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