In the immortal words of Vince Lombardi .. wait, didn’t we use that exact line last week?
It was another unusual day in Citizens Shield rugby as the end of the regular season approaches.
Old Boys lost again!
Wooden spooner Excelsior beat possible-maybe-not-now competition favourite Valley!
Athies fielded a full team! (Jokes.)
We start in Maheno, where the resurgent home side barrelled and blasted its way to a 29-26 win over Old Boys.
Maheno has been a mixed bag this season, but the 2016 champion is finding its mojo at just the right time, and is playing with purpose and structure.
Old Boys, on the other hand, are sputtering, a most unusual state of affairs.
They haven’t been 100% for a long time now, and as other teams have improved, they have gone backwards.
Also appearing to go backwards, unexpectedly, is Valley, which fell 42-19 to Excelsior.
Valley had a couple of key men out, and that wave it was riding into the semifinals has turned into a mild surge.
Excelsior, even without powerhouse Mika Mafi, showed its late-season strength, especially in the backs.
It hardly needs repeating, but what a shame Blues did not get their act together at the start of the season.
Kurow and Athletic Marist combined for something of a tryfest at the stadium, Kurow winning 66-27.
Just like that, the semifinals are in place.
The top four teams can move neither up nor down the table.
So, it’s to be Old Boys at home to Valley – a repeat of last year’s final – and Kurow at home to Maheno when the Citizens Shield playoffs start next Saturday.
What’s great is that, unlike in most of the past six or seven seasons, it feels like all four semifinalists have a genuine chance of winning the shield.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
It’s a rare round of the Citizens Shield when not one but two players bag four tries.
Rampaging Kurow prop Petelo Pouhila continued his silly season by scoring four against Athletic Marist, taking his tally for the year to a simply ridiculous 19.
Not to be outdone, entertaining Excelsior winger Bryan Hazel crossed the line four times against Valley.
Athletic No 8 Junior Fakatoufifita scored a hat trick, while other fine efforts on the day came from Excelsior captain Mat Duff, Kurow fullback Jason Angland, and home-from-university Maheno prop Peter Armstrong.
“We’re in the right place at the moment. We tried something different in that middle round and it didn’t work, but we’re moving upwards. It’s anyone’s game now. For us, we want to get through this week without any injuries, and really get ready for the semifinals. The club’s quite excited to get a home semifinal.” – Nick Anderson (Kurow)
Warm Burns Shield favourite Kurow continued its run with a 67-5 thumping of Kurow.
Union confirmed its status as the second-best team in the grade with a 42-5 win over Athletic Marist. Jared Jamieson scored a hat trick for Union.
The 15-week regular season concludes with three games that don’t carry a lot of meaning, unless you subscribe to the theory that momentum is real in sport.
Old Boys, you feel, need to regain some sort of buzz when they play Blues, who in turn must get get something out of the game in order to avoid the wooden spoon.
Valley, too, might want to get its house back in order when it plays Athletic Marist.
Maheno v Kurow?
Nothing at stake, but that’s a nice little preview of the semifinal.
Round 14 scores
Maheno 29 (Jake Day, Sam Tatupu, Robbie Smith tries; Levi Emery con, 4 pen), Old Boys 26 (Timoci Bulitavu, Ralph Darling, Soni Tongotongo, Lemi Masoe tries; Inoke Naufahu 3 con). Halftime: Maheno 16-14.
Excelsior 42 (Bryan Hazel 4, Antonio Misiloi, Hamish Slater tries; Slater 3 con, 2 pen), Valley 19 (Mark Roney 2, Brad Morton tries; Glen Sturgess 2 con). Halftime: Excelsior 21-0.
Kurow 66 (Petelo Pouhila 4, Jason Angland 2, Harvard Fale 2, Tyler Burgess, Cory Hollister tries; Sam MacDonald 7 con, Burgess con), Athletic Marist 27 (Junior Fakatoufifita 3, Aisake Fonua, Blake James tries; Duncan Jones con). Halftime: Kurow 33-10.
Maheno v Old Boys
2 – Peter Armstrong (M)
1 – Sam Robb (M)
1 – Levi Emery (M)
1 – Soni Tongotongo (OB)
1 – Timoci Bulitavu (OB)
Excelsior v Valley
2 – Mat Duff (E)
1 – Hamish Slater (E)
1 – Bryan Hazel (E)
1 – Cedric Laurent (V)
1 – Scott Ruddle (V)
Kurow v Athletic Marist
2 – Jason Angland (K)
1 – Petelo Pouhila (K)
1 – Sam MacDonald (K)
1 – Junior Fakatoufifita (AM)
1 – Jared Whitburn (AM)