Plenty to play for in last regular season round of the year


Above: OBU will be chasing the top qualifier’s berth in the Hardham Cup when they host the Upper Hutt Rams tomorrow, while the Avalon Wolves will be packing down for the final time this year when they play Marist St Pat’s at Fraser Park. PHOTO: Hugh Pretorius.

  • By Scott MacLean

Draws & Teamlists HERE 

So it arrives, the final round of matches for the season before the playoffs next week. There will be disappointment for one Jubilee Cup side tomorrow, along with two more in the top Colts grade as their seasons – like others already – will end. For others the championship hunt will continue.

There’s another major milestone tomorrow, and for one of the more popular members of the Wellington club game. A week after his teammate Paulo Aukuso became the first, Whetu Henry becomes the second Oriental-Rongotai Magpie to play 200 Premier games for the club.

Before we get into the grade and match previews, here’s a reminder of the WRFU’s tiebreaker rules which might come into effect tomorrow:

  • If two teams are tied, then the tie is broken by who won the head-to-head match. If that was drawn, then points difference is used.
  • If three or more teams are tied, then the teams with the most wins in the round proceed. If required, any further teams are determined by points difference.

Premier Jubilee Cup

Four teams. Three places.

The pivotal clash tomorrow is that at William Jones between home side Wainuiomata (13) and Swindale winners Hutt Old Boys Marist (17). Its do-or-die for the hosts who simply must win to have a chance of progressing to the semi-finals, while a loss ends their season and renders the other results moot in terms of playoff qualification. They have both Peter and Thomas Umaga-Jensen available to them, and the twins will pair up in midfield and join their Scots College teammate TJ Va’a in the backline. Marvin Karawana lines up the blindside again, and veteran Justin Va’a starts a Premier game for the first time in over two years.

The possibilities for the Eagles range from finishing top and claiming the Andy Leslie Trophy to losing and having their season come to a crashing end, so they have plenty to play for as well. They have a couple of changes from the side that shut out Petone; Tasi Fidow comes in for James O’Reilly with Ben Power making the corresponding move from the blindside to hooker, and 200+ gamer Nick Risdon reclaims the #9 jersey in the absence of Connor Collins.

Tawa are in the box seat to win the Andy Leslie Trophy and qualify top for the semi-finals.

The first team on the bubble should Wainuiomata win are Norths (15), who are at home against Tawa (20). The visitors are the only team certain to be playing in a week’s time, and a win will ensure that is at Lyndhurst along with taking the Andy Leslie Trophy back there with them; a loss however could mean a trip elsewhere. Norths can likewise take care of their own business with a win and a home semi-final next week isn’t an impossibility (albeit needing other results to fall their way) but will miss out should they lose and Wainuiomata prevails.

The home team have rattled off a bunch of changes, including returns in the pack for Gerard Faitotoa, Tana Salzmann, and Josh Hunt, with Luca Rees dropping to the bench. There’s something of a surprise in the only change in the back division, with speedster Jordan Mellars-Rose named on the wing for his first Premier start of the year. By contrast, Tawa have stuck with the same starting 15 that saw off Wainuiomata a week ago and will again be marshaled by Kemara Hauiti-Parapara who now cannot be caught at the head of the Billy Wallace Best & Fairest standings.

The fourth team in the mix is Oriental-Rongotai (16), who make the short trip over to take on already-eliminated Poneke at Kilbirnie Park. It’s a straightforward assignment for the Magpies who’ll make it with a win, and they still have an outside chance of finishing top and claiming the silverware themselves. There’s no Ma’a Nonu, Matt Proctor, or Alex Fidow this week, but its still a strong looking side even with plenty of changes with Xavier Numia, Connor Lemon, Luke Tau’alupe, Declan Hay (playing his 50th and Blazer game), Reuben Va’a, Malachai Unasa, and Hayden Whelan all coming back in.

Poneke’s season effectively finished two weeks ago, but the opportunity is there to get one over their neighbours, and possibly even end their season as well. However, their side doesn’t include any of Greg Foe, Galu Taufale, Cole Stewart, or Levi Harmon, which would appear making that job a lot more difficult. Amongst those coming in are Daniel Taiopu and Jack Tully for just their second and fourth Premier starts respectively, while veteran winger and current manager Evan Belford’s name appears on the team sheet for the first time in five years. Halfback Jimmy-Lee Hongara earns his club blazer for his 30th start.

Petone has the bye in the final round, having been eliminated a week ago.

Those head-to-head tiebreakers held amongst the remaining contenders are:
Tawa (over HOBM), HOBM (Ories), Ories (Tawa, Norths), Norths (HOBM), Wainuiomata (Ories, Norths)

Coming Soon
Who do you think will be top qualifier for the Jubilee Cup semi-finals?
Who do you think will be top qualifier for the Jubilee Cup semi-finals?
Who do you think will be top qualifier for the Jubilee Cup semi-finals?

Premier 2 Hardham Cup

In contrast to the potential drama in the Jubilee Cup, there’s none going into the final round of the Hardham Cup. Old Boys-University (24) and Marist St Pats (20) have already locked in the home semi-finals, Wellington (19) – who have the bye this week – will be third, and the Upper Hutt Rams (14) in fourth. The Goats only need a point at home at Nairnville against the Rams to secure top spot (with the Bill Brien Challenge Trophy also on the line), so the strong likelihood is that these two will just do it all again next week. MSP will warm up by heading to Fraser Park to take on Avalon, while at Ngati Toa Domain Paremata-Plimmerton and Johnsonville meet to try and end their seasons on a winning note.

In team news for these sides Finnbarr Kerr-Newell and Teariki Ben Nicholas return to the OBU starting line-up, while opposing them for the Rams brothers Josh, Scott, and Todd Svenson start together for the first time. Avalon’s workhorse lock Laman Ah Wong plays his 50th game for the Wolves, with Fa’atonu Fili making his first start for the MSP Premiers this year with James and Billy Proctor lining up outside him. Pare-Plim will give a Premier run to some of their leading Colts players off the bench.

Premier Reserve Ed Chaney and HD Morgan Memorial Cups

It’s a similar story in both divisions; three of the four playoff teams have been found and the last will be found from head-to-head matches. In the Ed Chaney division Norths (24), Petone (24), and Tawa (21) are already through, with Norths and Tawa to determine top spot when they meet in the early game at Porirua Park. The final playoff spot will be found at Kilbirnie Park where Poneke (12) and Ories (12) clash, while Wainuiomata and HOBM will end their trying second stage of the season when they meet at William Jones. Petone have the bye and whether they are at home or Lyndhurst next week will be determined by the result at Porirua Park.

Over in the HD Morgan division MSP (24), OBU (21), and the Upper Hutt Rams (19) will be playing next week. MSP are already guaranteed to be at home and seem likely to claim top spot given they take on winless Avalon, while OBU and the Rams will sort out where the other match will be when they meet at Nairnville. The fourth place will be found at Ngati Toa Domain where Pare-Plim (5) host Johnsonville (10) after their rather contrasting results from a week ago and they are eliminated, with Wellington (11) having the bye but still in with a chance of qualifying if Johnsonville come away with nothing. Johnsonville will just a bonus point though, having beaten Wellington in their head-to-head meeting.

Norths have been scoring plenty of tries lately in the Women’s competition.

Women’s Tia Paasi Memorial and Izzy Ford Cups

The two finalists for the championship decider in two weeks’ time could be found as early as tomorrow. Should Norths (17) and Oriental-Rongotai (14) each win their respective matches away to already-eliminated Petone at the Rec and home against Old Boys-University (10) they’ll be through leaving the challenge for the other two teams to prove otherwise, especially the Impala’s who can still make it.

The Division 2 semi-finalists are set with only the who-plays-who to be worked out. Paremata-Plimmerton (15) and Marist St Pats (15) meet at Ngati Toa to determine top spot, with Hutt Old Boys Marist (5) and Wainuiomata (5) doing likewise at the Hutt Rec to sort out where they’ll be next week. Poneke have the bye with their season finishing last Saturday.

Colts John E Kelly and Vic Calcinai Memorial Cups

The only thing certain in the Division 1 grade going into the weekend is that HOBM (25) have already secured top spot, but tomorrow face a potential finals preview against defending grade champions OBU Green (19) at home on the Hutt Rec. For their part, a win for OBU will mean that they will host the second semi-final and just a single point will ensure that they are in the playoffs regardless.

Behind that though there’s potential for all sorts. Ories (17) sit third and a win over Pare-Plim at Ngati Toa will have them through, while a bonus point win for Tawa (15) will mean the same. However Tawa face Norths (12) at Porirua Park with the home team needing a big result themselves and Petone to upset MSP (14) at the Petone Rec to squeeze through. MSP need one of the teams ahead of them to lose, though if they are tied with anyone for fourth almost all the tiebreakers are in their favour.

In Division 2 the four playoff teams are sorted, but the final seedings are still to be found. Poneke (25) are also guaranteed top spot, and they are at Fraser Park to take on second-placed Avalon (19) with the Wolves needing a result to ensure they host the second semi-final. That’s because OBU Black (15) and the Upper Hutt Rams (16) meet at Kilbirnie Park and the winner of that match could leapfrog Avalon, while the loser is assured of taking on Poneke next week. The third match is between Johnsonville and Wainuiomata at Helston with both looking to finish their season in the win’s column, with Wellington having the bye to end their year.

In the lower grades there’s a clash of the titans in the Under 85kg grade with the Upper Hutt Rams and Avalon Wolves scheduled to meet at Maoribank.

There’s no college rugby on owing to the school holidays, though there is a match tonight at Porirua Park between combined selections from the Porirua and Eastern Suburbs schools, followed by one next week between the Porirua side and a Hutt team. The next match scheduled in the Premiership is tomorrow week with Wairarapa College hosting Wellington College to complete round 7.

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