Bay of Plenty get crucial win over Auckland
Bay of Plenty produced the commitment they so badly needed to get them back in the hunt in the national rugby premiership with a 37-16 victory over Auckland in Rotorua.
The win, just Bay's second of the season and coming just three nights after their nine-point loss to Waikato in Hamilton, brought them the John Drake Boot and five valuable competition points.
Bay of Plenty dominated the first half at Rotorua International Stadium, winning the breakdown contest through the standout work of Luke Braid and Tanerau Latimer and shutting Auckland down with outstanding defence for a key 24-6 halftime lead.
The home side got the early lead through the boot of first-five Nick McCashin 6-3 and then he converted a gift try to diminutive fullback Lance MacDonald in the 18th minute to make it 13-3.
The Bay had attacked strongly, No 8 Braid playing a prominent role, but the ball was spilt forward in a tackle in the left corner and Auckland fullback Charles Piutau took off on a typical counter-attack.
But when he was challenged near the touchline Piutau flung a careless no-look pass behind him straight to MacDonald, who had no-one in front of him 22m out and scampered to the line to score.
Auckland goal-kicker Gareth Anscombe closed the gap to 13-6 but the Bay loose forwards were dominating the contest on the ground as well as carrying the ball forward strongly.
A direct burst from Braid off the back of an attacking scrum was carried on by Latimer who then offloaded to Cullum Retallick to continue the momentum.
A quick ruck then enabled the Bay backs to move the ball smartly to the left to an overlap for MacDonald to dive in for his second try and an 18-6 lead that McCashin increased to 21-6 before the break.
Just when the teams were ready to jog off for halftime a report from assistant referee Bryce Lawrence on a late, no-arms tackle from Auckland No 8 Peter Saili enabled McCashin to kick a fine 46m penalty goal to make it 24-6 at the changeover.
Auckland began the second half like they meant it and after putting together a dozen attacking phases they got a penalty that Anscombe kicked to make it 24-9.
Not content with that Anscombe then added a seven-pointer, taking the gap 22m out when Braid rushed up out of the Bay defensive line and scored handy to the posts to make the conversion a mere formality and the score 24-16.
Suddenly the visitors were in the game and with all the momentum.
Bay burst into life and twice put multiple phases together in the middle of the spell only to turn the ball over both times with errors, but a scrum penalty enabled McCashin to kick his fifth penalty goal and open the margin back out to 11 points and then a mistake clearing up a defensive bomb saw Bay second five Phil Burleigh swoop on a sloppy pass and race away for the try to make it 32-16.
Things went from bad to worse for a frustrated Auckland side as the errors came thick and fast against the continuing strong defence of the Steamers and McCashin finished it off with a try in the left corner for the Bay's bonus point and the record.
Bay of Plenty 37 (Lance MacDonald 2, Phil Burleigh, Nick McCashin tries; McCashin conversion, 5 penalty goals) Auckland 16 (Gareth Anscombe try, conversion, 3 penalty goals). Halftime: 24-6 BoP.