With no Citizens Shield rugby over Queen’s Birthday weekend, Oamaru Mail reporter Gus Patterson checks in with the North Otago club rugby sides to see how they are tracking. Here’s his take on the season so far.
Record: Wins 8, losses 2
What has gone well: The defending champion has produced the most consistent rugby of the year. Its forwards lay a good platform and it is very hard for the opposition to take the ball once Valley has it. Doesn’t seem to have any obvious weaknesses, and has managed to get through the season without too many injuries.
What hasn’t: The loss to Old Boys shows Valley is not invincible, although that was a rare off-day for the boys from Weston. Doesn’t have as much improvement in it as other sides do going into the last round.
Record: Wins 7, losses 3
What has gone well: A win against Valley in the second round showed Old Boys takes a lot of stopping when it’s running hot. Has plenty of experienced players in the squad who know how to win a Citizens Shield final.
What hasn’t: Having a lot of players on shift work has meant trainings have been light on numbers. With the meat processing season winding down, this should be rectified in time for the finals.
Record: Wins 7, losses 3
What has gone well: Consistently winning games. After taking the wooden spoon last year, Excelsior has turned itself around and is now a real title contender. It has good quality throughout the squad as well as a few game-breakers.
What hasn’t: A few weaknesses around set pieces and a habit of conceding tries right off the kickoff have hurt Excelsior in a few games. Lacks the finals pedigree of some of the other teams.
Record: Wins 5, losses 5
What has gone well: Looked very good in the first round and, if it has a full team available, could be the dark horse of finals footy. Gets big support to games on a Friday night and has managed to get by with a depleted squad. The players look to buy in to the system and the side plays a good brand of country rugby.
What hasn’t: A horror run of injuries and absences and a squad which perhaps doesn’t have the depth of others made the second round a struggle for Maheno. Should get back to almost full strength in the next round.
Record: Wins 3, losses 7
What has gone well: The forwards in particular are very young, and gradually got used to the increased physicality of senior rugby. There are 56 registered senior players at the club and each week the bench has been a real strength. Bodes well for the future of the club, which is also expanding into Twizel.
What hasn’t: Slow starts – Kurow has a habit of leaking points in the first 20 minutes, then being competitive for the next 60. Unlikely to make the finals, unless it hits a purple patch of form.
Record: Wins 0, losses 10
What has gone well: After defaulting a game early in the season, Athletic Marist coach Graham Pitches set the goal for putting a team on the field every week, which the club has admirably done. Pitches should consider a career as a private investigator, after managing to track down and lure some classy players, such as Patrick Pati and Andrew Fauo’o, south. Has some dangerous players who have plenty of ability with ball in hand.
What hasn’t: In a nutshell – the freezing works’ schedule. The sizeable contingent Athletic Marist has working at Pukeuri has made it hard to get players to training and games due to work commitments.