Gritty Kurow ends 39-year wait for Citizens Shield supremacy

A special group of men watched as, finally, after 39 long years, the team in red jerseys finished the North Otago club season on top.

The men in the middle of Whitestone Contracting Stadium had produced a special performance of their own.

Kurow was roared to the rooftops by what appeared to be the entire population of the Waitaki Valley as it won the Citizens Shield on Saturday for the first time since 1982.

Among the 2000 fans were players from that 1982 team, including David Parker, whose son Hayden — that rather useful first five who has forged a fine professional career — inspired Kurow to a 24-13 win over defending champion Valley.

From a distance, it almost seemed as if some of the old stagers had tears in their eyes as they watched Kurow shrug off a reputation for being the bridesmaid and deservedly held on for victory.

Kurow celebrate their Citizens Shield triumph. Photo: Rebecca Ryan
Kurow celebrates winning the Citizens Shield for the first time in 39 years, in Oamaru on Saturday. Photo: Hayden Meikle

"Oh, that’s outstanding. Outstanding, mate," was the reaction from slightly dazed Kurow coach Tim Anderson.

"Obviously 39 long years, and we’ve worked hard and been building for this moment.

"I’m very proud of the boys."

Kurow had not been far off the pace for much of the past decade, notably losing an epic final to Valley in 2018.

The club — which has retained a core of loyal servants and done a supreme job of replacing other players — never lost faith its special day would come.

"We’ve been there or thereabouts for a few years now," Anderson said.

"We’re pretty lucky because we get a good influx of shepherds every year, and a few other boys come into the area.

"And obviously there’s a great bunch of country people up there who come out to support their local team. I think when it’s been a while, people want to support you even more."

Kurow had to show immense character this season, after winning just two of its first five games.

It sailed through the second round unbeaten then, under the new playoff format, had to beat Maheno, Old Boys and Valley over three gruelling weeks.

A star-studded backline fired in the regular season but with the grounds getting puggy and knockout rugby making the stakes so much higher, Kurow had to find deep reserves of character to show some defensive resilience.

Getting Hayden Parker back from Japan didn’t hurt, either.

The former Highlanders and Sunwolves playmaker was a class above on Saturday, gliding into gaps and dictating the pace with his boot and generally popping up like a little backline general.

"He just brings all that experience. We’ve been lucky to have him," Anderson said.

"You’ve got to remember we also beat a few teams without Hayden. We’ve been lucky to have some depth there.

"But getting Hayden was a nice bonus for us."

While Parker was the best player on the field, Kurow also got nice service from second five Taniela Samita and veteran fullback Ben Nowell, while halfback Alipate Tuipolotu made a couple of scorching runs.

The big surprise — which sounds unfair, but is more about Valley’s great strength in that area — was the Kurow pack, which delivered a monstrous effort.

Tighthead prop Cameron Keech was dynamic, helping himself to two tries, lock Angus Foster showed great ball-winning skills, captain Josh Reid snaffled some crucial ball, Lochie Templeton showed all his heart, and No8 Sione Kaufusi was hungry for work.

After Valley opened the scoring with a delightful Owen Davey chip-and-chase, Kurow threatened to put the game to bed when it scored three tries — one from close range, one after a long Tuipolotu run, and one after a Parker break — in 11 minutes.

But the second half was subdued, a bunfight. Valley dominated the final quarter but Kurow showed remarkable composure to see it out.

For Valley, hooker Jake Greenslade was a bundle of energy and flanker Cameron Rowland was excellent in the lineout.

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