Last-minute match-winner critical for playoff dreams

It is hard to believe a team can score seven tries and lose, but that was Arrowtown’s misfortune in what became a cracker of a contest against Cromwell in the Central Otago premier club competition at Anderson Park on Saturday.

Cromwell won 47-43, the teams scoring seven tries apiece, with Arrowtown ahead three times during the second half before Cromwell fullback Devon Mathieson scored the match-winner in the 79th minute.

It was a critical victory for Cromwell, keeping alive their chances of qualifying for the playoffs while pretty much knocking Arrowtown out of the reckoning.

Although they now sit four points clear of fifth-placed Maniototo, they have two tough away encounters remaining in qualifying play, against Alexandra and frontrunners Upper Clutha.

Meanwhile, they are basking in the glory of Saturday’s dramatic win over Arrowtown, who hammered them 40-22 in the first round.

They could thank first five Rhys Harrold for this victory. He amassed 22 points, scoring two tries and, most significantly, converted six of the seven tries.

Arrowtown meantime converted only four of their seven tries, missing three attempts adjacent to the goalposts.

Arrowtown led 31-28, 36-33 and 43-40, but each time Cromwell struck straight back.

At Ranfurly, Alexandra produced another barnstorming finish to edge out Maniototo 22-20, replacement winger Jake Denniston scoring in the corner three minutes from time.

With Daniel Adam contributing 15 points, Maniototo led 20-10 with 15 minutes remaining before two replacements, Kahmatai Northover and Denniston, ground out match-winning tries for Alexandra.

With home games against Cromwell and Wakatipu to come, Alexandra are well placed to qualify for the playoffs again.

Wakatipu guaranteed themselves a semifinal at home and ensured their name would be inscribed on the White Horse Trophy for 2023 by defeating Matakanui Combined 45-24 at Queenstown.

Powerful centre Laitia Rogorogoivalu and speedy winger Conner Hamlin each scored a brace of tries for Wakatipu, who had things under control by halftime when they led 26-7.

Although Matakanui Combined have not won a game this season, they have developed into a competitive team and have scored 21 tries in their last seven outings, standout forward Dean Sinnaman getting four of them.

Upper Clutha will play Arrowtown at Jack Reid Park on Friday afternoon this week with only two games (Matakanui Combined v Maniototo and Alexandra v Cromwell) scheduled for Saturday.

— Bob Howitt