The Bay of Plenty Steamers have made an emphatic early season statement, hammering Otago 50-7 in the opening round of the Mitre 10 Cup today.
Otago had much of the possession in the early stages, at the Tauranga Domain, but struggled to make any real inroads against a staunch Steamers defence.
Having absorbed the early pressure, the Steamers had the first real try-scoring opportunity on the back of a Nathan Harris break down the blind side into the 22m. They spun the ball right and winger Emoni Narawa charged for the corner before looking to pass to Joe Webber inside but the pass was wayward.
They did not have to wait much longer to break the deadlock though as minutes later big No 8 Abraham Papali'i scored the opening try on his Steamers debut. The Steamers had a scrum 5m out and were too powerful as they drove over the try line and Papali'I fell on the ball to score. First five Dan Hollinshead converted and the home side led 7-0.
Midway through the first half the Steamers extended their lead. From a lineout inside the 22m the ball went to second five Mathew Skipwith-Garland who burst through a gap, was tackled by the fullback but managed to offload to flanker Mitch Karpik who crashed over to score and make it 12-0.
The onslaught continued. Twenty-five minutes into the first half the Steamers were on the attack again. Papali'I threw a flick pass which bounced into winger Fa'asiu Fuatai's arms before he showed his electric pace to take off and thrill the crowd with a theatrical dive in the corner. Hollinshead converted and extended the lead to 19-0.
The Steamers extended their lead with a converted try under the posts to captain Aidan Ross on the back of some patient build-up play. Hollinshead converted and they led 26-0 at halftime.
The Steamers picked up where they left off in the second half. Much like the start of the game, they were under pressure in their own half. However, they turned the ball over, Narawa took off but was reeled in near halfway. He offloaded to Joe Webber who had just enough pace to race away and score under the posts. Hollinshead converted and extended the lead to 33-0.
Kurt Eklund and Tevita Mafileo came on for their Steamers debuts in the front row but the forward pack lost none of its dominance, continuing to drive Otago back in every scrum.
Sixty minutes into the game Otago looked certain to score as winger Lisala Halaleva got the ball in space and sprinted for the corner but Karpik, who so often leads by example, chased him down and tackled him short of the line.
Otago finally made a breakthrough in the final quarter of the game as second five Patelesio Tomkinson crashed over from close range. First five Vilimoni Koroi converted and reduced the deficit to 33-7.
The Steamers hit straight back as Luke Campbell was rewarded for some good support play with a try. Hollinshead converted and pushed the home side's lead back out to 40-7.
Fuatai rubbed salt in the wound when he intercepted an Otago pass near halfway and cruised through to score his second of the match. With three minutes left to play the Steamers led 45-7.
Right on fulltime, Jason Robertson scored to put the cherry on top of a dominant performance.