Arrowtown supporters cheered wildly after their team yesterday (Saturday) pulled off Central Otago great rugby’s biggest heist – the White Horse Cup.
Arrowtown deservedly beat the Wakatipu Premiers 30-20 before a big crowd at the Queenstown Recreation Ground.
The win ended Wakatipu’s two-year hold on one of New Zealand’s oldest sporting trophies.
Wakatipu had held the White Horse Cup, which has been contested since 1926, since taking it off Manitoto in May 2012. Maniototo had taken it off Arrowtown a month earlier.
Arrowtown looked odds-on to win yesterday’s game when it led 25-15 at halftime.
After the teams were deadlocked at two penalties apiece, Arrowtown scored three tries through backs Izzy Nayaloga, Christian Jones and Kane Dodds, Wakatipu only staying in the game through five first-half penalties.
Dodds scored his second try early in the second half before Wakatipu sustained a long period in the Arrowtown half, only breaking its defence with a consolation try near the end.
For stoked Arrowtown coach Hayden Finch, who’s shifting to Dunedin in a few weeks after seven years in charge of the team, defence won the game.
“Wakatipu fully came back [in the second half], we just had to dig deep, that was the key.
“We were tired, everyone was cramping, but our defence never gave up.”
Finch says the players, who beat Upper Clutha A 33-0 last Saturday, experienced a long nerve-wracking week in the lead-up to yesterday’s game.
“Everyone’s been pretty nervous and looking forward to it, ’ cos we were not really sure what to expect.”
The win is special for the players and the whole club, Finch says.
“It’s never easy in Queenstown, it’s never easy to win the White Horse Cup, it’s never easy to win against Wakatipu.”
Finch says he’s expecting celebrations to last between 48 and 72 hours.
Wakatipu coach Damian Petre says Arrowtown deserved the victory but says his players didn’t respond well to being put under pressure.
“We’ve had a pretty good run with [the White Horse Cup], we certainly went in there with expectations of holding the cup so to lose it, it’s really disappointing.”
The loss was Wakatipu’s first season, while Arrowtown has now won all five of its games.
Arrowtown plays Matakanui Combined in Omakau this coming Saturday and faces its first defence of the cup, against Cromwell A, at home on May 17.