Steamers back to their old school attacking game

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

Attending a Bay of Plenty Steamers game is a bit like a lucky dip - you never know what you are going to get.

Sunday's Mitre 10 Cup encounter at the Tauranga Domain against Otago was a perfect example of the surprises the Steamers are likely to throw to the blue and gold fans. Few of the very respectable sized crowd, given the terrible afternoon weather forecast, could have foretold the stranglehold that the Bay of Plenty representatives would take on the match.

From the opening whistle, the Steamers 15 took control using their attacking style of play, scoring nine tries in a 50-7 demolition of the southern visitors.

Over the years, Bay of Plenty teams have been renowned for razzle dazzle rugby and a ‘take no prisoners’ approach to defence. Sunday's romp at showed the current crop of Steamers have embraced the traditional Bay of Plenty style of playing attacking rugby.

However the other side of the coin, when you flick the ball wide whenever the opportunity arises, there is always danger on the horizon.

The roller coaster ride that Steamers fans often experience is a result of the team chancing their arm in pursuit of touchdowns rather than playing a dour game of safe options.

There is no better example of overcoming poor form-book predictions, than when the Steamers took on the touring Australians in 1982. The Steamers squared off against the Wallabies, who were fresh off a victory over the All Blacks just four days previously, having lost all five of their NPC Division One matches.

This now grey headed rugby commentator was at the Rotorua International Stadium, where Ronnie Preston kicked a penalty for the home team after just two minutes, to propel them into a lead they would never relinquish.

The Steamers 16 nil lead at the halfway stage of the encounter, was just the entree to a second half that produced a further 24 points, in their 40-16 walloping of the Aussies.

Perusal of the Bay of Plenty team some 37 years later, reveals a number of players who would go on to become Steamers legends. Hika Reid and Frank Shelford had already earned All Black selection, with Gary Braid and Steve McDowell going on to represent their country.

Bay of Plenty brothers in arm Mark Basham and Ron Preston would become key components in future Steamers sides, with sevens coaching maestro Sir Gordon Tietjens playing off the side of the scrum.

Future rugby administrators Bruce Cameron and Graham Elvin also played a big part in the upset victory.

The happy hooker Hika Reid grabbed two tries with John Cameron, Mark Basham, Ron Preston and Gordon Tietjens all dotting the ball down in the upset victory. Ron Preston made an indelible kicking contribution with five conversions and two penalty goals.

While the Australians didn't field any of their test players on the day, they paid their Bay of Plenty opposition the highest compliment of standing and clapping their opponents off the field.


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