Meads Cup Final
South Canterbury 35 Thames Valley 16
Hats of to South Canterbury – the Meads Cup Champions for 2021.
The trophy now resides in Timaru after the Green Machine convincingly defeated the Thames Valley Swamp Foxes by 35 points to 16 at Timaru last Sunday.
The Valley got off to a very clumsy start and were down a point a minute after the first fifteen minutes of play. The situation then improved when Doolan kicked a penalty goal and then, from the resulting kick off, Ben Stephens scored the best try of the match. Valley swung the ball wide from deep inside their twenty-two and Will Newbold burst through. Harry Lafituanai received the ball and passed it to Telly Hemopo who fed Ben Stephens racing up on his inside. With fifty metres to go Stephens out paced the opposing defence to score in the corner. Doolan converted and Thames Valley were back in the game at 10-15. Both sides added a further penalty goal before half time to make the score at the break: South Canterbury 18 Thames Valley 13.
The Swamp Foxes immediately went on to the attack at the start of the second half but could not get over the line and their only reward was a penalty goal to Doolan. The vocal Thames Valley supporters were ecstatic as they saw the gap close to two points. However, at this stage the Green Machine stepped up a gear and began to dominate territory and possession. They converted their advantage in to seventeen unanswered points with Sam Briggs kicking four more penalty goals and Bulirurarua scoring a try in unusual circumstances. A South Canterbury kick ahead hit the corner post and was touched down just over the line – in days gone by the ball would have been ruled in touch after hitting the flag post but a rule change did not help Thames Valley’s cause in this instance. Ill discipline also hindered Valley’s performance. During the second half they gave away ten penalties in a row and also had Sam van der Valk in the sin bin for ten minutes. Try as they might the Foxes could not close the nineteen point deficit and South Canterbury deservedly won the Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship to became holders of the Meads Cup for the first time in their history.
South Canterbury: Sireli Buliruarua 2 and Cam Russell tries, Sam Briggs 6 penalties and 1 conversion.
Thames Valley: Ben Stephens try, Todd Doolan 3 penalties and 1 conversion
For the Train Spotters:
- Thames Valley has never previously won seven straight games in a Heartland season.
- The 33 competition points is the highest ever- beating the 30 gained in 2019
- Over the past three season in the Heartland Championship Thames Valley has Won (v Whanganui 2018) and Lost (v Whanganui 2019) a Meads Cup Semi Final and Won (v South Canterbury 2018) and Lost (v South Canterbury 2021) a Meads Cup Final. Up until 2018 the Swamp Foxes had never appeared in a Meads Cup play-off series.
- Joe Reynolds holds the record of 119 points scored in a Heartland season from 9 games. Todd Doolan’s 118 points from 7 games leaves him in second place,
- Todd Doolan is now first on the all- time list as the Thames Valley player who has scored the most points in a season: 130 from 8 games (includes 12 v NZ University). Joe Reynolds was the previous record holder with 127