Upper Clutha hold on to win

Two individuals, one from each team, wielded a remarkable influence on an enthralling Central Otago premier club contest at Tarras on Saturday, a game in which Upper Clutha held on to beat Alexandra 28-24.

One was Brady Kingan, Upper Clutha’s hot-shot goalkicker, who has started every game this season at first five.

But when the referee blew for halftime with Upper Clutha ahead just 7-3 after enjoying 90% of the territory, coach Alex Dickson decided it was time for a tactical substitution.

He switched Kingan to halfback, with startling results. Within 17 minutes, Upper Clutha had scored three converted tries and led 28-3, Alexandra’s situation not being helped by having lock Kyle Stirling spending 10 minutes in the sin-bin.

Alexandra captain Tyler Ford was not amused. He knew his team was capable of better, as they had demonstrated in the 2023 final.

"We had enough possession, but we weren’t finishing anything off," he said.

Leading from the front, with Ford himself starring as captain, centre, occasional forward, try scorer and goalkicker, Alexandra came storming back, to score three converted tries and earn themselves an important bonus point. Ford scored 19 of his team’s 24 points himself.

Upper Clutha are now pretty much assured of qualifying top for the playoffs because while they were registering their ninth five-pointer from 10 contests, Wakatipu was being upended 19-5 by Maniototo at Ranfurly.

It is a venue where Wakatipu have struggled in recent years and they could not establish enough momentum to overcome the home team who scored two tries to one with nine points coming from the accurate boot of Daniel Adam.

Wakatipu captain Rube Peina, who scored his team’s only try, paid tribute to Maniototo.

"That was tough," he said. "Their energy was outrageous — we couldn’t keep up with them."

Maniototo’s victory leaves them level in fourth place with Cromwell, who staged a dramatic late surge to defeat Matakanui Combined 45-28 at Anderson Park after the teams had been locked together at 28-28 with 10 minutes to play.

Cromwell’s powerful scrum ultimately gave them the advantage with big contributions coming from loose forwards Jack Dunshea and player of the day Peni Delai.

Cromwell now take on Arrowtown at home next Saturday, while Maniototo will play Alexandra at Molyneux Park, games that will have a major influence on which teams qualify for the top four.

By Bob Howitt

 

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