The battle for the Citizens Shield has begun – and already last year’s two finalists are licking their wounds.
Playing at home under lights on Friday, Maheno celebrated captain Hayden Tisdall’s 100th cap by beating Valley 19-0 in a classic country rugby arm-wrestle.
Valley’s forwards ran hard at the line all night, but it was at times a little predictable and Maheno’s line speed and defensive lines remained strong all game.
Tisdall scored the first try after bashing his way over from close out, and Josh Clark scored in similar circumstances to make it 12-0 when converted by Sam Tatupu.
Valley’s dominant scrum helped it get penalties and field position throughout the game, but poor handling and strong Maheno defence kept the defending champion scoreless going into the sheds.
The second half continued in a similar fashion with Maheno’s halfback Robbie Smith capping a strong performance with a try towards the end.
In Kurow, Old Boys only took 29 minutes to show they will again be among the front runners this season, heading out to a 24-0 lead at halftime with tries to Harry Frost, Kelepi Funaki, Omega Masoe and Sale Pi’i, and conversions added by Seti Halalele and Lemi Masoe.
Kurow fought back to win the second half with unconverted tries to Paddy Henwood and Sam Fleming while Funaki added a second to Old Boys tally, leaving the final score 29-10.
Both teams will take positives out of the game – Old Boys will be a lot fitter in the future and happy to have the away game to Kurow behind it.
While Kurow was soundly beaten on the scoreboard, it can take a lot of heart from the performance of its youthful side, at one stage having six forwards under the age of 20.
At Whitestone Contracting Stadium, Excelsior dispatched Athletic Marist 63-15.
Athletic Marist had been battling to get a full team together, but managed to strip 22 players on Saturday.
It began the brightest with Simon Lilicama scoring and Mason Kinzett adding a penalty.
Excelsior held out the early barrage and managed to put 18 points on the board before halftime.
Although it was a first hit-out for both teams, Excelsior looked the fitter team, blowing out the scoreline with tries to Samuela Babiau (3), Hamish Slater (2), Tayne Russell and Taina Tamou. First five-eighth Tom Moysey topped off an impressive game with a try to go with his seven conversions and three penalties.
Athletic Marist added one try to its first-half tally to Vaa Mafi.
While not overjoyed by the result, it gives coach Graham Pitches something to build on, which is a good step forward from the past few weeks.
Old Boys take on Athletic Marist at Whitestone Contracting Stadium, Valley hosts Excelsior and Maheno will travel to Kurow.
The Waitaki Wahine also begin their season in Mosgiel, taking on Taieri.
Maheno v Valley
1 – Josh Clark (M)
1 – Hayden Tisdall (M)
1 – Forest Beer (M)
1 – Jake Day (M)
1– Sam Sturgess (V)
1 – Matt Vocea (V)
Old Boys v Kurow
2 – Don Lolo (OB)
1 – Kilifi Fangupo (OB)
1 – Ilitia Tahitua (OB)
1 – Thomas Harding (K)
1 – Ben Nowell (K)
Athletic Marist v Excelsior
2 – Samuela Babiau (E)
1 – William Sunderland (E)
1 – Tom Moysey (E)
1 – Taina Tamou (E)
1 – Simon Lilicama (AM)
Citizens Shield – Round 1 scores
Old Boys 29 (Kelepi Funaki 2, Harry Frost, Omega Masoe, Sale Pi’i tries; Seti Halalele con, Lemi Masoe con), Kurow 10 (Paddy Henwood, Sam Fleming tries)
Excelsior 63 (Samuela Babiau 3, Hamish Slater 2, Tayne Russell, Taina Tamou, Tom Moysey tries; Moysey 7 con, 3 pen), Athletic Marist 15 (Simon Lilicama, Vaa Mafi tries; Mason Kinzett pen, con)
Maheno 19 (Hayden Tisdall, Josh Clark, Robbie Smith tries; Sam Tatupu 2 con), Valley 0