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The Covid-19 pandemic might have disrupted club rugby throughout the land in 2020, but one thing it could not change was that the same two teams would fight out the final of the Central Otago premier competition — the Cromwell Goats and Arrowtown.
The Goats maintained their incredible average of seven tries per match in demolishing Wakatipu 56-24 at Anderson Park on Saturday.
Arrowtown produced a near perfect first 40 minutes to register its fifth consecutive victory over Upper Clutha, 24-18, at the Wanaka Sportsground on Saturday.
A 32-point victory to the Goats did not seem possible as Wakatipu, with all guns blazing, shot out to a 17-10 lead midway through the first half.
Even when the Goats rebounded to lead 30-24 at halftime there were some anxious faces among the Cromwell fans.
But Wakatipu hardly fired a shot in the second half, losing it 26-0, in a repeat of its early-season contest which the Goats won 60-33.
It was Cromwell’s freakish capacity to score tries — in its eight matches it has now chalked up 58 five-pointers — that brought about Wakatipu’s undoing.
Player of the day for Cromwell was lock Travis Mitchell, while there were eye-catching performances from midfielders Andrew Kitana and Hayden Todd and prop Alex Chubb, and goalkicker Kane Dodds contributed 21 points, boosting his aggregate for the season to 85.
Arrowtown had to survive a gritty comeback by Upper Clutha in the second spell after appearing to have its semifinal under control at halftime.
It led 19-8 at the break, then turned down a sure three points immediately after the break, opting for a scrum near the goalposts, which led to nothing.
When Upper Clutha closed to 19-13 with 20 minutes to play, it seemed that decision might come back to haunt Arrowtown.
But blindside flanker Adam Hill put the game out of reach for Upper Clutha with a storming try seven minutes from time.
Arrowtown player-coach Aidan Winter, immensely satisfied to qualify for another final, thought the opening 40 minutes represented his team’s best performance of the season.
"We panicked a bit in the second half, but our scrum was always strong and that got us through."
Arrowtown’s best were Hill, halfback Jackson Wallace, who made some telling runs and scored a vital try, winger Adam Jackson, lock and captain Malcolm Sutherland and front rowers Matt Flower, Tomo McKenzie and try-scorer Ben Carr.
- Bob Howitt