Talk about a photo finish.
When there is one – ONE – point between third and the wooden spoon, you know a competition is tight.
One of the great semifinal races in the history of North Otago club rugby came to an unforgettable conclusion on Saturday.
As the sun went down at Centennial Park, news filtered through of Valley’s 36-34 win over Kurow at Kurow.
Crucially, Kurow got two bonus points, taking it up to 30 points, alongside Excelsior, which earned no competition points in its 26-12 loss to Old Boys.
So, it was down to Athletic Marist v Maheno. If Maheno won, the defending champion would go through third. If Maheno got a single point, there would have been a three-way tie for third, and points difference would have been the tiebreaker.
Athies charged to a 12-0 lead but then lost star No8 Junior Fakatoufifita to a red card. Maheno sniffed blood, but by then had lost two of its own players to injury, and was left deeply frustrated by a 24-12 loss.
The Excelsior-Kurow (third-fourth) and Maheno-Athies (fifth-sixth) tiebreakers were decided by who beat whom during the season.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Athletic forward Jared Whitburn stepped up magnificently as his side won a niggly, physical game at Centennial Park. Team-mate and hooker Timoci Bulitavu made his presence felt, while halfback Robbie Smith did everything he could to stop Maheno’s season slipping away.
Up the valley, Kurow winger Dean Fenwick scored a nice hat trick, while Valley hooker Sam Sturgess continued his strong form for his new club and Matthew Vocea looked lively.
Wily Old Boys forwards Manulua Taiti and Filipo Veamatahu had a significant input into their side’s win over Blues.
Valley continued its long unbeaten run with a 26-12 win over Kurow at Kurow.
Fullback Craig Brockenshire scored a nice individual try for Valley.
As it is now just a three-team competition, defending champion Valley and Kurow progress straight to the Burns Shield final on July 29.