- By Adam Julian, Scott MacLean and Steven White
This weekend the focus moves away from the club game and onto the college playoffs and the start of the representative season; the latter headlined by the Lions opening NPC game against Tasman in Blenheim tomorrow afternoon.
Scots College (1) v St Pats Town (4)
Scots College have made the semi-finals for the seventh time in eight seasons while Town haven’t missed the top four since 2013.
After making consecutive finals in 2014 and 2015, Scots have stumbled at this stage of the year in 2017 to Wellington College and in 2018 to St Pats Town, despite enjoying a home ground advantage in both fixtures.
Last year with scores locked at 19-19, and with only a few minutes to play, Scots College second five-eighth Sage Shaw-Tait broke through, setting up a try to No. 8 Epa Sailo to the right of the posts to make it 26-19 to Scots.
Scots College tighthead prop Junior Uelese went down injured and after a long injury break, Town launched a concerted raid from an attacking scrum in centre field which climaxed in a try for replacement prop Soul Lauvi Johnson.
At 26-26, and with no provision for extra time, Scots just had to hang on to progress to the final as the highest ranked qualifier.
But from the kick-off, St Pat’s held possession and worked their way up into Scots territory and eventually scored through centre Emin Kaya.
Can Town repeat history against the top qualifiers who haven’t lost in nine starts and scored more points than any other schools in 2019?
Town was beaten 39-27 by Scots at Evans Bay Park last Saturday, but showed enough in the final quarter to suggest they are capable of an upset. Town scored the last two tries of the game, and were held up over the line with the final play.
Town have plenty of size in the pack, holding their own at set-piece. Lock Rory Woods and No.8 Ronaldo Seumanufagai are especially effective in the carry.
Town have experienced backs. Centre Boston Christie will be looking to step it up while wing Herman Seumanufagai scored two tries and when he is actively pursuing work, he is difficult to contain.
Scots’ threats very much reside out wide. The pack is reliable, and hardly absent of bulk, but Hurricanes U18 reps Oryann Kalolo, Ethan Webster-Nonu, Sage Shaw-Tait and Roderick Solo represent serious ammunition in the back division.
Town must tackle more stoutly, take early chances, eliminate unforced errors and force Scots to doubt themselves for the first time this year.
Town beat Scots in the 2015 final with this approach and pulled a rabbit from a hat 12 months ago.
Scots have form, but this could get tricky if the hosts can’t match their fast start of a week ago were they were strikingly clinical.
Rongotai College (2) v St Pats Silverstream (3)
Rongotai College feature in the semis for the first time since 2016, having failed to win the Premiership since 2003.
Silverstream have won the Premiership the past two years, but the last time they didn’t, it was Rongotai who ended their season.
Rongotai are on a serious roll at present. After a narrow loss to St Pats Town, Rongotai have won five on the trot and have only conceded 30 points.
Wellington College was tamed for the first time in 16 years and Silverstream beaten 10-5, after Rongotai had lost that traditional 60-0 and 67-0 in their last two cracks.
Rongotai should welcome back Reon Paul whose been outstanding in the midfield and makes first-five Dylan Jackson an even better player. Halfback Trevall Tolova’a-Uele is a pivotal figure and wing Tana Tusa and second-five Taupe Fa’avae provide spark.
Rongotai have had issues at lineout time this year and their scrum isn’t beastly either so they will have to be better at set-piece where Stream will back themselves. No.8 Joyner Gaualofa has had a top season.
Silverstream were poor last Wednesday after a fine 33-24 win on the Rugby Channel against Town. The visitor’s senior players, Rocco Berry, Riley Higgins and Akira Ieremia need to show greater leadership to avoid a repeat loss. After a strong start, Silverstream lost all direction in the wild weather.
Silverstream have won seven of their past eight semi-finals. Rongotai last hosted a semi in 2011.
The Premier 2 division, which will highlight the college finals day at Silverstream next week, is also at the semi-final stage. Top qualifiers Tawa College are unbeaten in the grade and will host the three-time defending champion Silverstream 2nd XV, who only snuck in when Hutt Valley HS coughed up a large lead to lose to Porirua in the final round. In turn that will give Porirua some confidence as they head into the city to face the St Pats Town 2nd XV in the other semi-final.
Aside from the Premier 3, Under 15 Division 1, Under 65kg Division 2, and the Under 55kg where the finalists were found last week, all others will be found tomorrow.
One more division hits playoff mode tomorrow, the Reserve Grade Division 1. Top qualifiers the Poneke Ruffnuts host the Petone Brotherhood at Kilbirnie Park with the Upper Hutt Pirates heading to Helston to face the Johnsonville Cripples; both games kick-off at 2.30pm.
Division 2 still has two rounds to run before they reach the same stage, while the Presidents Grade wrap up their year with the annual “Pressies Day” again being hosted by Paremata-Plimmerton at Ngati Toa Domain.
There’s a trio of rep games on in Wellington tomorrow. At the Hutt Rec a Wellington Development selection takes on the Wairarapa-Bush Heartland side, providing the latter with a valuable hit-out ahead of their provincial season.
Across the hills there’s a double-header at Porirua Park. First up the U19s face the Centurions side ahead of their qualifying rounds for the Jock Hobbs tournament in Taupo in just over a month’s time, while that is followed by the always entertaining clash between the Wellington Samoan and Wellington Maori sides.
Teams (all teams subject to change):
- Xavier Numia (Ories)
- James O’Reilly (HOBM)
- Alex Fidow (Ories)
- Naitoa Ah Kuoi* (MSP)
- James Blackwell (Petone)
- Mateaki Kafatolu (Petone)
- Du’Plessis Kirifi (Norths – captain)
- Teariki Ben-Nicholas (OBU)
- Kemara Hauiti-Parapara (Tawa)
- Jackson Garden-Bachop (Norths)
- Ben Lam (Tawa)
- Peter Umaga-Jensen (Wainuiomata)
- Billy Proctor (MSP)
- Wes Goosen (OBU)
- Connor Garden-Bachop* (Norths
- Kaliopasi Uluilakepa (Petone)
- Sef Fa’agase*
- Morgan Poi* (OBU)
- Josh Furno*
- Galu Taufale (Poneke)
- Connor Collins* (HOBM)
- Piri Paraone* (Petone)
- Vince Aso* (Paremata-Plimmerton)
- Ha’amea Ahio (Ories)
- Josh Houston-Tupou (Upper Hutt Rams)
- Tietie Tuimauga (MSP)
- Agustin Escalona (OBU)
- James Poloniati (Wellington)
- Josh To’omaga (MSP)
- Lise Soloa (HOBM)
- James Tuiatua (MSP)
- Kyle Preston (Tawa)
- Brandyn Laursen (HOBM)
- Losi Filipo (Norths)
- Nash Fiso-Vaelai (HOBM)
- Pepesana Patafilo (Tawa)
- Malachai Unasa (Ories)
- Tom Maiava (Tawa)
- Ethan Robinson-Mate (Norths)
- Ben Aumua-Peseta (Tawa)
- Ben Power (HOBM)
- Eduan Struwig (Petone)
- Jordan Gillies (HOBM)
- Logan Henry (Petone)
- Callum Harkin (OBU)
- Reuben Va’a (Ories)
- Alapati Soke (Petone)
- Poasa Poasa (Ories)
- Ben Butler (Wellington)
- Mellenniumma Leota (Norths)
- David Filipo (HOBM)
- Jimmy Hewitt (Poneke)
- William Faialaga-Heather (Ories)
- Hinckley Siaosi (Ories)
- Fa’atonu Fili (MSP)
- Faresa Tasale (MSP)
- Isaia Petelo (MSP)
- Alex Ropeti (Ories)
- Tuga Mativa (Ories)
- PJ Iosefo (Tawa)
- Jerome Va’ai (Norths)
- Gerard Faitoto’a (Norths)
- Ken Kapeli (MSP)
- Hawaiki Va’a-Wallace (Tawa)
- Ty Poe (OBU)
- Fereti Soloa (HOBM)
- Kalim Kelemete (Tawa)
- Jonathan Fuimaono (OBU)
- Wirangi Parata (OBU)
- Whetu Henry (Ories)
- Taine Tata (Upper Hutt Rams)
- Dylan Williamson (Petone)
- Matt Jacobs (Wainuiomata)
- William Rua (HOBM)
- Luke Omeri (Pare-Plim)
- Jimmy Lee Hongara (Poneke)
- Sam Clarke (Tawa)
- Andy Ellis (Ories)
- Jayden McCarthy (Norths)
- Jordan-Glen Bradbrook (HOBM)
- Jarrod Adams (Petone)
- Pakai Turia (Poneke)
- Eli Hunt (Upper Hutt Rams)
- Rhys Reiri (Poneke)
- Joe Reid (Wellington)
- Ben Taui (HOBM)
- Dominic Herlihy (OBU)
- Apanui Heemi (Upper Hutt Rams)
- Declan Hay (Ories)
- Sheridan Rangihuna (HOBM)
- Travahn Ta’ufo’ou (OBU)
- Adam Clark (OBU)
- Jack Beetson