Wakatipu impressive in downing champion Cromwell Goats under lights

Talk about a changing of the guard in Central Otago premier club rugby.

Wakatipu, a gallant battler in recent seasons, demolished the reigning champions, the Cromwell Goats, 38-10 under lights at Anderson Park on Thursday night.

Wakatipu has set up a cracking contest at Wanaka this Saturday against the competition’s only other unbeaten team, Upper Clutha, which squeaked home 22-18 against Arrowtown in a tense, tight contest. At stake will be the prestigious White Horse Cup.

In its last three outings against the Goats, Wakatipu had conceded 60, 56 and 31 points and had not beaten them since 2019.

The Goats, of course, came into the 2022 season on a winning streak of 22 games.

In their defence, they were missing three of their most distinguished players on Thursday night — halfback and captain Ben Maxwell, who is out for a month with a knee injury, flanker Daniel Hurring, who is overcoming Covid, and hooker Jackson Clark, who has a foot injury.

But Wakatipu was supreme in almost all facets of the game.

The backs, most notably winger Brooke Wilson, centre Danny Kayes, who ran in a hat-trick of tries, and first five Eamon O’Brien, tore the Goats defence to shreds, particularly in the second half, while the Wakatipu forwards monstered the Goats’ scrum, embarrassingly so.

Wakatipu led only 10-7 at halftime and it was 10-10 three minutes into the second half.

From that moment, it was all Wakatipu.

It controlled possession, shredding the home defence. It had scored a startling 26 tries in its first two games (17 of those in the 101-0 rout of the Cavaliers) and added five more at the Goats’ expense.

The competent O’Brien has established himself as the competition’s leading scorer, adding a try, a penalty and five conversions to the 27 points he’d compiled in the opening two games.

The Goats’ solitary highlight was a spectacular solo try by midfielder Hayden Todd, who was thrust into a defensive role for almost the entire second half.

Upper Clutha fell back on trusty goalkicker Brady Kingan to guide the club to victory against Arrowtown.

The Rams managed just one try but Kingan’s conversion and five penalty goals ensured the White Horse Cup remained in their trophy cabinet for at least one more week.

Upper Clutha led 16-6 at halftime but Arrowtown, powerfully efficient in the lineout and boosted by impact players like veteran Aidan Winter, hit back with two well-constructed tries to trail 19-18 with 21 minutes remaining.

Upper Clutha, well led by Lachie Garrett, dug deep, the only scoring in the final quarter being Kingan’s fifth penalty.

Matakanui Combined pulled off a minor upset, downing Maniototo 27-11 at Ranfurly, the Matakanui forwards dominating their opponents, which resulted in three well-taken tries.

The Alexandra-Cromwell Cavaliers match was cancelled because of the number of players affected by Covid. It has been declared a draw and the teams receive two championship points each.

Bonus points have been dispensed with this season. A win is worth four points and a draw two, as it used to be decades ago.

 - Bob Howitt

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