Anyone who has followed Bay of Plenty rugby for long knows what it means to beat Hawke's Bay.

The rivalry is a long-standing and emotional one with the use of the moniker "the real Bay" an amusing side show to the serious stuff on the field.

Two seasons ago Bay of Plenty had good reason to feel aggrieved at not returning home from Napier with the Ranfurly Shield. They outplayed the Magpies and looked to have sealed matters in the final minute only to be denied by a contentious refereeing decision.

So the 46-17 thumping handed out by the Steamers to a weakened Hawke's Bay outfit in Rotorua on Friday was universally celebrated through the Bay of Plenty.

Advertisement

The win was orchestrated by a little rugby genius who grew up playing rugby in Rotorua. He went on to play 60 games for Bay of Plenty, 31 Super Rugby games and a test for the All Blacks in 2009.

Since then, Mike Delany has plied his trade in the top professional leagues in Japan, France and England before returning home to once again wear the No 10 jersey for the Steamers.

His impact at the age of 35 has been a revelation. Bay of Plenty had the worst goalkicking statistics in the whole Mitre 10 Cup last year but Delany has missed just one shot from the opening two games.

His goalkicking and field kicking is just one part of the whole package. He runs the cutter from first-five with confidence and all that rugby experience behind him.

Some of his plays to set up tries against Hawke's Bay showed his form has not waned over the years. If anything he looks a more complete footballer now than he did when the All Blacks picked him for the end of year tour in 2009.

Every year the average age of the players in the Mitre 10 Cup seems to get lower. Playing live on Sky TV for your First XV one minute and then the next for a major provincial union seems the norm these days.

But that rapid transition means no time to learn the ropes, to gain the intangibles that come through experiencing the highs and lows of the game before stepping up to provincial rugby.

Everything is fast tracked these days which is not always a positive thing.

Advertisement

That is why players like Delany are absolute gems in the Mitre 10 Cup.

I hope last year's NZ Barbarians Secondary Schools star and Bay of Plenty Academy player Kaleb Trask is picking Delany's brain as often as he can. At 18, Trask is deemed too young to play Mitre 10 Cup, but his time will come and so will the accolades.

But to learn from a wily old fox like Delany will quicken his apprenticeship more than anything.

I hope NZ Rugby will encourage older players to come home and add their experience and skills to make the Mitre 10 Cup an even stronger competition.

Meanwhile, it was great to see the Black Ferns win the Women's Rugby World Cup against England yesterday morning in a superb performance.

I look forward to catching up with the three Rangataua club players Kelly Brazier, Sarah Goss and Les Ketu when they return home.