Poverty Bay claimed a nail biting one point victory over Thames Valley at Boyd Park, to deny the hosts a place in the Lochore Cup semi finals for 2017. In the final round robin game of the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship, the visitors threw caution to the wind after finding themselves seventeen points to nil, down after quarter of an hour, against a rampant Thames Valley desperate to reach the semi finals for the first time in four years. Thames Valley needed to win to clinch a playoff spot and made the perfect start to a must win game.
Thames Valley five eighth, Chris Doak kicked a penalty after five minutes and winger, Harry Lafituanai scored the opening try three minutes later. Doak converted and the home side poured on the pressure, leading to a try by Josh Law after quarter of an hour. Doak converted to increase the lead but Poverty Bay took the initiative from the restart and clawed their way back into the game with some breath taking rugby that led to three converted tries and a 21-17 lead just before the break. The Thames Valley forwards stepped up and put lock Aaron Carroll over for a converted try right on forty minutes and took a 24-21 lead into the sheds at half time.
Thames Valley dominated the third quarter but wasted a two on one overlap with danger man Lafituanai unmarked and a short run to the try line begging to be taken. This let off seem to inspire the visitors and they scored two converted tries in quick succession to build a commanding 35-24 lead. Carroll replied for Thames Valley with his second try for the day but the conversion was astray. With the clock winding down Poverty Bay were flagging and Co Captain Shaun Hill led by example to score a try and get the home side within a point of the visitors. The conversion attempt missed and in spite of their efforts the Thames Valley team could not add to their points tally in the remaining minutes and Poverty Bay won an epic encounter 35-34.
Both teams finished on the same number of points and under the competition rules in this situation the team that won the round robin game is deemed to finish higher on the points table thus enabling Poverty Bay to qualify for the Lochore Cup semi finals and eliminating Thames Valley from the competition for 2017.
In the other Heartland games, Buller was unable to take advantage of playing at home against Horowhenua Kapiti, losing 26-30. They finished in second and third place respectively and play each other again this week in the Meads Cup semi finals, with Horowhenua Kapiti playing host at the Levin Domain. East Coast wound up their season with a 45-7 loss at home to top qualifiers, South Canterbury. The green and blacks play Wanganui in the other Meads Cup semi final at Timaru, after the Butcher Boys eked out a narrow 10-6 win over a dogged North Otago at Cooks Gardens. King Country threw everything at Mid Canterbury but the Ashburton outfit was too good, winning 43-38 in Taupo. They finish in fifth and have a home semi final in the Lochore Cup against Poverty Bay. Wairarapa Bush joined Thames Valley, East Country and King Country as non qualifiers after they lost to West Coast 26-36 on the artificial turf at Masterton in the 6.00pm game on Saturday night. West Coast plays North Otago at Rugby Park in Greymouth in the remaining Lochore Cup semi final.
The Thames Valley Roller Mills team competed in the annual tournament that was held at St Peters College in Cambridge last week with one pool game played a week prior to the Cambridge event. Results were as follows: Lost to Bay of Plenty 132-0, lost to Taranaki 47-10, lost to Auckland West 107-0, lost North Harbour 67-0, lost to King Country 19-15. This brings an end to the representative season for all grades in Thames Valley rugby for 2017 with the Age Grade Rep prize giving held last night and the Heartland and Development Awards Dinner to be held next week.