Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Rugby: Powerful Steamers smash Auckland

Nick McCashin of Bay of Plenty makes a break. Photo / Getty Images.
Nick McCashin of Bay of Plenty makes a break. Photo / Getty Images.

Bay of Plenty 37
Auckland 16

Was that really an Auckland representative team?

If so then what a sad sight. What a rabble. If it wasn't, then what are they doing in the famous blue and white hoops.

Bay of Plenty smashed Auckland 37-16 in the ITM Cup premiership clash in Rotorua tonight, and all power to the BoP.

Tanerau Latimer's men put an aggressive defensive line across the field, made a couple of tries and grabbed two opportunist chances. Auckland mounted a little comeback after trailing 24-6 at halftime, but lost going backwards. The young Auckland team hit a wall.

Old Auckland fans who still bother to watch this stuff could only wonder what the ITM Cup is all about. Is this a junior reserve side, or does the provincial competition still involve representative pride? It's very hard to tell.

Auckland, who began with a three-win, one-loss record, were erratic in defence and support against a Steamers side also fairly low on experience.

When all-action Auckland fullback Charles Piutau and loose forward Steve Luatua fed passes that went astray, Bay of Plenty's Lance MacDonald and Phil Burleigh were unopposed in runs to the line, Burleigh racing 80 metres. Where was the support for Piutau and Luatua? And where was the cover?

The best try of the match involved rugged charges from Bay forwards Luke Braid, Latimer and Culum Retallick giving MacDonald an easy run to the line. The game ended when Nick McCashin found an empty blindside path to the tryline after a Bay of Plenty raid was met by few desperate defenders.

Latimer said: "I was impressed with our defence - we got off our line and gained some turnovers. It was our last chance to make the semis."

Auckland captain Hadleigh Parkes had nowhere to hide, admitting: "They gave it to us and we didn't show up."

So who did show up? Auckland's average age was in the low 20s and their experience factor minimal - which is not even a trustworthy development technique. Auckland needs more veterans, to get through the tough times, show the youngsters how it is done and restore pride in the jersey. That's if anyone cares.

Bay of Plenty 37 (L. MacDonald 2, P. Burleigh, N. McCashin tries; McCashin 5 pen, con), Auckland 16 (G. Anscombe try, 3 pen, con). Halftime: 24 - 6.

- NZ Herald

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