Thames Valley the 'Cinderella story' of Heartland Championship Semifinals clashes
WANGANUI, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 20: Thames Valley players celebrate full time in the Heartland Championship Meads Cup Semi Final match between Wanganui and Thames Valley on October 20, 2018 in Wanganui, New Zealand. (Photo by Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)

In every rugby season, from New Zealand to England, Ireland or Argentina, there is one team who surprise all the others. Not expected to challenge, they rise like cream to the top of the bowl. And in the 2018 major semifinals clashes, the Thames Valley Swamp Foxes is that team.

The side from Boyd Park, Te Aroha, does not boast the registered players of an Auckland, or even Wanganui, yet on Saturday the ‘little guy’ traveled south and defeated the multiple Meads Cup winning Wanganui side.

Not only did the Swampfoxes beat Wanganui 7-17, but they make the unions very first ever Meads Cup final. And while that might be a success story already but, the team still have the rare opportunity to go one better next weekend.

Thames Valley the ‘Cinderella story’ of Heartland Semifinals clashes

The Heartland Championship is very much a key element in the rural provincial community, with sides outside the bigger centers gaining huge support. Their fans celebrated the rare win over Wanganui and also show faith that their teams story, is not over yet.

The opposition for Thames Valley in next weekends 2018 Meads Cup final is South Canterbury. Based out of Timaru, the Alpine Energy Stadium will be the full focus for both towns, when the two sides meet on October 27.

South Canterbury themselves have had a substantial season. Six wins over the regular season – one more than Thames Valley. A much higher number of points scored, and fewer points conceded. It makes for dour reading if you are a Swampfoxes fan but, the team from the North Island will travel south full of pride in themselves, and their accomplishments.

Favouritism goes the way of the Southern men. They demolished King Country 58-21, in a display that will give their hometown fans a lot of confidence. Yet, after such a fabulous Cinderella season, some might still bet on Thames Valley to get the job done.

South Canterbury v Thames Valley – Saturday October 27. Timaru

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In the other major semifinal result of the Heartland Championship, two teams from the lower North Island would gain the better of opposition from the South Island. In an inter-province rivalry, both Horowhenua-Kapiti and Wairarapa Bush were successful in the important knockout matches.

As one Hurricanes franchise team won by 10 points, and the other by nine points, it showed that they were each competent, and able to perform under pressure. Unlike Thames Valley, they were experienced in knockout rugby. Surviving the Mid Canterbury and North Otago match-ups respectively, now the familiar foes head to Levin next weekend, to battle it out in front of Sir Brian Lochore.

The namesake of the trophy named after him, Sir Brian will naturally support his beloved Wairarapa Bush, yet will now that the men from across the Tararua Ranges will play with their hearts on their sleeves.

The clash on Sunday will be another fixture that displays the community spirit of the Heartland Championship. Not simply a division four clash either, expect the attacking setpiece and defensive systems to be as able as the Auckland v Canterbury Mitre 10 Cup match scheduled at Eden Park.

It is not the salary, the number of spectators or accommodation that makes you a winner. It is the attitude and enthusiasm that players and supporters will bring to both the Meads Cup and Lochore Cup finals, which makes these two fixtures as crucial to New Zealand Rugby. Just as critical as the third Bledisloe Cup clash scheduled for 7pm later on Saturday night.

Horowhenua-Kapiti v Wairarapa Bush – Sunday Oct 28, Levin

 

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