The plot thickens.
Old Boys, 55-15 winners over Maheno, have long effectively been guaranteed to qualify top for the semifinals.
Valley, which probably deserves more credit for its resurgence this season, is all but certain to go into the playoffs as the No2 side after grinding out a 22-19 win over Athletic Marist.
Below the two leading clubs is one of the great semifinal races in recent Citizens Shield history.
Just six points still separate Excelsior, which came from behind to beat 14-man Kurow 23-13 and jump from fifth to third, and sixth-placed Athletic Marist.
So, let’s have look at the run-in and try to work out what the heck is going to happen over the next three weeks:
Old Boys: v Valley (away), v Kurow (away), v Excelsior (away). Tough finish, but Old Boys can relax for three weeks.
Valley: v Old Boys (home), v Maheno (away), v Kurow (away). Two bonus points are all Valley needs to seal a home semifinal. But, realistically, the No2 spot is already sewn up.
Excelsior: v Maheno (home), v Athletic Marist (home), v Old Boys (home). Three home games, and Blues will possibly start as favourites in the first two. Reasonably well placed.
Maheno: v Excelsior (away), v Valley (home), v Athletic Marist (away). The defending champion might be feeling antsy. The two away games are massive.
Kurow: v Athletic Marist (Kurow), v Old Boys (home), v Valley (home). A tough finish, theoretically, but Kurow is hitting form at the right time and will fancy defending home turf against two teams with little to play for.
Athletic Marist: v Kurow (home), v Excelsior (away), v Maheno (home). Athies have been so hot and cold, it is impossible to predict how they will finish. But are they good enough to win two of their remaining three games?
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Valley’s mighty boot did it again. Dan Lewis scored all 22 points himself as the Weston-based club held off Athletic Marist.
Prop Kelepi Funaki helped himself to two tries and was in everything for Old Boys, and Zak Young stood up in an Excelsior pack missing three Englishmen who were in Auckland to watch their beloved Lions in the first test.
“That was quite pleasing. We’re happy any time we get a win. But we’re under no illusions that we’re only one loss away from being out of the top four. The competition is so even that you need to be performing every week, and we haven’t been consistent so far this year. We need to be more consistent to give ourselves a chance of getting into that top four.” – Dan Keno (Excelsior)
Kurow beat Athletic Marist 36-12.
Where is this grade heading? How long can it continue with only three teams? Could the rest of the clubs not chip in four to five players to create a Barbarians side to at least make it a four-team competition?
It’s 1 (Old Boys) v 2 (Valley), 3 (Excelsior) v 4 (Maheno), and 5 (Kurow) v 6 (Athletic Marist). The 1 v 2 and 5-6 games are at the home of the lower-ranked team. Good luck picking a single one of those results.