Old Boys lost.
Yes, it’s such a rare occurrence that it deserves a sentence on its own.
North Otago rugby’s behemoth had not been felled in 343 days but Valley took the honours at Weston with a 48-36 win.
Arguably, this was not a massive shock – Valley has been in excellent form for a while now, and it has a superb forward pack that can take down anyone.
And, yes, trainspotters will note it was Valley that handed Old Boys their only loss last year.
Still, Old Boys lost! That’s always newsworthy.
The defending champions posted the maximum 50 points through 10 rounds, but they have not been in top gear in recent weeks.
Perhaps this will be the wake-up call Old Boys need, and perhaps it is definitive proof that Valley can go far in this competition.
In town, Maheno and Athletic Marist combined for an entertaining, back-and-forth game before the green and blacks claimed a 46-43 win.
Maheno led by 10 points early, Athies led by nine at halftime, and Maheno led by 12 before Athies finished strongly with two tries.
Athies have the talent, but they are running out of steam, and are now nine points off the top four, while Maheno are coming good and are a wildcard in the coming weeks.
Kurow remains safely in second place, nine points clear of the pack, but it had to work for its 33-31 win at home over Excelsior.
Blues, effectively eliminated from the playoff race, scored five tries to four, but a valiant comeback fell short.
Time for a little bit of stat chat.
Inoke Naufahu (Old Boys) leads all scorers with a whopping 134 points from five tries, 53 conversions and three penalties.
Tyler Burgess (Kurow) is second with 90 points (two tries, 31 conversions, six penalties).
It’s a Kurow double whammy at the top of the try-scoring charts. Lock Harvard Fale has gone top on 14 tries, and prop Petelo Pouhila has 13. Old Boys lock Anthony Amato (12) and Kurow five-eighth Ben Nowell (10) are in the hunt.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Maheno fullback Llew Johnson was at it again, popping up everywhere to score and create tries, while No 8 Hayden Tisdall showed all his strength and ball-running ability.
Fred Sutton powered a strong Kurow first half, and forwards Cedric Laurent and Sam Sturgess were prominent in the Valley victory.
Excelsior No8 Mika Mafi and Athletic Marist second five-eighth Taina Tamou produced big performances in losing efforts.
“It’s never enjoyable when it’s that close. We were a bit rusty, but we showed some really nice stuff. Athies are so dangerous. They can score quick tries from anywhere. We just went back to our structures and got our hands on the ball. The next few weeks are about building momentum into the semifinals.” – Chris Jennings (Maheno)
Kurow beat Excelsior 40-15, and Union won by default over an Athletic Marist team with too few players.
Extremely difficult to pick a game of the round.
Old Boys will try to get back on track when they play Athletic Marist at the stadium, while the country derby between Kurow and Valley at Kurow could be fascinating.
Maheno and Excelsior might be separated by 20 points on the table but they should be well matched at Maheno.
Round 11 scores
Valley 48 (Sam Sturgess 2, Logan Dunlop, Matt Vocea, Reignbeau Apawai, Jake Greenslade, Meli Kolinisau tries, penalty try; Glen Sturgess 2 con, Dylan Edwards con), Old Boys 36 (Timoci Bulitavu 2, Sale Pi’I, Paea Ala, Taani Vaitohi, Anton Ngongo tries; Inoke Naufahu 3 con). Halftime: Old Boys 22-20.
b46 (Robbie Smith, Jordan Oatley, Jackson Attfield, Jake Day, Sam Tatupu, Llew Johnson tries; Tatupu 5 con, 2 pen), Athletic Marist 43 (Simon Lilicama, Blake James, Junior Fakatoufifita, Taina Tamou, Ross Lewis, Kafa Katoa tries; Mason Kinzett 4 con, pen, Simon Lilicama con). Halftime: Athletic Marist 31-22.
Kurow 33 (Harvard Fale 2, Jason Angland, Ben Nowell tries; Sam McDonald 2 con, 3 pen), Excelsior 31 (Mika Mafi 2, Mat Duff, Zak Young, Thomas Shields tries; Hamish Slater 2 con, Kayne Middleton con). Halftime: Kurow 25-12.
Valley v Old Boys
2 – Cedric Laurent (V)
1 – Sam Sturgess (V)
1 – Reignbeau Apawai (V)
1 – Don Lolo (OB)
1 – Sale Pi’i (OB)
Maheno v Athletic Marist
2 – Llew Johnson (M)
1 – Hayden Tisdall (M)
1 – Sam Tatupu (M)
1 – Taina Tamou (AM)
1 – Mason Kinzett (AM)
Kurow v Excelsior
2 – Fred Sutton (K)
1 – Ben Nowell (K)
1 – Mika Mafi (E)
1 – Frank Kelly (E)
1 – Zak Young (E)