Bay of Plenty recorded their first win since 2001 at Westpac Stadium after beating Wellington 31-24 in a tough ITM Cup clash.
Bay of Plenty recorded their first win since 2001 at Westpac Stadium after beating Wellington 31-24 in a tough ITM Cup clash on Thursday.
The Lions were unable to tame the elements and a committed Steamers side who defended their line well for long periods and made the most of their points scoring opportunities.
The result hung in the balance right up until the final few minutes before Bay winger Lelia Masaga ran over half the length of the field to score the match clinching try, taking his side out a seven-point advantage.
The Lions had closed to within two points with 20 minutes still on the clock with a try from a well-wheeled attacking scrum to scrum-half Alby Mathewson and converted from the touchline by fly-half Lima Sopoaga.
But in a close game the visiting side were able to hang on, on the back of Masaga's try and two earlier tries just before and after half-time.
From the loss Wellington gained a bonus point, to move to 28 points on a crowded ITM Cup ladder ahead of their next game next Sunday against North Harbour in Albany.
Bay of Plenty had earlier taken a 19-12 lead into the half-time interval, after seven penalties had been kicked by both sides and the visitors scored a try five minutes before the interval to full-back Ben Smith.
In swirling conditions and in steady rain, Sopoaga landed four first-half penalties from five attempts and his opposite, Mike Delany, was successful with all four of his penalty shots on goal.
The Lions had first-half possession and territory in their favour but were unable to break through for a try, their best chances being an early dart at the chalk by Mathewson that was thwarted over the line.
Bay of Plenty led 12-9 ahead of Smith's try, which served to extend their advantage to 10 points. Sopoaga's fourth penalty just before the break closed the gap back up to seven at half-time.
In improving conditions, the Steamers pulled further ahead three minutes into the second half when they won a defensive Wellington line-out and spun the ball wide to centre Cory Aporo who crossed out wide. Delany added the extras and the Steamers had doubled their advantage to fourteen points.
The Lions went close to pulling a try back when number eight Faifili Leave ran on to a kick ahead into the in-goal but couldn't quite grasp a loose ball and Bay of Plenty escaped with a 22 drop-out.
Two minutes later Bay of Plenty won a Lions' attacking line-out near their line but cleared the ball as far as wing Alapati Leiua near halfway.
In broken play, Leiua linked up with partner in crime Buxton Popoalii who cut a swathe through the Steamers' chasing line and offloaded in the tackle to hooker Dane Coles who crossed for a try to close the score to 17-26.
Mathewson skirted up the right-hand touchline and pushed his way through the Bay of Plenty defence from a shortside scrum move in concert with Levave. Sopoaga kicked the extras from the right-hand corner and the deficit was now just two points at 24-26.
But the Steamers maintained field position. Delany missed two penalties and lock Cullum Retallick put a foot into touch in a run to the corner post, before Masaga ran up the same touchline and scored his try that sealed their win.
Tries: Coles, Mathewson
Pens: Sopoaga 4
For Bay of Plenty:
Tries: Smith, Aporo, Masaga
Cons: Delany 2
Pens: Delany 4
Wellington: 15 Apoua Stewart, 14 Buxton Popoali'i, 13 Shaun Treeby, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Faifili Levave, 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Api Naikatini, 5 Nick Passi, 4 Jeremy Thrush (c), 3 David Te Moana, 2 Dane Coles, 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Reg Goodes, 18 Brad Shields, 20 Dean Brunsdon, 21 Ruki Tipuna, 22 Tajhon Mailata, Fa'atonu Fili.
Bay of Plenty: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Cory Aporo, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Brett Mather, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Colin Bourke (c), 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Culum Retallick, 4 Luke Andrews, 3 Tristan Moran, 2 John Pareanga, 1 Josh Hohneck.
Replacements: 16 Dan Perrin, 17 Joe Savage, 18 Aidan Kuka, 19 Solomon King, 20 Chad Tuoro, 21 Dan Waenga, 22 Grant McQuoid.
Referee: Keith Brown