Thames Valley safe for Meads Cup final before Whanganui arrives on Saturday

By Jared Smith (pics by Merrilyn George)

The finalists for the Meads Cup final have been confirmed as Steelform Whanganui’s remaining opponent for the Bunnings Heartland Championship round robin shut the door on them a week early.

Unbeaten Thames Valley claimed the Waikato derby with winless King Country at Te Aroha’s Boyd Park, 50-15 on Saturday, maintaining their eight point advantage over Whanganui in third place.

First-five Todd Donlan, about to have a big afternoon with 23 points, got the hosts away to a good start with a couple of penalties and conversion on Thames Valley’s second try, which he scored.

Down 18-0 in 22 minutes, King Country did fight their way back with a converted try and penalty to reduce the gap to eight points at halftime, but from there it was one-way traffic.

Two more Donlan penalties after the break took the hosts clear, and then four more tries, one of them an automatic seven-point penalty try, confirmed Thames Valley can finish no lower than second place, even if Whanganui wins this coming Saturday.

On derby weekend, the other games were closer and a couple of them were classics.

The oldest active inter-union trophy changed hands in Westport as West Coast regained the Rundle Cup from Buller, coming from behind to win 22-14.

It was the 224th meeting between the neighbours, with West Coast only just ahead with 106th victory, to Buller’s 103 wins plus 15 draws.

Buller got out to a 6-0 lead thanks to a couple of penalties from their former West Coast player Jesse Pitman-Joass, and although the visitors came back with a converted try, the home’s side sole try two minutes before the break had them up 11-7.

Pitman-Joass extended the advantage just after the resumption with another penalty, but West Coast chipped away and scored two more tries, with centre Sean McClure adding another conversion and penalty, before defending hard for the final 15 minutes to get the Rundle back.

If that game was good, then East Coast vs Poverty Bay in Gisborne was a stunner, as the Ruatoria union made it two wins in 2021 when they came from behind in the last eight minutes to snatch a 31-28 thriller.

East Coast had gotten a win over their neighbours in preseason to build the confidence to break their long Heartland duck, and Poverty Bay couldn’t pay them back despite the lead changing hands 4-5 times.

Up 21-7 in the second half, Poverty Bay fell behind 24-21, but got another converted try with 12 minutes left.

Their stalwart first-five Kelvin Smith finished with a 13 point haul from a try and four conversions.

But it wasn’t enough as the visitors did what was done to them in Greymouth the week before by scoring in the shadow of fulltime.

Winger Ngarohi McGarvey-Black and reserve forward Jorian Tangaere both claimed two tries.

Down in Timaru, Mid Canterbury’s fight-back to stay in the finals hunt and claim the prestigious Hanan Shield was undone by South Canterbury, now well ensconced in the driver’s seat to host the Meads Cup final following their 43-22 win.

Down 20-8 at halftime, Mid Canterbury closed up to 26-22 in the 57th minute with their third try, but the unbeaten hosts turned it on from there – swiftly pulling away with back-to-back tries, and then scoring again on fulltime.

Winger Kalavini Leatigaga continued his fine season with a double, while first-five Sam Briggs finished with a 23-point haul from a try, three conversions and four penalties.

Mid Canterbury, North Otago and Poverty Bay all losing was music to Horowhenua-Kapiti ears, as they picked up their first win in three seasons over neighbours Wairarapa Bush, 37-14 in Levin.

Up 15-6 at halftime, the home side was never in danger of being run down by the visitors, with their four-try bonus point lifting them up into fourth spot, with a three point advantage over the teams they leap-frogged on the table.

Winger Lennix Tovo scored two tries in a game not without the use of referee cards – Horowhenua Kapiti getting two yellows while Wairarapa Bush received a red.

Round 7 results, October 30

Thames Valley 50 (Will Newbold, Todd Doolan, Leeroy Neels, Sione Vakapuna Etoni, Josh Kano tries, penalty try; Doolan 4 pen, 3 con) bt King Country 15 (Nathaniel Smith, Sio Tapili tries; John Ika pen, con). HT: 18-10.

West Coast 22 (Ethan Simpson, Steven Soper, Joseph Scott tries; Sean McClure pen, 2 con) bt Buller 14 (Erenimo Tau try; Jesse Pitman-Joass 3 pen). HT: 11-7 Buller.

East Coast 31 (Ngarohi McGarvey-Black 2, Jorian Tangaere 2, Sam Parkes tries; Te Rangi Fraser 3 con) bt Poverty Bay 28 (Stefan Detounis, Kelvin Smith, Shayde Skudder, Jarryd Broughton tries; Smith 4 con). HT: 14-7 Poverty Bay.

South Canterbury 43 (Kalavini Leatigaga 2, William Wright, Sam Briggs, Luke Glen tries; Briggs 4 pen, 3 con) bt Mid Canterbury 22 (Lote Nasiga, Nick Foxley, Seta Koroitamana tries; Tom Reekie pen, 2 con). HT: 20-8.

Horowhenua Kapiti 37 (Lennix Tovo 2, Himiona Henare  Bryn Gordon, Scott Cameron tries; Jack Tatu-Robertson pen, 2 con) bt Wairarapa Bush 14 (Lewis Bush try; Tipene Haira 3 pen). HT: 15-6.

Whanganui 45 (Mathew Taula Fili 2, Lindsay Horrocks, Te Rangatira Waitokia, Craig Clare, Josaia Bogileka tries; Clare pen, 3 con, Ethan Robinson 3 con) bt North Otago 12 (Sean Jansen, Owen Davey tries; Abel Malalogo con). HT: 21-0.