A much-anticipated clash between Old Boys and Kurow – seen by some as a preview of the Citizens Shield final – did not pan out as hoped.
Old Boys made the most of the perfect conditions and some lax defence to pile on nine tries in a 57-26 win.
All the damage was done in the first 50 minutes as the defending champions shifted the ball and found plenty of gaps.
Kurow was sloppy and subdued for much of the first half but finished strongly, dominating the final quarter to at least take something away from the game.
At Weston, it was more of an arm-wrestle between two country clubs.
Maheno played half a game with only 14 men following front-rower Kieran Byrne’s red card for a stray boot, but clung on for a 17-14 win over Valley.
In the “battle of the car park”, Athletic Marist continued its rather unusual start to the season, following a close loss and a default with a 52-24 hiding of struggling Excelsior.
I still think the scheduling of Citizens Shield games leaves a little to be desired at times.
Easter was an obvious case in point. Left to sort dates and kick-off times among themselves, the clubs came up with a mishmash that did nobody any favours.
A Thursday night game, a Saturday game that led to a default, and a Wednesday night game made for a shambolic round.
There is merit in doing what Dunedin does and simply ordering all clubs to play Easter games on the Thursday afternoon or evening.
And it still bugs me that we can’t have back-to-back premier games on the main ground.
On Saturday, the sun was out and No 1 looked in great nick. Instead of having to choose between Old Boys v Kurow on one side of the hill, and Athies v Blues on the other, we should have been able to watch both. And I mean that as no disrespect to the president’s grade lads in the curtain-raiser.
The clubs need to lose this obsession with “home” games and pitch in to get some buzz and more spectators back to the competition.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
It always feels wrong to give man of the match to someone in a team that has lost by 30 points.
But Kurow prop Petelo Pouhila was a one-man wrecking machine on Saturday, and he would have fully deserved the award. He has seven tries in three games, by the way.
For Old Boys, Lemi Masoe showed all his craft in the first half, Filipo Veamatahau continued his strong start to the season, and new lock Anthony Amato made a big impression.
Robbie Smith was cool and calm for Maheno, while Dylan Edwards was a vigorous performer for Valley.
New Athletic Marist second five-eighth Taina Tamou, out of Southland rugby, shone on his debut, and relatively green loose forwards Kafa Katoa and William Sunderland combined nicely.
“It’s always nice to get your first win, and we did score some nice tries. But we are still a long way off the mark. We’ve got new players who will take some time to gel, so we’re not getting carried away.” – Graham Pitches (Athletic Marist)
The good news is the grade is under way for the season.
The bad news is the five-team competition lasted about five minutes.
Surprisingly, Valley – which has had such good depth across its two senior teams in recent times – has pulled the pin, citing brutally low numbers.
How much of that crisis has been caused by little brother Union deciding to field a team in the grade is up for debate.
Union opened its return to senior rugby with a 50-12 loss to defending champion Kurow, while Excelsior beat Athletic Marist 76-40.
All eyes turn to Maheno, where the home side gets its turn to gauge its progress when it hosts Old Boys under those Friday night lights.
Kurow will make a second straight visit to Whitestone Contracting Stadium, where it will tackle Athletic Marist.
On the back ground, it will be the dance of the desperates as Excelsior and Valley both chase their first win.
Old Boys v Kurow
1 – Lemi Masoe (OB)
1 – Inoke Naufahu (OB)
1 – Anthony Amato (OB)
1 – Filipo Veamatahau (OB)
1 – Petelo Pouhila (K)
1 – Ryan Ambler (K)
Maheno v Valley
1 – Robbie Smith (M)
1 – Sam Robb (M)
1 – Simon Thorp (M)
1 – Dylan Edwards (V)
1 – Phil Wilson (V)
1 – Logan Dunlop (V)
Athletic Marist v Excelsior
2 – Taina Tamou (AM)
1 – Mason Kinzett (AM)
1 – Jared Whitburn (AM)
1 – Whetu Stirling (E)
1 – Aaron Cook (E)
Round 3 scores
Old Boys 57 (Lemi Masoe 2, Filipo Veamatahau 2, Brandan Mangold, Inoke Naufahu, Ralph Darling, Taani Vaitohi, Anthony Amato tries; Naufahu 6 con), Kurow 26 (Petelo Pouhila 3, Harvard Fale tries; Tyler Burgess 3 con). Halftime: Old Boys 38-14.
Maheno 17 (Hayden Tisdall, Zac Johnston, Forrest Beer tries; Sam Tatupu con), Valley 14 (Marc Fox, Cedric Laurent tries; Brad McKenzie 2 con). Halftime: Maheno 12-7.
Athletic Marist 52 (Jared Whitburn 2, Simon Lilicama 2, William Sunderland, Aisake Fonua, Kafa Katoa, Tevita Taufa, Josh Thomas tries; Lilicama 2 con, pen), Excelsior 24 (Uhila Malafu, Tayne Russell, Whetu Stirling, Hamish Slater tries; Slater 2 con). Halftime: Athletic Marist 25-12.