After a week in which a hooker and a prop scored hat-tricks, one from a more conventional source carried Auckland to victory over Bay of Plenty.
Rieko Ioane today showcased his full range of skills to lead his side to a bonus-point win at Rotorua International Stadium, lifting them to fourth in the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership.
The centre wasn't alone in grabbing three tries - Bay of Plenty No 8 Joe Tupe also added to a week of hat-tricks in the competition - but Ioane's efforts highlighted what was one of the games of the season.
Far too elusive for the Steamers defence to contain, Ioane scored twice before the break before notching his side's fifth try. The 19-year-old finished the match with 142 metres and a phenomenal 10 defenders beaten, with Auckland needing such heroics to vanquish a Bay of Plenty side whose impressive performance belied their lowly standing in the Championship.
The Steamers had earned only one victory this season but they certainly played their part in an electric encounter that featured 12 tries. Some of the running rugby on display from both sides was breath-taking, beginning in the opening minutes as the home side stormed in front.
Errors from Auckland allowed Bay of Plenty a dominance of possession they put to good use, grabbing three tries in the opening half hour. Tupe was especially effective in crossing for his first and setting up another, but a brilliant individual effort from Ioane and another dot-down on the stroke of halftime gave Auckland a 25-19 lead at the break.
Twenty-six unanswered points - capped by Ioane's third - saw Auckland take a seemingly unassailable lead with 25 minutes to play. But two more tries for Tupe and a late second from Teddy Stanaway saw Bay of Plenty set up a grandstand finish.
In the end, Melani Nanai's 70th-minute crossing proved the difference, but few home fans would have walked away unhappy after the entertainment they enjoyed.
Bay of Plenty 38 (S. Eru, T. Stanaway 2, J. Tupe 3 tries; K. Haimoana 2 cons, D. Hollinshead 2 cons)
Auckland 44 (R. Ioane 3, L. Visinia, S. Hickey, M. Nanai tries; S. Hickey 2 pens, 4 cons)