Bay of Plenty rugby fans have plenty of reasons to feel confident that 2019 might be the year this underperforming union finally gets back in the big time.
After wallowing in the second-tier Mitre 10 Cup Championship since being relegated from the Premiership in 2013 there has not been much to cheer about.
But the opening three rounds of the 2019 campaign have been hugely positive for the Steamers.
The opening match at Tauranga Domain against Ranfurly Shield holders Otago was a sign of things to come. A combination of a fired up Steamers side and woefully inattentive Otago side meant the perfect start for the home side.
The record 50-7 scoreline made more sense when the powerful Waikato side took on the Steamers in Rotorua a week later. The Mooloos were expecting to win after beating top class Canterbury in Hamilton in round one and knowing the dominance they have enjoyed over their little Chiefs’ brothers.
The Steamers put together one of the best 80 minutes of rugby they have played in years to outmuscle Waikato up front and then cash in out wide to run up an impressive 40-14 victory.
That win made neutral fans and rugby pundits take notice but could the Steamers back it up at Eden Park against the defending Premiership champions last weekend?
They certainly did. Apart from not getting the win and having to settle for a bonus point 19-13 loss, there were so many positives to take from the game. Auckland looked like they would run all over the Steamers after the opening 40 minutes but the second half was pretty much all the Bay.
Perhaps more variations attacking Auckland’s line and a bit of luck would have seen a different result. Certainly after so many pastings at the famous ground it was a delight to see a Bay of Plenty team dictating terms to Auckland.
So to round four’s game against Premiership side North Harbour in Albany at 2.05pm on Sunday.
Harbour have a win, loss and draw from their opening three games but have not shown anything the Steamers need to worry about.
They have a reasonable forward pack and excellent halfback in Bryn Hall but if the Steamers can get the same quality front-foot ball they have enjoyed so far this season then they should return home to the Bay with the points in the bag.