The Counties-Manukau Steelers produced a dazzling display of attacking rugby last night to thump Bay of Plenty 47-13 at Ecolight Stadium in Pukekohe.
The Counties backline had obviously been paying attention at training because the line breaks, link-ups and supporting runs had coach and former All Blacks great Tana Umaga's finger prints all over them.
Counties ran in five tries to two but had effectively killed the game off by halftime - picking up their bonus point try and 34 points after 37 minutes.
But it was their style and execution which will be most pleasing to Umaga who saw Adam Cathcart, Rey Lee-Lo, and Mark Selwyn all touch down for exceptional tries.
But none of them compared to Baden Kerr's, which was a genuine try of the year candidate.
Lee-lo broke into the open field from a deep position in his own half, before offloading to Augustine Pulu with exquisite timing in support who in turn quickly found Kerr. But for all of Counties brilliance, Bay of Plenty were equally poor and handling errors, weak defence and tired decisions were a feature of their night. It was a disappointing response from Bay of Plenty - who played so well in their previous 31-19 win over Otago, but now remains firmly rooted to the foot of the Premiership table.
"To play like we did in that last game and then come and play like we have is a bit disrespectful to the jersey really," Bay of Plenty captain Tanerau Latimer said after the game. "We couldn't hold the ball, we couldn't get past three phases."
Counties third game in eight days had little effect on their side, and their third win from four games now sees them sit atop the Championship table.
"Our forwards set the platform, our lineouts and scrum was working really well," said Counties captain Mahonri Schwalger.
Earlier, Taranaki retained the Ranfurly Shield with a 22-6 victory over Hawke's Bay in their ITM Cup match at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth.
Bay of Plenty 13 Counties 47.
Taranaki 22 (K Baker, J Hayward, S Waldrom tries; J Cameron 2 con, pen) Hawke's Bay 6 (D. Waenga 2 pen). Halftime: 0-0.