Two results that helped the leading teams clear out – and one that again emphasised an almighty looming battle for the third and fourth semifinal positions.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Old Boys won again to keep their formidable 16-point lead at the top of the Citizens Shield.
However, the score – in this case, 48-32 over Kurow – sometimes does not tell the full story. Old Boys might be top and Kurow bottom, but this was a contest right to the end.
Valley won the clash of the country titans at Maheno, taking control in the tight to beat the home side 32-13 and re-establish a 10-point gap between second and third.
In town, Excelsior claimed its third win of the season by out-hustling Athletic Marist 32-21.
Maheno and Excelsior are now tied on 19 points. Those two clubs, Athletic (16) and Kurow (13) will all harbour semifinal aspirations, and four into two won’t go.
One of the great things about grassroots rugby is that you regularly see players playing out of position.
So, there was the fantastic sight on Saturday of Lemi Masoe, the former New Zealand Heartland XV five-eighth or midfield back, starting on the openside flank for Old Boys.
Masoe helped himself to a couple of tries and, like any good No 7, found himself on the wrong end of a yellow card for infringements at the breakdown (thanks for letting me know, Ralphie!).
Across the park, the situation was reversed as star Excelsior loose forward Mat Duff started in the midfield.
A shame, though, the original Blues teamsheet did not come to pass. Coach Dan Keno, who is surely 40 if he is a day, was listed to start at centre.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Let’s shower men in the tight five with praise this week.
Lock Scott Cunningham and prop Meli Kolinisau gave Valley a big edge up front at Maheno, prop Sione Halalele led Old Boys with power and purpose, Kurow lock Harvard Fale scored three tries, and bookends Thomas Shields and Joe Pickett paved the way for Excelsior’s third win of the season.
“Our scrum dominated against Maheno. We really upset their ball and that gave us a solid platform. If someone at the start of the season had offered us second in the table at this point, we’d have quite happily taken it. But all the teams are pretty even. We could have lost a couple of those close games. There’s a long way to go.” – Mike Mavor (Valley)
Valley pipped closest rival Kurow 24-15 at Maheno – yes, Maheno.
Jonty Matthews, Rick Symes and Zac Graham scored tries for unbeaten Valley.
The Citizens Shield takes the weekend off. It is a chance for some players to have a rest, others to impress the North Otago selectors in the Town-Country clash, and coaches to plot the rest of their campaign.