Wakatipu rally snaffles White Horse Cup

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The rival coaches were as bemused as the home crowd after Wakatipu pulled off a stunning 20-19 comeback victory in one of the great White Horse Cup contests at Jack Reid Park in Arrowtown on Saturday.

By the time Arrowtown took a 19-13 lead coming up to the three-quarter mark, a local victory seemed assured.

The Arrowtown forwards were monstering Wakatipu in the scrums and disrupting its lineout, and there did not seem any way back for the challengers.

And then, out of the blue, came one of those "wow" moments that will be forever recalled by Wakatipu stalwarts for years to come.

The Wakatipu players celebrate with the White Horse Cup after beating Arrowtown 20-19 at Jack...
The Wakatipu players celebrate with the White Horse Cup after beating Arrowtown 20-19 at Jack Reid Park in Arrowtown on Saturday. PHOTO: PAUL DWYER

As the ball spewed sidewards away from a ruck just inside the Wakatipu half, replacement loose forward Sam Collins snapped it up and bolted upfield.

He linked with Rube Peina, who soon located centre Michael Collins, the Blues player making his first appearance for the Wakatipu premiers.

Collins' acceleration ripped open Arrowtown's scrambling defence and when he returned the pass, Peina had a clear run to the goal line.

You could have risked your life savings that super boot Chris Young would add the conversion, from close range, putting Wakatipu a point in front.

The home fans, who had turned out in massive numbers, could not believe their team was now trailing.

To add to their dismay, nothing changed in the final 16 minutes, spoiling Arrowtown's 30th anniversary celebrations but giving the Wakatipu players and supporters plenty to celebrate.

Wakatipu assistant coach Brett Anderson, who had come on as a replacement prop during the dramatic final quarter - his first appearance in more than two seasons - said it was a contest where there did not deserve to be a loser.

"[Arrowtown] have got the best scrum and best lineout in the competition and they disrupted us for much of the game.

"But once Rube Peina scored that try, there was suddenly a self-belief that we could win. We managed to keep them pinned deep in their own half for the last 10 minutes."

Anderson said the White Horse Cup was not something the team had focused on in the build-up.

"We had plenty to work on with our set pieces, especially with a couple of eighteen-year-olds in the front row," he said.

"Winning the trophy was a bonus."

Arrowtown coach Aidan Winter was fuming at the final whistle because his players had gone away from the game plan.

"Our kicking game deteriorated," he said.

"We were supposed to kick for touch or deep beyond the fullback, not straight down his throat. He kept driving us back."

Winter felt his team had thrown the game away, rather than Wakatipu winning it.

Arrowtown did have the misfortune to lose first-five Connor Bisset with injury early in the second half.

Oh well - it is early season and, if things go according to plan, Arrowtown will get a White Horse Challenge in Queenstown in mid June.

The special heroes of Wakatipu's win were fullback Young - whose boot was a telling factor on a day when the surface and ball were slippery after morning rain - special guest star Michael Collins, and loosies Brad Cross and try-scoring hero Piena.

 - Bob Howitt

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