- By Scott MacLean
It’s another critical round of matches at the top end of Wellington’s club competition as the contenders for the Swindale Shield sort themselves out, and other teams battle for those important top-seven places. Elsewhere its another full round, with kick-off times earlier this week due to the 5.15pm start for the Hurricanes game against the Rebels at Westpac Stadium
Premier Swindale Shield
After last week’s slate, it’s a different story this time out with just one of the matches involving sides that are currently both in the top seven. The top four have such a break over the chasing group that they’ll remain there at full time tomorrow, but behind that almost anything goes.
Three of the matches are those that have formed part of Derby Day in recent years, with the highest-profile clash being that at the Polo Ground between Oriental-Rongotai (26) and Poneke (25) with the Jimmy Grbich Memorial Shield at stake. That trophy honours the outstanding Poneke, Wellington, and Maori All Black midfielder-turned-loose forward of the 1950’s and early 60’s who tragically lost his life aged just 31 in a motor vehicle accident in 1962, and has been played for since 1964. Its also been one of the closest fought matches of recent years; Poneke are the holders after winning 28-25 last year, but results before that have been (Ories score first) 30-all, 20-19, and 28-27.
Ories delivered a commanding performance last weekend to beat Norths at Porirua Park, which saw them claim the Bill Brien Challenge Trophy which will also be on the line tomorrow. They get boosts at either ends of their line-up with Hurricanes prop Xavier Numia available to them and Trent Renata returning at fullback after breaking his arm in the opening round. Poneke were made to work hard by Avalon before prevailing, and they get Greg Foe back from his honeymoon and Galu Taufale and veteran props Hennie Tui and Soti Faamausili all returning. There’s no Pakai Turia again however, with Jimmy-Lee Hongara handed the #10 jersey this week.
Another match of real interest is at Lyndhurst between Tawa (16) and Marist St Pat’s (11). The home side are currently fifth, but should they lose they could well be swamped by the chasing pack and leave themselves with plenty to do with their remaining games all away from home. For MSP the situation is almost critical as another loss would need them to win all three remaining games with bonus points to even have a chance of continuing their remarkable streak of making the Jubilee Cup.
Tawa have a number of changes, but retain the same front row and have PJ Iosefo returning at fullback. MSP make three changes in the pack with Tom Martin, Tom Horan, and Charlie Gubb back in, and Sione Ma’u making his MSP debut on the wing.
Also worth keeping an eye on is another Hutt Valley derby, with the Upper Hutt Rams (14) back on the road to face Wainuiomata (15) at William Jones. It’s a critical clash in terms of the scrap for those Jubilee Cup places, and as with MSP above it could leave the side that loses with almost too much to do in the remaining weeks. The home side are almost unchanged up front with Anthony Mamea’s return the only change, and a more conventional backline after some late changes last week with Japanese pair Toshiki Hamagishi and Aki Makita both included. The Rams have named a strong side, though Sio Luamanu switches to No8 with neither Sam Wasley or Josh Brown available, and veteran Kono Feaunati returns to midfield.
The teams will also contest their Peter Jones/Dave Ritchie Cup, honouring two former managers of the sides. It’s held by the Rams after winning 26-22 last year, with the two drawing their Hardham Cup match 29-all.
With the two sides immediately behind them playing each other, Hutt Old Boys Marist (29) have a chance to extend their margin at the top when they host the Avalon Wolves (11) at the Hutt Rec. The Eagles don’t seem to be taking their chances with their neighbours and with both James O’Reilly and Salesi Rayasi available to them have named both to start. Tasi Fidow and Anthony Utanga both revert to the bench, where they’re joined by Simon Malaeulu for his 201st Premier outing. Avalon are without Sefo Aumua but have a more than handy replacement in Thomas Waldrom while older brother Scott is named on the bench, and Jayson Aquila joins his brother Jordan in midfield in the only changes to the team that perhaps should have beaten Poneke last Saturday.
They’ll lay for their Billy Herbert Memorial Trophy; Herbert was a HOBM prop who switched clubs to play for Avalon but suffered a heart attack at the final training ahead of the season. HOBM have held this every year since Avalon’s return to Premier, including the 29-20 result last year.
Across the Haywards, Norths (24) will look to return to winning ways when hosting neighbours Paremata-Plimmerton (4) at Jerry Collins Stadium. Norths will be looking to atone for last weekend for Ories and will be wearing a different look, playing in a Porirua RFC heritage strip (white jerseys with single red and black hoops), honouring 30 years since the merger with Titahi Bay. They have opted to rest some players, and hand first starts to locking duo Mellenniumma Leota and Haydeen Lewis and the versatile Esi Komaisavai starts at first-five this week. Pare-Plim have been forced into several changes and will go in as very much the underdogs.
These two clubs play for their Ivan Hargreaves Trophy, named for the former Titahi Bay club administrator and Porirua City councillor. It was originally donated for competition between the four western bays clubs – Porirua, Titahi Bay, Tawa, and Paremata-Plimmerton – but is now contested between the northern city’s two clubs only. Norths have held this every year since Pare-Plim returned to the Premier grade, including last year’s 52-31 win.
After last weekend’s riot, things will be a lot more difficult for Wellington (10) when they host Old Boys-University (15) at Hataitai Park in their Dean Gifford Memorial Cup; Gifford played for a number of clubs including both Wellington and OBU and the trophy was donated after his death in 2012 a week before the Axemen claimed that years Ed Chaney Cup.
Wellington will still harbour hopes of making the Jubilee Cup, but likely need to win and win well in the remaining weeks. Veteran props Tevita Falekalala and Tala Kitekei’aho start as does lock Ryan Dawson, while their backline is unchanged though the back three swap jerseys. The Goats are able to rotate some players; Jonathan Fuimaono, Matt Fowler, and Jared Verney all come back in, while Agustin Escalona is also back, as are Izzy Foai and Joe Hill on the bench.
The final match is at Helston Park where Johnsonville (1) will be after some redemption after last round’s humiliation and Petone (15) to reassert their claim on a top-seven place after losing in the McBain clash. The Villagers welcome back Tupou Sopoaga after he missed the McBain, and also have the services of Hurricanes pivot Fletcher Smith. Johnsonville are dealing with a host of player injuries, absences, and defections and several had to play plenty of minutes last weekend just to avoid the club defaulting.
All Premier matches are at 2.15pm this week
Premier Reserve Harper Lock Shield
The clash of the day is the early one at Lyndhurst where MSP again put their lengthy unbeaten streak in this competition on the line against second-placed Tawa. With Norths odds-on favourites to take the full five points up the road at Porirua Park against winless Pare-Plim, this match could have a huge bearing on where the trophy ends up. The Upper Hutt Rams can’t be counted out and they head to William Jones to face a Wainuiomata side that nearly conceded a century, while Poneke are also a contender but have to get past Ories at Polo. The remaining matches have OBU heading to Hataitai to play winless Wellington, Johnsonville host Petone at Helston, and HOBM and Avalon meet at the Hutt Rec.
All seven matches are 12.30pm starts this week.
Women’s Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy
The midpoint of the Women’s first-round comes this weekend. The round gets underway tonight with Petone and Wainuiomata (including their Avalon registered players) taking to the Fraser Park turf at 7.30pm. Tomorrow Oriental-Rongotai will be looking to shake off the rust quickly after being defaulted to the past two weeks when they head to Ngati Toa to take on Paremata-Plimmerton, while just down the road Norths will also be looking to keep their unbeaten record intact when they host Hutt Old Boys Marist. The remaining match has Poneke and Old Boys-University meeting at Kilbirnie Park. Saturday’s matches are still at their usual time of 11.30am, with Marist St Pat’s having this week’s bye.
Colts Paris Memorial and JRD Cup
Division 1 joint-leaders OBU Green and MSP are on the road again tomorrow, looking to remain unbeaten before their meeting next weekend. OBU head to Petone, while MSP go to Redwood to take on Tawa (at 12pm). The other two matches are – like the Women’s – local derbies with third-placed HOBM hosting the Upper Hutt Rams at the Hutt Rec, and Paremata-Plimmerton doing the same with Norths at Ngati Toa.
The three Division 2 matches are highlighted by the local derby between unbeaten duo Ories and Poneke on the #2 ground at Polo. Wellington and OBU Black meet at Polo, with Wainuiomata and Johnsonville taking to Mary Crowther at 12pm. Avalon has the bye.
Unless stated all matches are at 12.30pm this week.
Under 85s JC Bowl and First Grade Thompson Memorial
Through three rounds just two teams – Avalon and the Upper Hutt Rams – remain unbeaten in the lightweights and they aren’t scheduled to meet until the final round. Avalon are at the Hutt Rec tomorrow to face third-placed HOBM, with Upper Hutt heading into the city to take on MSP at Kilbirnie Park. Elsewhere Eastbourne hosts Johnsonville, Wellington and Wests meet at Te Whaea, and the OBU Bunnies and Paraparaumu take to Nairnville Park (at 12.30pm).
The second-round of First Grade matches has first-up winners Stokes Valley and HOBM meeting at Delaney Park in a rematch of last year’s grade final. Avalon host valley rivals Wainuiomata at Fraser Park, Norths travel to Petone, and OBU and MSP are at Nairnville.
Unless stated all matches are at 2.15pm.
The college rugby season gets underway this weekend, something we previewed here yesterday. Read more HERE