FULL TIME – West Coast 24 vs 17 Thames Valley
Rugby Park Greymouth
Thames Valley’s hopes of a maiden Meads Cup appearance in the Heartland Championship have been scuppered, after their defeat to West Coast on Saturday.
It had been looking that 2017 could finally be the year the Swamp Foxes cracked the top four, with them and King Country the only two sides never to have played in the Meads Cup. But both teams will now go a 12th season without playing for the top prize.
After a promising start to their campaign, Thames Valley were then left needing to win their final two regular season games to be a chance of being in the mix, and were undone 24-17 in Greymouth, leaving them instead aiming for a spot in the Lochore Cup playoffs, for teams ranked fifth to eighth.
In what were miserable conditions, the Valley again enjoyed a dominant performance from their pack, though coach Matthew Bartleet was disappointed his side weren’t more rewarded in the penalty stakes for their strength up front, despite a first-half penalty try, which helped them go to halftime locked at 14-14, after winger Tyrone Keith had opened their account.
But in a frustrating second spell, playing with a strong wind, the Valley were only able to add a penalty off the boot of replacement Jarrod Goodall, while West Coast went over for a further two tries – the second of which was off a charge down – which sealed victory and saw them jump ahead of the Swamp Foxes, who slip to eighth spot.
Bartleet acknowledged his side didn’t make the most of their opportunities during the contest, not able to punish the hosts when they had them trapped in the corner where the wind was taking them.
“We still played really well through the majority of the game, we just weren’t able to take those points when we should have,” said the first-year coach, who had big desires for the season, which had looked to be coming to fruition.
“My goal, my ambition was to be in the Meads Cup semifinal, and final, that’s what I set out to try and do. Hey, it’s a really tough competition, but there’s no point setting smaller goals.”
But the Valley will now be left to rue what might have been, as they go into their final-round match next weekend against Poverty Bay, which has been moved to Te Aroha because of a sodden Paeroa Domain.
Meanwhile, King Country have missed out on even the Lochore Cup semis, as their dismal campaign continued with a 43-29 loss to Poverty Bay in Gisborne, which has them consigned to a 10th or 11th-place finish.
Looking for just their second win of the season, the Rams were level with their hosts, 19-19, at the break, and in the dying stages were attacking in search of a draw, but Poverty Bay went down the other end and blew the margin out, and coach Daniel Alofa noted his side weren’t patient enough with the ball in the six-tries-to-four contest.
In the other results, South Canterbury extended their lead at the top of the ladder by one point after a 29-20 bonus-point win over Wairarapa Bush in Timaru, while Horowhenua Kapiti remain second after their 15-8 victory over Wanganui in Levin, Buller are still third after a stunning 40-32 comeback over Mid Canterbury in Ashburton, and North Otago jumped two places to fourth after thrashing East Coast 57-14 in Oamaru.
Points: South Canterbury 31, Horowhenua Kapiti 28, Buller 27, North Otago 24, Wanganui 22, Mid Canterbury 21, West Coast 21, Thames Valley 18, Poverty Bay 15, King Country 9, Wairarapa Bush 9, East Coast 0.