The All Blacks may be long gone from New Zealand’s provincial competition but that doesn’t mean the excitement has left the Mitre 10 Cup.
Afternoon matches have long been the norm in the 54-year competition and when the weather plays ball, the rugby is free-flowing.
While the Ranfurly Shield match between Hawke’s Bay and Wellington will have taken precedence for many on Sunday afternoon, it was the derby between Waikato and Bay of Plenty played in Hamilton that produced the better contest.
Such is the competitiveness of the Premiership that both sides entered the match with the potential to play in the semi-finals in two weeks’ time – but neither was safe from relegation either.
Home side Waikato were the short favourites, however – though that had little impact on how the Steamers performed in the opening minutes of the match.
In fact, it took just five minutes for Bay of Plenty to score the first try of the game.
It started inside their own 22, with Waikato testing the away side’s early-game defence. Following a quick turnover, Steamers outside back Emoni Narawa sent the ball out to lock Sam Dickson who was perched on the wing, and the second-rower proceeded to show off his wide range of skills.
The All Blacks Sevens representative galloped down the sideline then dropped the ball onto his right boot for a perfectly weighted chip kick over the top of the approaching defender. Dickson regathered the kick and offloaded to Narawa, who had stayed in support.
With just two remaining Mooloo defenders to beat, Narawa threaded his arm between the two tacklers and popped the ball up to centre Dan Hollinshead who was able to meander in untouched between the uprights.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 8, 2020
The Steamers proceeded to build a 19-3 lead after 26 minutes, upsetting the odds, but by halftime the home side had fought back and found themselves just a single point behind.
Following the break, Waikato continued their fight back and the shellshocked Steamers side fell behind 30-19.
It was the fast-starting Bay of Plenty who ultimately had the final say, scoring two late tries – including one after the final hooter.
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