Can Alexandra repeat their shock 2023 success?

Alexandra rugby players celebrate after beating Upper Clutha in the Central Otago premier club...
Alexandra rugby players celebrate after beating Upper Clutha in the Central Otago premier club rugby final in Wanaka last season. PHOTO: RUBY SHAW
The Central Otago premier club competition has reached the ‘‘what happens next?’’ stage of the season.

Which is significant, because what happened next 12 months ago came as a shock to all the pundits.

At this point in 2023, Upper Clutha had won six games out of six and were cruising along in first place.

Nothing has changed. Again, they have dominated their first six encounters, scoring 39 tries in the process.

Alexandra, meanwhile, had dropped three of their six matches in 2023, and were desperately in need of stringing some victories together.

It is history now that Alexandra won four of their half-dozen games in the second round and went on to achieve a massive boilover at Upper Clutha’s expense in the final after upsetting Cromwell in the semifinals.

Can they do it again? Coach Lee Wilson is not making any rash predictions, but concedes he is reasonably happy with how his team is developing.

"Yes, we’d dearly love to mirror last season’s achievements, but we’ll see how things unfold."

Not only did Alexandra lose to Wakatipu last weekend, but they also lost experienced fullback Nathan Cradock with a shoulder injury that could sideline him for several weeks.

Alexandra take on Arrowtown at Molyneux Park on Saturday, an opponent they beat 39-26 in the season’s opener.

Arrowtown have been wildly erratic this season, conceding 50 points to Upper Clutha and 41 to Maniototo since scoring a handsome victory over Cromwell.

Wakatipu, who are sitting comfortably in second spot after their come-from-behind win against Alexandra, will take on Cromwell at the Queenstown Recreation Ground.

Wakatipu edged Cromwell 19-17 in round one and, on performances recently, will start clear favourites.

But there is one thing that could play into Cromwell’s hands: the weather. After six rounds operating with a dry ball, players won’t appreciate a forecast that threatens rain.

With a powerhouse scrum, Cromwell won’t mind the dampness. They monstered Alexandra in the scrums under lights and pressured Upper Clutha in the set pieces.

But when it came to making passes stick against Upper Clutha, Cromwell were woeful. No doubt it’s what they’ve been concentrating on at practice this week.

Wakatipu coach Jordan Manihera was delighted with his team’s U-turn that took them from 5-14 to 24-14 against Alexandra.

"We identified problems at halftime and remedied them," he said. "To keep them scoreless in the second half was most gratifying."

Upper Clutha will probably take the opportunity to give some of their reserve players an outing against struggling Matakanui Combined at Omakau.

Upper Clutha go into the game having scored 39 tries at almost seven a game while first-five Brady Kingan has scored 68 points.

Much-improved Maniototo have the bye this weekend.

 - By Bob Howitt