Now it is crunch time

When Central Otago rugby rivals Upper Clutha and Wakatipu did battle in Wanaka in mid-May, the game resulted in an epic 32-32 draw.

Well, they will not be going home all square this weekend.

Because it is a semifinal, there has to be a winner, meaning extra time if they are level pegging again after 80 minutes.

Wakatipu, which has not featured in a Central final since 2017, was a red-hot favourite to make the final this year — being unbeaten and having scored tries by the bucket-loads — until the Cromwell Goats upended it two Saturdays ago.

It means Wakatipu has to head across the Crown Range again to Wanaka, where no visiting team has won this season, and contain Upper Clutha’s match-winners, goalkicker Brady Kingan (who has 95 points) and flying winger Adam Breen (who has a whopping 13 tries).

Wakatipu has accumulated a remarkable 67 tries in nine games but has conceded 32 points and 33 points respectively against Upper Clutha and the Cromwell Goats.

Can it shut down Upper Clutha this time? It is going to be a fascinating contest.

The Goats will be out to extend their sequence of grand final appearances to five when they tackle last weekend’s upsetter Maniototo at Anderson Park.

Intriguingly, Daniel Hurring, the specialist openside flanker, will be wearing the No 12 jersey again.

The Goats selectors turned to Hurring after they lost two midfielders in the run-up to the critical Wakatipu encounter. Such was his impact he won the man-of-the-match award.

He and his captain/halfback Ben Maxwell will be individuals Maniototo will need to control if it is to repeat its shock upset victory over Arrowtown.

The Maggots have their own superstars in fullback Doug Smith, who scored 16 points at Arrowtown’s expense, and captain Peter O’Malley, who reigns supreme in the lineouts.

The Goats beat Maniototo 46-12 when they clashed a month ago but Maniototo was struggling to put a team on the paddock at that time because of Covid.

 - Bob Howitt

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