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With the White Horse Cup on the line at Jack Reid Park on Saturday, Arrowtown held a slender 15-11 lead with less than 20 minutes remaining before two penalties allowed supporters to breathe more easily.
Coach Drew Carmody said he was proud of his team's ''gutsy'' attitude in the 21-11 victory.
''We haven't been the most fluent team in the past two weeks, but they're gritty and you can't ask too much more from the boys than that.
''We're really winning on our D at the moment - we'd love to run teams off the park, but with defence like that, it's difficult to beat us.''
Upper Clutha had vastly improved since its first-round clash, particularly in the set piece and rucking, he said.
It was the sides' first game of the second round after the competition split into the top and bottom six.
The win ''kept the dream alive'' of an unbeaten season, but the team continued to look one game ahead, with Cromwell at home next week expected to be a tough test, Carmody said.
''Every game in the second round is a battle. There aren't any easy games.''
Wakatipu scored three tries in its win against Maniototo at the Queenstown Recreation Ground on Saturday.
Captain Steve Bruce, who scored two of them, said he was impressed by his team's ability to keep to its structure, and its defence had been ''outstanding''.
''We scored some good tries, but they wouldn't have come without that defence.''
The other points came from a conversion, two penalties and a Danny King field goal.
The team had been targeting the second round to ''really hit our straps'', so a first-up win was a good start, Bruce said.