When the Bay of Plenty Under 19 rugby team beat Taranaki 94-0 at Arataki Park on August 25, head coach Mike Rogers began to think that finally he might have a team that could go places.

The place they've gone is to the top of the class. They are now the best under 19 provincial team in the country following Saturday's thrilling win over Canterbury in the final of the Jock Hobbs Memorial National tournament.

But it has been noted often on these pages in recent days, the success has not come by accident.

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"We have worked really hard to build a programme through our academy" he says.

"If we want Bay of Plenty to be among the best provincial teams in the country, we have to have a strong academy programme."

Rogers, who'd had success winning championships coaching Tauranga Sports in club rugby, is in his fourth year at this level.

In his first season, 2015, resources were stretched.

"We couldn't find a halfback. In the end we had to convert a hooker."

That year Bay of Plenty finished 13th at the Taupo tournament, playing in the lowest of the four brackets. The following year they moved up a bracket and finished 10th.

Last year they starting making a real impact. Bay of Plenty qualified first in the Chiefs franchise area, ahead of Waikato, but struck Canterbury in the quarter-finals.

A heartbreaking loss by two points meant they had to play in the fifth-eighth bracket, but confirmed their arrival in the big time by convincingly finishing fifth.


Strong running No 8 Ajay Mua, now in the Steamers squad, was equal top try scorer in the tournament. Fullback Kaleb Trask finished second on the total points scoring list.

Five players were picked in the first camp of 50 players from which the New Zealand under 20 team will be selected, and two – Tevita Mafileo and Trask – eventually made the squad of 28 for this year's World Under 20 championship in France.

This year Rogers expects more Bay of Plenty players to be recognised at a national level.

"I reckon there should be seven or eight in that first camp of 50. The whole backline should be considered."

Bay of Plenty Under 19 team celebrate with head coach Mike Rogers after winning the Jock Hobbs U19 Rugby Tournament in Taupo on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images
Bay of Plenty Under 19 team celebrate with head coach Mike Rogers after winning the Jock Hobbs U19 Rugby Tournament in Taupo on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images

There is an eligibility issue surrounding the brilliant winger Emoni Narawa. The former Hamilton Boys' High School player from Fiji isn't yet allowed to play for New Zealand, but Rogers hopes he'll be picked up anyway.

"He's going to be a pretty important part of the future, so we have to keep him in the loop for now."

The coach is also supporting his first five-eighth Cole Forbes for higher recognition.

Forbes was the player whose kick was charged down with two minutes to play in the final against Canterbury. The red and blacks followed up the charge down and scored a converted try under the posts.

"I just hope that charge down doesn't hurt his chances," says Rogers of Forbes, usually a fullback or second five-eighth.

Rogers, who is also the scrum coach for the Steamers, says some of this under 19 squad will now be invited to join the wider Steamers training squad for the rest of the season to practice with the Mitre 10 Cup players.

Whether any of them, apart from Trask, will get picked in a game day squad this year is doubtful.

However the prospect of Narawa, match winning try scoring hero Jayjay Suemai or hard-running midfielder Lalomilo Lalomilo wearing the full Bay of Plenty colours sometime soon is something to savour.

But after watching both the under 19s and the Steamers forwards get pushed around in their weekend matches, the next emphasis for academy recruitment has to be strong scrummaging front rowers and big mobile locks.

Most of this year's team will be too old for next year's tournament.

After what happened in Taupo on Saturday night though, the Bay of Plenty Under 19s class of 2019 have a tough act to follow.