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Heartland Rugby’s Meads Cup heads to Thames Valley

Thames Valley head Coach Matt Bartleet and captain Brett Ranga celebrate with the Meads Cup after defeating South Canterbury.  – GETTY

Thames Valley scored an historic 17-12 victory over South Canterbury to win the Meads Cup in the Heartland Championship final played at Timaru on Saturday.

It was Thames Valley’s first appearance in a final since the inception of the competition in 2006 and to win the prestigious cup honouring Sir Colin Meads goes down as one of the finest achievements in the history of the Thames Valley Rugby Union.

Winning the 2018 season as the top Heartland team also means Thames Valley will play a Ranfurly Shield challenge match against Otago next year.

Thames Valley team celebrate winning the Heartland Championship for 2018. DOUG FIELD/STUFF

The team received a simple message from the coaches for the final on Saturday – work harder and for longer.

With this mantra ringing in their ears, the Swamp Foxes put in an amazing 80 minute performance and again demonstrated that strong sense of self belief which has grown throughout the season.

Even though they were down 12 -3 at half time, Thames Valley had shown promise on attack but it was South Canterbury who had managed to score two tries and a conversion, in reply to a penalty goal by Reece Boughton.

South Canterbury tacklers hang on to Thames Valley’s Glen McIntyre during the final in Timaru on Saturday.

In the second half it was different story.

The Swamp Foxes put Brett Ranga over for an early try after a long build up which involved good runs by Kieran Lee and Harry Lafituanai.

Boughton converted and the Valley had closed the gap to 12-10.

With the game evenly poised, Thames Valley stepped up their defence and prevented South Canterbury from scoring any more points.

Following a series of charges close to the South Canterbury line, Valley’s replacement prop Sergio De La Feunte crashed over for the winning try in the 68th minute.

Boughton again converted and for the first time in the match Thames Valley had the lead, 17-12.

Just as they did against Wanganui, the week before, the Swamp Foxes then proceeded to dominate possession and defend tenaciously whenever South Canterbury did have the ball.

The game ended with referee Jamie Nutbrown awarding Thames Valley a penalty – Boughton tap-kicked and then cleared the ball to touch much to the sheer joy of the numerous Swamp Fox supporters who had made the trip to Timaru, hoping for the best possible outcome, and being rewarded for their enthusiasm.

They then mobbed the players, all of whom deserved recognition as the player of the match.

Rhonda Wilcox, daughter of Sir Colin Meads, presented the winners’ medals to the Swamp Foxes and then handed over the Meads Cup to co-captains Brett Ranga and Shaun Hill, who was unable to play because of an injury.

Meads Cup Final: Thames Valley 17 (Brett Ranga and Sergio De La Fuente tries, Reece Boughton 2 conversions and a penalty)
South Canterbury 12 (Loni Toumohuni and Kalavini Leatigaga tries, Willie Wright 1 conversion).

Horowhenua Kapiti won the second tier Lochore Cup by defeating Wairarapa Bush 26-23 at Levin on Sunday.

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