In the immortal words of Vince Lombardi: What the HELL is going on out here?
It was one of those mad weekends. Nothing made sense. We lurched from “sheesh” to “my goodness” to “please repeat that scoreline”.
At Weston, Maheno sprang to life in the final quarter and capitalised on a couple of yellow cards to stun Valley 30-15.
Valley, seeking a seventh straight win, controlled most of the first hour on the back of a dominant scrum, but crucially could not build any sort of a lead.
Then it all went pear-shaped for the home side.
Maheno scored, both Valley’s props were binned, and Maheno grabbed two more tries to claim the points.
If that scoreline raised one eyebrow, news Kurow had beaten Old Boys 19-12 at the stadium sent both skywards.
Kurow’s form has been erratic of late but rolling the defending champions is a timely boost, and ensures a home semifinal is still looking likely.
Old Boys in crisis? Not exactly, but losing two out of three games represents a shocking slump by their recent standards.
And then there was the other game. Few would have tipped (a) Excelsior thrashing Athletic Marist 73-7, or (b) one side turning up with only nine players.
Athletic Marist grabbed four players from its president’s grade team but it was soon 15 v 12, and a virtual training run for Blues.
Referee James Symes, in conjunction with the match day manager, called the game off after just 53 minutes.
Alas, poor Athies?
Or, pfft, my heart bleeds for Athies?
It is obviously tempting to rip into Athletic Marist for that farce on Saturday, which followed a default earlier this season.
Nine players, for heaven’s sake. That speaks to either serious lack of commitment from some players, or an issue with the culture of the team and/or club.
The likes of Maheno and Excelsior will also struggle to have much sympathy for the fallen giant of North Otago rugby as they reflect on their own struggles in the past.
But I will play devil’s advocate here.
There are some good people in and around this Athletic Marist team. Decent young blokes who DO show commitment, and who deserve better than last Saturday’s circus.
Athies need to get their house in order, yes. But it serves nobody in the North Otago rugby community well to see one of its six premier clubs on its knees.
Hopefully, Athies finish the season with some pride and address these issues next season.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Maheno captain Hayden Tisdall was again at his talismanic best as his side won the country clash at Weston, while new young fullback Levi Emery showed his range of skills.
Meli Kolinisau missed some time in the bin but he had been having a whale of a game for Valley.
Tyler Burgess was the most influential figure in Kurow’s upset of Old Boys.
And no, there’s not much point talking about who played well in the third game.
“The competition is really close, and we’ve had tough games every week. Sooner or later, you have to take a loss, and we got beaten by a team that out-passioned us in the last 30 minutes. We had opportunities earlier in the game, and we tried to put pressure on Maheno by scoring some tries. But we just didn’t execute well enough. The guys know we are capable of better.” – Mike Mavor (Valley)
Kurow won the big battle at Ngapara, beating Union 24-0 in front of the Heartland Rugby cameras.
Excelsior beat Athletic Marist 37-10 in the other game.
Kurow has a chance to seal a home semifinal when it comes to Oamaru to (hopefully) play Athletic Marist.
Old Boys will try to get back on track but will face a buoyant Maheno team on its home ground.
Likewise, Valley will be keen to regain its mojo but will not have it easy against Excelsior, which sniffs a chance to avoid the wooden spoon.
Round 13 scores
Kurow 19 (Braden Barnes, Petelo Pouhila, Sam MacDonald tries; MacDonald 2 con), Old Boys 12(Anthony Amato, Sale Pi’i tries; Inoke Naufahu con). Halftime: 12-12.
Maheno 30 (Hayden Tisdall, Marcus Balchin, Levi Emery tries; Emery 3 con, 3 pen), Valley 15(Tyrone Jones, Meli Kolinisau tries; Dan Lewis con, pen). Halftime: Valley 10-6.
Excelsior 73 (Mika Mafi 2, Bryan Hazel 2, Kwaye Raumati 2, Karl Cunningham, Isaac Shields, Pat Heagney, Antonio Misiloi, Frank Kelly tries; Hamish Slater 9 con), Athletic Marist 7 (Ross Lewis try; Duncan Jones con). Halftime: Excelsior 59-0.
Kurow v Old Boys
2 – Tyler Burgess (K)
1 – Glen Robertson (K)
1 – Petelo Pouhila (K)
1 – Soni Tongotongo (OB)
1 – Kelepi Funaki (OB)
Maheno v Valley
2 – Hayden Tisdall (M)
1 – Sam Robb (M)
1 – Levi Emery (M)
1 – Meli Kolinisau (V)
1 – Jake Greenslade (V)
Excelsior v Athletic Marist
2 – Hamish Slater (E)
1 – Isaac Shields (E)
1 – Antonio Misiloi (E)
1 – Mat Duff (E)
1 – Richie Wilson (E)