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The playoff positions for the Central Otago premier club rugby competition appeared all signed and sealed leading into Saturday’s final qualifying games.
But Wakatipu forced a rearrangement of the standings.
It pulled off a stunning 93-7 victory over the Cavaliers at Cromwell.
The result bumped Wakatipu up to second position behind the unbeaten Cromwell Goats and, most importantly, gives the Queenstowners a home quarterfinal this weekend against Upper Clutha.
Upper Clutha went into the weekend with a +29 points differential advantage over Wakatipu and extended that to +59 with its 50-20 victory over Alexandra at Tarras.
That seemed to be good enough to retain second placing, but Wakatipu had other ideas.
"We knew we would need to win by at least 50," Wakatipu coach Brett Anderson said.
"As it turned out we were close to a half-century by halftime and the tries just kept coming."
Anderson was delighted his players adhered to the game plan.
"It’s easy for play to become loose and scrappy when the score starts to mount, but our guys maintained their discipline well."
Anderson reserved praise for props Adam Fleming and Will Burdon, who had mighty games, and gave a special mention to second-five Danny Kayes, who joined the club only a month ago. He scored three tries.
Wakatipu beat Upper Clutha 14-0 when they met in Queenstown a few weeks ago.
Maniototo turned in another gutsy performance, holding competition leader the Cromwell Goats to 12-5 at Ranfurly.
Maniototo had earlier upset Wakatipu 10-5 and held Arrowtown to 8-0, demonstrating that it is one of the hardest teams in the competition to put away.
If Jack Wild had had his kicking boots on, the score could have been even closer. He missed two penalty attempts from close to the posts.
The Goats led 5-0 at halftime, through a try by first-five Rhys Harrold, which is how things stayed until the final quarter, when winger Devon Mathieson dotted down.
Wanting 10 points to bring up a century for the season, the Goats goalkicker Ben Maxwell managed just a solitary conversion.
The victory means the Vincent Shield for first-round supremacy will remain in the Cromwell trophy cabinet.
Maniototo replacement halfback Dean Chalmers rounded out the scoring with a try in the dying stages.
Although Maniototo will be disappointed to miss the top four, the new Australian NRL-style play-off format means any team in the bottom four can still come through to claim the top prize.
In next weekend’s quarterfinals Cromwell Goats will host Arrowtown (the White Horse Trophy will be at stake) at Cromwell, while Upper Clutha will travel to Queenstown to play Wakatipu.
In the bottom four, Maniototo will be at home to the Cromwell Cavaliers at Ranfurly and Alexandra will host Matakanui Combined.
- Bob Howitt