There is always a feeling of disappointment when a team comes second in a final.

Sure there is the satisfaction of winning a silver medal but also knowing if a few things had gone differently that medal could well have been gold.

That certainly is how the Bay of Plenty Steamers squad felt after pushing Wellington so close in last Friday's Mitre 10 Cup Championship final. They know they could have won it in regular time rather than drawing 40-all, before being run over in extra time.

Steamers assistant coach Rodney Gibbs sees it as a potential golden chance missed.


"As a group we went down there under no illusions to the enormity of the task but we went down there confident we were going to win. So there was disappointment for sure that we didn't but we can't fault the effort the boys put in. They attempted 190-odd tackles which is an enormous amount of work to get through," Gibbs said.

"As we reflect there were some missed opportunities in the first half. We have to learn from those because at this level and the higher the boys go, they have to take those opportunities to be able to compete."

After five years in the role, Gibbs has seen the expectations for the Steamers grow year by year to where they now aim to be finalists.

"I think it is just a continual growth. We are always striving to be better every year and as we have gone through the years, the plans have probably got better, and from the management down into the players how we plan the week has probably improved.

"You would like to think that gets shown in results on the field and we are starting to head in the right direction. It takes time.

"Also the players we have here now are getting to a point where they have a number of games under their belt. They are learning about the game at this level and a number of boys have been involved in Super Rugby environments and that is a big help."

Gibbs' primary role was defensive coach so his highlight of the season was unsurprisingly the 52-0 thrashing of Southland. He says the players' confidence levels went up by not conceding a point.

"They were probably not the strongest opposition but the boys really got a lot out of that zero. It really gave them a lot of confidence from that point.

"Then we had the short turnaround that was quite defining. The week after was a really tough week and the loss to Auckland put a dent in the boys. From that point we had to dig really deep and when we had our backs to the wall, it defined who we were going to be for the year.

"As much as the Auckland game was really disappointing, that was probably a turning point."

Full houses at Tauranga Domain before the final were indicative of the renewed interest in the Steamers this year. PHOTO/FILE
Full houses at Tauranga Domain before the final were indicative of the renewed interest in the Steamers this year. PHOTO/FILE

Bay of Plenty Rugby CEO Mike Rogers is proud of the consistency of performance across all the various age grades, not just the Steamers in 2017.

He says the hard work over the last three years shows that as a union "we are growing up".

"We lost the final but the community is proud of what the team achieved. In a wider sense the Volcanix won their final and were fantastic this year. They have developed from winning one game in three years.

"Our under-19 team lost one game this year by two points to Canterbury in a quarter-final and potentially I think were the second best team behind Auckland. We have just had five players named in the New Zealand 20s training squad. I don't think we have ever had that before.

"The engagement we got out of the Pro-Four series and the apprentice scheme was great with the guys in the Steamers environment."

Rogers hopes the inconsistency that Bay of Plenty has long been known for is a thing of the past.

Off the field there have been plenty of positives but the lack of a front-of-jersey sponsor - the only team to not have one in the Mitre 10 Cup - is a disappointment.

Rogers is grateful for the on-going support from a close-knit group of loyal sponsors but to progress Bay of Plenty need a major sponsor.

"The facts are the facts. We generate the lowest commercial revenue alongside Southland. They didn't win a game and they are correlating they don't have the commercial support to enable them to do that," he said.

"We will always challenge ourselves with what could we achieve if we had greater support. We are the third biggest provincial union in the country in terms of player participation so we must be important to this community to have that.

"If we can match that with really strong commercial support then that will enable us to get to that consistently performing at the top end of rugby in New Zealand."

■ Bay of Plenty Steamers were announced in Investec Super Rugby sides this week.
Chiefs: Aidan Ross, Liam Polwart, Nathan Harris, Mitchell Karpik, Sam Cane, Tyler Ardron; Crusaders: Mike Delany; Highlanders: Tom Franklin; Waratahs: Lalakai Foketi.