Counties Manukau have righted the ship, but it was taking water at an alarming rate in the first half at Pukekohe today for their crossover Mitre 10 Cup clash with Bay of Plenty.
They struck a purple patch in the second stanza, scoring three tries in six minutes while Steamers wing Monty Ioane was cooling his heels for a knockdown. That spree appeared to knock the stuffing out of Bay of Plenty, who had dominated in the opening half. But the Steamers reawakened with a trio of tries in the space of about 12 minutes to secure two bonus points and give the home side some anxious moments.
Rallied by a prominent display from lock Viliame Rarasea and some sharp attacking play from centre Sam Vaka, the Steelers seized the initiative to lead 39-15 until the visitors rediscovered their verve and spark late-on.
Ioane had an interesting outing, scoring two tries but spending 10, costly, minutes in the sinbin for his knockdown. The yellow card call was correct, but the decision to award a penalty try, which referee Paul Williams made in conjunction with the TMO, was highly dubious as there was doubt the Steelers would have scored.
The first half was just about the messiest 40 minutes of the season, with the breakdown a shemozzle, the scrums taking an age to set properly, and the Steelers coughing up the ball at a disturbing rate.
Jordan Taufua, wearing the No7 jersey, crossed to give some hope to the home fans at 11-15.
The complexion of the game, however, changed on the Ioane call and Vaka cut loose off turnover ball, setting up Sione Molia and Sherwin Stowers for tries. Bay of Plenty looked stunned until restored to their complement of 15 and finishing over the top of the home team.
Counties Manukau have just a short turnaround, travelling to Hawke's Bay for a Thursday night Premiership clash, while Bay of Plenty host Otago in Tauranga next Sunday in the Championship.
Counties Manukau 39 (Jordan Taufua, Viliame Rarasea, Sione Molia, Sherwin Stowers tries, penalty try; Piers Francis 4 con, 2 pen).
Bay of Plenty 34 (Monty Ioane 2, Hugh Blake, James O'Reilly, Regan Ware tries; Kelly Haimona con, pen, Te Aihe Toma 2 con).