The Championship playoff race in the Mitre 10 Cup will extend into the final round after Bay of Plenty this afternoon snatched a rousing win over Manawatu.
Victory for the Turbos would have sealed all four playoff places but a late conversion miss from Otere Black and Dan Hollinshead's subsequent penalty saw the home side triumph in Rotorua, despite a bizarre conclusion after the hooter had sounded.
Having edged ahead, Bay of Plenty seized the chance to boot the ball into touch and seemingly lock up the result, only for referee Cam Stone to find time for a Manawatu lineout. Then, with the Turbos hot on attack inside the opposition 22, Stone signalled advantage but whistled the game over once Manawatu unsuccessfully tried their luck with an opportunistic grubber.
Both sets of players appeared a little bemused but the climax was only fitting for a game featuring no shortage of entertainment. Balanced at two tries apiece heading into the break, the match burst to life in the second spell as the Steamers steadily took command.
They could have been ahead earlier but for some foul play from Culum Retallick, pulling down a maul to concede a penalty try and receive a stint in the sin bin, during which time the Turbos crossed for their second.
But, back to their full complement, Bay of Plenty dominated much of the second spell, enjoying more possession and spending large stretches inside the opposition half. The Steamers continued to creep ahead through multiples of seven but, with 15 minutes to play, a blockbusting run from Ngani Laumape allowed Ambrose Curtis to keep the game all square.
Shahn Eru ensured the scores didn't stay level for long and, despite Heiden Bedwell-Curtis dotting down in the 76th minute, Bay of Plenty hung on to a season-saving victory. Sitting in fifth, they will still need results next week to work in their favour, while the loss means Manawatu can no longer earn a home semifinal.
Bay of Plenty 38 (A. Ross, J. Parete, T. Toma, H. Stowers, S. Eru tries; D. Hollinshead 5 cons, pen)
Manawatu 33 (Penalty try, J. Emery, J. Booth, A. Curtis, H. Bedwell-Curtis tries; O. Black 4 cons)