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Valley’s Tayna Tupaea reaches for the ball in the lineout. Photo: JAKOB ANDREW

Bubble bursts for Swamp Foxes

Thames Valley journeyed to Gisborne and came home empty handed after losing 17-29 to Poverty Bay in last Saturday’s Bunning Warehouse Heartland Championship match.
This result was the major upset of the competition so far. Poverty Bay started the game at the bottom of the points table as opposed to the Swamp Foxes being in number three position. However, Thames Valley remain in third place on the ladder – two points ahead of North Otago and five ahead of King Country.
The Swamp Foxes opened the game strongly but it was Poverty Bay who scored first with a converted try after six minutes.
Valley rebounded quickly and went close to scoring but the home team, motivated by pride and determination, kept them at bay.
At the 20-minute mark, Poverty Bay mounted their second major attack of the match and they were rewarded with another converted try to make the score 14-0.
A penalty goal and then an unconverted try extended Poverty Bay’s lead to 22-0 and Thames Valley were on the back foot with half time approaching. Nui Muriwai then sparked the Swamp Foxes into action with a deceptive run starting deep inside his own half and setting up Harry Lafituanai, who scored an excellent try. Zac Stephens, who had replaced an injured Todd Doolan, added the extra two points to make the half time score Poverty Bay 22, Thames Valley 7.
The second half was a mighty tussle as the home fought bravely to retain their lead while the visitors battled away in an attempt to turn pressure into points.
Stevens narrowed the gap to 22-10 with a penalty goal in the 62nd minute, but four minutes later Poverty Bay took advantage of some mid-field mishandling by Thames Valley to gather the ball and send their wing over for another converted try.
The home side looked safe leading 29-10 with ten minutes to go and although Lafituanai scored a second try, converted by Stevens, it was a bridge too far and Poverty Bay deservedly won the match 29-17.
This was an example of a lowly ranked team having its best game of the season while their opponents failed to produce the good form that they had displayed in their previous games.
Pride and passion won over this lack of consistency. The final round sees Thames Valley play ninth-placed Horowhenua Kapiti at Te Aroha on Saturday. A win will see the Swamp Foxes hold on to third place and a loss could see them drop to fourth place and still be in the play-offs for the Meads Cup.