Strong Waimate influence in side

Back to back . . . Waimate Rugby Club was well represented in South Canterbury’s Meads Cup winning squad, with Toko Fakatava, Henry Bryce, Anthony Amato, Theo Davidson, Miles Medlicott, Dan Patterson, and Loni Toumohuni playing a part this season. PHOTO: SHARYN CAIN/WAIMATE DEPUTY MAYOR'S DESK

The back-to-back Meads Cup champion had a strong Waimate influence this season.

Waimate Rugby Club players Toko Fakatava, Henry Bryce, Anthony Amato, Theo Davidson and Miles Medlicott were all in the match-day 23 for South Canterbury when it beat Whanganui 47-36 in the Heartland Championship final last weekend to cap off an unbeaten season.

Dan Patterson and Loni Toumohuni were also a part of this year’s squad.

It was a come-from-behind win after Whanganui shot out to a 5-0 lead before Amato scored South Canterbury’s first try of the day.

Whanganui led 22-17 at the break, but South Canterbury piled on 30 unanswered points in the second half to win the union’s second title.

It took South Canterbury’s record-breaking Heartland Championship run to 22 straight wins.

South Canterbury claimed its first Meads Cup title, beating Thames Valley 35-16, in last year’s Covid-affected season.

Davidson said this year’s title proved last year was no fluke.

‘‘We didn’t play semifinals [last year] so it was quite good to beat Whanganui in the final. Their reporter always said that last year wasn’t a true competition, so it was probably even more special this year to do it for the second time in a row, just to prove South Canterbury is a quality side.’’

The team culture had been a huge factor in the side’s success, he said.

‘‘We play rugby for the love of the game but also enjoy a good time after footy together.’’

As South Canterbury’s usual home ground, Alpine Energy Stadium in Timaru, was being redeveloped, the union played its home games throughout the region.

The team hosted Poverty Bay in Waimate, the first time in 95 years the union had played at Manchester Park.

It was a special feeling to be playing Heartland Championship rugby in front of his home crowd, Davidson said.

‘‘I don’t really know how to describe [it]. It was just awesome — you see your home club fans there supporting the rep team.

‘‘It was pretty special, though. It was a cool experience.’’

The Waimate side finished runner-up in the South Canterbury club competition this year and Davidson credited strong leadership for helping elevate club players to representative honours.

‘‘We’ve had good coaches for the Waimate club side over the last probably six or seven years, which has really helped, and a good core group of players have hung around and stayed together, so there’s a really good leadership group in the team.’’

In the Lochore Cup final, Ngati Porou East Coast beat Mid Canterbury 25-20 in Ruatoria.