Magic pill still eludes Steam­ers

Bay of Plenty Times - - SPORT - Rugby

The glasses are emp­ty­ing on the bar of the Last Chance Saloon for the Bay of Plenty Steam­ers rugby team.

About the only good thing to emerge from Thurs­day night’s dis­ap­point­ing 17-15 loss to Manawatu at Ro­torua In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium is that the Steam­ers se­cured a bonus point for the nar­row loss and still hold fifth place in the Cham­pi­onship di­vi­sion.

But they have only three matches left if they are to avoid their worst sea­son in the Mitre 10 Cup since 2014, two of them in the South Is­land, and they’ll likely have to win all three, pos­si­bly with bonus points, to make the semi­fi­nals for the fourth con­sec­u­tive year.

The match against the Tur­bos was, like many in re­cent weeks, char­ac­terised by promis­ing moves wrecked by ba­sic mis­takes.

Many was the time a good se­quence of re­cy­cled ball phases was put to­gether, only for it to be ru­ined by a dropped ball or a penalty con­ces­sion at the break­down.

“We’re po­ten­tially search­ing for the magic pill in­stead of be­ing ac­cu­rate and pa­tient and cash­ing in on the op­por­tu­ni­ties that we’re cre­at­ing,” said head coach Clay­ton McMil­lan after­wards.

And when it’s not your night, it just isn’t your night. As if a plethora of dropped passes wasn’t enough, the tal­ented full­back and first five Kaleb Trask, who oth­er­wise im­presses more and more each match, missed the sim­plest of con­ver­sions after Aaron Car­roll scored in the sec­ond half.

He hung his head in em­bar­rass­ment but it was just typ­i­cal of the Steam­ers’ night.

“I don’t know what it is,” said Luke Camp­bell, the half­back who came on as an in­jury sub­sti­tu­tion and played on the wing, scor­ing a late try.

“The boys are run­ning hard, tack­ling hard. We just need to be smarter around our dis­ci­pline and re­ally get that last pass to fin­ish it off and cre­ate some more tries,” Camp­bell said.

“Some­times you’re putting 10-plus phases to­gether and not get­ting a re­ward, so it is frus­trat­ing.”

To com­pound mat­ters, the Steam­ers have sus­tained two more se­ri­ous in­juries. First five Ja­son Robert­son and loose­head prop Solomona Sakalia left the field within min­utes of each other in the first half. Robert­son has a frac­tured fibula and Sakalia a par­tial Achilles tear.

By Fri­day morn­ing both had a leg in plas­ter, their sea­sons over.

Util­ity back Matt Gar­land, who started at sec­ond five on Thurs­day, didn’t re­turn after half time be­cause of a ham­string is­sue and his fu­ture prospects are un­clear.

It just adds to a long list which started be­fore the Mitre 10 Cup be­gan, with front row­ers Ai­dan Ross and Sab Si­ataga ruled out.

That’s been com­pounded by what’s hap­pened to Mike De­lany, Liam Pol­wart, Tan­erau La­timer and Hugh Blake. Now Sakalia and Robert­son, and pos­si­bly Gar­land, are added to the list.

“I re­ally don’t want to use in­jury as an ex­cuse for per­for­mances that have been be­low ex­pec­ta­tions for our­selves and our stake­hold­ers and the pub­lic,” says McMil­lan.

“We’re cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. We’re just not be­ing clin­i­cal enough at the times when it re­ally mat­ters.”

But the long in­jury list means a cou­ple of stars from the Bay’s Un­der 19 teams of the last two years will travel to Dunedin and In­ver­cargill. A prop from this year’s New Zealand Un­der 20 team, Te­vita Mafileo, will prob­a­bly come in for Sakalia. Then the hard-run­ning, 100kg­plus mid-field back from this year’s cham­pion Un­der 19s, Lalomilo Lalomilo, will likely be brought in be­cause of the sit­u­a­tion with Robert­son and Gar­land.

No mat­ter who trav­els south, the game in Dunedin next Wed­nes­day must be won. Oth­er­wise the Steam­ers will not be in the top four.

Pre­sum­ing the top Premier­ship team Auck­land beat Otago at Eden Park last night, the match un­der the roof at Forsyth Barr Sta­dium will be be­tween the teams placed fourth and fifth on the Cham­pi­onship table, with Otago five points ahead.

“We’ve got to win, with bonus points prob­a­bly,” says Luke Camp­bell about the trip south. “I think the trip could be good for us, to keep us tight.”

That’s not the only thing that needs to be kept tight. So do those fum­bled passes.

PHOTO / GETTY IM­AGES

The Steam­ers Bai­ley Si­mon­s­son makes a break against Manawatu on Thurs­day night.

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