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Five weeks after the region was so overrun with Covid it had to default its game to Arrowtown, Maniototo on Saturday pulled off the upset of the Central Otago season, downing Arrowtown 26-17 at Jack Reid Park.
From having finished sixth of eight teams in qualifying play, Maniototo now finds itself in the semifinals, where it will tackle defending champion the Cromwell Goats, who had the luxury of a weekend off.
The other semifinal will be between Wakatipu, which dealt to Matakanui Combined 41-3 in Queenstown on Saturday, and Upper Clutha in Wanaka.
Maniototo captain Pete O’Malley was "over the moon" with his team’s performance against Arrowtown.
"It’s been a challenging season with the Covid," he said.
"But we came here with a healthy squad and good game plan."
It was the third occasion in four seasons Maniototo has upset Arrowtown at Jack Reid Park, although the first time O’Malley has enjoyed the experience.
The alarm bells were ringing early for Arrowtown as Maniototo established a 10-0 advantage in 12 minutes through a brilliant solo try by centre Tom Dougherty and the first two of six goals that the brilliant young fullback Doug Smith would land.
Arrowtown finally settled down and, thanks to two scorching breaks by winger-turned-fullback Tom Goosey which produced tries to Tom Grandiek and Connor Bissett, went ahead 17-13 two minutes into the second half.
If the locals thought the tide had turned, they were seriously wrong.
The Maggots, in control at the lineout, maintained an overwhelming territorial advantage throughout the remainder of the game, which meant Smith was within goalkicking range every time Arrowtown infringed.
And he missed only one of his seven attempts, accounting for 16 of Maniototo’s 26 points.
Maniototo’s second try was a mighty solo effort by halfback Luc Thompson, who muscled his way across despite the desperate attempts of countless Arrowtown defenders.
Against the Maniototo onslaught Arrowtown did not seem to know quite how to counter its relentless attacks but was guilty of kicking too much possession away.
Wakatipu, still hurting from the last-gasp loss to the Cromwell Goats, was always in control against Matakanui Combined, a team it had beaten 57-13 a month earlier.
This time Wakatipu scored six tries instead of nine, taking its aggregate for the season to 67 from nine games, against a solitary penalty goal by the Mudfish.
-- Bob Howitt