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Wyndham has advanced to Southland’s division one club final on the back of a drama-fuelled 20-18 semifinal victory over neighbour Edendale on Saturday.
The showdown was a repeat of the 2017 division one final. Last year it was Edendale which claimed the honours and, when it went up 11-3 on Saturday, it had put itself in the box seat for another playoff victory over closest rival Wyndham.
Edendale coach Mike Cunningham said his team felt hard done by in the first half when it believed a tip-tackle on back Kurt Schrader went unpunished.
The frustration boiled over early in the second half when Schrader committed a tip tackle himself and referee Aaron Watt showed him a red card.
It reduced Edendale to 14 men for the final 30 minutes of the game and Wyndham gained the edge.
However, Edendale still had every opportunity to lock in the victory when it had an 18-17 lead late on.
With four minutes to go, Michael Robinson pushed Wyndham back into the lead with a penalty to make it 20-18 before hanging on as best it could.
Edendale went hot on to attack in the dying moments before a handling error in the process of trying to grab a match-winner ended the Edendale hopes and sent Wyndham into the final.
Wyndham now eyes a shot at Midlands which probably surprised some with its 20-10 win over the in-form Waikaka.
Waikaka led 10-9 at halftime but Midlands coach Dayna Cunningham was upbeat as his team had played the first half into a stiff breeze.
Midlands landed two more penalties in the second half to go 15-10 up before a try late in the half sealed the victory.
Cunningham felt it was probably the best forward showing to date this season but said his side would need to be just as good against Wyndham in Saturday’s final.
Midlands has not beaten Wyndham in Wyndham over the past three years. The division two and division three finalists have also been sorted.
In section A of division two, Invercargill teams Blues B and Star B will scrap it out in Saturday’s decider after Blues B crushed Wakatipu 59-15 in one semifinal and Star B beat Pioneer 26-17 in the other.
In section B semifinals, Woodlands B toppled Tokanui 12-3 and Drummond-Limehills-Star downed Riverton 13-10.
As expected, Otautau advanced to the division three final with a commanding 40-5 win over Ohai-Nightcaps.
Much of the intrigue centred on the other semifinal, between Bluff and Mataura, in Bluff on Saturday.
Little has separated the two teams this season and that was highlighted on Saturday as Bluff latched on to a tight 26-21 win.
Mataura has impressed in 2018 after returning to the division three ranks after being sidelined in recent seasons because of a lack of playing numbers.
Saturday’s division three final will be played at Otautau.
- Logan Savory