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The finalists of the Central Otago premier rugby competition were found on Saturday.
Upper Clutha and Cromwell won their respective semifinals by the same score, 8-6, in games played in wintry conditions. Cold winds and rain greeted the teams at both venues, and the games were reduced to forward battles. The results in both could have easily been reversed.
Arrowtown held a useful 6-0 advantage at halftime courtesy of two Connor Bissett penalty goals against Upper Clutha at the Wanaka Showgrounds. But the home side struck back with a try to right wing George Gilchrist. Then Jason Richan kicked a penalty to bring the home team across the line, with the game ending at 8-6.
Arrowtown tried valiantly all game and went through countless phases keeping the ball in hand during the last five or so minutes. But resolute defence and excellent discipline by the home side during that period allowed them to win the game and become host of next week’s final. Loosehead prop Joji Ravula had a storming game for the visitors, while fellow loosehead Blair Kennedy was the standout for the home side.
Cromwell travelled up to the Queenstown Recreation ground and came away 8-6 victor over a gallant Wakatipu side, in wet and cold conditions. Wakatipu led 6-5 at the break, but Cromwell kicked a second half penalty to put itself into the final of the 2018 competition. Matt Ashe kicked two first-half penalties for the home side, while centre Warwick Chinny scored a crucial try for the visitors just on the halftime break from a Wakatipu mistake. The Cromwell fullback Rhys Harrold kicked the second half penalty to close out the scoring. Hooker Kees Scott had another top game for the Cromwell side in what was essentially a forward-dominated game. Wakatipu were probably guilty of kicking too much ball away, but defended mightily in the second half under sustained pressure.
- Malcolm Jones