Holy smokes. Duck-shooting weekend was quackers. Geddit?
Two Thursday-night boilovers got everyone talking and provided nice boosts for the two bottom teams of the competition.
Excelsior caused the biggest upset when it finally broke through for its first win of the season, clinging on for a morale-lifting 14-13 victory at Maheno, as the inconsistent home side ran into some disciplinary issues.
Blues were bordering on a rabble at the start of the season but they are moving in the right direction under no-nonsense coach Dan Keno and talismanic forwards Mat Duff and Jamie Rhodes, and they will not be taken lightly again this season.
Valley, meanwhile, made a bit of a statement by following its strong effort against Old Boys with a 34-30 win over Kurow at Weston.
Last year’s finalist appeared to have fallen away dramatically this season, and it was in the hole when it trailed Kurow 30-13 withhalf an hour to play last Thursday.
But Valley’s forward pack is developing into a fine unit, and it took control on a soft ground to wear Kurow down.
There was no clean sweep of upsets on Saturday, though Athletic Marist put up a reasonable showing in a 42-12 loss to Old Boys.
The game followed a predictable pattern – Old Boys pouncing on loose ball and racing to a 28-0 lead, Athies fighting back and scoring a couple of tries to narrow the gap, and Old Boys putting the game away with two late tries to retain their perfect record.
That’s nearly the halfway point of the season, so let’s do a little crystal ball-gazing.
Old Boys will qualify top for the Citizens Shield semifinals. Yes, I’m starting with a REALLY big call. They might drop one game – potentially as soon as this weekend – but they will be miles clear in the No 1 spot.
Kurow has not exactly been in top form in recent weeks but it should be good enough to go through second, hosting the other semifinal.
Kurow’s semifinal opponent will be . . . Valley, though I reserve the right to change that prediction if Dan Lewis is sidelined longer than hoped. The fourth qualifier will be Maheno, just sneaking through ahead of Athletic Marist.
I see Excelsior winning two or three more games, and potentially playing a major spoiler, but missing out on the top four by eight or nine points.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Dynamic hooker Jack Williams had another whale of a game for Excelsior, and was well supported by star flanker Mat Duff.
At Weston, young prop Logan Dunlop continued his cracking season and helped himself to two tries, while Kurow lock Harvard Fale was especially prominent in the first half.
Anthony Amato had another storming game for Old Boys, halfback Inoke Naufahu scored 22 points to take his tally for the season to one short of 100, and Jared Whitburn did everything he could to get Athletic Marist across the line.
“It’s been a little bit disjointed with Adriaan [Botha] leaving and me coming in. So we’ve been a little bit patchy. We lost four or five front-rowers in the first round, and that’s really tough to come back from. But we’re battling away, and we’re pretty happy with where we sit.”
– Chris Jennings (Maheno)
Lots of interest in this round.
home and needs to front up when it hosts Old Boys, Maheno will be desperate to get back on track when it hosts Valley, and the Athletic Marist v Excelsior game in town could be significant in the semifinal race
Round 7 scores
Excelsior 14 (Tayne Russell try; Kayne Middleton 3 pen), Maheno 13 (Jackson Attfield try; Robbie Smith con, 2 pen). Halftime: Excelsior 11-3.
Valley 34 (Logan Dunlop 2, Sam Sturgess, Jake Greenslade tries; Brad Mckenzie 4 con, 2 pen), Kurow 30 (Ben Nowell 2, Harvard Fale, Dean Fenwick tries; Tyler Burgess 2 con, 2 pen). Halftime: Kurow 23-13.
Old Boys 42 (Inoke Naufahu 2, Anthony Amato 2, Ralph Darling, Filipo Veamatahau tries; Naufahu 6 con), Athletic Marist 12 (Junior Fakatoufifita, Siosiua Fifita tries; Mason Kinzett con). Halftime: Old Boys 28-0.
Excelsior v Maheno
2 – Jack Williams (E)
1 – Tayne Russell (E)
1 – Mat Duff (E)
1 – Jackson Attfield (M)
1 – Marcus Balchin (M)
Valley v Kurow
2 – Logan Dunlop (V)
1 – Cedric Laurent (V)
1 – Dylan Edwards (V)
1 – Harvard Fale (K)
1 – Fred Sutton (K)
Old Boys v Athletic Marist
2 – Anthony Amato (OB)
1 – Filipo Veamatahau (OB)
1 – Inoke Naufahu (OB)
1 – Jared Whitburn (AM)
1 – Taina Tamou (AM)