Valley scores comeback win over Cromwell to claim shield

Clutha Valley celebrates after its win over Cromwell in the countrywide final at Clydevale on...
Clutha Valley celebrates after its win over Cromwell in the countrywide final at Clydevale on Saturday. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON
Clutha Valley produced yet another second-half comeback to lift the Otago Countrywide Shield for the first time.

Valley beat Cromwell 36-14 in the final at Clydevale on Saturday after trailing 14-10 at the break.

The home side opened the scoring early in the first half when co-captain Jordan Willocks crashed over from close range, and Thomas Johnson’s kicking radar was dialled in again as he added the extras.

Cromwell scored in its first visit to Valley’s half through No8 Daniel Hurring, and skipper Ben Maxwell added the extras as the Goats began to take the ascendancy.

Cromwell was the far superior side for the rest of the half and controlled possession, as well as securing numerous turnovers at the breakdown.

Valley’s forwards didn’t hit with much purpose which allowed Cromwell to attack the breakdown and stifle any kind of momentum the home team tried to build.

Cromwell took the lead through centre Rian Norton, who benefited from a wonderful short pass from midfield partner Junior Naqoli to cross the line. Maxwell converted as Cromwell took a well-deserved lead.

The lead could have been extended when Naqoli latched on to an intercept pass and looked to have the gas to get there before slowing up and ultimately turning the ball over thanks to some desperate Valley defence.

A Johnson penalty ended the scoring for the half as Cromwell went into the sheds 14-10 ahead.

Valley came out with much more hunger in the second half and scored 26 unanswered points.

Valley’s forwards started to run with purpose and used their bodies to great effect. The collision area improved tenfold, and Cromwell had a hard time over the ball at the ruck as Valley recycled quickly and found plenty of front-foot action.

Valley scored four second-half tries. Two were scored by fullback Lachie Moore and Willocks also scored a double before Brayden Wilson finished the job on fulltime. Cromwell was not helped by an injury to skipper Maxwell midway through the second half, halting progress.

Clutha Valley prop Lachie Gunson had yet another strong game up front. Gunson has rapidly become a cult hero. His stability at the scrum, rampaging runs, and huge hits were on show yet again.

First five Johnson had a strong second half and was almost flawless off the tee.

Cromwell was served well by Hurring, who was perhaps the best on the field for both teams. He was everywhere and gave his all in a losing effort.

 - Francis Parker

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