After an uninspiring loss to Northland a week ago, Bay of Plenty Lakers coach Jeremy Siulepa could not have asked for a better response from his side against Waikato Development.

Waikato showed plenty of intent at Puketawhero Park on Saturday but, much like the boy who fell out of the tree, they just weren't in it as they fell to a 52-6 defeat.

Bay of Plenty are aiming to represent the Northern region in the NZRL Championship next month. Northland, who they play again in a fortnight, are the only other team in their pool and the game against Waikato Development was merely a friendly, but it was crucial in terms of finding form.

The opening 10 minutes of the game was a real arm-wrestle, both sides made good metres on attack but struggled to produce effective kicks at the end of their sets.


Bay of Plenty fullback Cameron Walters sparked his side into life with a good kick return to halfway. Winger Natuitasina Tumanuvao backed that up, making a break up the middle into the Waikato 20m to set centre John Koko up for the opening try.

Minutes later Koko was in for his second. Cody King hit a gap in the middle of the field before halfback Johnson Peri summed up the situation perfectly to put Koko over on the left. Bay of Plenty led 12-0.

Hooker Destry Tamai showed great awareness to burrow his way over for a try from dummy-half before Tumanuvao scored in the corner, on the back of a one-on-one strip by Peri, to lead 22-0.

Destry Tamai, John Koko and Natuitasina Tumanuvao celebrate a Bay of Plenty Lakers try against Waikato Development. Photo/Stephen Parker
Destry Tamai, John Koko and Natuitasina Tumanuvao celebrate a Bay of Plenty Lakers try against Waikato Development. Photo/Stephen Parker

After 35 minutes Waikato were finally on the board with a try to back rower Raana Dennis under the posts after a period of sustained pressure. Bay of Plenty added a penalty goal on the brink of halftime for a 22-6 lead at the break.

Bay of Plenty were on fire in the second half and it was Tumanuvao who ignited the flame with a brilliant solo try. He took a catch on the full in-goal to earn a 20m restart which he took quickly. He stepped his way through a gap in the retreating defensive line before sprinting 80m to score under the posts.

Minutes later Bay of Plenty five-eighth Josh Weedon started and finished an entertaining team try. He got the ball near halfway, threw a dummy and hit a gap. The Lakers players were eager in their support and after countless offloads the ball ended up back in Weedon's hands for a try in the corner. Bay of Plenty led 34-6.

Gaps were opening up in a tired Waikato defensive line and the Lakers were in the mood to exploit them. With 30 minutes left to play Tumanuvao secured his hatrick with another try in the corner to make it 38-6.

Walters was rewarded for a composed performance with a try of his own before Tumanuvao scored his fourth try of the match on the back of a big cut-out pass from Tamai. The other winger Karl Hart got in on the action with a try of his own shortly before fulltime to make it a comfortable 52-6 victory for the home side.


Siulepa said the energy of his side was as good as the previous week, but they "started playing footy".

"We were getting to our key points and playing to our structure, which is something we've been practising for a couple of weeks. Obviously we were disappointed with how we played last week, but when the boys can put it into action like they did today, it's really pleasing."

Most pleasing for Siulepa was the desire his side showed in defence, particularly in the second half when they already held a commanding lead.

"Even though they're the Waikato Development team, they're not a bad squad and we knew they'd come out firing. We have a lot of respect for Waikato Rugby League. I think that was a good test for us, keeping them to nil in the second half, we spoke about that at halftime - having pride in our defensive line and pride in our jersey. The attitude on defence was really good."

Next week the Lakers play Te Arawa, who are preparing for this year's Maori Rugby League Tournament, before their rematch with Northland the week after.