The Bay of Plenty Steamers could not have wished for a better start to the Mitre 10 Cup season than with that thumping win over Taranaki last Saturday night.

Coach Clayton McMillan said something before the match which proved remarkably prescient.

He reckoned that Taranaki would be more worried about his team than the Steamers were about the opposition.

Taranaki would not have taken Bay of Plenty lightly. No team does that. But the Bulls seemed strangely lacklustre against a side that looks very fit, very disciplined and very well coached.


One match does not a season make, but what we saw at the International Stadium bodes well for the Steamers to make the championship semifinals at least — and hopefully beyond.

Tomorrow night in Pukekohe is time to show that the Taranaki performance was not a one-off.

Not that real Steamers fans would be worried, but the game in Rotorua was not a TV-ratings success, despite being in prime time.

The 7.35pm kickoff on Sky Sport 3 clashed with the Black Ferns test against the Wallaroos on Sky Sport 1.

The rise and rise of women's rugby was on show again as the test pulled a large average audience of 245,00 viewers.

Bay of Plenty against Taranaki on Sky Sport 3 had a viewership about a quarter of that.

Those numbers shouldn't be a huge surprise because the Black Ferns, despite missing marquee sevens stars Portia Woodman, Sarah Goss and Kelly Brazier, are now a real attraction in their own right.

Although the Black Ferns play France in standalone fixtures there in November, the concept of the All Blacks and Black Ferns playing double headers on a regular basis is more appealing.


The size of the TV audience on Saturday night suggests there's a market for it.

On the other side of the world, there's real karma in the third cricket test between England and India.

In a decision that defies belief, England picked Ben Stokes to play only four days after a jury found him not guilty of affray.

Only the jury will know how they reached that decision, but reports of the trial suggest it wasn't the Crown Prosecution Service's finest hour either.

Stokes is an outstanding cricketer, though not yet of the status of Ian Botham, Sir Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan or Jacques Kallis.

But for rising star Sam Curran (averaging 42 with the bat and having taken six wickets at 24 in the first two tests, both of which England won) to be dropped so Stokes could play is astonishing.

India have thoroughly outplayed England in this match, and Stokes, in the first three days anyway, has hardly fired a shot.

Who's surprised?

In a not dissimilar situation, England's RFU has called their own wild child, Danny Cipriani, to a disciplinary hearing after a nightclub incident in Jersey during a pre-season trip with his club Gloucester.

Cipriani pleaded guilty in court, but it's just the latest in a series of activities after hours that suggest he's never going to change his ways.

His club is backing him and two of England's 2003 World Cup winning team, Matt Dawson and Paul Grayson, think he should still be in the team for the pre-Christmas tests. Nothing yet suggests he won't be.

Both Cipriani and Stokes have both been indulged by their respective sport's governing bodies.

They shouldn't be.

In this country, the Crusaders and the All Blacks are well known for their "no dickheads" policy.

That's gone pretty well.

The Black Caps cut Jesse Ryder loose after one too many nights on the drink.

They've continued to be successful without him.

Modern-day New Zealand sport could teach England a lot about how best to deal with unacceptable after-hours behaviour.