Depleted Goats get bucked
It was a Balclutha bridge too far for Central Otago rugby champions Cromwell.
Clutha put a dampener on the Goats’ fairytale rugby season, winning 58-24 in the countrywide final on Saturday.
The countrywide final pits the winners from the Central Otago and Southern competitions against each other in a final match of the season.
On this occasion, defending countrywide champion Clutha was too strong at home in Balclutha.
Cromwell coach Paul Tait felt it was one game too many for his team, who beat a favoured Maniototo 21-18 in the August 7 final at Alexandra.
‘‘I don’t think they [the players] knew the importance of it,’’ Tait said.
‘‘Their final was the week before.
‘‘This is my first year coaching and you sort of have to be a psychiatrist.’’
Tait took nothing away from Clutha’s performance, saying they were a ‘‘good team’’, but he felt losing some key men - like first-five Andrew Grubb - and having just 19 players had an impact.
‘‘We started off pretty good [but] I could just sort of tell.
‘‘They [Clutha] picked holes where there were holes to be picked. The wheels fell off.’’
Clutha coach Ben Keach was ‘‘over the moon’’ with his team’s performance.
Keach said six weeks ago he never would have thought his side would be in this position and commended his players for stepping up to the challenge.
He lauded the play of his ‘‘little guys’’, hooker Max Pennell and halfback Jared Edwards, who outplayed some bigger opponents.
Clutha makes it two countrywide final wins in a row following last year’s victory over Alexandra at Molyneux Park in Alexandra.
(Rhys Harrold 3, Sylvester Reeves 2, Robin Fesilafai, Jared Edwards, Matt Korteweg, Simon Grant, Max Pennell tries; Rhys Harrold 4 con)
(Hayden Todd, Danny Russell, Blake McPhee tries; Ben Maxwell 2 con, pen, Travis Mitchell con).
Joanna Williams, of Wanaka, achieved the fastest women’s time with 2hrs 31mins and 33 secs.