The blow of being thrashed in the Central Otago rugby final has been softened for three Wakatipu Premiers players.
Lock Ben Macdonald, halfback Steve Bruce and second-five/centre Matt Nesbitt have made the Otago Country squad and debut in Dunedin this weekend.
Wakatipu was unexpectedly thrashed 43-10 by Maniototo in their well-attended final at the Queenstown Events Centre last Saturday.
The defending champions had topped the round robins and were narrowly favoured to win their home final despite losing against Maniototo in Ranfurly last month.
With Wakatipu down 14-5 at halftime, coach Damian Petre wasn’t too disheartened.
“The intention was to be in touch at halftime and we were hoping that the strength of our bench and our fitness would put them under real pressure in the second half, but unfortunately, they found another gear and ran away from us.”
Petre says Maniototo thoroughly deserved its five-tries-to-two win.
“They played with a lot more width than what we’ve seen them play with in the past.
“They were a very balanced side and they had options galore.”
Despite his team’s disappointment, Petre says: “They can be proud of a lot of things they’ve done – they’ve got the Vincent Shield [for topping the round robins], retained the White Horse Cup, plus The Cup [for their first clash against Arrowtown each season].”
Petre says he’d rate the season eight out of 10: “To make the final and to come through some really difficult games through the season, retaining the White Horse Cup, they certainly deserve more than a pass mark.
“There’s a few local guys that have been around for a while that really stepped up their game, and the foreign contingent all contributed well.”
Petre says there was huge improvement from some individual team members.
Petre cites lock Shaun McKone, Henry Youngman cementing himself as the starting no.7, the new Otago Country reps Bruce and Nesbitt, and fullback Rhys Collins till he fractured his ankle early in the semi-final.
Arrowtown lost its play-off for third against rivals Cromwell 20-17, after taking a 17-5 lead at one stage of the see-saw match.
The Wakatipu Wanderers won their second division third-fourth play-off against Matakanui Combined 23-12.
Meanwhile, the annual Wakatipu rugby and netball awards dinner will be held at Queenstown’s Skyline Restaurant this Saturday from 6pm.
Tickets are priced $60 for adults and $25 for local high school students.