Steelform Wanganui will be playing at Cooks Gardens for the rest of the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship campaign, however long it lasts, and it starts by facing a Horowhenua-Kapiti team desperate to make the Meads Cup playoffs on Saturday.

Wanganui's bonus point win over East Coast has them still seven points clear on top of the table, making the result of their last round-robin game immaterial when it comes to securing a home semifinal and then the final if they get that far.

However, Wanganui will be eager to regain the Bruce Steel Memorial Cup they lost to Horowhenua-Kapiti at a horribly wet Levin Domain in October 2017, given they avenged the loss itself with a comfortable win in the 2017 Meads Cup final on the same ground.

"We'll be desperate too. Don't want to go into the semifinal on the back of a loss," Wanganui coach Jason Caskey said from Tologa Bay on Saturday.

Advertisement

Wanganui were in a similar situation during the "Heartland Invincibles" season of 2016 where they played Horowhenua-Kapiti at Cooks Gardens in the last round, however that visiting team was a ninth-placed squad and not as strong as the 2018 edition.

Wanganui captain Roman Tutauha confirmed they will take the match dead seriously.

"There's the old Bruce Steel that's up for grabs. That's one of our [season] goals to get that back."

Coming into Saturday's seventh round tied with South Canterbury for second on the points table, both Horowhenua-Kapiti and Thames Valley had everything to play for in Te Aroha and the Swampfoxes confirmed this will be their best-ever Heartland season as they came from behind for the second week in a row to snatch a 29-27 thriller.

Thames Valley, not even in the Lochore Cup playoffs last year, have now won five games for the first time in this competition, but it wasn't looking that way with time nearly up at Te Aroha as the visitors had come from behind to lead 27-24.

In a back and forth clash, Horowhenua Kapiti led 8-7 after 14 minutes, then fell behind as Thames Valley slowly stretched out to a 24-11 advantage by halftime.

Fighting for survival, Horowhenua Kapiti came back to trail 24-20 in the 68th minute through the unwavering boot of their goal kicking ace James So'oialo, who would record a 22-point haul, and then they seemed to have sealed the match with their second try.

So'oialo and talented winger Willie Paia'aua dotted down for their team.

Advertisement

However, the Thames Valley side of 2018 is made of sterner stuff than their predecessors, and although first-five Reece Broughton was having an off day with only two conversions of their four tries at that point, the home side had enough to get over the line once more in the shadow of fulltime.

Flanker Brett Ranga got their first converted try, while No 8 Alex Bradley grabbed two tries, and the midfield pairing of Shawn Hill and Sam McCahon also dotted down to set up the fabulous victory.

Thames Valley find themselves playing for a previously unthinkable Meads Cup home semifinal when they head to Timaru to face South Canterbury this coming Saturday, although it will be a nervous day for all concerned as Horowhenua-Kapiti, who have fallen back to fifth, take on Wanganui, while King Country heads down to Ashburton to meet Mid Canterbury.

Having fallen out of the Meads Cup group with two losses, King Country have leapfrogged Horowhenua-Kapiti up into fourth spot after a priceless 59-38 win over Poverty Bay in a try-scoring shootout in Taupo.

Understanding the urgency of their situation, the home side opened up from the outset to lead 24-0 at a point a minute, and continued to overwhelm Poverty Pay as they led 52-14 coming into the final quarter.

To their credit, Poverty Bay kept playing for pride as King Country took their foot off the gas, letting the visitors score four more tries to grab what could prove a vital bonus point to keep a chance at making the Lochore Cup playoffs when they host Buller in Gisborne.

King Country outside back Alex Thrupp grabbed a hat trick of tries, while winger Baven Brown got a double, as did reserve forward Liam Rowlands.

First-five Evan Reihana had a great day with the boot, landing all eight conversions plus a penalty.

Te Peehi Fairlie scored his second double for Poverty Bay this year, while young back Tom Iosefo also got two tries.

King Country will wonder what Mid Canterbury will offer them after they lost 37-19 to an inspired Buller in Westport.

Having lost six straight games and not going to make any finals this season, there was still no way Buller were going to drop this match on the occasion of their stalwart flanker Luke Brownlee's 200th first-class game for the union.

Playmaker first-five James Lash finally took back the goal kicking duties from second-five Michael Wells, and delivered with three conversions and three penalties, which proved crucial given the visitors still scored three tries themselves.

Wells was still eager to get on the scoreboard and grabbed two tries, while both centre Robbie Malneek and fullback Anthony Tailua scored for the second weekend in a row.

And of course, the time honoured tradition of giving the last goal kick to the milestone player was followed, and Brownlee didn't miss to get his name in the books.

Back across the South Island, the Hanan Shield is staying in Timaru for the summer after South Canterbury rebounded from their shock away loss to Wairarapa Bush by picking up a comfortable 41-22 win over rivals North Otago in Oamaru, leaving the home side embarrassingly still outside the playoffs group.

The home side made a solid start, up 10-7 after 21 minutes, but South Canterbury began to establish their dominance as they led 28-17 by halftime, having scored four tries for the vital bonus point.

It was a tighter second half as the pace began to tell on both teams, South Canterbury scoring two unconverted tries to one and giving prop Matt Fetu the result he deserved for his 100th game.

Winger Kalavini Leatigaga scored a double, while halfback Willie Wright contributed 16 points with a try, four conversions and a penalty.

Otago loan player Mikaele Mafi scored for the home side, as did Inoke Tanfahu and Frank Kelly, but they couldn't crack a four-try bonus point.

West Coast will be relieved North Otago fell in their last home game, as they themselves bombed the chance to secure their Lochore Cup position after a flat 23-5 loss in Greymouth to Wairarapa Bush, who continued their late season surge.

Visiting first-five Glen Walters opened the scoring with a penalty, and although West Coast got a first half try from long-time squad member Kevin Curtis, Wairarapa Bush scored twice through midfielder Matt Henderson and fellow back Robbie Anderson.

A third try from Finn Yeats plus the conversion and a penalty from Walters in the second half sealed the win, with Wairarapa Bush now looking to lock in a home Lochore Cup semifinal when they play North Otago in Masterton.

West Coast will hope they can, as they themselves look to grab five points against East Coast, who have to go down to the South Island for the third time this year.

Results, Week 7.

Buller 37 (Michael Wells 2, Robbie Malneek, Anthony Tailua tries; James Lash 3 pen, 3 con, Luke Brownlee con) bt Mid Canterbury 19 (Matt Groom, Angus Lindsay, Brian Matoramusha tries; Nathan McCloy 2 con). HT: 13-12.

Wanganui 56 (Tyler Rogers-Holden, Jack Hodges, Viki Tofa, Tom Symes, Campbell Hart, Angus Middleton, Jack Yarrall tries, penalty try; Craig Clare 7 con) bt East Coast 10 (Hone Haerewa try; Ngarangi Haerewa pen, con). HT: 28-10.

King Country 59 (Alex Thrupp 3, Baven Brown 2, Liam Rowlands 2, Carl Carmichael tries; Evan Reihana pen, 8 con) bt Poverty Bay 38 (Te Peehi Fairlie 2, Tom Iosefo 2, Tamanui Hill, Willy Grogan tries; Andrew Tauatevalu 4 con).

South Canterbury 41 (Kalavini Leatigaga 2, Monty Tuipulotu, Loni Toumohuni, Shayne Anderson, Willie Wright tries; Wright pen, 4 con) bt North Otago 22 (Mikaele Mafi, Inoke Tanfahu, Frank Kelly tries; Josh Buchan pen, 2 con). HT: 28-17.

Thames Valley 29 (Alex Bradley 2, Brett Ranga, Shawn Hill, Sam McCahon tries; Reece Broughton 2 con) bt Horowhenua Kapiti 27 (Willie Paia'aua, James So'oialo tries; So'oialo 5 pen, con). HT: 24-11.

Wairarapa Bush 23 (Matt Henderson, Robbie Anderson, Finn Yeats tries; Glen Walters 2 pen, con) bt West Coast 5 (Kevin Curtis try). HT: 13-5.