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Unstoppable . . . Athletic Marist winger Simon Lilicama tries to push off Kurow defender John Masters during the Citizens Shield game at Whitestone Contracting Stadium on Saturday. Athletic players in support are Terence Fatu (left) and Antini Brown. PHOTO: DAVE BOYLE

THE WRAP

The closest game of the round was on the back ground at Centennial Park, where Maheno scored some nice tries to beat Excelsior 26-14.

That takes the defending champion to a 4-4 record, a fair reflection of a season that has been patchy but could still turn out well, while Blues are going to have to play a lot better if they want to stay in the semifinal race.

Athletic Marist finally unleashed its potential, scoring eight tries in a 50-29 win over Kurow at the stadium.

Athletic has been the under-achiever of the season to date, but watch out if it can find a settled XV and get its powerful ball runners more opportunities.

The top-of-the-table clash at Weston ended in a predictable result – Old Boys won 43-15, their eighth consecutive bonus-point win – but Valley made a game of it.

Old Boys now have a 16-point lead at the top, so let’s go ahead and give them the minor premiership.

Valley remains second but will be wary of the chasing pack.

TALKING POINT

We’ve just gone past the halfway point of the regular season, so it’s time for an Oamaru Mail Form XV.

As always, I have had to pick the odd player slightly out of position.

Lilicama (Athletic Marist), Siosiua Ngalo (Old Boys), Maene Mapusaga (Old Boys), Connor Newlands (Athletic Marist), Dan Lewis (Valley), Robbie Smith (Maheno), Hayden Tisdall (Maheno), Cameron Rowland (Valley), Filipo Veamatahau (Old Boys), Don Lolo (Old Boys), Shayle Baldwin (Maheno), Petelo Pouhila (Kurow), Timoci Bulitavu (Athletic Marist), Ralph Darling (Old Boys). Reserves: Cameron Schultz (Valley), Jake Greenslade (Valley), Jared Whitburn (Athletic Marist), Manulua Taiti (Old Boys), Folau Tokai (Athletic Marist), Oscar Pamment (Excelsior), Matthew Vocea (Valley).

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

English lock Mike Lawrence played his best game for Maheno, and new halfback Sefo Maake looked very promising for Old Boys.

Top marks, though, to Connor Newlands.

The young Athletic Marist star started at second five-eighth, carried the ball with purpose, tackled every man that came his way, and chose sound options.

COACH’S CALL

“We actually played some rugby for 80 minutes.

“The boys were running on to the ball hard and passing out in front – just the basic stuff.

“It’s great to have a really tight competition. We’re treating every game from here as a semifinal for us.

“We’ve struggled to get the same team on the park two weeks in a row. Now we’ve got guys back from injury, so fingers crossed we will have our strongest 22 every week.

“We should be pushing to get higher up the ladder. – Graham Pitches (Athletic Marist)

PRESIDENT’S GRADE

Just one game played again. Fred Sutton starred for Kurow in its 43-17 triumph over Athletic Marist.

Old Boys defaulted to Valley, and sadly the grade will be down to just three teams on a permanent basis.

THIS WEEKEND

Two games in town and a country clash could hold huge significance for the playoffs.

Old Boys will be favourites when they host Kurow at the stadium, while Athletic Marist will be eager to back up by beating Excelsior.

Game of the round could be at Maheno, where the home side will seek to haul in second-placed Valley.