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Goals for 2022: Poverty Bay have Bill’s Taonga, South Canterbury the Meads Cup

By Jared Smith

There will be another trophy or two in Steelform Whanganui’s sights in 2022, including the Taonga named after one of their greatest players.

In a truncated season without semifinals, the fifth vs sixth playoff in Gisborne on Sunday between hosts Poverty Bay and Whanganui-vanquisher Mid Canterbury was to decide the inaugural holder of the Bill Osborne Taonga.

The prize, which is named after the current NZR President Bill Osborne, will become like the Bunning’s Heartland Championship’s own Ranfurly Shield going forward, defended by home sides.

GISBORNE, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 14: Ian Kirkpatrick holds the Bill Osborne Taonga before the Heartland Championship match between Poverty Bay and Mid Canterbury at Rugby Park, on November 14, 2021, in Gisborne, New Zealand. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

One of the greatest All Black midfielders of the 1970’s to early 1980’s, Osborne played 16 tests and 48 matches for New Zealand, while playing provincially for Whanganui from 1973-82.

Poverty Bay, who got smashed 65-12 by Whanganui at Cooks Gardens in the first round on September 18, rose from those ashes to win four games and lose three more narrowly, earning the home playoff on differential.

They would overcome Mid Canterbury 33-26 after leading 13-10 at halftime, getting payback for the 22-19 away loss to the same team on October 23.

While Whanganui does not play Poverty Bay in every Heartland campaign, should they be drawn to meet each other next season, that game will be in Gisborne, opening up the possibility of claiming the Taonga.

But the biggest prize in any Heartland campaign is the Meads Cup, and after years of heartbreak from being upset in home playoffs, South Canterbury finally claimed the prize with a comfortable 35-16 win over Thames Valley in Timaru – getting revenge from the shock 2018 final defeat.

The hosts led 15-3 with winger Sireli Buliruarua and flanker Cam Russell dotting down for tries, before the Waikato team closed the gap to 15-10 through a try by their flanker Ben Stephens.

South Canterbury’s goal-kicker Sam Briggs traded penalties with Thames Valley’s Todd Doolan on either side of halftime for 24-16, but Buliruarua getting his second try and the visitors losing hooker Sam van der Valk to the sin-bin proved decisive.

From 29-16, Briggs popped over two more penalties to keep his side well clear of any forlorn comeback, to complete only the third unbeaten season in Heartland history, although the 2008 and 2016 Whanganui sides played in seasons with semifinals.

Finals results, November 14

Meads Cup –
South Canterbury 35 (Sireli Buliruarua 2, Cam Russell tries; Sam Briggs 6 pen, con)
bt Thames Valley 16 (Ben Stephens try; Todd Doolan 3 pen, con)
HT: 18-13.

TIMARU, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 14: Captain Nick Strachan of South Canterbury (C) and his team mates celebrate with the Meads Cup after their win in the Meads Cup Final match between South Canterbury and Thames Valley at Alpine Energy Stadium, on November 14, 2021, in Timaru, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)
TIMARU, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 14: Captain Nick Strachan and Head Coach Nigel Walsh of South Canterbury (L-R) pose with the Meads Cup after their win in the Meads Cup Final match between South Canterbury and Thames Valley at Alpine Energy Stadium, on November 14, 2021, in Timaru, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)
TIMARU, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 14: Captain Nick Strachan of South Canterbury (3rd L) and his team mates perform a Haka in front of the Meads Cup after their win in the Meads Cup Final match between South Canterbury and Thames Valley at Alpine Energy Stadium, on November 14, 2021, in Timaru, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Lochore Cup –
Steelform Whanganui 22 (Alekesio Vakarorogo, Semi Vodosese tries; Ethan Robinson 4 pen)
bt North Otago 16 (Levi Emery try; Abel Magalogo 3 pen, con)
HT: 12-3.

WHANGANUI, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 14: Whanganui celebrate victory with the Lochore Cup after the Lochore Cup Heartland Championship match between Whanganui and North Otago at Cooks Garden, on November 14, 2021, in Whanganui, New Zealand. (Photo by William Booth/Getty Images)
WHANGANUI, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 14: Coach Jason Caskey (L) and captain Campbell Hart celebrate with the trophy after the Lochore Cup Heartland Championship match between Whanganui and North Otago at Cooks Garden, on November 14, 2021, in Whanganui, New Zealand. (Photo by William Booth/Getty Images)
WHANGANUI, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 14: Viki Tofa during the Lochore Cup Heartland Championship match between Whanganui and North Otago at Cooks Garden, on November 14, 2021, in Whanganui, New Zealand. (Photo by William Booth/Getty Images)

Bill Osborne Taonga –
Poverty Bay 33 (James Higgins, Stefan Destounis, Jarryd Broughton 2 tries; Kelvin Smith 2 con, 3 pen)
Mid Canterbury 26 (Callum Barrell, Raitube Vasurakuta tries; Tom Reekie con, 4 pen)
HT: 13-10

GISBORNE, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 14: Poverty Bay players celebrate winning the Bill Osborne Taonga Heartland Championship match between Poverty Bay and Mid Canterbury at Rugby Park, on November 14, 2021, in Gisborne, New Zealand. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)
GISBORNE, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 14: Ian Kirkpatrick holds the Bill Osborne Taonga before the Heartland Championship match between Poverty Bay and Mid Canterbury at Rugby Park, on November 14, 2021, in Gisborne, New Zealand. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)
GISBORNE, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 14: Paoraian Manuel-Harman of Poverty Bay and Bailey Mackey of NZ Rugby following the Bill Osborne Taonga Heartland Championship match between Poverty Bay and Mid Canterbury at Rugby Park, on November 14, 2021, in Gisborne, New Zealand. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)