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Heartland rugby team kicks off preseason campaign

The Thames Valley Heartland Rugby team kicked off its preseason campaign with a trip to Hawera to play the Taranaki Development Team.

The match was part of the curtain-raiser programme for the Ranfurly Shield game between holders, Taranaki and challengers Wanganui.

With Rugby Park, New Plymouth still unavailable, the TSB Sports Hub at Hawera provided an ideal venue for some early season representative rugby.

Coach Matt Bartleet did not have all the squad available because of injuries but was still able to field a competitive line up with all players hoping to impress enough to get a starting position when the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship begins on August 25 with a home game against West Coast.

There had been a slight change in the Loan Player mix with Sam Vea pulling out after being named in the squad but he has been replaced by Christian Kelleher, a loose forward from Hamilton Marist.

The other loans are Harry Lafituanai (Melville), Kieran Lee (Melville), both outside backs, and the Player of Origin is Connor McVerry, formerly Mercury Bay and now plying his trade at Fraser Tech in Hamilton.

The starting line-up was made up of Thames Valley club players only and they performed very well.

Taranaki had plenty of possession and go forward in the first 20 minutes but Thames Valley absorbed the pressure and were first to score through captain, Brett Ranga.

From that point on the visitors dominated and controlled the game, mainly through their defence. By half time they were leading 29-7.

The loan players and other replacements were brought on in the second half and the team seemed to step up another gear, scoring seven tries before Taranaki scored two late tries as the game lost its shape.

The final score was 43-19 to Thames Valley with the tries scored by Logan Matai, Jesse Dodunski Christian Kelleher Alex Bradley, Ben Bonnar and three to captain Brett Ranga.

The Thames Valley Development Team played the Auckland Under 19 B team at Bell Park, Pakuranga in the first game of their preseason programme before they commence the defence of the Northern Regions Under 85kg Championship title which they won for the first time last year.

Coaches Colin Walker and Mike Bellamy, both from Waihi, took a new look team away for this game and came up against a squad of 32 Auckland players who were trialling for places in an Auckland team that will compete in the Jock Hobbs National Under 19 tournament at Taupo in September this year.

With plenty at stake the Auckland boys played well and led 24-7 at half time.

The Thames Valley team played with plenty of spirit and scored three tries in the 67-19 loss.

There was one club rugby game played this week at Boyd Park, Te Aroha where old rivals, Waihou and Cobras met to contest the Dr Dunn trophy.

A large crowd turned out in very wet conditions as Cobras took the spoils with a 22-0 victory.

The secondary schools rugby competitions held their semi-finals this week in all three grades at various venues throughout the region.

Paeroa College fourth grade beat Hauraki Plains 45-27 in the first semi-final and Waihi College had no trouble winning away from home when they defeated Whangamata 31-24 at Whangamata.

In the Development Grade, Hauraki Plains beat Mercury Bay Area School 29-7 and is through to the final.

Paeroa College was too strong for Mercury Bay and won 54-13 in the First XV semi final at Paeroa while Thames and Hauraki Plains battled it out at Rhodes Park.

With the score tied at 7 all at the interval it took a 47m penalty to give Thames the win by 10-7 and a place in the Coulter Cup Final at Paeroa.

The second round of the Shaw Cup and Fleming Shield tournament was held at the Sports Park at Whitianga on Saturday.

There are four teams in the Fleming Shield section and seven in the Shaw Cup.

After two days of competition, Te Aroha/Paeroa and Central head up the Fleming Shield points table and Waihi and Thames top the Shaw Cup.

The opening round of the Under 13 Girls rugby competition was held at the Paeroa Domain on Friday night with teams from Waihi, Hauraki Plains and Mercury Bay while the team from Whangamata withdrew earlier in the week.

A full round of 7 aside games was played between all teams with a mixture of all three teams coming together for a 30 minute game of fifteen aside to cap off the night.

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