Who saw that coming? Excelsior blew the Citizens Shield wide open, dispatching Old Boys 25-7 at Whitestone Contracting Stadium on Saturday.
Further afield, Valley outmuscled a gallant Kurow 29-12 in Twizel, while Maheno comfortably beat an Athletic Marist team that is still feeling the effects of a disrupted start to the season.
Excelsior, Valley and Old Boys are now tied for points at the top of the table, with Maheno just one point behind.
With all the top four sides clashing this week, it is hard to predict how the table will look at the end of the first round.
Excelsior’s boilover victory was built on the back of an outstanding defensive effort, making first up tackles on the dangerous Old Boys ball runners and stopping them breaking the game open.
The score was 8-7 to the blues at halftime – a try to William Sunderland and a Tom Moysey penalty in reply to Old Boys’ converted try to Paea Ala.
After the break, Excelsior dominated the territory battle, leading to tries to hard-running centre Taina Tamou and halfback Tarn Crow.
Old Boys was forced to play with 14 men after they lost a player to the sin bin, and from there Excelsior killed the game off with a converted try to Hayden James.
Kurow played its home game in Twizel this week, and was rewarded with a good crowd and great conditions.
With 15 to 20 players travelling from Twizel and Omarama to practices and games in Kurow each week, the Twizel game was a way for the club to show appreciation of those efforts, Kurow president Andrew Harding said.
The game itself was a classic country affair, with both packs going at it hammer and tongs.
Valley took a 24-12 lead in the first half, with just a single try added to its first half tally. It had a depleted backline, but its young backs tackled well.
Its forwards look to be the best in the competition, dominant in the set piece and around the breakdown.
Although Kurow is yet to register a point on the table, the young team continues to learn every week and it would not be surprising to see it come into form in the latter rounds of the competition.
The last game of the round kicked off in Maheno at a later time of 4.30pm to accommodate Athletic players’ work commitments.
Athletic managed to field a full side, although the lack of match preparation was telling against a well-drilled Maheno side.
Maheno racked up 10 tries and, with a few players out with injury, looks to be building some depth in its ranks.
In a disciplined effort, Robbie Smith and Forrest Beer each scored a double and winger Adam Johnson scored a hat-trick.
Waitaki Wahine Athletic Marist found where the benchmark was in the women’s competition, when it came up against University. Pauline Lindon, Carey-Mai McIntyre and Charlotte Denny all played well for the Wahine, but it was outclassed 71-10 by last year’s champion.
Maheno hosts Excelsior under the lights at 7.30pm on April 18. Maheno is missing a few players with injury, but should get a good crowd and any team with Josh Clark and Robbie Smith is going to be hard to beat. Excelsior has dangerous runners all over the park and if they can get clean ball it will be hard to stop.
Athletic Marist hosts Kurow at Whitestone Contracting Stadium at 1pm on Good Friday in a game both sides will be desperate to win.
Valley and Old Boys will clash at the same time at Weston. A week ago, Old Boys looked unstoppable, but it is missing a few players, including talismanic skipper Ralph Darling. Valley has a dominant pack and is starting to come into the sort of form which saw it win the competition last year.
Citizens Shield – Round 4 scores
★ Excelsior 25 (Will Sunderland, Hayden James, Tarn Crow, Taina Tamou tries; Tom Moysey pen, con) Old Boys 7 (Paea Ala try, Inoke Naufahu con)
★ Valley 29 (Logan Dunlop, Dylan Edwards, Vincent Smith, Brad McKenzie tries; Brad McKenzie 2 con) Kurow 12 (Patrick Henwood, Ben Nowell tries; Tyler Burgess con)
★ Maheno 58 (Adam Johnson 3, Forrest Beer 2, Robbie Smith 2, Marcus Balchin, Jackson Attfield, Simon Thorp tries; Robbie Smith 2 con, Adam Johnson con, Ryley Maccol con) Athletic 7 (Etene Gucake try, Anthony Arty con)
Excelsior v Old Boys
2 – Jack Squire (E)
1 – Antonio Misiloi (E)
1 – Isaac Shields (E)
1 – Kelepi Funaki (OB)
1 – Unga Kefo (OB)
Valley v Kurow
1 – Pierre Tournaire (V)
1 – Brodie McClelland (V)
1 – Dylan Edwards (V)
1 – Jesse Porter (K)
1 – Michael Paterson (K)
1 – Isaac Milne (K)
Maheno v Athletic
2 – Jackson Attfield (M)
1 – Forrest Beer (M)
1 – Fem Bootsma (M)
1 – Adam Johnson (M)