Upper Clutha may just have the edge

Crescent prop Logan Morrell tries busting through the tackle of Clutha Valley back Crewze Kingi...
Crescent prop Logan Morrell tries busting through the tackle of Clutha Valley back Crewze Kingi during a Central Otago premier rugby match in Kaitangata last Saturday. PHOTO: SI LEEDS
The final of the Central Otago premier competition at the Wanaka Showgrounds tomorrow is between neighbours Upper Clutha and Cromwell which won their respective semifinals last week by the same 8-6 scoreline.

Upper Clutha, which has shown more consistency this season, easily won the first encounter between the two sides in the regular season 38-12, but Cromwell won the second game 39-34 in a tryfest.

The teams scored five tries apiece in that fixture and, although the final is likely to be as close as the second-round result, it is unlikely to be as big a score.

Last week's semifinal at the same venue was played in atrocious conditions and, although it may be a little slippery underfoot as the forecast is for some showers with westerly winds, the conditions from last week are unlikely to be repeated.

The host side has had good value from its forwards this year with the likes of Lachie Carrick, Fergus Smith, Jack Gilchrist and Ben Morris all leading from the front and providing the backline with a solid foundation from which to work.

James Downes and George Gilchrist out wide have looked dangerous all season with ball in hand and veteran fullback Ben Purvis is always a threat.

Jai Baxter and Josh Roberts work well in the halfback-five eighth combination and their experience will be a key factor in the game.

Upper Clutha has plenty to play for in front of its home-town supporters.

Cromwell has stepped up a gear in the second half of the season and, when it turns up for the full 80 minutes, it is a tough team to peg back.

Hooker Kees Scott has been in great form all season on attack and defence and leads a combative forward pack.

Cody Mitchell and Alex Groghan have been workhorses in the middle row while Daniel Hurring, Stefan Blakeborough, Scott Wills and Quinton Dynes have formed a more than useful loose forward combination.

Warwick Chinny in the midfield has been in impressive try-scoring form in the latter part of the season while Kane Dodds has been a rock at the back.

Upper Clutha may have the edge in this final with the home ground advantage but Cromwell won the last time these two met and has recent finals experience as the 2016 champion.

 - Malcolm Jones

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