Taranaki won their final Air New Zealand Cup game 30-24 over Bay of Plenty on Sunday, to finish eighth overall.
In an entertaining but loose match, the Steamers shot out to a 24-6 lead - including four tries - by half-time, but a gritty second-half comeback, featuring 24 unanswered points, saw Taranaki take the spoils, with Paul Perez's try five minutes from time bringing home the bacon, along with a final two minutes of heroic defence and drama epitomising the Air New Zealand Cup of 2009.
The match finished with the Steamers going through fifteen phases of possession by the Taranaki posts, culminating in a lunge over the line from Dean Elmiger but which was called as having been held up.
It was all Bay of Plenty in the first half with wing Jason Hona scoring twice as his side ran riot.
Hona first pounced on a loose Taranaki pass and sprinted away untouched to score in the corner, with number eight Colin Bourke converting in the absence of All Black Mike Delany.
Willie Ripia replied with a penalty, but Bay of Plenty lock John Moore soon charged over for his first ever Air New Zealand Cup try on the back of some solid forwards play and, with another Bourke conversion, helped his side out to 14-3 lead.
Taranaki's scrum repelled more Steamers attacks, the only feature of the visitors' game which was working well, but the damage was once again done out wide as wing Zar Lawrence received and inside pass and crashed over the line.
Bay of Plenty weren't quite done for the half either as Hona got on the outside of his defender, fended off another and sprinted away down the sideline to dot down and secure the bonus point on the stroke of half-time.
Taranaki hit back immediately in the opening stages of the second half when openside flanker Ben Souness showed his sevens skills to weave past two defenders to score a much-needed try and bring them back into the game.
Minutes later, Jayden Hayward collected a Ripia chip kick, drew a defender and passed to lock Leon Power who dotted down near the posts. Ripia converted both tries to make it 24-20, then added a penalty to make it a one-point game.
As Taranaki's pack continued to damage, Ripia had another penalty for the lead with seven to go but sliced this one uncharacteristically right.
Bay of Plenty finally broke however when powerful centre Paul Perez exposed a gap in the Bay of Plenty defence and strolled over in the corner to score the winner, with Ripia's conversion the icing on the cake.
For Bay of Plenty:
Tries: Hona 2, Moore, Lawrence
Cons: Bourke 2
Tries: Souness, Power, Perez
Cons: Ripia 3
Pens: Ripia 3
Bay of Plenty: 15 Toby Arnold, 14 Zar Lawrence, 13 Wayne Hughson, 12 Nigel Hunt, 11 Jason Hona, 10 Phil Burleigh, 9 Junior Poluleuligaga, 8 Colin Bourke (c), 7 Luke Braid, 6 Zach Hohneck, 5 Culum Retallick, 4 John Moore, 3 Ted Tauroa, 2 John Pareanga, 1 Joe Savage.
Replacements: 16 Dean Elmiger, 17 Daniel Schuster, 18 Mark Burman, 19 Matt Henwood, 20 Josh Hall, 21 Nick McCashin, 22 Sikeli Bola.
Taranaki: 15 Asalemo Malo, 14 Nathan Hohaia, 13 Paul Perez, 12 Jayden Hayward, 11 Shayne Austin, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Brett Goodin, 8 Jarrad Hoeata, 7 Ben Souness, 6 Johnny Willis, 5 Craig Clarke, 4 Leon Power, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Laurence Corlett, 1 Tony Penn (c).
Replacements: 16 James Hinchco, 17 Carl Carmichael, 18 Nemia Soqeta, 19 Sameula Vunisa, 20 Beydon Phillips, 21 Isaia Tuifua, 22 Ed Jenkins.
Referee: Vinny Munro