The Thames Valley Swamp Foxes headed off to West Coast in difficult circumstances as they faced the following challenges:
- The unavailability of key players- (prop, No.8 and five eighth) due to the Hamilton lock down.
- Uncertainty surrounding their travel arrangements.
- Getting replacement players up to speed in a very limited time frame.
- Coming up against a team hungry for competition points and one which had never lost a Heartland match against Thames Valley at Greymouth.
In defeating West Coast 27-8 the Swamp Foxes overcame these challenges, kept their undefeated record intact, wiped out the Greymouth hoodoo and for the first time in the Heartland competition have opened the season with four consecutive victories. Thames Valley had a clear territorial advantage and a wealth of possession which enabled them to limit West Coast’s attacking opportunities. However, the “Coasters” never gave up on defence and prevented Thames Valley from scoring four tries thus denying them the all important bonus point to remain equal first instead of falling back into second place behind South Canterbury.
The coaches did well to recruit Sefo Moniati (Waihi Athletic) Matty Axtens (2019 Valley rep from Mt Maunganui) and Carlos Price (former NZ Under20 rep) as cover for Josh Kaho, Luke Masirewa and Tiaontin Raoren. It was a bonus to have Fred Kei Fotofili return to the side for the first time since the NZ Universities Game. All of these players proved their worth at Greymouth.
At half time Valley led 13-3. It was well into the first half before Thames Valley had finally strung several phases together and put Ben Bonnar over for a try by the posts. Carlos Price kicked the conversion to go with two penalties that he had earlier goaled. Sean McClure had also kicked a penalty for West Coast.
Early in the second half a great run and kick ahead by Harry Lafituanai almost saw him score but he was held up over the line. West Coast then had their best moments in the match when the Valley had no answer to a driving maul from a long way out and Coast hooker, Troy Tauwhare went over for an unconverted try. This narrowed the score to 13-8. The Swamp Foxes replied when Joe Cooke counter attacked with some elusive running, and Fred Kei finished off the move with a sideline dash and cut across to score by the posts. Price converted to put Valley in a more comfortable position at 20 points to 8. Shortly afterwards replacement second five Sione Vakapuna Etoni crashed through to set up an attacking ruck. Quick passing saw Will Newbold receive the ball and he dotted down in a handy position for Price to convert. At the first break down after the kick off the referee blew the whistle for full time and there was no opportunity for Thames Valley to put the icing on the cake with a bonus point try.
Ben Bonnar was named as man of the match. Tevita Halafihi was a popular, if a somewhat feared player by the West Coast locals because of his powerful running. Considering the disruptions during the week this was a satisfactory performance by the Swamp Foxes. The team has shown that it now has depth but there is plenty to work on as they prepare to meet Mid Canterbury at Te Aroha next Saturday.
For Thames Valley: Ben Bonnar,Fred Kei Fotofili and Will Newbold tries. Carlos Price 2pens and 3 cons.
For West Coast: Troy Tauwhare a try and Sean McClure 1 penalty.