The Taranaki development team came back from a horror first half to overcome Bay of Plenty 39-36 in Otorohanga on Saturday.
Just a week after letting North Harbour get out to a 26-5 lead at halftime, Taranaki found themselves in a worse situation against Bay of Plenty, falling behind 31-7 at the break.
"We just couldn't hold on to the ball," Taranaki coach Michael Carr said. "To be honest, we actually did some good stuff [in the first half]. We didn't change anything in the second half, we just held on to the ball, turned some phases, they got tired and we got some confidence up."
The confidence must have spread quickly as Taranaki went on to rack up 32 unanswered points as Avon Lewis, Nathan Hohaia, Brad Cooper, Brent Stevenson, Scott Rumball and Willie Rickards all scored tries before Bay of Plenty went over the line in the last minute.
The score would have been a lot higher but Taranaki's kickers could manage to land only two of their seven conversions.
Nevertheless, the nature of the win was satisfying for Carr, who only finalised his team on the morning of the game.
Taranaki ITM Cup squad members Rickards and Willie Ioane managed to get some valuable game time, although halfback Kylem O'Donnell had to leave the field with a knee injury after scoring a try 25 minutes into the match.
"It didn't look flash to start with but as the night went on he started to put weight on it," Carr said of the injury.
Taranaki's poor start was again because they missed too many first-up tackles, something they improved on dramatically in the second half.
Taranaki's comeback was led by Hohaia and Rickards in the midfield, with Carr saying their experience proved invaluable.
"They provided a lot of energy and talk, as well as direction."
Carr also praised O'Donnell and his replacement, Jamison Gibson-Park, for their performance behind the pack.
Taranaki now have a week off before they play Wellington in New Plymouth on August 27.
While Carr has managed to give just about everyone in the large squad game time in their opening three matches, the coach said he would be selecting his best side for the Wellington match, a game he considers their "test match" of the season.
Taranaki Development 39 (K O'Donnell, A Lewis, N Hohaia, B Cooper, B Stevenson, S Rumball, W Rickards tries; Cooper con, Hohaia con) Bay of Plenty 36. Halftime: 7-31.
- Taranaki Daily News
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