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Stop, Darling . . . Old Boys prop Ralph Darling runs past Athletic Marist defenders Jamie Rhodes (left) and Timoci Bulitavu during the Citizens Shield game on Saturday. PHOTO: PHIL JANSSEN

THE WRAP

Three good, competitive games to highlight the fact the Citizens Shield is far from a one-horse race, despite Old Boys’ lofty position at the top of the table and perfect record.

The competition leaders got a good workout on Saturday from Athletic Marist, which shot to an early 14-5 lead at the stadium, controlled much of the first half, and basically played its best rugby of the season.

But Old Boys are relentless, and their fitness shone through as they scored five tries to three to seal a 34-24 win.

Valley held on for a 27-24 win over Excelsior in the Friday-night clash at Weston, leaving Valley – which failed to make the semifinals last year – in a handy spot in second, six points clear of Maheno.

Valley, out-scored four tries to two but possessing the competition’s new super boot in Dan Lewis, eased to a 24-5 lead but had to withstand a furious Blues comeback.

In a rare Thursday-night clash up the valley, Kurow finally broke its duck with a 19-11 win over Maheno in a celebration of everything that is great about country rugby.

TALKING POINT

What would the bookies offer on Old Boys finishing the Citizens Shield round robin with an absolutely perfect record?

Fifteen games, 15 wins, 15 bonus points, 75 points. Can it be done?

PLAYER OF THE ROUND

barrelled his way to two more tries, Lewis made another big statement with his boot for Valley, and Maheno captain Hayden Tisdall did everything he could to get the defending champion across the line in Kurow.

Three worthy contenders, but let’s go with a Kurow player to celebrate the club’s breakthrough win.

Tyler Burgess, who has largely worn the No10 jersey this season but was moved to fullback against Maheno, kicked some crucial goals, including one from nearly halfway that locals reckon didn’t fall till it reached Otiake, hit the line well and defended stoutly.

COACH’S CALL

“We’ve played a lot of good rugby this season, but never really played a full game. Maybe we’re a night team – we might be nocturnal. The team had a long, hard talk the week before and made a decision that they want to be part of the competition. Everyone has said Thursday night was a really great game of rugby. Maheno scored an absolutely class team try, and we had to work hard to win the battle. We want to play 11 more weeks of rugby, and the only way we can do that is by getting more Ws.”– Kevin Malcolm (Kurow)

PRESIDENT’S GRADE

Starts this weekend with (hopefully) four teams for the whole season.

Word is the two country clubs entered, defending champion Valley and beaten finalist Kurow, have good numbers and look reasonably strong, but town clubs Old Boys and Athletic Marist might be scrambling.

THIS WEEKEND

Kurow will aim for a second straight win when it hosts Excelsior, Athletic Marist v Valley at the main ground could be a cracker, and Maheno will need to pull something special out of the hat at home to Old Boys.