Fine win for Swamp Foxes

Waikato Times - - SPORT - AARON GOILE

One point ahead of the Naki are the five-from-five North Har­bour, who got out of jail for a 31-22 win over North­land in Whangarei on Thurs­day night.

Har­bour had been well be­low what they had showed prior in this cam­paign, but, even af­ter trail­ing 22-17 with seven min­utes to play, man­aged to keep their un­beaten start to the sea­son in­tact, as Ben Volavola sliced through, then Matt

Vaega plucked an in­ter­cept for a 40-me­tre run­away.

Waikato are next to chal­lenge Can­ter­bury for the shield but their form has tailed off big time af­ter los­ing a third straight game - 23-10 to cham­pi­onship side Manawatu¯ in Hamil­ton on Satur­day.

The Mooloos led 10-3 near­ing the hour-mark, but a try off the back of a pow­er­ful scrum from Hamish Brewer - son of former All Black Mike - then the boot of Jade

Te Rure guided the Tur­bos to vic­tory, and into fourth spot on the cham­pi­onship lad­der.

Waikato, hav­ing played one more game than the three teams above them, now sit fifth in the premier­ship, and even Auck­land are only now three points back, af­ter they notched just their sec­ond win from six starts in a 27-17 re­sult over South­land in In­ver­cargill on Fri­day night.

The hosts opened the scor­ing

af­ter just three min­utes, but they re­main the only win­less team in the com­pe­ti­tion - rooted to the bot­tom of the cham­pi­onship lad­der on zero points - as All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino got the vis­i­tors’ ac­count started, with Auck­land go­ing on to col­lect the bonus point.

Tas­man climbed into fourth spot on the premier­ship lad­der af­ter hold­ing on for a dra­matic 29-27 win over Otago in Dunedin on Satur­day.

The Makos were up 29-13 early in the sec­ond spell thanks to ref­eree Mike Fraser award­ing a penalty try and sin­bin­ning Otago first five-eighth Josh Ioane for an in­ten­tional knock-down.

In the early game yes­ter­day, Coun­ties Manukau re­bounded from their mid­week thrash­ing in the shield chal­lenge to score five tries, in­clud­ing a Tim NanaiWil­liams dou­ble, to beat strug­gling Hawke’s Bay 33-14. They might only be sit­ting eighth of 12 teams, but Thames Val­ley are in a good space in the Heart­land Cham­pi­onship, af­ter a bonus-point win over a pre­vi­ously un­beaten Buller, in Paeroa on Satur­day.

On their quest to make the Meads Cup semi­fi­nals for the first time, the Swamp Foxes se­cured an im­por­tant vic­tory to put their sea­son leger at 2-2 at the half­way point of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Af­ter an open­ing-round win over East Coast, Thames Val­ley had suf­fered two nar­row de­feats to Wan­ganui and Horowhenua Kapiti, and their draw didn’t look like it was do­ing them any more favours in then pit­ting them against the com­pe­ti­tion’s other team yet to taste de­feat, in Buller.

But it was a week­end which saw all three of the fron­trun­ners bowled over and the com­pe­ti­tion lad­der con­densed, with the Val­ley only five points shy of lead­ers South Can­ter­bury, and three off sec­ond spot, af­ter scor­ing four tries to one against Buller, on a dra­matic day at the Paeroa Do­main.

Af­ter full­back Harry Lafi­tu­a­nai scored what would surely be con­sid­ered try-of-the-sea­son stuff - col­lect­ing a grub­ber from Buller first five-eighth James Lash near his posts, burst­ing through tack­lers and har­ing away, fend­ing off Lash on his stun­ning 95-me­tre dash - the game was stopped af­ter five min­utes for a se­ri­ous leg in­jury to Val­ley prop Hay­den An­der­son.

Lay­ing prone un­der the guid­ance of med­i­cal staff, an am­bu­lance was called for and by the time An­der­son was stetchered off with an ap­par­ent snapped tibia, through a guard of hon­our formed by the play­ers, more than an hour had passed, as the anx­ious lo­cals watched on from a packed grand­stand.

An ear­lier kick­off had al­ready been sched­uled due to Buller’s flight time home, so the vis­i­tors had to forego the af­ter-match and rush through the show­ers to dash to Hamil­ton Air­port.

First they had to ne­go­ti­ate on­field mat­ters, and on re­sump­tion they con­trolled pro­ceed­ings, with Lash want­ing up-tempo quick taps,

and full­back An­thony Tailua cross­ing in the left cor­ner.

But de­spite Thames Val­ley los­ing lock Con­nor McVerry to the sin bin for a no-arms tackle, the vis­i­tors’ ex­e­cu­tion let them down. Then with their pack get­ting dom­i­nated, and los­ing sec­ond-five Michael Lealava’a for his own noarms hit, they were blown away right on half­time by a sen­sa­tional scrum from the hosts which rocked the goal­post and had No 8 Alex Bradley pa­tiently wait­ing then pick­ing up and spin­ning over.

The home side main­tained their 14-7 lead through the third quar­ter, with more im­pres­sive pack power, be­fore hooker and cap­tain Hay­den Wis­newski showed some class of a dif­fer­ent kind - pluck­ing an in­ter­cept and show­ing plenty of pace to charge 40 me­tres to score.

Then, with 10 min­utes left, prop Ge­orge Le­lenoa drove over for a third try in suc­ces­sive weeks, and al­though sub­sti­tute back Josh Law was binned soon af­ter for a late tackle, the job was done for a de­ter­mined Val­ley side.

The Swamp Foxes will now turn their at­ten­tion to­wards a Te Kuiti trip to face neigh­bours King Coun­try, whose cam­paign has got to the des­per­a­tion stage af­ter suf­fer­ing a third loss, go­ing down 28-26 to North Otago in Oa­maru.

A fast-fin­ish­ing Rams side weren’t able to do enough, and they sit ninth, three points adrift of the Val­ley, in a com­pe­ti­tion which has been thrown wide open.

Wan­ganui were dis­placed at the top of the lad­der by South Can­ter­bury, who beat the two-time de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons 21-17 in Ti­maru, while Horowhenua Kapiti were de­feated 24-19 by West Coast in Grey­mouth.

East Coast re­main the only win­less side af­ter los­ing 35-15 to Poverty Bay in Gis­borne, while Mid Can­ter­bury ham­mered Wairarapa Bush 60-24 in Master­ton.

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