceded too many turnovers in the first half, but their run-at-all-costs approach into the wind -- they turned down two relatively simple shots at goal -- was rewarded on the stroke of halftime through dynamic wing Lelia Masaga.
The Chiefs flyer was handed the ball flat-footed but made a try out of nothing, jinking his way through the Counties Manukau defence to close the gap to 14-7 at halftime.
It proved to be a turning point as bulky halfback Taniela Moa got the Bay right back into the match with some quick thinking soon after the break, bursting over after a quick tap from a free-kick to level it at 14-14.
Delany nudged the Bay ahead with a penalty before Piutau got on the end of a great Counties team try, but Delany had the final say as the home team snatched a dramatic win.