Above: Paremata-Plimmerton are kicking on to celebrate their 60th anniversary this weekend, hosting Avalon at Ngati Toa Domain.
- By Scott Maclean
It’s the mid-point of the round in the top three men’s grades, with the obvious focus being on the two Premier competitions where some teams are already in danger of dropping out of contention with three weeks to go. In some of the lower grades it’s also the last of the season’s Old Timers’ Days, with festivities at both Paremata-Plimmerton and Eastbourne.
Premier Jubilee Cup
(note: ‘*’ denotes a team yet to have their bye week)
All three respective match-ups were close when they took place in the Swindale Shield; will that be the case again tomorrow?
Unbeaten for nearly two months now, leaders Wainuiomata (12*) head over the hill to take on neighbours Petone (1*) at the Petone Rec. The contrast in their current form is marked, with the visitors three-from-three and favourites to extend that while home side have the opposite record. The Villagers do have their remaining matches all at home, but that advantage could be rendered moot if they don’t get the win tomorrow especially since they have the final round bye, and they’d like to reverse the 13-18 scoreline from earlier in the year.
Petone have named an unchanged starting XV from that against Norths a week ago, with their only changes being on the bench. It’s a similar story for Wainuiomata with just two in Kade Tiatia replacing Tanara Haenga in the front row while two-time Best & Fairest winner Ben Tupuola takes the No.8 jersey in place of Teru Time who was lost for the year last week with a broken leg.
On the other side of the river at the Hutt Rec, Hutt Old Boys Marist (6) tangle with Poneke (5*), where a win for either side could go a long way to ensuring they’re amongst the final four. Their early meeting this year produced a cracking 36-34 scoreline in the Eagles favour and if conditions are right we could see something similar tomorrow.
HOBM will be without regular pivot Glen Walters, so Anthony Utanga will partner veteran Nick Risdon in the halves. Brandyn Laursen shifts to fullback and Francis Tanuvasa starts in midfield. The only change in the pack is Rei Manaia back in for Joe ‘Apikatoa. Poneke will again rely on their forwards and the mercurial Pakai Turia; their changes have Hennie Tui, Conor Strang, and Kurt Sickler in for Rhys Reiri, Jimmy Hewitt, and Levi Harmon respectively.
The third of the week’s Jubilee matches is at Lyndhurst Park with Tawa (8) being visited by Oriental-Rongotai (1). Despite having the bye Tawa weren’t idle, being put through their paces in a practice game last Saturday morning in an attempt by their coaching staff to avoid any rust settling. Pepesana Patafilo and Tane Heremaia return to their side, but they’ll be without captain Kemara Hauiti-Parapara and usual bench weapon Peniasi Tokakece which may see a change in their tactics.
Ories are in a similar predicament to Petone in that they need wins, and while they have had their bye already they’ve already lost two of the three matches they’ll play at the Polo Ground this round. They’re being helped by having two of their Hurricanes available in Xavier Numia and Matt Proctor, as well as bruising ball carrier Luke Tau’alupe.
When the pair met earlier this year Tawa put a slow start behind them to win 22-19, a situation Ories would like to reverse tomorrow.
Norths (10) has this week’s bye.
Premier 2 Hardham Cup
With leaders Old Boys-University (14) on the bye, the opportunity exists for the other teams to make their push for a playoff place.
Second on the table after their win last week, Wellington (10*) head up to Helston to take on a Johnsonville (2) side still looking for their first win on the year, and at the very least looking to atone somewhat for the humiliating 86-5 toweling they got from the Axemen in their Swindale meeting, while a win for the visitors sets them up well for a playoff berth.
Out at Maoribank Park the Upper Hutt Rams (9*) will be looking for lightning to strike twice this season when facing Marist St Pats (5), having broken their 26-game, 16-year duck against them in their Swindale match, but they will need to find form having been well beaten by Wellington a fortnight ago before squeezing past Pare-Plim. MSP will themselves be looking to get back to winning ways having fallen to OBU last week and will be taking nothing for granted. A notable inclusion in the MSP side is the return of now-American player Pago Haini at No. 8.
Lastly, the match between Paremata-Plimmerton (1*) and Avalon (5) provides the main on-field entertainment for Old Timers’ Day at Ngati Toa. Both sides need to win to keep their playoff ambitions intact, and while they had the same result last weekend in losing to the Rams and Wellington respectively, the manner of those were quite different with Pare-Plim pushing hard and the Wolves collapsing early. A trio of players reach 50 Premier games with long-serving Pare-Plim halfback/wing Michael Martinez doing so for the home side, and prop Ryan Nepia and halfback Jordan King bringing up the mark for the Wolves.
All six matches are at 2.45pm.
Women’s Tia Paasi Memorial and Izzy Ford Cups
The second of the six rounds of the Women’s competition has last week’s two winners – Old Boys-University (albeit by default) and Oriental-Rongotai – meeting at Nairnville Park where there will be some interest on how Ories fare without their two Black Ferns. The second game is at Porirua Park where Norths and Petone will look to get into the winner’s circle; former after last weekends narrow, last-gasp loss and the latter after not being able to take to the field at all.
In the division two matches Paremata-Plimmerton return to action when they host Hutt Old Boys Marist at Ngati Toa Domain while minnows Poneke and Wainuiomata clash at Kilbirnie. Marist St Pat’s have the bye this week.
All four matches are at 11.30am.
Colts John E Kelly and Vic Calcinai Memorials
With a four-way tie at the top and the remaining sides all within striking distance it shapes as a crucial week in the top division. The only meeting of those in the top four is at the Hutt Rec where HOBM host their city counterparts MSP, while OBU Green and Tawa will be looking to keep themselves at the sharp end when they host Petone at Nairnville and Ories at Redwood (12.30pm) respectively. Paremata-Plimmerton and Norths will look to make up ground when they meet at Ngati Toa.
In Division 2 Johnsonville take on Wellington under lights at Alex Moore Park tonight, while the Upper Hutt Rams face winless Wainuiomata at Maoribank tomorrow. The third match was to be Poneke against OBU Black at Kilbirnie, but the students have been forced to default
The fifth round of the Premiership starts at 1pm with Hutt International, buoyed by their upset win over Aotea, hosting Wairarapa College in Trentham. The later kick-offs have the joint-leaders both in the Hutt Valley, with Silverstream being visited by Aotea, and St Pat’s Town away at St Bernard’s. Rongotai make the journey up the coast to take on Kapiti, and Wellington College hosts Scots in what shapes as the headline match of the round.
In Premier 2 the leaders are unbeaten pair Tawa and the St Pat’s Town 2nd XV, and they are away to Wainuiomata and at home against Taita respectively. The rest of the matches look even in terms of positions on the table; HVHS and Upper Hutt will look to keep pace with the leaders when they meet in Lower Hutt, winless pair Mana and the Rongotai 2nds clash in Elsdon, and Porirua head over the Haywards to take on the Silverstream 2nds in the early game there.
Unless stated, all matches are at 2.30pm.