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Thames Valley to play North Otago at home for first time in 114 years

North Otago comes to Te Aroha for the first time in its 114 year history to play Thames Valley in round five of the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship.

Based in Oamaru, North Otago was founded in 1904 but only affiliated to the New Zealand Rugby Union in 1927.

Thames Valley first played against North Otago at the Showgrounds Oval in Oamaru in 1964, winning 17-9, as part of a four match South Island tour that included games against Otago, Mid Canterbury and Canterbury.

Since that initial encounter they have met another 11 times in various forms of the old Provincial Championships with Thames Valley having the better record but since the introduction of the Heartland Championship in 2006 North Otago has won all five games played, twice in Paeroa and three times in Oamaru.

They are one of two teams Thames Valley has never beaten in the Heartland Championship, the other being Wanganui, so there is history to be made again this week if the Swampfoxes can record a win in Te Aroha.

This week the North Otago side comes with a reputation as one of the strongest teams in the Heartland Championship, boasting Meads Cup titles in 2007 and 2010 as well as Lochore Cup titles in 2009 and 2016.

They are coached by Nigel Walsh and his assistant, Jason Forrest.

North Otago currently sits one point behind Thames Valley on the championship ladder and has a similar two win two loss record to that of the home side.

Coach Matthew Bartleet will be hoping that his injured players are available for selection this week to have the strongest squad possible for what has become a must win home game for Thames Valley.

Brett Ranga, Mathew Abraham and Shaun Hill will be hoping to pass fitness tests this week while Te Huia Kutia should be available following his absence with the New Zealand Heartland team at the National Under 19 Tournament in Taupo last week.

The team at time of going to print is:

T Kutia, G McIntyre, S De La Fuenhe, C Dromgool, C McVerry, B Ranga, C Kelleher, A Bradley, B Bonnar, R Boughton, K Lee, S Hill, S McCahon, E Seymour, H Lafituanai.

Reserves: S Ouchi, S Tupou, M Rolston, M Hart, M Fisher, J Dodunski, L Easton.

Kick-off is at 2pm at Boyd Park, and the referee is Tasuku Kawahara.

He is part of the Japan/NZ Rugby referee development program where referees from both countries referee games in those countries.

Last weekend he refereed Wairarapa Bush (61) vs Buller (29) in a fast free flowing game in Masterton.

The Thames Valley Development Team plays its final Northern Region Under 85kg competition match against Waikato in the 12.15pm curtain raiser at Boyd Park.

The Development Team is already confirmed as the runner up and cannot be caught nor can it over take the leading team Auckland who has won the title with a week to spare.

The Under 18s play NZ Harlequins at St Paul’s Collegiate grounds in Hamilton at 1.30pm in the last round of the Under 18B competition which has already been taken out by King Country.

The Under 16s play Bay of Plenty Under 15s in a one off game at Katikati to finish off their season.

The Thames Valley Roller Mills play Waikato at 11am in the first curtain raiser at Boyd Park. This will be their final warm up game before the annual tournament kicks off at St Peter’s School in Cambridge on October 6.

The Under 45kg and Under 14 teams have now finished their programmes for the year.

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