The Bay of Plenty Steamers started 2018 with a hiss and a roar, defying their underdog status to claim wins over Premiership opponents Taranaki and Counties Manukau.

However, in the two weeks following they have suffered losses to defending Premiership champions Canterbury and their first Championship opposition of the season Hawke's Bay.

This weekend they are desperate to get back to winning aways against North Harbour in their fourth crossover match against Premiership opposition in the opening five rounds.

Having made the Championship final last season, the fourth-placed Steamers should expect to finish in the top two and secure a home semifinal this year. However, in what is a relatively short competition, every point counts and finding a way back into the winner's circle is paramount.


Head coach Clayton McMillan said, as they had done all season, the players had put last weekend's loss behind them and worked hard at training this week.

"The attitude has been first class all season. Naturally they were disappointed with a below par performance last week, but we turn up on Monday, roll up the sleeves and away we go.

"It's a hard working team who never throw in the towel. We're not blessed with a lot of x-factor or a lot of size, but we certainly make up for it with effort. We just need to get better reward for all that effort, because that part of our game is first class."

Bay of Plenty Steamers players celebrate a try during their round four Mitre 10 Cup match against Hawke's Bay. Photo / Getty Images
Bay of Plenty Steamers players celebrate a try during their round four Mitre 10 Cup match against Hawke's Bay. Photo / Getty Images

Despite being bottom of the table, North Harbour will be no easy beats - they were Premiership semifinalists last season - and McMillan is well aware of the threats they possess.

Interestingly, the history between the two sides is dead even - they have met 30 times and won 15 each. The Steamers last win came in 2015 in Mt Maunganui.

"They're a good all round team ... they've had a rough couple of weeks but they played some good teams. I think we saw against Canterbury that if you're a little bit loose in your game and you allow them to play unstructured rugby, they're probably one of the most dangerous teams in the country.

"We'll look to limit those opportunities for them. We respect their kicking game, they have a good 9 and 10 - Super Rugby level guys who put their players in the right parts of the field. Our urgency to support our back three will be important."

He said his side's focus was on accuracy.


"In all of the game's we've played, we've created more than enough opportunities to win games and our accuracy, and perhaps concentration at critical times, is letting us down.

"We know we have a good rugby team and we're certainly not scratching our heads wondering where the opportunities are going to come from. We're being creative, we just need to be a bit more clinical, a bit more ruthless and convert those opportunities into points.

"Our scrum has come along really well in the last couple of weeks, if we can keep that up it can become a real weapon for us," McMillan said.

Bay of Plenty Steamers v North Harbour
Tomorrow, 2.05pm at OBE Stadium, Albany
Played: 30 (1985-2016) North Harbour wins: 15, Bay of Plenty wins: 15
Last match: North Harbour 44 Bay of Plenty 34 (2016)
Last Bay of Plenty win: Bay of Plenty 20 North Harbour 11 (2015)
Biggest North Harbour score: 44 (2016)
Biggest Bay of Plenty score: 39 (2010)
Biggest differential: North Harbour by 33 (41-8 in 2005)