Thames Valley immediately hit back from a first-round disappointment to get their Heartland Championship season back on track.
The Swamp Foxes produced a great performance to upset Mid-Canterbury 31-17 at the Paeroa Domain on Saturday.
Having fallen to Buller in round one and with Mid-Canterbury, who have made it to the Meads Cup semifinals every year of the competition, coming off just a one-point loss to Wanganui, the task was going to be huge, but the home side responded to the challenge.
They took a remarkable 28-3 lead to halftime and held on in the second spell.
Second five-eighth David Harrison, thanks to his team's scoring efforts and referee Bryce Lawrence's constant pinging of the Mid-Canterbury players, lined up eight shots at goal in the first 40 minutes.
He opened the scoring with a penalty after three minutes and then doubled the hosts' lead on 19 minutes, before his side notched their first five-pointer two minutes later.
From a Mid-Canterbury lineout in Thames Valley's half, the visitors' halfback, Mac Sykes, threw an awful reverse pass which was seized upon by Harrison, then a few phases later hooker Blake Hill burrowed over.
Just a minute after the restart Mid-Canterbury were reduced to 14 men when Lawrence sent off captain and No 8 Pete McAndrew for not releasing the tackled player, after his team had received a warning.
That helped the Swamp Foxes carry on their merry way, with impressive fullback Lance Easton through a gap in the 25th minute for their second try.
Mid-Canterbury got on the board after 28 minutes with a penalty from fullback Andrew Letham, before Harrison responded with one of his own to make it 23-3 four minutes from the break.
Then with time up in the first half, the home side further rammed home their advantage when winger Armyn Sanders finished well in the left corner.
Both teams came out after the break looking to play expansively, with lots of offloading, but that was short-lived, with some tired bodies contributing to a high error count, and the second half was Thames Valley's turn to be on the wrong side of Lawrence's whistle.
The visitors hit back in the 48th minute when flanker Nick McKain burrowed over after a drive toward the line.
Six minutes later he was on hand again to finish under the bar after a great break then offload from centre Misi Salave.
At 28-17 Mid-Canterbury were back in it, though the margin was widened to 14 by a Harrison penalty in the 59th minute.
And that's where the scoring ended, with Thames Valley going close to a bonus-point try but not securing it.
For the hosts, blindside flanker Brett Ranga, No 8 and captain Jackson Achilles and halfback Richard Judd stood out, along with Easton, while Mid-Canterbury's tackling was not good throughout and their passing was loose too often.
Thames Valley coach Roger Wilton felt for a fairly young side his team showed a lot of heart.
"I guess the most pleasing thing for us is that we corrected the stuff we didn't quite get right last week, and being a young group, they're pretty good at listening at the moment and hopefully they'll continue to do that, we'll just get better," Wilton said, referring to getting the scrum and lineout more solid.
He said the confidence among the group was very high at halftime and that they knew Mid-Canterbury would fire shots back at them, so the players could have adjusted better by slowing the game down a little.
Meanwhile, King Country suffered their second successive loss, going down 27-21 to West Coast in Greymouth, again picking up a bonus point for losing by seven or less.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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