Are you not entertained?
All three Citizens Shield games in the round might have gone the way of the favoured side, but there was no lack of excitement.
When three games combine for 215 points, including 33 tries, there can’t be too many complaints.
It was defence-optional up the valley as Kurow came from behind to beat Athletic Marist 54-37.
Athies held the whip hand at halftime but as the game opened up – “like a game of touch” was one description – Kurow’s superior slickness told.
In town, there was slickness galore from Old Boys, at least in one half, as they rolled on with a 55-17 dissection of Maheno.
It was a horror first half for Maheno, which lost star players Hayden Tisdall and Adam Johnson to injury, and Old Boys ran riot despite two early yellow cards to lead 48-0 at the break.
Maheno showed a pile of ticker to win the second half, but the green and blacks would have needed much more to go their way to cause the upset.
At Weston, Valley took another significant step towards the semifinals with a reasonably clinical 38-14 win over Excelsior.
The game was in the balance for a spell before Valley scored three quick tries to charge to a third consecutive win.
It’s still marginally too early to do a full calculation of the run-in, and how the semifinals might shape up.
But these are the things we know:
1. Old Boys will qualify top and host one semifinal. No, they haven’t consistently hit top gear, but those core 12-13 players can deliver when it matters. Twelve points clear and still the team to beat.
2. Kurow, in second place, also has a nice 12-point buffer, and it is two games into a five-game home stretch. Should host the other semifinal.
3. A very tasty three-team fight for two playoff positions is emerging. Maheno (21 points) needs some reinforcements. Valley (20) is looming as a real danger. Athletic Marist (19) has talent but can it deliver in the clutch?
4. Excelsior has to play the top two teams in the next two weekends. Just too much ground to make up, I fear.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Ralph Darling and Anthony Amato were at the heart of the brilliant first-half performance from Old Boys, and both bagged another brace of tries.
Marcus Balchin and Robbie Smith did everything they could to keep Maheno in the hunt.
Two in-form forwards shone in the country. Rangy lock Harvard Fale glided his way to a hat trick for Kurow, and hard-nosed loose forward Jake Greenslade made hay for Valley.
“It’s been nice to get some reward, over the past few weeks, for the effort the boys have been putting in. We’ve just been trying to keep up our standards for 80 minutes. It’s been a slow build, from the start of the season when we didn’t have the numbers. Our leaders are playing good footy. We’re back in the hunt, but we’ve got to keep going.” – Mike Mavor (Valley)
Kurow claimed a narrow home win, 26-22, over Union in a possible preview of the Burns Shield final.
Athletic Marist beat Excelsior 28-10 in town.
It’s the last weekend of the second round, before the break for Town-Country day.
Valley plays Athletic Marist at Weston in another huge game in the semifinal race, Kurow hosts Maheno, and Excelsior plays Old Boys in town.
Round 9 scores
Old Boys 55 (Anthony Amato 2, Ralph Darling 2, Brandan Mangold, Inoke Naufahu, Vili Sanft, Timoci Bulitavu, Anton Ngongo tries; Naufahu 5 con), Maheno 17(Robbie Smith, Jordan Oatley, Jackson Attfield tries; Sam Tatupu con). Halftime: Old Boys 48-0.
Valley 38 (Sam Sturgess 2, Matthew Vocea, Logan Dunlop, Brad McKenzie tries; McKenzie 5 con, pen), Excelsior 14 (Antonio Misiloi, Whetu Stirling tries; Kayne Middleton 2 con). Halftime: Valley 17-7.
Kurow 54 (Harvard Fale 3, Ben Nowell 3, Jesse Porter, Jason Frew, Dean Fenwick tries; Tyler Burgess 3 con, pen), Athletic Marist 37 (Taina Tamou 2, Timoti Hanipale, Simon Lilicama, Blake James tries; Mason Kinzett 3 con, 2 pen). Halftime: Athletic Marist 20-15.
Old Boys v Maheno
1 – Ralph Darling (OB)
1 – Anthony Amato (OB)
1 – Filipo Veamatahau (OB)
1 – Inoke Naufahu (OB)
1 – Marcus Balchin (M)
1 – Robbie Smith (M)
Valley v Excelsior
2 – Jake Greenslade (V)
1 – Dylan Edwards (V)
1 – Matt Cowie (V)
1 – Antonio Misiloi (E)
1 – Mat Duff (E)
Kurow v Athletic Marist
2 – Harvard Fale (K)
1 – Petelo Pouhila (K)
1 – Jason Angland (K)
1 – Taina Tamou (AM)
1 – Junior Fakatoufifita (AM)