The Wakatipu Premiers rugby coach believes his side’s ability to win tight games gives it an edge for the final.
Wakatipu squeaked home 24-23 against Cromwell in a semi-final last weekend and now face Maniototo in the Central Otago final at the Queenstown Events Centre this Saturday.
Maniototo downed Arrowtown 29-6 in the other semi-final at Ranfurly.
Wakatipu coach Damian Petre says: “We’ve had a really challenging year in regards to holding that White Horse Cup, the players have been under immense pressure on probably half a dozen occasions and they’ve come through on the right side of the ledger more often than not.
“The fact that they play to the 80th minute is going to put them in good stead for the final,” Petre says.
“I’m confident that we can do the job if we prepare well this week.
“It’s going to be one of those games, it’s going to come down to a point or two and we’ve got some experience in those types of games so hopefully we’ll come out on the right side again.”
Cromwell missed a simple conversion to a last-minute try that could have sunk Wakatipu last weekend but Petre denies his team was lucky to win.
“You play the cards you’re dealt with and you do what you can to win.
“We weren’t lucky, you’ve got to be good to win a semi-final and that’s what we did.
“The penalty count was 22-2 [against us] and we had one player in the sin-bin for the last 10 minutes so that makes life really difficult.
“It was frustrating, everyone on the field was under pressure and whoever handled it the best was going win.”
Wakatipu also had to overcome a nightmare start in the first few minutes.
Fullback Rhys Collins was stretchered off with a dislocated and fractured ankle in the first minute of the game – and was later carted off the ground by ambulance.
Wakatipu loosie Pita Wilson also came off with a gashed hand soon after.
Wakatipu’s bench contained six forwards and only one back – who was hitchhiking to the game from Athol at the time.
“We were under a bit of pressure there,” Petre says.
“Toi Roberts went into second-five, and he’s typically an openside flanker.”
Wakatipu beat Maniototo 34-24 in their first-round game in Queenstown, after trailing 17-3 at halftime, but lost 27-7 when they played in Ranfurly five weeks ago.
Petre’s keen to make home advantage pay again: “They’ve got a three-hour bus trip which is never easy.”
Petre admits the home crowd will be a bit further from the playing arena at the Events Centre – “but we’ll overcome that if we get enough people there”.
Meanwhile, Arrowtown coach Hayden Finch says Maniototo’s greater experience at finals rugby told when it beat his team 29-6 in the other semi-final, in Ranfurly, last Saturday.
“They were outstanding, we just couldn’t breach their defence. But we’ve had a great season with a whole new team and everyone’s looking forward to next year already.”
Arrowtown plays Cromwell this Saturday at noon at the Events Centre in a play-off for third.
The Wakatipu Wanderers narrowly lost their second division semi-final to Roxburgh, 22-15, and this Saturday play Matakanui Combined in a play-off for third.
Don’t miss Central Otago rugby finals
Noon: Arrowtown v Cromwell Premiers (top-six 3rd-4th play-off), Upper Clutha v Alexandra Premiers (top-six 5th-6th play-off), Wakatipu Wanderers v Matakanui Combined (bottom-five 3rd-4th play-off)
1pm: Clyde-Earnscleugh v Roxburgh (bottom-five final)
2.45pm: Wakatipu Premiers v Maniototo (top-six final)
Where: Queenstown Events Centre, Frankton
Note: gold coin entry