Foxes bring home Meads

Coastal News - - Meads Cup Triumph - By ALI­SON SMITH nws@coastal­news.co.nz

The deaf­en­ing sound of sup­port­ers who made their way to Ti­maru and wit­nessed the his­toric Heart­land Meads Cup win on Satur­day is among the mem­o­ries that will last a long time for lo­cal side Thames Val­ley Swamp Foxes.

“The noise was so loud that South Can­ter­bury could barely hear their lineup calls from one side of the field,” says Team Man­ager Lucas Mcivor.

“The sup­port­ers were amaz­ing. I think they bought ev­ery sin­gle toy horn at The Ware­house in Ti­maru, and lined up out­side our ho­tel as we boarded the bus. It felt like a home game, and it wasn’t cheap to get there!”

The team had to over­come the most dom­i­nant side in Meads Cup his­tory, Wan­ganui — while play­ing in Wan­ganui — be­fore they could con­test the fi­nal against South Can­ter­bury on Can­ter­bury turf.

It seemed at half­time that South Can­ter­bury, at 12-3, would fi­nally taste vic­tory af­ter three times in the semi-fi­nals and no cup.

Pres­sure play dur­ing a strong sec­ond half paved the way for the side’s 17-12 win un­der skip­per Brett Ranga.

There was a key take at the li­ne­out just af­ter the side had claimed the lead with 12 min­utes re­main­ing.

Coach Matthew Bartlett says the con­nec­tion be­tween sup­port­ers and play­ers be­comes re­ally pow­er­ful, and hoped the win would make it eas­ier for lo­cal clubs to at­tract play­ers and per­haps re­tain some of the lo­cals.

The team is made up of play­ers from Thames, Wai­hou, Tairua, Mer­cury Bay and Waihi and it is the first time since the 1920s that they have even got close to such a win.

Play­ers from Whanga­mata¯ and Tairua in­clude Lo­gan Povey — who was un­able to fin­ish the sea­son due to in­jury — Te Huia Ku­tia and Lance Eas­ton.

There are 12 teams in the sec­ond di­vi­sion with the top four go­ing to the Meads Cup, the next four to the Lo­chore Cup and the bot­tom four drop­ping out — which usu­ally in­cludes Thames Val­ley.

“Rugby is still a big part of our com­mu­nity, so just mak­ing it eas­ier for clubs to be there and do well is an im­por­tant out­come,” says Matt.

“It sounds corny but get­ting the play­ers to love their com­mu­nity and be proud of their com­mu­nity was a huge part of what I was try­ing to do.”

Player Lance Eas­ton of Tairua says Bartlett’s work to es­tab­lish a fam­ily cul­ture and strong com­mu­nity sup­porter base made a huge dif­fer­ence to the play­ers.

“The sup­port­ers are all wear­ing their yel­low jer­seys and now we see them. In the past it’s felt like just the boys get­ting to­gether. Thames Val­ley has been a bot­tom tier team with not very high ex­pec­ta­tions and noone has ex­pected any­thing big­ger.

“The coach worked hard with de­vel­op­ing a real fam­ily cul­ture and it made a huge dif­fer­ence. On the field it was about bring­ing the in­ten­sity and get­ting into that place where you trust each other and do it.”

Scor­ers: South Can­ter­bury 12 (Loni Toumo­huni, Kalavini Leati­gaga tries; Wille Wright con) Thames Val­ley 17 (Brett Ranga, Ser­gio de la Fuente tries; Reece Broughton 2 con, pen) HT: 12-3

PHOTO / SUP­PLIED

Thames Val­ley Swamp Foxes won the his­toric Heart­land Meads Cup in Ti­maru on Satur­day.

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