The last time the teams met there were 12 tries scored as Bay of Plenty surged to a 51-24 victory. It became clear quickly in Rotorua there would be no repeat of that score line as both teams looked to keep the ball in tight and kick for possession rather than unleash their dangerous backlines.
It was traditional finals footy in front of a bumper crowd at Rotorua International Stadium. The first and only try of the game was not scored until the 57th minute, and even then, it was an intercept by Hawke’s Bay wing Jonah Lowe.
While the Steamers run to the final was built on their expansive back play, the final victory was all about grunt work up front and a tremendous defensive effort across the park.
It didn’t seem to matter a dot to the crowd how the win came for the Steamers. A large crowd stayed to celebrate Bay of Plenty’s first Championship title for long after the final whistle. The win also marked the Steamers first national title since winning the second division in 2000.
The game was in the balance in the final five minutes as the Magpies banged on the Steamers line, but there was no way through as Clayton McMillan’s side would not yield.
The win also capped off 100 Mitre 10 Cup games for 38-year-old lock Alex Ainley (92 for Tasman, 8 for Bay of Plenty).
Bay of Plenty will ply their trade in the Premiership in 2020 while Counties Manukau will drop down to take their place in the Championship.
Bay of Plenty: 12 (Dan Hollinshead 4 pen) Hawke’s Bay: 7 (Jonah Lowe try, Tiaan Falcon con)