Steelers hold off hot finishing Steamers
The Counties Manukau Steelers set their home season off on a high note beating the Bay of Plenty steamers 39-34 at ECOlight Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Both teams combined to score 10 tries in an entertaining game where momentum shifted throughout.
After a slow start, trailing 11-15 at halftime, the Steelers propelled themselves into a 39-15 lead courtesy of scoring four tries in a row.
However, they were made to hang on as the visitors raced home with three tries in the final 12 minutes to close the margin.
The home side took some time to find their rhythm as the Steamers’ pack produced some physical play.
Gradually the Steelers gained parity upfront and their much vaunted ruck-and-run rugby started to make in-roads.
They took full advantage of a yellow card to Bay of Plenty winger Monty Ioane for a deliberate knock-on which earned a penalty try as well as 10 minutes in the bin. The Steelers were a different team in the second half with big lock Viliame Rarasea robust in set play and in the loose, while No 8 Sootala Fa’aso’o enjoyed a strong outing.
In the backs, Piers Francis kicked superbly while his combination with Augustine Pulu was also key for the Steelers. Centre Sam Vaka found form in the midfield, with some storming runs to set up at least two of the five tries. Assistant coach Grant Henson said the team was happy with the win in the end, but it got a little too close for comfort.
‘‘It was good to get the win, but we probably should have put the foot on the throat at the end. Bay of Plenty came back at us and made a real game of it in the end. But we got the five points, so we are happy with that.
‘‘Our message at half time was to tidy up the breakdown and in the second spell that made a dif- ference. We tidied up our cleaning system and that got us good go forward.
The Steelers next game is against Hawke’s Bay on Thursday 1 September at McLean Park in Napier, kick off 7:35pm.
Counties Manukau 39 (Viliame Rarasea, Jordan Taufua, Sherwin Stowers, Sione Molia, Penalty tries; Piers Francis 2 penalties, 4 conversions). Bay of Plenty 34 (Monty Ioane 2, Hugh Blake, James O’Reilly, Regan Ware tries; Kelly Haimona 1 penalty, 1 conversion; Te Aihe Toma 2 conversions).