HISTORY

Established in 1922 the Thames Valley Rugby Union could only be considered a second tier province for the first thirty years of its existence. However, the union came of age in 1951 with a victory over Fiji and a credible performance against North Auckland in their first ever Ranfurly Shield challenge. Surrounded by the more powerful unions of Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Counties, Auckland and North Auckland the Valley would usually knock off one or more of these better resourced teams each year until the introduction of the National Provincial Championship in 1976. The best of these victories was to beat Auckland at Eden Park in 1957 to win the Coronation Shield.

Apart from Fiji Thames Valley also had notable victories over Australia, Tonga and New South Wales. Following the introduction of the NPC it took Thames Valley – now known as the Swamp Foxes 13 years to have success in the competition. In 1988 with Ross Cooper and Brian Duggan as coaches Thames Valley became Third Division Champions after winning all their competition games. This team also defeated First Division, Counties in an early season fixture. After one year in the Second Division Thames Valley again won the Third Division in 1990. A third title was secured in 1995 with Willie Heteraka and Warren Gatland as the team coaches.

As professional rugby grew stronger the formation of a Heartland competition for the group of 12 amateur provinces was an ideal mix for Thames Valley. However, the Swamp Foxes found the going tough and of the 100 matches played in this competition by the end of 2017 they had recorded only 29 wins to go with 3 draws and a massive 68 losses. They had never featured in the top tier play-offs for the Meads Cup and had never won a semi final in the second tier Lochore Cup section. With this background it was a remarkable achievement for the Swamp Foxes to win the Meads Cup in 2018 especially as they had to overcome the hurdle of playing the semi final and final matches away from home. At the end of round robin play Thames Valley were clearly in 4th position four points ahead of 5th placed Horowhenua-Kapiti. This pitted them against Wanganui in the first semi final for the Meads cup. Having never previously defeated Wanganui in any Heartland match the Swamp Foxes rose to the occasion and ran out convincing winners 17-7. A week later in Timaru they showed that the victory over Wanganui was no fluke when a strong second half saw them defeat South Canterbury 17-12 and return home with the Meads Cup for the first time.

The Union has only had two All Blacks – Bob O’Dea 1953/54 and Kevin Barry 1962-64.

Carl Hoeft, Keith Robinson and Richard Judd are players who began their careers in Thames Valley and went on to play super rugby with first two names also being All Blacks.

 

Thames Valley - Winners of the Meads Cup 2018.