After the Steamers' massacre of the Manawatu Turbos, Bay of Plenty go into their Championship final against Hawke's Bay with a heap of momentum and a good serving of confidence. They may have beaten their finals rivals during round eight of the Mitre 10 Cup competition but that has no relevance to what will happen at the Rotorua International Stadium come Friday. Adyn Ogle reports.
Riding a six-game winning streak, including the 64-3 mauling of Manawatu in Friday's semifinal, the Steamers are hot favourites to lift the trophy against a side they beat by 27 points in week eight.
They'll face Hawke's Bay in the Mitre 10 Cup Championship final, who earned their place after beating Otago 44-39 in the weekend's other semifinal.
Coming off the Manawatu massacre - the Steamers' highest score and biggest win - coach Clayton McMillan knows his side are in a good space as they return to Rotorua International Stadium for the final.
"We don't take too much notice of records, we were just happy to get the win," McMillan said.
"It has been a month since we last played Hawke's Bay and they have made adjustments so we have to prepare for what they will bring. It [previous results] doesn't mean anything at all, this is finals footy and it brings different pressures. We might bring momentum based on previous results, but once the whistle goes we have to earn the right to call ourselves champs."
The last time the two sides met in a playoff match was in the 2015 semifinals, McMillan's first season as coach, where the Steamers were defeated.
"We take momentum into the game and that is pretty critical heading into finals. We also take confidence in our ability to pull the trigger. We want to improve on last week's performance and that doesn't mean we have to put the same level of points on. We have to come off the field knowing we improved and if we do that we have a good chance of being on the right side of the ledger."
McMillan says playing at home is significant and he hopes to see the stands covered in blue and yellow on Friday
"In terms of a week's preparation, it is massive being at home – it is things like being able to sleep in your own bed. It is definitely an advantage and having a good vocal crowd is worth points alone. I would love to see the Bay of Plenty community again come out in force and see two bloody good teams put on a show."
Steamers captain Aidan Ross says the team has built well in recent seasons and both teams will front up for Friday's final.
"This has been brewing and you have seen the good things this season, but there is still a game to go. We don't need to change anything we use the same systems week in, week out. When you get into big moments you can try and reinvent the wheel, but we just need to keep doing what he have been."
Ross says the role as captain has been made easy by the players around him.
"Nothing really changes to what I have done all year and it is not too much different going from player to captain. We have a heap of experienced players and to be honest it has been pretty cruisy. I have great players around me and a lot of us have been together for four or five years."
Ross has top-level support at home in the form of his partner – Black Ferns Sevens player and two-time World Rugby's Women's Sevens Player of the Year Michaela Blyde.
"She always chucks her five cents in and she keeps me grounded when I come home. But normally we park the rugby talk when we are home, you have to get away from it."
Mitre 10 Cup championship final:
Bay of Plenty v Hawke's Bay.
7.35pm, Friday, October 25.
Rotorua International Stadium.