With the Steamers on an unstoppable surge to a home semi-final, the razzle-dazzle play from arguably the best attacking backline in the competition has captivated fans.
The brilliance of wingers Emoni Narawa and Joe Ravouvou, utility back Chase Tiatia and some sharp play in recent games from first-five Kaleb Trask have lit up the Mitre 10 Cup.
But as always in our national game, the try highlights from the speedsters do not happen without a solid platform at set pieces created by the forwards.
Bay of Plenty teams have struggled for years to put together a dominant scrum but not in 2019. The Steamers have a forward pack that has played second fiddle to no other and the sight of big Waikato and Wellington packs being shunted all over Rotorua International Stadium was a sight for these blue-and-gold shaded eyes.
It is a little unfair to single out just one player from the pack but captain Aidan Ross deserves the accolades.
The loosehead prop may well have been an All Black by now but for a broken ankle suffered playing for the Chiefs at the start of 2018. Since his return to top level rugby this season, the former Tauranga Boys’ First XV player and NZ Under 20s rep has taken his game up another level. It seems the time away from the game was useful after all.
Last Saturday the genesis of the resounding 46-10 victory over Manawatu at Tauranga Domain was once again the rampant forward pack lead by Aidan. The first three scrums he made such a mess of his opposite tighthead prop that the referee stopped play to have a word to Manawatu’s captain about trying to create a fair contest.
Mention of Kaleb Trask has to come with sadness that the talented 20-year-old broke his jaw trying to tackle All Black Ngani Laumape at the Domain on Saturday.
The injury means an opportunity for Jason Robertson to step up and guide the Steamers to the final. Jason plays for Te Puke Sports and loves flicking the club’s pirate sign any time he scores a try.
But for many Steamers fans he is an unknown quantity. Jason attended Aquinas College in Tauranga’s Pyes Pa before making some appearances for Waikato while studying in Hamilton.
He then went to Japan to join up with another Te Puke man Dan Hollinshead before returning home last year.
Now is his moment in the spotlight and hopefully he gets to flick Bay of Plenty supporters a few more pirates in the weeks to come.
* Following last week’s great win over Waikato, the BOP Volcanix overcame a halftime deficit to defeat Manawatu Cyclones 30-17 on Saturday. Well done.
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