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Sweet taste of victory . . . Valley rugby players Meli Kolinisau (left) and Matthew Vocea get their turn with the Citizens Shield after the 28-22 win over Kurow in Saturday's final at Whitestone Contracting Stadium. PHOTO: PHIL JANSSEN

The Citizens Shield belongs to Valley, and club rugby is done for another season. Hayden Meikle looks back on a year that featured plenty of highlights.

Thank god for the country boys.

This was the year the three North Otago country clubs took control, and the three town clubs showed some alarming cracks.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves – we mustn’t presume every final for the next decade will be an all-country affair like last Saturday, and it would be unfair to suggest the three neighbours at Centennial Park are basket cases that have no choice but to merge into one town super club.

But it is what it is. At this point in time, the top three clubs in North Otago are based in the heartland, and the ones with the big question marks over them are in the town.

Valley was the biggest story, obviously.

Winning the Citizens Shield, the club’s fifth since the merger, after qualifying fourth was a wonderful effort, and while the loss of its president’s grade team was a concern, Valley is in good heart.

Kurow sniffed its own shot at glory, and there seems certain to be good times ahead for a club that now recruits smartly, has built good depth and has fantastic community support.

Maheno, after a rocky start, also came good in a big way, and it had a genuine shot at winning a second Citizens Shield in the space of three years.

Of the others, Old Boys can still look back on a heck of a season – they won their first 10 games, remember – though they will not be feeling great about the final six weeks.

Athletic Marist and Excelsior are the ones who really need to pick up their act next year.

It was a decent season of club rugby – and here are my awards.

PLAYERS OF THE SEASON

This is the third year the Oamaru Mail has handed out player points each week, so again I turn to the numbers to talk through this category.

Explosive Kurow prop Petelo Pouhila tops the list with 10 points – last year’s joint winners got to eight – after a season in which he ran through, over and around defenders to score 21 tries, remarkable for a front-rower.

Old Boys flanker Filipo Veamatahau had another big season, and he and Athletic Marist talisman Jared Whitburn tied for second on nine points.

Old Boys lock Anthony Amato (more on him below) got eight points, and Maheno captain Hayden Tisdall and Athletic Marist midfielder Taina Tamou tied on seven.

MOST IMPROVED

Only one candidate for this award.

Valley prop Logan Dunlop came out of nowhere, it seemed, to become something of a cult hero. He scored nine tries, and raised huge cheers every time he went on one of his runs with the ball.

MOST PROMISING

There was an awful lot to like about the Maheno duo of Levi Emery and Llew Johnson, who added so much spark to their club when they joined the competition.

But this has to go to Amato, the multi-talented Old Boys forward who scored buckets of tries and played with real style and purpose.

FORM XV

This exercise is always fun – and occasionally frustrating.

The Oamaru Mail editor is the sole selector, so aim all criticisms and comments at him if you disagree.

Our (well, his) Form XV for 2018 is:

Jason Angland (K), Dean Fenwick (K), Antonio Misiloi (E), Taina Tamou (AM), Matthew Vocea (V), Tyler Burgess (K), Inoke Naufahu (OB), Hayden Tisdall (M), Filipo Veamatahau (OB), Sam Sturgess (V), Jared Whitburn (AM), Anthony Amato (OB), Meli Kolinisau (V), Michael Paterson (K), Petelo Pouhila (K). Reserves: Ralph Darling (OB), Logan Dunlop (V), Harvard Fale (K), Jake Greenslade (V), Robbie Smith (M), Ben Nowell (K), Levi Emery (M).

QUESTIONS FOR 2018

1. Will the country takeover of Citizens Shield rugby continue? Perhaps with another Valley-Kurow final?

2. After a year of major coaching turnover, will there be any changes at all in the top jobs next year?

3. The Old Boys dynasty – officially over?

4. Has someone told Excelsior the season starts in March?

5. What are the odds on ever having another season when the top FIVE try-scorers are tight forwards?

Citizens Shield
By the numbers

Leading points
177 – Inoke Naufahu (Old Boys)
129 – Tyler Burgess (Kurow)
105 – Petelo Pouhila (Kurow)
88 – Levi Emery (Maheno)

Leading tries
21 – Petelo Pouhila (Kurow)
17 – Anthony Amato (Old Boys)
14 – Harvard Fale (Kurow), Meli Kolinisau (Valley)
13 – Ralph Darling (Old Boys)
12 – Ben Nowell (Kurow)
10 – Ross Lewis (Athletic Marist)