Athletic Marist may have caused an upset already, but it isn’t getting ahead of itself yet.
Athies beat reigning Citizens Shield champion Kurow 34-26 in Saturday’s opening round.
The away team got on the board early, kept the pressure up and held a 22-12 lead at halftime.
Kurow came out of the break strong, forcing Athies to concede a penalty try, but the Oamaru side’s defence held up and two additional tries helped it secure the win.
Athies manager Graham Pitches said the club was thrilled with its opening win.
‘‘The boys are stoked. It’s been a long time since we’ve won a game up there, so pretty happy,’’ Pitches said.
Flanker Paea Fifita was a stand out for Athies, scoring a hat trick, in addition to Tupou Fifita and Jared Whitburn’s tries.
Pitches was pleased to see Athies get on the scoreboard first and play with intensity for the whole game, he said.
‘‘We normally go in fits and starts but we played for the whole 80 for the first time in a long time.
‘‘To be fair . . .our defence was pretty good. The boys just kept working hard for one another and that was about it, really.’’
While Athies had got off to a flying start, there was a lot of work to do this season.
‘‘It’s good but we’re not going to get too carried away just yet,’’ Pitches said.
‘‘It’s early days — maybe we just caught Kurow on an off day.’’
In Oamaru, Valley thumped Excelsior 43-8 in a six-tries-to-one affair. Valley was dominant from the start, with former St Kevin’s College backs Isaac Clunie and Asesela Ravuvu impressing on debut for the Weston club. Heartland captain Sam Sturgess, playing at No 8, was a solid ball carrier, rolling out of tackles to get over the line twice.
Injuries and Covid-19 plagued the Maheno and Old Boys encounter but Old Boys was still electric in its 50-26 win in Maheno.
Tomorrow’s clash between Old Boys and Valley in Oamaru is one to watch.
The two sides meet three times last season — twice in round robin and once in the finals — and came to a stalemate in a 26-all draw in their first encounter.
Old Boys won their second round-robin clash 32-22, but Valley came back when it mattered, winning 20-17 in the major semifinal.
Both teams had comprehensive wins last week and have exciting players throughout.
Valley’s Clunie and Ravuvu will look to back up their performances, and Old Boys’ Tini Feke, who scored a hat trick last weekend, will want to maintain his form.
Athies takes on Maheno in Oamaru, which also looks to be an interesting match-up. Athies would take confidence from its win against Kurow and Pitches said building on that momentum would be key.
‘‘Just keep improving, really. Nothing needs to change, really, we just want to improve from week-to-week,’’ he said.
Maheno can also take positives from its performance last week, still putting points on the board against Old Boys despite struggling for numbers, and playing with 14 men for the final 20 minutes.
Maheno coach Chris Jennings said he was proud of the heart, and effort, his team showed to compete against Old Boys. That attitude would be important for Maheno to bring against Athies.
Up the Waitaki Valley, Kurow has another home game, this time against Excelsior. Both teams will be wanting to get some points on the board.
Kurow is a quality side, with plenty of experience and will be looking to draw on those key players to string a full 80-minute performance together. Blues lacked connections last week, but has plenty of experience and plenty of potential.