Strong start carries Cromwell; Arrowtown prevails

A vintage first-half display from Cromwell led it to a 27-15 win over Wakatipu in the Central Otago premier club rugby semifinals on Saturday.

The Goats will host Arrowtown in this weekend's final following the Bulls' nail-biting 14-13 win over Upper Clutha in Wanaka.

And with home advantage, Cromwell will be a tough team to bowl at Anderson Park.

Although they were forced to defend for much of the second half, the Goats raced out to a commanding lead in the first 40, leading 24-7 at halftime.

Cold and slippery conditions greeted both sides for their matchup but Cromwell was by far the more polished during the initial exchanges.

Wakatipu had barely touched the ball when Goats openside flanker Daniel Hurring found himself unmarked on the right wing to race into the corner for Cromwell's first try, in the fourth minute.

The Goats' kicking game was also applying pressure as several clever kicks in behind Wakatipu's back three had the visitors retreating.

Cromwell struck again inside the first 10 minutes when Reon Buchanan went over for the home side as Wakatipu's defence was left wanting.

It did not improve for the visitors as Hurring - who had set up residency on the wide channel - scored again down the right-hand touch line after a clearing Wakatipu kick was charged a few phases earlier.

Wakatipu looked shell-shocked at 17-0 down with less than a quarter of the game gone.

Defensive lapses close to its line continued to cost Wakatipu as Cromwell first-five Dane Edge broke through some feeble tackles to go in under the bar.

A string of penalties helped Wakatipu back up the right end of the field.

A good old-fashioned try off the back of the scrum from No8 Steve Banks registered Wakatipu's first points.

"I think we played a lot more territory in the first half and we benefited pretty well from that," Cromwell head coach Matt Brieley said.

"The guys may have gone into more of a defensive mode in the second half."

Both sides exchanged penalties early in the second half as Wakatipu made a better fist of it after the break, enjoying the better share of possession.

Their big ball runners, lock Raf Tuhura, centre Kapa Moeke and blindside flanker Tom Ria - in his 50th club game- proved awkward for the Goats to contain in the middle third.

Right winger Angus MacCallum finished off a well-worked move in the 58th minute to breathe hope into Wakatipu's chances.

However, Cromwell was far too classy and well organised to really give the visitors a sniff as the game broke down into a scrappy dirge in the final 20 minutes.

The other semifinal, at the Wanaka Showgrounds, was more of an arm-wrestle as Upper Clutha - which had finished top of the standings - stumbled against Arrowtown for the third consecutive time this season.

Arrowtown was down 13-8 at the break before halfback Jackson Wallace added two second-half penalties as the home side was kept scoreless in the second half and unable to convert two difficult penalty chances to snatch it.

Arrowtown captain Malcom Sutherland said the message from the coaches at halftime around the breakdown was fairly simple.

"Be a bit more dominant at ruck time and hold on to the ball. It wasn't pretty stuff."

A showdown between Arrowtown's powerful set piece and the Goats' running game will be one of the many sub-plots for Saturday's big dance in Cromwell.

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