July 18 1973 – The day David beat Goliath.
Thames Valley (David) 9 beat Waikato (Goliath) 6
Since the Waikato and Thames Valley Unions were established in 1921 and 1922 respectively they have played each other 74 times. Waikato, by far the larger union, have won 64 of those matches, Thames Valley eight with two draws. Because Valley wins did not come that often they were therefore that much more valued.
One of those wins came in 1973 on the Paeroa Domain, the 7th game of the Valley’s 11 match programme. The results was close, a converted try and penalty to two penalties but as the Valley players no doubt said “A win’s a Win”.
With four wins from their 11 matches Thames Valley saw their season as reasonably satisfactory. Wins over Waikato, N Z Services and a spirited showing against Auckland (lost 12 – 17) were the highlights. The sole selector D F Johansen used only 27 players, with 13 playing in at least nine of the 11 matches.
Three players “World Famous in Thames Valley” were key member of the Swamp Foxes that season. Lock and captain John Hodge represented the Valley from 1958 to 1977 in 135 matches, 77 of them consecutive. He also appeared for the Barbarians and captained Counties-Thames Valley against the 1971 Lions.
Halfback “Tuk” Sheehan was in his second season for Thames Valley whom he went on to represent in 99 games, finishing in 1986. He also played for NZ Juniors in 1974, Counties-Thames Valley against the 1977 Lions and some invitation XVs.
Five eight Brian Duggan played 143 matches for Thames Valley 1970-84, appeared against both the 1971 and 1977 Lions and also in some of the invitations matches that were played at the time. It is a pity that the current highly structured first class programme does not allow for such matches and the opportunities they gave to acknowledge long serving players and also give exposure to emerging talent.
Try scorer for Thames Valley that day was wing Ray Garrett who made 18 appearances for the union over two seasons. As a referee he officiated in 26 first class fixtures 1983 – 1996.
The Waikato team put out against Thames Valley was probably not the strongest it fielded during the season. Nevertheless it included All Black George Skudder, North Island representatives in halfback Doug Phillips and hooker Joe Wright and a number of experienced provincial players. They probably left Paeroa that day feeling “We should have done better”.