Team effort . . . Excelsior players celebrate after scoring a rolling maul try to win the game. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Excelsior is on the board.

The Blues caused an upset in round four, as the bottom-of-the-table team edged out Old Boys to win 37-34 in Oamaru on Saturday.

Late in the game, Old Boys looked to be on the front foot, leading by 12 points.
But Blues players stepped up.

An inside ball from a lineout led to a converted try to hooker Cullen Johnstone, and closed the gap to 34-30.

In the final two minutes, Excelsior tried to work the ball until the opportunity came for a rolling maul.

Captain Mat Duff made the call to go for it, with only five forwards, and soon enough, backs started piling in from across the field to help first five Tyron Davies score.

Fullback Josh Phipps, who had been faultless with the boot all game, slotted the conversion to cap a memorable win, 37-34.

It had been a tough couple of weeks for Blues, having to defer two games as Covid-19 ripped through the team, so coach Hamish McKenzie was thrilled with the win.

‘‘Just really rewarding to see the team play 80 minutes. We’ve wanted to build all year, it’s only one win, but it’s a good start,’’ McKenzie said.

He praised Duff’s leadership at the maul — ‘‘that was fantastic’’ — Phipps’ kicking game, and Izaak Tauwhare’s defence.

‘‘I’d almost bet that [Tauwhare] didn’t miss a tackle all day. That’s the cool thing when your back’s against the wall and guys go, ‘I’m just going to go out there and try my best’.’’

Tauwhare, who normally plays in the backline, packed down at flanker, while front rower Zac Mitchell-Collie played lock.

‘‘Everybody played their part, which to me is actually the best part about coaching,’’ he said.

In Weston, Valley came from behind to beat Athletic Marist 27-13. Athies was competitive, with a superb scrum, and lead 10-5 at the half.

But quick tries from Asesela Ravuvu and Tony McCone put Valley on the front foot, and the home team held on to win.

In Maheno, Kurow beat the home side 39-22, thanks to Ben Nowell’s four-try haul.


Duck-shooting opening weekend has split the round five clashes in two.

To ensure the country players can make it to the mai-mais tomorrow, as is tradition for many, two games were played last night, after the Oamaru Mail went to print.

In a repeat of last year’s Citizens Shield final, Kurow hosted Valley. Kurow has had two wins on the trot, giving the Red Devils the momentum, while Valley pulled together a good second half last week, and knows how to win.

Maheno hosted Excelsior at home.

Before the game, McKenzie said night games were a different challenge for all teams, as players had been at work during the day, making it hard to switch into the rugby mindset.

Excelsior would be looking to keep up the momentum from last week’s performance.

‘‘All we want is what we want every week, improvement on the game. It’s the small things, getting the small things right,’’ McKenzie said.

Maheno fell to Kurow last week, but McKenzie expected them to be strong. Blues would need to shut down the country club’s ‘‘general’’ Robbie Smith, he said.

‘‘He just controls the game so well and they’re at home so they’ll be a tough beat.’’

Tomorrow, Athletic Marist and Old Boys will play at Whitestone Contracting Stadium. Both teams are coming off losses, which could make the game interesting.


The Waitaki Wahine’s season is finally here.

The women’s team, playing in the Otago women’s premier grade, will come up against University, Alhambra Union, Dunedin and Big River Country in a five-round competition.

The season starts tomorrow and the Wahine has a home game against University to kick things off.

The Wahine has a new cohort of players this season, and will be led by new captain Lucy Taupo.

Otago Spirit back Cheyenne Cunningham will be key, as will Chelsea Seddon and Ellie McIlraith in the forwards.

The team had a pre-season hit out against Dunedin and Big River Country last weekend.

While the Wahine came away without a win, it was still competitive throughout.

Tomorrow’s match against University at Centennial Park kicks off at 12.45pm.