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Captain leads the way: Wakatipu skipper Steve Banks on the charge against Upper Clutha with Toby Higgins in support. PICTURE: JAMES ALLAN PHOTOGRAPHY

By PHILIP CHANDLER

The Arrowtown and Wakatipu Premiers rugby sides didn’t get to dance on the big stage on Saturday after frustrating semi-final losses in the Central Otago comp.

Arrowtown, who had to play ultimate champs Cromwell again on their home ground after a qualifying final there only two weeks earlier, did at least do better this time.

They lost 20-15 after coming back with a good individual try that gave them a sniff of winning.

Wakatipu, on the other hand, after twice beating Upper Clutha at home in the prior five weeks, couldn’t repeat the dose, losing 20-5, with the loss to injury of two frontline props
costing them dearly.

Arrowtown coach Dan Eyles says their loss was like the story of their season — ‘‘close but not quite close enough’’.

‘‘We just tried to play a bit tighter and try to use our strength with our forward pack.

‘‘It did work, but I guess Cromwell are still that team to beat at the moment, they were just obviously too strong for us.’’

Eyles says it’s been ‘‘a bit of a tough season for Arrowtown’’.

‘‘We probably carried a squad of 25, and it only took a couple of injuries and each week you’re battling away, but to make a semi-final is a positive for the club.

‘‘It’s quite weird it’s all finished so early, it feels like we just kind of got started.’’

Having been critical of a new finals format which should have had his team play Waka in the semis rather than Cromwell, he’s only hoping a better draw will be figured out next year.

Meanwhile, Wakacoach Brett Anderson doesn’t beat about the bush.

‘‘One team turned up to play and it sure as hell wasn’t Wakatipu, so it is upsetting.

‘‘There’s a number of circumstances that may not have been beneficial to us, but at the end of the day they were circumstances we had to deal with, and we didn’t deal with them
as well as we could have or should have.’’

However, as he told his players afterwards, ‘‘if you look at this as a three-match series [against Upper Clutha], two quality sides, it was unlikely either team was going to take it 3-nil’’.

And despite the loss, Anderson says he and co-coach Tom Kelly have enjoyed coaching the team this year.

And with most of the players expected back, he’s hopeful they’ll go one better next year.

Cromwell won the 2021 Central Otago comp, beating Upper Clutha 12-11.

scoop@scene.co.nz