Call it the round inspired by the Lions.
Two games in an ultra-competitive round of the Citizens Shield were decided in the best traditions of northern hemisphere rugby.
Kurow was out-scored two tries to one but ground out a 26-12 win at Maheno thanks to the booming boot of Tyler Burgess, who landed no fewer than seven penalties.
Valley also took advantage of the referee’s whistle – and had an Englishman to thank.
First five-eighth Dan Lewis landed five penalties as Valley scored zero tries to Excelsior’s two but held on for a 15-12 win.
There was a bit more goal-line action in the all-town clash, though the final act was a drop goal as table-topping Old Boys held off the challenge off Athletic Marist, winning 29-21.
So, here we are with four rounds to play.
Old Boys (No 1 ) and Valley (No 2) remain in the driving seat for the semifinals, and the other four clubs – separated by a measly six points – are scrapping for the other two places.
Has Old Boys’ bubble burst?
That might seem like a ludicrous question, given they hold a 20-point lead at the top of the table and have a perfect 55 points from 11 games.
But that makes it two straight weeks in which Old Boys have been really tested, and the narrow winning margins – seven points in round 10, eight in round 11 – suggest the chasing pack is not a million miles away.
Player-coach Ralph Darling agrees the competition has evened itself out but suggests that is exactly what Old Boys need to stay on their toes.
The coming weeks will be interesting.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
The kickers, Burgess and Lewis, were match-winners for their respective teams, and rangy Kurow lock Harvard Fale was also a big factor in his side’s win at Maheno.
Sturgess, the former North Otago and University A hooker who is back from a stint in Spain.
An under-the-radar achiever is Old Boys centre/winger Lofa Taukei, quietly going about his work in support of the rock stars in the forward pack and inside backs.
“We were poor with our basic skills and discipline but were still able to create opportunities, which was pleasing. We are happy with where we are at. We have injuries we are managing at the minute but need to keep improve as the competition is so close.” – Mark Wilson (Maheno)
Valley retained the Reece Kiwara Memorial Trophy with a 54-7 win over Athletic Marist.
Luke Gilchrist led the scoring blitz with two tries, and Joel Cunningham was player of the day for Valley.
At Whitestone Contracting Stadium, there is a third rematch of last year’s amazing final. Maheno is still in a reasonable position in the semifinal hunt but needs to lift its game against Old Boys.
Valley will be favoured when it hosts Athletic Marist at Weston, but surely – SURELY – Athies will eventually get its act together and rise off the bottom of the table.
The third game, Excelsior hosting resurgent Kurow, is too close to call but both sides should be hugely motivated as the crunch end of the season approaches.