Clutha, Valley to face off in final

The Southern Region competition comes to an end this weekend as the Balclutha Showgrounds hosts the final between serial finalist Clutha and reigning champion Clutha Valley.

Clutha, which finished the round robin in first place, beat an impressive Toko team in their semifinal match in front of a bumper home crowd.

Clutha’s win was built on strong first-half defence and impressive use of width in the second.

Clutha Valley hosted Crescent in the second semifinal and ground out an equally impressive and hard-fought win, giving it the opportunity to defend its crown.

My records suggest these two heavyweights of Southern rugby have never met in a final before, which adds even more mystique to an already intriguing encounter.

Clutha’s forward pack has been a pillar of strength this season, not only on attack but on defence.

It has been tested numerous times as teams have often thought it was soft in the middle.

Clutha does not have the biggest tight five but they definitely more than hold their own, led by co-captain Josh Turnbull, who is having yet another stellar season.

The loose forwards have chopped and changed a bit this season through injury, but whichever combination has been in play has been very effective.

Otago Country halfback Jamie Brown has led his side admirably this season.

Clutha’s hard-working midfield and exciting outsides make for one of the better backlines in the competition, while winger Robin Fesilafai has continued his try-scoring feats of previous seasons as he tops the charts again with nine.

Clutha Valley based its season on a strong platform set up front by the tight five.

Prop Lachie Gunson and lock Mike Blair have been strong leaders in the tight for Valley this season and have been regular contributors in most games.

Valley boasts perhaps the best loose forward trio in the competition based on numbers this season. Captain Jordan Willocks, openside Liam Turnbull and No8 Damian Wilson have all excelled in their core duties as well as their optional extras around the park.

Jared Edwards and Thomas Johnson have combined brilliantly in the halves again this season and can control a match effortlessly, while the rest of Valley’s backline is industrious and very strong defensively.

Expect a tough encounter at the Balclutha Showgrounds — both sides are capable of taking the win.

 - Francis Parker

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