Heartland Rugby Report 29-09-2018
A late penalty goal to first five Reece Boughton was enough for Thames Valley to see off a determined Poverty Bay 37-34 at Rugby Park, Gisborne in Round Six of the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship. After conceding the lead as early as the first minute through a converted try to Poverty Bay, Thames Valley twice drew level with the home team before hitting the front minutes from fulltime. The win included a four try bonus point to give Thames Valley a three way share of second place alongside South Canterbury and Horowhenua Kapiti on the leader board with two rounds to go while Wanganui continued its run of hot form to remain unbeaten following a come from behind win against Buller at Cooks Gardens in Wanganui and now sits alone in first place.
Thames Valley made the worst possible start in Gisborne by allowing the home team to score from the kick off of the game. Poverty Bay controlled the play for most of the first half as an out of sorts visiting team fell further behind to a second converted try and a penalty to trail 17-0 after quarter of an hour. Boughton got Thames Valley on the scoreboard with a penalty on the half hour only for Poverty Bay to reply in kind immediately after the restart to lead 20-3. Thames Valley battled away to get back into the game and Number 8, Alex Bradley led the way with a converted try followed by another to Prop Sitiveni Tupou right on the half time bell to make the score 20-15.
Regardless of what Coach Matthew Bartleet may have said to his players in the sheds at half time, it was Poverty Bay that took the initiative once again with another converted try to extend the lead to 27-15 but the Thames Valley boys stepped up and while it may not have been their best work, they dug themselves out of a hole and fought back to take the game. A neat piece of interplay between Mathew Abraham and Kieran Lee was spoiled by a deliberate knock down cum attempted intercept that the left the referee no option but to award a penalty try to Thames Valley in the 60th minute. Ten minutes later, Abraham scored out wide to level the scores at 27 all but Poverty Bay regained the lead with another converted try before Harry Lafituanai produced an outstanding individual effort to run 60 metres and score beside the posts for Boughton to convert and lock the scores at 34-34. A scrum penalty was awarded to Thames Valley following a messy restart by the home team and cue Boughton to kick the winning goal. There was still enough time for play to restart but the visitors played safe rugby and played out till the final whistle for the win.
An interesting feature of the win was that in the last six meetings between these two sides the home side has lost on each occasion. Thames Valley has now won three away games in a row in the Heartland Championship for the first time ever and it is the first time the team has won a round six game in recent memory. The team has also accumulated five try scoring bonus points from six games to keep pace with the other leading teams.
South Canterbury lost 27-24 to Wairarapa Bush in Masterton in something of an upset, to fall back to the chasing teams while Horowhenua Kapiti dealt a severe blow to King Country by beating them 36-30 to push the men from Meads Country down to fifth place. Mid Canterbury got their season back on track with a dominant 56-7 win over a struggling Ngati Porou East Coast in Ashburton while North Otago made a strong case for a Lochore Cup playoff place with a 40-19 defeat of West Coast in Oamaru.