Playoff positions coming into focus in penultimate round

05/07/2019
  • By Scott MacLean

Draws and teamlists HERE

As soon as tomorrow sides could book their places in the Jubilee Cup playoffs, though its also possible that come full-time no one will be certain of their place either. That will leave an afternoon where news, whether it’s by radio, online updates, or just good ol’ fashioned word of mouth, will be sought after.

There’s one significant milestone at Premier level this week, with Oriental-Rongotai midfielder/winger Paulo Aukuso becoming the first player in the club’s history to notch up 200 games having – according to the man himself – made his debut while still in the Rongotai College 1st XV.

Premier Jubilee Cup

As we do at this time each year we look at what’s left for the sides.

Norths (15). To play: Oriental-Rongotai (A) and Tawa (H)

It’s a simple equation for Norths this weekend; beat Ories at the Polo Ground and they will have secured their place in the playoffs and with it the inside running to claim the Andy Leslie trophy for finishing top of the round-robin. But if they don’t it’s not inconceivable that they’ll be the side on the outside come early Saturday evening.

There’s a handful of changes to those from last week. Ethan Robinson-Mate returns at hooker with the versatile Bruce Kauika-Petersen starting at openside, and Luca Rees returning from suspension to face his former side. The only change in the backs is at first-five, with youngster Eli Moata’a given the job of running the cutter in the absence of Jackson Garden-Bachop.

Tawa (15). To play: Wainuiomata (A) and Norths (A)

The Lyndhurst side are in almost the same position as their northern rivals as they’ll secure a return to the playoffs with a win and either an Ories or HOBM loss; though the same applies to them as for Norths if the outcome of their trip to William Jones is less than ideal.

Its an almost unchanged starting XV from that that pushed out to a big half-time lead against Poneke last week. PJ Iosefo returns at fullback with Tom Maiava returning to centre. Tolu Fahamokioa, Ben Aumua-Peseta, and Peniasi Tokakece will all provide thump from the bench.

Wainuiomata (13). To play: Tawa (H) and Hutt Old Boys Marist (A)

Emphasising how important the match at William Jones is, is that the home team can also secure passage with a win – albeit with a bonus point – tied to losses for either Ories or HOBM that leaves the margin to one of those teams at six points or more. However a loss could leave them as the side out in the cold with a trip to the Hutt Rec to come next week.

Having had two weeks to stew over their loss last time out to Petone, they’ve made a few changes. Veteran lock Glen Angus starts in the green and black for the first time since the 2016 semi-final defeat to Tawa with Matt Jacobs returning to the flank and Greg Leolofi to No8. TJ Va’a and Isaiah Mamea are back in the backline, and its an experienced looking bench including Ben Tupuola, Uale Mai, and Mike Lealava’a.

Hutt Old Boys Marist (12). To play: Petone (A) and Wainuiomata (H)

The margins at this stage of the season are fine enough that had the Eagles hung on on Saturday against Norths they would be on top rather than sitting fourth. Even then they can still secure a place in the semi-finals if they get a bonus point win over the river at the Petone Rec, but only if Ories get nothing out their match.

Coach Kent Harris has stuck with almost the same XV that started against Norths, with the swap of Jason Hoffman for Jack McCormack at lock the only change. Glen Walters remains an absentee.

Oriental-Rongotai (11). To play: Norths (H) and Poneke (A)

If you hadn’t worked it out already, the Magpies hold the key to the calculations. They kept their season alive by beating Petone last Saturday, and you would fancy that they need to do again tomorrow. A loss isn’t necessarily fatal depending on what happens elsewhere, but would certainly leave them at long-odds

Despite earlier reports that both Ma’a Nonu and Matt Proctor would play tomorrow, the current status is that neither are currently named with Steven Va’a and Malachai Unasa filling the midfield jerseys. The aforementioned Paulo Aukuso is named on the right wing, with prop/hooker Connor Lemon in line to bring up 50 from the bench.

Petone (7). To play: HOBM (H) and Bye

The Villagers are mathematically still alive, to advance they need to firstly beat HOBM tomorrow with a bonus point while also denying the Eagles anything AND with Ories also not scoring any competition points, THEN also needing those two sides to get no competition points again next weekend. It seems likely that one way or another Petone’s season concludes tomorrow, but stranger things have happened before.

They start with the same forward pack as last week, while the backline is reshuffled in the absence of Piri Paraone. Sam Blackburn starts at the back, Viliame Fine moves onto the wing and Tom Carter comes in at centre, with Joshua Styche handed the #11 jersey for his first start.

Poneke (5) have the bye this week. Already eliminated, they’ll finish up by hosting neighbours Ories in the final round next Saturday.

Premier 2 Hardham Cup

Things are far more straightforward in the Hardham Cup, where everything hinges on what Avalon (9) does at home at Fraser Park against Old Boys-University (19). To remain alive for another week the Wolves must get at least a bonus point, which would leave them four points adrift of the Upper Hutt Rams (14) who have the bye this week. OBU needs just a point to ensure that they’ll be playing in a fortnight’s time.

Both Marist St Pats (15) and Wellington (15) can secure their places with bonus point wins in their matches when they face already-eliminated duo Johnsonville (3) and Paremata-Plimmerton (3) at Helston and Hataitai respectively.

There’s a trio of players in this division reaching 50 games for their clubs tomorrow. MSP’s recently-returned American Pago Haini starts while Joe Walding-Karaitiana will join him when he gets on from the bench. The third is Avalon’s Tui Yandall who does so after returning to the Wolves after playing last season at Johnsonville.

Premier Reserve Ed Chaney and HD Morgan Memorial Cups

In the top division it’s a matter of sorting four teams from the five who can still qualify. Petone (19) should have little difficulty in seeing off already eliminated HOBM (1) and securing their place, and Norths (19) will do likewise if they beat Ories (11) at the Polo Ground. Tawa (16) could make it three teams when they face Wainuiomata (0), but that will depend on the result from Miramar. Poneke (12) have the bye this week, and irrespective of results will still be alive going into the last round.

In the second-tier three teams – MSP (19), the Upper Hutt Rams (19), and Old Boys-University (16) – are already playoff bound. That leaves Johnsonville (10), Wellington (6), and Paremata-Plimmerton (5) scrapping over the last place. Johnsonville have the hardest task this weekend as they host MSP, while Wellington and Pare-Plim face each other at Hataitai with both sides ideally needing a bonus point win. The third match is at Fraser Park between OBU and bottom-side Avalon (2).

Women’s Tia Paasi Memorial and Izzy Ford Cup

Tomorrow sees the third instalment of the Norths (12) vs Oriental-Rongotai (14) battle, with everything pointing towards a fourth and final part in three weeks’ time at the Petone Rec. This time the venue is Porirua Park, and after two close losses to their rivals the defending champions will be looking to get some momentum against them. It’s also possible that the winner will book their place for the final tomorrow, which will only happen if Petone (-2) beats Old Boys-University (5) at the Petone Rec in the other Division 1 match.

In Division 2 frontrunners Marist St Pats (10) and Paremata-Plimmerton (10) can secure home semi-finals with bonus point wins this weekend. MSP neighbours Poneke (0) on Evans Bay, with Pare-Plim at Fraser Park tonight to face Wainuiomata (5). Hutt Old Boys Marist (5) have the bye.

Colts John E Kelly and Vic Calcinai Memorials

Seven of the eight Division 1 teams are still in contention for playoff places, so tomorrow shapes as a pivotal round. At the top, HOBM (20) can not only secure a semi-final place, but ensure that is at home if they take maximum points against Petone (6) – who themselves must win to remain in the hunt – at the Petone Rec. OBU Green (14) and Tawa (15) can each also lock in finals rugby with a win when they meet at Nairnville, Ories (12) and Norths (11) meet at the Polo Ground with the chance to move as high as third, and MSP (9) also must win to remain in contention when hosting already-eliminated Pare-Plim (2) on Kilbirnie Park.

The picture should also become clearer in Division 2 as well. Poneke (20) can wrap up both a playoff spot and top-seeding with a win tonight under lights at Alex Moore Park against already-eliminated Johnsonville (2). Despite also being out of contention Wainuiomata (1) will seek their first win against Wellington (10) at Mary Crowther with the Axemen themselves looking to stay in the hunt, while at Fraser Park Avalon (14) and OBU Black (15) will push for the inside running on hosting that second semi-final. The Upper Hutt Rams (16) have this week’s bye.

College

An abridged week before a two-week hiatus for the school holidays. There’re just the three games on in the Premiership, headlined by the match in Strathmore between heavyweights Scots College and Silverstream with both coming off big wins a week ago. In the remaining matches Aotea hosts Rongotai as they meet for the second time this year, and St Bernard’s and Kapiti will look to put themselves into the wins column when they play in Lower Hutt. The fourth scheduled match, between St Pat’s Town and Hutt International has been deferred and it appears unlikely to be played at all, while the fifth match of the round between Wairarapa College and Wellington College is scheduled for two weeks’ time.

In Premier 2 the first game of the round has already been played with Wainuiomata beating Mana 14-13 in atrocious conditions on Wednesday afternoon. Tomorrow joint-leaders Tawa College and the St Pats Town 2nds are at home against fifth-placed Hutt Valley HS (1pm) and third-placed Upper Hutt respectively, Porirua host Taita, and the Rongotai and Silverstream 2nd XV’s meet in the city’s south (1pm).

All matches are at 2.30pm unless stated.

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