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The Southern Region Rugby final will be contested by Clutha and Clutha Valley after two intense semifinals were played out over the weekend.
In the first semifinal at the Balclutha Showgrounds, host Clutha beat Toko 29-17, after being 12-9 ahead at halftime.
Toko started the match in a promising fashion, its game plan working perfectly.
Toko rumbled up through the middle with its strong forwards, until it forced Clutha into giving away defensive penalties.
This worked wonders as Toko took an early 6-0 lead thanks to the in-form boot of Bradley Frost.
Clutha scored the first try of the match through flanker Jayden Dovey shortly after the second penalty to narrow the scores.
Frost converted another penalty to give Toko a 9-5 lead midway through the first half.
Towards the end of the half, it appeared Toko had changed tactics, the team turning down two kick-able shots at goal and opting for the lineout. Both times this ended up being a poor decision from the team.
Clutha managed to string some phases together in the latter stages of the first half and was rewarded on the stroke of halftime when midfielder Paul Papalii crossed the chalk handy to the posts.
The second half of the match was a whistle-happy affair, some bizarre calls confusing players and supporters alike.
Neither side could build any kind of momentum, which turned the match into a free-for-all at times.
Clutha opened the scoring in the second half before losing a player to the sin-bin, which allowed Toko to hit back and level the scores at 17-17.
Toko’s inability to win its own lineout cost it dearly as Clutha turned defence into positive field position regularly.
This continued pressure and momentum finally resulted in Toko’s defensive line crumbling with two late Clutha tries.
Clutha Valley will face off against Clutha next weekend with a chance to defend its title after a close-run 18-13 win over Crescent in Clydevale.
Valley had the larger share of territory and possession in the first half in what was an extremely physical affair. The home side opened the scoring through captain Jordan Willocks, who scored his side’s only try of the half, albeit dominating proceedings.
Crescent’s defence was outstanding, and it turned away numerous attacks from the Valley side.
Crescent also made the most of its limited time in Valley’s half in the opening spell with two penalties to Chase Owen.
Crescent took a slim 6-5 lead into the break against the run of play.
Valley opened the scoring with a try to lock Mike Blair in the second half before Crescent scored through prop Lester Papalii.
This try was converted by Owen as Crescent took a one-point lead.
The game ebbed and flowed towards the end of the match, Valley taking the lead through a Brayden Wilson dropped goal while under penalty advantage.
The lead was then extended again with a penalty to Thomas Johnson.
A botched clearance late in the match gave Crescent one last chance to score and potentially win the match, but Valley’s defence held strong, and it took the win.
The bottom four final will be played as a curtain-raiser to the final next weekend and will be between West Taieri and Heriot, which were victorious over Lawrence and Owaka respectively.
-- Francis Parker