Two thumpings and a yellow card-filled upset as the new Citizens Shield season began in glorious conditions.
Both of last year’s finalists, defending champion Maheno and Old Boys, eased into gear with big wins.
Maheno showed zero signs of second-season blues, smashing fellow country club Kurow 57-8 to signal green-and-black country can again be optimistic of a good year.
Maheno coach Mark Wilson (more from him below) reckons some of the tries scored were the best he had seen from any Maheno team in the past.
Old Boys also started with a bang, swatting aside Athletic Marist 43-12 at Centennial Park.
The lead changed multiple times at Weston, where Valley completely dominated up front but Excelsior showed more sparkle in the backs to win 39-32.
It was a big confidence boost for Excelsior, last year’s wooden spooner, a frustrating day for Valley, and a busy game for referee Blair Malcolm, who brandished no fewer than nine yellow cards (two to one player, leading to a red card).
Two rather different perspectives on the extraordinary sight of nine yellow cards being shown in the Excelsior-Valley game:
The referee sympathiser: Give a man a break. If you have been instructed to keep a close eye on high tackles and neck rolls and other infringements, and player after player ignores the clear line you have drawn, what are you supposed to do?
The frustrated fan: Nine yellow cards. NINE. It was impossible to keep track of whether it was 14 v 13, or 13 v 12. Aren’t yellow cards designed mainly to punish overtly foul play? We want to watch the rugby, not the referee.
I have to lean towards the first view – and I suspect most are with me. Referees have a thankless job, particularly at this level. It was certainly strange to see so many men leave the field, but it is up to the players to (a) tackle smarter and (b) adjust to a referee’s interpretation quicker.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Got to look straight at the two teams who finished the 2016 season ranked 1 and 2, and already look the class acts of 2017.
Ryan Ruddenklau, a back by trade, shone at No 8 for Maheno, while rampaging flanker Maene Mapusaga continued his try-scoring form from last year, charging to a hat trick in the town derby.
“Very pleasing. We stuck to structure when we needed to, we absorbed a lot of Kurow’s attack, and our ball retention was good for long periods of time. Some of our tries were outstanding. They were team tries, too, not individual tries. The boys have put quite high expectations on themselves to carry on from last year.” – Mark Wilson (Maheno)
Jolly well done to the person who made the Citizens Shield draw for the season.
For here we are, just two weeks in, and already we get a chance to watch a mouth-watering rematch of a final for the ages.
Old Boys and Maheno clash in Oamaru in a repeat of the 2016 final, won by Maheno in extra time.
Excelsior will fancy a second straight win when it hosts Kurow, and both Valley and Athletic Marist will be eager to avoid a second straight loss when they meet at Weston.