Country clubs could be the ones to beat again this season.
Maheno and Kurow both produced solid performances to beat their town rivals in the second round of the Citizens Shield.
Under the lights at Maheno last Friday, the men in green and black beat Athletic Marist 42-33, and Kurow provided the upset of the round beating Old Boys 29-27 at home.
Valley beat Excelsior by default. Blues were forced to default as many of the side’s players were attending the funeral of Watson Tuapati.
Maheno halfback Robbie Smith was good with the boot, knocking over conversions and penalties to help his side get the win.
The country club led 17-7 at the break, and went on to pile on the points in the second stanza.
However, Athies put up a good fight throughout the match, and does not look far away from causing an upset.
The match of the round was undoubtedly up the Waitaki Valley, where Kurow downed Old Boys following on from its dominant first-round performance.
Old Boys led for the first half of the match. Kurow came out of the break well, taking the lead, but then Old Boys jumped back in front.
Kurow gritted it out in the final period to clutch the vital win.
Coach Tim Anderson said it was heartening to watch the team play with grit and come together.
“It wasn’t the most dazzling performance, but it’s just that the boys bound together and never gave up,” Anderson said.
Tighthead prop Cam Keech was physical up front, and was impressive in his first season with the club.
Kurow has had a hard draw to start the season, facing Maheno, Old Boys and Valley in the first three rounds.
Anderson knew it was key the team fronted up, and won those early battles to be in with a chance this year.
“If we want to compete in this comp, we need to win. [The players] just wanted it – they wanted to win, and that was the biggest thing I take out of it.
“We talked about it that week . . . in this comp, you’ve got to play together as a team if nothing else, and teams have proved that in the past.”
The third round of the Citizens Shield has been spread out as many players prepare for the opening weekend of duck-shooting.
It kicked off on Thursday night in Kurow, as the home side took on Valley.
Kurow coach Tim Anderson was looking for another “step in the right direction”, as his side tried to continue its momentum from the win against Old Boys.
He was not under any illusion what Kurow was up against though, and it was the side’s last match at home for about five weeks.
“[Valley’s] going to be very good. They didn’t play last week so they’ll be coming in fresh, and we’ll be coming off the back of a very hard, tough game.”
Kurow needed to win the individual battles at set piece, defend well, play its own structure and win the contact on the ball, Anderson said.
“We’ve got to turn up and really dig in.”
Tonight there is another big battle out in the country, as Maheno hosts Old Boys under the lights at 7pm.
Old Boys will be hurting off the back off its narrow loss last weekend, so expect them to come out firing. Maheno players can take confidence into the game, having won its first two matches.
Tomorrow, Excelsior and Athletic Marist will face off at Whitestone Contracting Centennial Park at 2.45pm.
Neither team has won yet, so it is set to be a good battle between the two. Blues will be looking to come out hard after a week off, but Athies has already shown it has potential this season.