Arrowtown's party, but Alexandra could gatecrash

It is shaping up as a cracker occasion for Arrowtown rugby tomorrow, when the premier team returns to its home base at Jack Reid Park, where it will defend the White Horse Cup and luxuriate in spanking new clubrooms.

What could possibly spoil the occasion?

Answer: a rejuvenated Alexandra team that upset calculations by edging out the Cromwell Cavaliers on opening day.

Alexandra was one of the easy-beats last year but with an influx of players between seasons, some from overseas, it has moulded into a competitive combination.

And it would dearly love to return home tomorrow night in possession of the treasured White Horse Cup, which has not decorated the clubrooms since 2008.

Arrowtown won the trophy off Wakatipu last season and wants to defend it against that same opponent in what is shaping as an epic derby, organised to celebrate the club's 30th anniversary, on Easter Saturday.

But first Arrowtown has to get past Alexandra. And it was not helped when its opening encounter was called off less than 30 hours before kick-off, when Matakanui Combined advised it was defaulting.

Arrowtown manager Ben Finn said while Matakanui's news came as a shock, the Arrowtown squad completed an excellent training session on Saturday and was ready to fire.

"There's a really good atmosphere in the club and returning to Jack Reid Park after having to travel to the Frankton Events Centre for home fixtures over the past few seasons has everyone stimulated."

The indefatigable Aidan Winter - he has racked up 188 appearances for Arrowtown in a variety of positions from second-five to hooker - has taken over as coach from Simon Spark, though who would count out the occasional appearance off the bench?

The Arrowtown team is built around the established locking combination of John Morrison and Malcolm Sutherland, swift loosies and slick outside backs, where Liam Jenkins, who hails from Wales, can dazzle.

Alexandra's revitalisation coincides with its new green and black playing strip.

Manager Marty Rendall says several individuals who were involved in the White Horse Cup victory in 2008 ARE still associated with the senior squad, including fullback Cam Smith, co-captain Sam Malcolm and coach Bevan Passmore.

Alexandra's reserves bench intriguingly features a 42-year-old Frenchman Stephane Legeay.

The other fascinating contest is between Wakatipu, which beat Maniototo 29-5 first up, and Cromwell Goats, who succumbed late to Upper Clutha, at Queenstown.

Wakatipu manager Brad Robertson says it was a relief to come away from Ranfurly with a win, but at the cost of a couple of injuries.

Maniototo will host Upper Clutha at Ranfurly and Cromwell Cavaliers will take on Matakanui Combined at Cromwell.

 - Bob Howitt

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