Why it’s crucial to win the toss

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As Central Otago’s top side prepare to host Saturday’s Otago Countrywide rugby final against Lawrence, a secret to Arrowtown’s two-season unbeaten record at home has emerged.

It’s all to do with the metre-high slope from one end of Jack Reid Park to the other.

When Arrowtown win the toss, they play uphill for the first half then downhill for the second.

“We feel out the opposition in the first half uphill then in the second half just rip them apart,” says goal-kickingfirst-five Reece Winter. “I’m not sure if it’s a massive advantage or a mind thing, but it works for us.”

After Upper Clutha lost the toss in last Saturday’s Central Otago final, Arrowtown played the first half uphill, trailed 8-6 at the break then put them away going downhill to win 23-13.

In the home semi the week before, Arrowtown scored all their points downhill in the second half to thrash Alexandra 33-0.

“I think the secret’s slowly getting out,” Arrowtown club president Simon Spark says. “It’s definitely a factor but it’s a psycho­­logical thing – you’ve still got to play the other half for half the game.”

“It’s just a wee bonus if we can go uphill first,” adds coach Blair Wilce. “It’s sort of worked for us this year.”
Their perfect home record also means Arrowtown get their name engraved on theWhite Horse Cup trophy for the first time.

With the silverware also at stake in the finals clashes this season, Arrowtown had eight successful defences at home after taking it off Alexandra on April 18 – possibly a record for one year, Wilce says.

Despite weekend-long celebrations, Wilce reckons his side will be all systems go this Saturday against Lawrence – the team they beat 8-0 last year to clinch the Countrywide title.

It could be the last hitout for a couple of Arrowtown stalwarts – but that’s been said before.

Jim O’Malley and Nathan Pullar have indicated this will be their last match, Wilce says – “though Jim [who brought up his 100th game this season] has said that for two or three years”.

Both O’Malley and Pullar have been invaluable not only as players but behind the scenes as committee members, Wilce adds.

Lawrence will be tough because since winning the South-west Otago comp, they and runner-up Clutha Valley have played in the Dunedin competition for the past few weeks. The same privilege should have been extended to Central Otago’s top teams but other clubs vetoed the idea, Wilce says.

“When you play good, hard rugby all the time, you do learn and get better from it.”