The Bay of Plenty Lakers have started the New Zealand Rugby League Championship with a 22-18 win over Wellington.

Having qualified to represent the northern region in the championship, the Lakers knew the game against Wellington, played in Wellington yesterday, was going to be a step up in intensity.

However, as they have done several times this season, they took their game to another level.

Having been down 12-4 at halftime, Bay of Plenty remained composed and made intelligent substitutions to get back in it.


Lakers assistant coach Jason Parata said he was pleased with the way his side kept themselves in the game.

"It was a good win, they hung in there at the end and showed a bit of resilience.

"We scored our last try with about seven minutes to go and held on. They had each other's backs for the last probably 20 minutes in defence.

"When we ran straight and stuck to the processes it looked good. Wellington were pretty big all over the park, but they had a good level of fitness for their size as well," Parata said.

The standout players for Bay of Plenty were prop Aussie Tuwhangai and reserve half Kihiroa Wihapi.

"We've found our goal kicker. Destry Tamai had been kicking but he was off the field and Aussie stepped up and kept us in the game. He kicked a penalty and a conversion from the sideline which was really important.

"Kihiroa had a good game, he came on late in the first half. He scored two tries and played with good direction and speed. It changed things a bit because he was fresh - he picked up the pace, put people in the right holes and played with good shape," he said.

The Lakers have a weekend off now before playing the southern champions Otago Whalers in a fortnight, at Puketawhero Park in Rotorua.

"That will be a good one to watch, it will be the last time the Bay side plays down here. If we win, we play [a promotion/relegation game] at Mount Smart Stadium."