Cromwell and Wakatipu through to premier preliminary finals

Cromwell Goats and Wakatipu, which finished first and second in qualifying play, are safely through to the preliminary finals of the Central Otago premier club rugby competition.

Both claimed hard-won victories on Saturday.

The Goats could thank powerful No8 Stefan Blakeborough, who scored a hat-trick of tries in his team’s 27-17 win over Arrowtown.

Wakatipu players breathed a huge sigh of relief when Upper Clutha goalkicker Brady Kingan missed a last-gasp conversion attempt from wide out.

It left his team two points in arrears at 17-15.

Cromwell and Wakatipu now have the luxury of a week off.

Arrowtown, Wakatipu, Maniototo and Alexandra do battle next Saturday in the semifinals of Central Otago’s new-look competition, the final of which is not until July 10.

The Goats looked anything but competition winners in the opening quarter of their game against Arrowtown at Anderson Park.

Arrowtown scored two sweet tries to lead 12-3 and was desperately unlucky to have another denied, when lock Malcolm Sutherland was deemed to have stepped on the touchline.

Travis Mitchell
Travis Mitchell
The Goats, however, like the champion team they are, absorbed the onslaught and hit back powerfully.

They exerted superiority in both scrums and lineouts, allowing players like hooker Jackson Clark, lock Travis Mitchell and first-five Rhys Harrold to inflict enormous damage.

Tries to Blakeborough and fullback Warwick Cheney, beautifully set up by Harrold, had the Goats in front 15-12 by halftime.

They stretched that to 27-12 in commanding style in the second half before Arrowtown scored again. It was Cromwell’s 20th win in a row.

Blakeborough (26) an engineer with Fulton Hogan, had been serving the team well at lock until No8 Asi Serukalu was taken out for the season by injuries from a road accident.

The switch to No8 has paid off for Blakeborough. He has scored five tries in the past four games and is now the Goats equal-top try-scorer.

Goats captain Ben Maxwell was all class at halfback but his goal-kicking suddenly wavered after he had slotted three goals to take his season’s aggregate to 98. He missed his last three kicks, including one he could have thrown over.

Wakatipu beat Upper Clutha 14-0 three weeks ago but had to fight hard on Saturday, after being down 10-5 at halftime.

Second-half tries to livewire hooker Jake McEwan and Jamie Natapu put Wakatipu ahead, until Scott Cunningham scored for Upper Clutha in the 83rd minute but the conversion attempt missed.

Maniototo had scored 98 points in seven matches before Saturday but remedied that at Ranfurly, thumping the Cavaliers 70-5.

The Maggots scored 10 tries, all of which were converted.

Winger Doug Smith completed a hat-trick of tries giving him nine for the season.

Alexandra made hard work of beating Matakanui Combined, a team it had put away 35-15 earlier in the season, hanging on for a one-point victory, 12-11, at Molyneux Park.

Matakanui Combined and the Cavaliers now drop out of the competition but Maniototo and Alexandra live to fight another day.

- By Bob Howitt

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