Rugby enthusiasts were treated to a try festival at Te Aroha last Saturday when Thames Valley defeated Mid Canterbury 52-35 in their Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship match. A total of 12 tries were scored with the split being: Thames Valley 7 and Mid Canterbury 5. Conditions were perfect for open rugby and the small but enthusiastic crowd were well entertained.
Mid Canterbury endeavoured to use their bigger men to overpower Thames Valley and they certainly had the stronger scrum. However, with more control, and greater continuity than they have displayed in earlier games, the Swamp Foxes were able to outwit their heavier opponents. Every Valley forward demonstrated strength in carrying the ball and, as an attacking unit, the backs had their best game of the season. In the three-quarter line, Joe Cooke, Harry Lafituanai and Tevita Halafihi certainly enjoyed more opportunities to display their talent.
All twenty- two Thames Valley players used in this match deserve the highest praise for their defence. Their determination and commitment in this facet of the game was outstanding and they nullified numerous Mid Canterbury attacks. All of the Valley tries were the result of clever counterattacks and/or patience in building phases before putting a player in the clear. Five tries were scored by backs and the two by forwards, Axtens and Dromgool, capped off passing movements involving forwards and backs.
Mid Canterbury had a huge advantage in the scrums and this enabled them to get back into the game and prevented the score from becoming a major embarrassment for them.
Todd Doolin opened the scoring with two penalty goals before Mid Canterbury took the lead with a converted try to Tait Chisman, making the score 7-6. The next 15 minutes were a real purple patch for the Swamp Foxes. Doolin, Cooke, Axtens and Halafihi scored tries – three of which were converted by Doolin. With these 26 points Thames Valley were all of a sudden leading by 32 points to 7.
A lesser side may have crumbled at this stage of the game but not the Mid Canterbury Hammers. By half time they had used their big forwards to hammer the Thames Valley line and come away with two converted tries and also see a Valley player sent to the sin bin. With the half time score now 32-21 they were back in the game.
The Swamp Foxes survived the period after he break with fourteen men and no further damage was done. Mid way through the half Doolin kicked another penalty goal but the Hammers immediately replied with a converted try to make the score, Thames Valley 35 Mid Canterbury 28. This spurred the Foxes back into action enabling Joe Cooke to score his second try. It was not converted but Valley were now in a more comfortable position with score sitting at 40-28.
With five minutes to go Dromgool scored his fine try which Telly Hemopo converted. Mid Canterbury broke through from the kick off and scored another try. Tom Reekie kicked his fifth conversion of the match, At 47-35 the scoring was not all over as Sione Vakapuna Etoni set up Harry Lafituanai to score a well deserved try. There was no conversion -final score, Thames Valley 52 Mid Canterbury 35.
Joe Cooke was named man of the match.
Thames Valley remain second on the Points Table, one behind South Canterbury and four ahead of Whanganui who have moved into third place.
Thames Valley: Tries to Cooke (2) Axtens, Halafihi, Dromgool, Lafituanai and Doolin. Doolin 3 penalties and 3 conversions. Hemopo 1 conversion.
Mid Canterbury: Tries Koroitamana(2) Chisman, Burrell and Nasiga. Reekie 5 conversions.