Kurow and Maheno have officially bowed out of the Oamaru Liquorland Citizens Shield ahead of next weekend’s semi-final clashes, with both sides suffering losses on Saturday.
The two teams’ fate had been sealed for some time but week 15 of round-robin fixtures marked the last match for both this season.
Old Boys churned through Excelsior 42-10 at the Whitestone Contracting Stadium while Athies knocked over a plucky Kurow 22-9 and Valley toppled Maheno 28-7.
The holders got off to a fine start against a lethargic Excelsior, taking a 35-3 lead in to the break, before Blues produced a more convincing performance to keep it at 7-7 in the second half.
With both sides’ semi-final places set in stone and a healthy amount of replacements available, Blues coach Jason Forrest had a rare opportunity to rest influential forwards Matt Duff and Don Lolo, but injuries to key players Chris Talanoa, Kane Middleton and Thomas Shields could prove costly ahead Saturday’s semi-final showdown with Athies.
“We started far too slowly against a quality side,” said Forrest.
“It was a hard game to get up for, both sides knowing what we have next week and they did it better than us.
“We missed tackles in the first half and weren’t aggressive enough.
“Unfortunately we had injuries. Chris Talanoa, Kane Middleton and Thomas Shields all came off. They’re key players for us. Kane and Thomas look 50-50 at the moment.
“Thomas injured his hamstring, Chris did his calf and Kane injured his knee.”
Athletic Marist, who will face Excelsior next Saturday, proved too much for Kurow.
Athies backs coach Jon Sinclair praised Kurow’s efforts and was pleased his side took the win with some key players missing.
“They (Kurow) played good, structured rugby,” he said.
“They’re a good side, they’ve come good. It’s just a shame it’s a little bit late.
“We were pretty happy. We had around 12 guys unavailable so we were pleased. I think Adam Halkett did fantastic job of Containing Simeli (Koniferedi).”
Sinclair said he is expecting a tough encounter with Excelsior in five days and will be looking to improve on set pieces ahead of the final four clash.
“They’ve a very good side,” he said.
“They’ve got some dangerous backs and they’ve always troubled us in set pieces, particularly line-outs and scrums. They pretty much demolished us in the scrum last time,” he said.
“I think it’ll be a good game. It should be entertaining.”
Valley will now set their sights on the mammoth task of beating Old Boys in the opposite semi-final after taking a 28-7 win over Maheno.
By JAMES FORD
PHOTO: JAMES FORD – Old Boys’ hooker Ralph Darling on his way to a try during his side’s 42-10 win over Excelsior on Saturday.