It is the tightest squeeze for the Citizens Shield play-offs in years.
Only 10 points separate first and fifth place — and while Old Boys, Valley and Kurow have secured their places, Athletic Marist and Maheno are battling for fourth.
Athies (24) is one point ahead of Maheno (23) and sits in the top four at present. It will play in an Oamaru derby tomorrow against Old Boys at Whitestone Contracting Stadium. If Athies beats Old Boys, it will secure its spot — but if it loses and Maheno beats Excelsior, the fourth spot will be Maheno’s.
Athies comes into this weekend’s final round robin clash on a high, after beating Valley 27-24 last week.
Manager Graham Pitches said the win had been ‘‘a long time coming’’ and the players were thrilled.
The team’s defensive effort was huge in getting over the line against Valley and Pitches said defence and cutting down on penalties would be key to getting the win against Old Boys.
‘‘We’d been giving away a lot of stupid penalties over the last few weeks that’s cost us big time, so there’s been a focus around the breakdown,’’ Pitches said.
‘‘The boys have tided that up to a certain extent. That’s been a bonus for us.’’
It would be a big match and the club was looking forward to it, Pitches said.
‘‘They’re all very excited so hopefully we can keep that under control.’’
Old Boys took four points last week, moving to the top of the standings, after Excelsior was forced to default.
While Excelsior was not in the running for the finals, Maheno coach Chris Jennings said his side was aware how hard the clash against Blues would be tomorrow.
‘‘We’re under no illusions how tough the challenge is in front of us,’’ Jennings said.
‘‘They’re much better than their position on the table suggests.’’ But Maheno players were excited for the match, especially after beating reigning Citizens Shield champion Kurow 31-27 last week.
‘‘It was a pleasing result. We knew what we had do . . . [it] keeps us in the hunt and gives us an opportunity.’’
A win could shift Maheno into the top four, if Athies loses.
The energy and effort against Kurow was a ‘‘step above’’ from previous matches and Maheno would need to bring more of that tomorrow, he said.
‘‘We’ve kind of put ourselves in a position where things are outside of our control.
‘‘All we can do this week is control what we can control and get ready for a really good Blues side.’’
After last week’s losses, Kurow and Valley (30) are equal, but Valley has claimed second position through bonus points.
The two country clubs will come up against each other in Weston tomorrow, which is set to be another big encounter.
The Oamaru school derby is here.
Waitaki Boys’ High School and St Kevin’s College will line up against each other in tomorrow’s Otago Schools Rugby Championship division one match.
Both teams are yet to win a game this season. Waitaki Boys’ went down 49-0 to Southland Boys’ High School and St Kevin’s lost 54-0 to Otago Boys’ High School last weekend.
There will no shortage of passion for tomorrow’s game with both teams wanting to beat their cross-town rivals. Kick-off is at 12.45pm at Waitaki Boys’.