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Rising star . . . Excelsior fullback Antonio Misiloi makes a break against Valley in Saturday's Citizens Shield semifinal at Weston. PHOTO: PHIL JANSSEN

Excelsior and Kurow each fell narrowly short of a place in the Citizens Shield final. Hayden Meikle looks back on their respective campaigns.

EXCELSIOR

Record: Played 16, won 5, lost 11.

High point: Starting the season with two high-scoring, free-flowing victories that flushed away the memories of last season’s wooden spoon.

Low point: Either the six straight losses that followed, or the sinking feeling of watching not one, not two but three starting members of the backline going down with season-ending injuries.

Three best players.–

Thomas Shields. A big man with a big motor. The massive prop is a throwback to the days when front rowers didn’t need to peel off 30m runs to earn praise.

Antonio Misiloi. His season was affected by injury but the versatile former St Kevin’s star showed he is an emerging talent.

Oscar Pamment. He never seems that big or that quick, but Pamment has an exceptional rugby brain and makes a big difference when he is on his game.

Next year: Busy coach Dan Keno will be stepping down, and there will again be a high turnover of international players. Blues need to foster their young talent, especially in the backs, and plug the gaps to remain competitive.

Coach’s call: “To come from the wooden spoon to losing a semifinal by one point is a massive step forward for the Excelsior club. There are some very good young players at the club, so I think we can be excited going forward.” – Dan Keno
KUROW

Record: Played 16, won 5, lost 11.

High point: The first 20 minutes of Saturday’s semifinal against Old Boys. Just a breathtaking display of rugby.

Low point: Starting the season with five straight losses, leading to everyone assuming the wooden spoon was certain to head up the valley.

Three best players.–

Petelo Pouhila. The young Tongan prop was unquestionably the rookie of the season. A destructive force.

Harvard Fale. A rangy lock with boundless energy and an impressive skillset.

Tyler Burgess. People wondered how the Kurow backline would fare without classy playmaker Ben Nowell. Burgess provided the answer. The composed first five has a stunning boot but also real generalship. Would not disgrace a gold jersey.

Next year: There is a real sense Kurow rugby is on the up. The club just needs to find that extra 10% if it is to reach the Citizens Shield final for the first time since 2001. Depth will not be an issue but priority No 1 is finding a replacement for coach Kevin Malcolm, who is taking a deserved break from rugby coaching.

Coach’s call: “We set out to play an exciting brand of rugby and I think we proved we an do that. We just need to tweak it a little bit and we will be real contenders next year. We had a huge change in personnel and that took a wee bit of time to bed in. Once everyone got some confidence, we went along quite well.” – Kevin Malcolm

Tall timber . . . Kurow lock Harvard Fale tries to beat Old Boys flanker Filipo Veamatahau during Saturday’s semifinal at Whitestone Contracting Stadium. PHOTO: DAVE BOYLE