Waikato thrashes Thames Valley in Ranfurly Shield defence

By Campbell Burnes

Waikato celebrating with the Ranfurly Shield during last year's ITM Cup. Photo / Getty Images
Waikato celebrating with the Ranfurly Shield during last year's ITM Cup. Photo / Getty Images

Waikato should be more than happy with their first hit out of the season and the first defence of their 10th Ranfurly Shield era.

The 83-13 scoreline in Paeroa over Thames Valley comprised 13 tries and there was enough cohesion and talent, from among the 11 debutants too, to predict a strong Mitre 10 Cup Premiership campaign starting August.

While right wing Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara ran in a hat-trick, including a startling solo effort off a lineout, much of the impetus was provided by the brilliant 19-year-old left wing Sevu Reece, fresh out of Hamilton BHS, who scored one try and set up three before shifting into the midfield, where he played much of his First XV rugby.

Waikato injected 36-year-old Isaac Boss for the final quarter, and he was tidy in his 53rd game, spread over 17 years, for the union. First five replacement Matt Lansdown, unlucky to miss New Zealand Under 20 selection, added real value off the pine, setting up No 8 Whetu Douglas for his second with a nice feint and pass, and slotting three goals.

The front-row was busy all game, with Chiefs prop Atu Moli and hooker Hame Faiva, NZ Under 20s teammates in 2014, both very effective, with three tries between them.

Thames Valley held their own for much of the first and third quarters, but were often swamped by some stiff defence and expansive Waikato play in the second and fourth stanzas. They did have the satisfaction of posting two tries, the first to player of origin, No 8 Brett Ranga, after several phases, and the second an 80m intercept and bolt from centre Jone Koroinsagana. Those tries brought the biggest roar of the day from the healthy Paeroa crowd on a fine winter's Queen's Birthday afternoon.

"It's not often we can come to play in Paeroa in June," said Waikato captain, openside flanker Adam Burn.

"A lot of the Valley boys have got roots in Hamilton, so it's good to mix with them."

Thames Valley vice-captain Moss Doran, whose left boot was often employed as an effective exit strategy, was happy with the set-piece work. One feels that if Thames Valley can build on that spirit and platform and bring in some good talent, they can look forward to a decent Heartland Championship campaign.

"It's not often the Valley boys get to play in a Ranfurly Shield game. It's a big occasion for us. We're just happy to put on a spectacle for all the people," said Doran.

Waikato 83 (Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara 3, Whetu Douglas 2, Atu Moli 2, Latu Talakai, Jake Ale, Jason Robertson, Hame Faiva, Sevu Reece, Murray Iti tries; Robertson 6 con, Matt Lansdown 3 con) Thames Valley 13 (Brett Ranga, Jone Koroinsagana tries; Josh O'Flaherty pen) Half time: 43-3

- NZ Herald

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