Fine win for Swamp Foxes
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.