Fresh from snatching the White Horse Cup off Cromwell, the Arrowtown Premiers face two very winnable challenges before their name’s inscribed on the prestigious rugby trophy.
The Bulls meet the Central Otago competition’s bottom-placed sides – Alexandra, at their Queenstown Events Centre ‘home’ ground this Saturday, and Matakanui Combined at the same venue two weeks later.
Holding the cup between seasons, which Arrowtown haven’t achieved for seven years, would be special as the club returns home next year to new clubrooms and a rejigged Jack Reid Park, and celebrates its 30th birthday at Easter.
Coach Simon Spark, however, says his team struggled with Alexandra and Matakanui in the first round, “so we’re under no illusions”.
“We’ve been in this position before – you switch off or take it for granted, you get found out.”
Alexandra, he points out, have nothing to lose.
“That’s how we looked at last Saturday – we had nothing to lose, Cromwell did.”
He says the key to their thrilling 19-17 win was being able to pick his best team for the first time this season.
“The most satisfying factor was that every person in the team, even the guys who weren’t selected, played their part.”
He calls the win a coaching highlight “for the simple fact we had a plan, the players executed it, and they showed a lot of ticker in the tough times when the momentum wasn’t going with them”.
Saturday’s game kicks off 2.30pm.
Meanwhile, Wakatipu Premiers co-coach Brett Anderson, whose team believed they’d won rather than drawn their White Horse Cup challenge against Cromwell in April, says for once his club was cheering for Arrowtown.
“I guess, without dwelling on it too much, it’s just good that someone other than Cromwell’s going to finish [with the cup this season] ‘cos there’s not a lot of love lost between Wakatipu and Cromwell still.”
Current competition runners-up, Wakatipu play top-of-the-table Upper Clutha in Wanaka this Saturday.
“It’s probably going to be our hardest game of the year, to date,” Anderson says.
Some of his players are also short of a gallop – not helped by Clyde-Earnscleugh defaulting their game to Wakatipu last weekend. Wakatipu beat Upper Clutha 8-3 in the first round with an injury-time try.