"I've had this jersey since 1992."

Decked out the 27-year-old blue and yellow garment, long-time Steamers fan Tony Hepburn was sitting with his Mount Maunganui mate Lyall Reid in the grandstand at Tauranga Domain.

They were two among a good-sized crowd who came out in spite of a severe thunderstorm warning to watch the Steamers open their 2019 Mitre 10 Cup season with a decisive victory over Otago this afternoon.

Luckily for the fans, the rain stopped just before the game started.


Before the Steamers took to the field, a minute of silence was observed for the "loved and late" former All Black Sir Brian Lochore, who died last weekend after a battle with bowel cancer.

For the rest of the match, the crowd were vocal, enthusiastically ringing in each of the Steamers' nine tries for a 50-7 win.

They seemed unbothered by the chilly temperatures, with many - adults and children alike - spotted clutching real fruit ice creams.

After the Steamers' fifth placement in the championship division last year, Sunday's win was just what long-time fans Ian Pennell and Allan Pennell had been hoping to see.

Both were born and bred in the Bay of Plenty and said they had always supported the team.

Another fan kitted out in home colours was six-year-old Benjamin Hartly.

The Omokoroa Point School student, who plays ripper rugby and football, received the jersey as a gift from some neighbours who had it autographed some years ago.

Allan and Ian Pennell turned out to support their local team. Photo / George Novak
Allan and Ian Pennell turned out to support their local team. Photo / George Novak

Benjamin's dad, Pete Hartly, said they came to the game to show a bit of love for the local team on home turf.


"It's good to support the local team. We went to four games last year," Hartly said.

"It's so accessible."

Yesterday's game was the first of three the Steamers will play in Tauranga this year.