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Fortune favours the brave, they say, and it worked out that way for the Cromwell Goats in their dramatic qualifying final against high-flying Wakatipu at the Queenstown Recreation Ground on Saturday.
With time up, the Goats, behind 31-28 on the scoreboard, were awarded a penalty directly in front of the goalposts. The certain three-pointer would have taken the contest into extra time.
"We’re going for the win," he exhorted his players, who know a thing or two about winning, having claimed the Central Otago title in 2020 and 2021.
Maxwell set up the lineout for his forwards, who secured possession, leading to a ruck in midfield from which centre Anaru Takimoana crashed over for the match-winner, an outcome that left Wakatipu supporters devastated.
Unbeaten in seven outings, in which they had scored 56 tries including demolishing the Goats 38-10 in Cromwell, Wakatipu had a nightmarish start to this game, finding themselves 17-0 down after 19 minutes.
However, they showed great resolve to come storming back. From trailing 21-12 at halftime, they hit the front at 31-28 with eight minutes remaining.
But it was not to be a fairy tale finish for the men in blue. The Goats dominated the final stages where a massive contributor was Daniel Hurring, the specialist loose forward who played 80 minutes in the No12 jersey after the Goats lost two backs to injury at training on Thursday.
"It was such a dramatic ending that it felt like we’d won the final," Goats manager Russell Decke said.
The Goats’ other heroes were prop Jackson Clark, who scored two tries (giving him five in as many outings), flanker Dylan Robinson, who tackled his heart out, and the inspirational captain Maxwell, who made his 100th appearance one to remember.
Cromwell’s victory earns the club a weekend off, a luxury that also applies to Upper Clutha after it demolished Arrowtown 38-12 in Wanaka.
Upper Clutha’s polished performance ensures the White Horse Cup will hold pride of place in the trophy cabinet throughout the summer, the first time that has occurred since 1972.
The Wanaka contest turned into the Adam Breen and Brady Kingan Show at Arrowtown’s expense.
Again demonstrating blistering speed, Breen completed a hat-trick of tries, giving him 13 for the season, while Kingan achieved another 100% goal-kicking record, extending his aggregate for the season to 95 points.
Arrowtown scored one cracking try, to centre Jesse Forsyth, after a sustained period of tap-and-go but across the 80 minutes made too many basic errors and conceded far too many penalties.
In the bottom section, Maniototo defeated Alexandra 26-12 while Matakanui Combined swamped Cromwell Cavaliers 55-5.
As a consequence, Maniototo will play Arrowtown and Matakanui Combined will take on Wakatipu next Saturday, the winners advancing to the semifinals.
-- Bob Howitt