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All systems go in club rugby tomorrow

Above and below right: Ories are at home for the first time this season, hosting Tawa, while Avalon celebrates its 40th anniversary and officially bids farewell to its old stand and clubrooms, hosting Wainuiomata. PHOTOS: Hugh Pretorius.

It’s pretty much all systems go tomorrow, as the remaining club grades kick into gear and begin their season journey. For the top-two grades it’s the third round of the Swindale and Harper Lock Shields, and after the

sweltering conditions of the past two weekends things promise to be very different tomorrow with rain and cool southerly forecast.

Premier Swindale Shield

Four sides head into the weekend with two wins from their two outings and each will be looking to extend that a further their claims to a top seven place and a berth in the Jubilee Cup, while at the other end of the table the four winless sides might already be playing catch-up.

A side in each of those groups clash tomorrow at the Polo Ground, where Oriental-Rongotai take up residence for the first time this year for the visit of Tawa. The Magpies have been able to ease into the season having eased to wins over Pare-Plim and Avalon to top the table on points-difference, and tomorrow might be the first real test of their credentials. Conversely Tawa would be looking at this as a must-win, having followed a sloppy Opening Day loss to Petone by losing a close one to HOBM and sit a lowly 13th on the ladder with just one bonus point. Their side tomorrow has just one change, but it’s a significant one with no Kemara Hauiti-Parapara and his place at halfback taken by Jono Boyd, while Ories have no Trent Renata but do have Xavier Numia at loosehead prop.

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The other side with a pair of bonus point wins are Norths, and they leave the JCS tomorrow to take on Petone at the Rec. The Villagers will be keen to get back on track after their loss last week and do get a couple of those who missed the loss to Wainuiomata back with Tupou Sopoaga and Jarrod Adams in the side but will again be without Mateaki Kafatolu and Piri Paraone amongst others. All three back replacements – Cam Ferreira, Daisuke Hamano, and Arif Ridzuan – will make their Premier debuts if they get on. Norths go after their 12th straight Swindale win with a side that has only three changes to last week with Ethan Robinson-Mate and Daniel Filemoni in the front row and former Porirua College captain Waylon Baker making his starting debut at lock.

Also boasting a pair of wins are Hutt Old Boys Marist, who’s regular early-season odyssey takes them to Nairnville Park and a meeting with Old Boys-University. The two sides experienced contrasting fortunes at the end

of their matches last Saturday with the Eagles taking a late win at Tawa, while the Goats had to watch as Esi Komaisavai scampered away to send them to a loss against Norths.

OBU do get young loosies Caleb Delany and Shamus Hurley-Langton back after they played for the Hurricane Hunters last week while Matt Goosen returns on the wing after missing all of 2018 due to a shoulder injury, but they’ll be without Teariki Ben Nicholas (at the Hong Kong 10s) and Dale Sabbagh with Paterson Carter and Scotsman Stewart Grey deputising for them tomorrow. HOBM make several changes of their own and as well as having the services of James O’Reilly and Salesi Rayasi, they bring in Daniel Corderoy, Willie Rua, Saia Fonoti, and veteran David Filipo.

The fourth unbeaten are Poneke, and they too are at home at Kilbirnie Park for the first time this year with the Upper Hutt Rams making the journey down. Last week saw both teams pull away from their opposition in the second half, but neither had things their own way in the first so this could be an intriguing clash for the neutrals. Also, of intrigue are who the two teams don’t have turning out for them tomorrow; Poneke will remain without both Greg Foe and Pakai Turia, while the Rams won’t have either Schrijvers brothers (who are at the Hong Kong 10s) after they scored four of their seven tries last round. Poneke do however have the return of Levi Harmon to their midfield after a turbulent 2018 that saw his season end with a torn ACL, while Josh Houston-Tupou makes his first start for the year for the Rams at hooker.

The only match between sides with a win and a loss each is at Fraser Park between Avalon and Wainuiomata for the Wolves’ Old Timers Day festivities. While some could be excused for having one eye on the after-match and the farewell to the Avalon clubrooms before the full-time move into the Sportsville hub there’s still a match to be played. Avalon will surely be keen for a better performance than last weekend when they were outplayed by Ories, and only a scoring burst in the second-half made the final look respectable. Wainuiomata were well worth their win over Petone, and so should be confident coming into this one.

One thing both sides should relish is that they’ll be on the grass instead of the artificial this week. Each side have made changes to last week, amongst them the hosts start Jordan King who was impressive when he came on last weekend, while all three Ah Wong brothers are back in the 22 after they were absent last week. Wainuiomata have Peter Umaga-Jensen available to them and he lines up at fullback and goal-kicking forward Matt Jacobs lines up at openside. The clash between the two respective No8s – Sefo Aumua and Ben Tupuola – should be well worth watching.

Marist St Pat’s make the short journey around the corner (or down the hill from their clubrooms) to Hataitai Park to face Wellington. The Axemen have been well in their two matches this season so far but have only wound up with a solitary competition point so far and face a stern test of their credentials with MSP having found their feet in overrunning Johnsonville. The Axemen do have one prominent new face, with Hurricanes squad member Richard Judd reallocated to them this year after playing a handful of games for Pare-Plim the past two seasons. He’ll face teammate Billy Proctor who has also been released to play club rugby and re-joins the Scarlets along with brother James. One notable inclusion is Keelan Whitman who makes his starting debut at No. 8.

Lastly, two winless sides clash at Helston Park, with Johnsonville facing Paremata-Plimmerton. The two have been evenly matched in recent years and usually the home team has usually been the winner, so the Hawks will be looking to maintain that while the Hammerheads will want to change that. Johnsonville will want to be much improved from last weekends thrashing at the hands of MSP and have made few changes, one of which is the return to the starting side for lock Eamonn Carr for the first time since beating cancer. Pare-Plim have the return of the old warhorse Danny Herewini who was initially though to be out for the year, while Justin Wilson makes his debut at fullback for the club his namesake father now coaches.

Four of the matches have an interclub trophy at stake as well tomorrow:

  • Norths and Petone will contest their Murray Henderson Shield, first played for in 2016 and currently held by Norths after their last-gasp 22-20 win on Opening Day last season. Henderson was amongst those that facilitated the merger of Norths’ predecessor clubs Porirua and Titahi Bay, a great friend of many Villagers, and his tireless work saw him made a Life Member of the WRFU. There is also the Collins Medal – honouring late cousins Jerry and Willie – for the player of the match.
  • OBU and HOBM play for their Wood Cup which honours Ron Wood. He was a founding member of HOBM’s predecessor club Woburn in 1945 (which later became High School OB and then in 1967 merged with the Hutt club to form Hutt OB), having earlier played for OBU’s forerunner Wellington College OB. OBU hold this after winning 48-16 last year, while they also won the Jubilee Cup contest between the two.
  • The Alby Makeham Shield is the prize between Poneke and the Upper Hutt Rams. Makeham was a Wellington representative halfback played for both clubs – Poneke from 1951 to 1959 and Upper Hutt from 1960-62 – and such was the regularity he put boot to ball he earned himself the nickname “Kick it again”. This is held by Poneke following their 32-17 win at Maidstone in the pairs only meeting last year.
  • The Avalon Wolves and Wainuiomata will play for their Anthony Waldrom Trophy which was inaugurated last year. A former Wainuiomata first five-eighth, Waldrom is perhaps better known these days as the father of still-current Avalon players Scott and Thomas. The Wolves hold this after their 33-32 Opening Day win last year, though Wainuiomata won their last meeting in the Hardham Cup by 22-17.

As normal, all seven Premier matches get underway at 2.45pm.

Draws & Results HERE 

Premier Reserve Harper Lock Shield

The highlight clash of the round for the second-tier is at the Polo Ground where unbeaten sides Ories and Tawa clash with each looking to maintain their place at the sharp end of the table. They sit just behind leaders MSP, who fresh off racking up a century over Johnsonville make the short trip to Hataitai to take on Wellington who are themselves coming off a heavy defeat. The side that inflicted that and the fourth unbeaten team so far, the Upper Hutt Rams, are also in the eastern suburbs as they visit Poneke at Kilbirnie.

In the remaining matches fifth and sixth meet at the Petone Rec with Norths visiting Petone, Avalon and Wainui clash at Fraser Park, OBU and HOBM take to Nairnville Park, and either Johnsonville or Pare-Plim will get their first win when they meet at Helston.

All seven matches are 1pm kick-offs.

Other grades

The remaining WRFU grades all get underway this weekend. For three of them – Women’s, Colts, and Under 85kg – it’s the opening round of their competition seasons while the First and Reserve Grades have grading tomorrow and next weekend as the union attempts to sort out the right mix and balance going forward.

Starting with the Women, nine teams front for the season which, as with last year, kicks off with a Gala Day out at Ngati Toa Domain for the opening round of the Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy. Defending champions Norths will look to get their defence off to the perfect start when they face Marist St Pats on the #3 ground, while their great rivals and fellow perennial contenders Oriental-Rongotai will aim to do likewise next door against Petone on the #4 field. Across the access road Hutt Old Boys Marist face Poneke on #2, while home side Paremata-Plimmerton are on #1 against last years second-round Division 2 winners Old Boys-University. All four matches get underway at 11.30am, with the combined Avalon-Wainuiomata side having the first-round bye.

Fifteen Colts sides also start the season, one from each of the 14 Premier clubs and a second from Old Boys-University and split into two divisions. In the Division 1 Paris Memorial Trophy last years two first-round trophy winners meet on the St Patrick’s College turf with holders Marist St Pats taking on the winners of the corresponding Division 2 title from the past two years, the JRD Cup, Paremata-Plimmerton. Elsewhere in the division there’s a rematch of last years championship final with OBU Green and HOBM meeting at the Ian Galloway cage, neighbours Tawa and Norths meet at Lyndhurst, and the Upper Hutt Rams and Petone clash at Maoribank. The three division two matches have Ories taking on Wellington at Polo, Poneke and Johnsonville are at Kilbirnie Park, while Avalon and Wainuiomata meet on the Fraser Park turf. OBU Black has the bye. All seven games kick-off at 1pm.

There are 12 Under 85kg teams lined up for this season, which is up one on last year (but well down on the 20 from a few years ago). The changes this year see the Kapiti side rebranded under the Paraparaumu banner, the return of both the OBU Spartans name after a few years’ absence and Petone, and the absence of former champions Tawa who have been unable to put together a team this season. The first-round prize is the JC Bowl, held by Avalon who came up just a game short of an unbeaten season a year ago and will be keen to go that one better this year. They kick-off at home on Fraser Park against Eastbourne, while season champions the Upper Hutt Rams are in the city to face the OBU Bunnies at Te Whaea. In other matches Wellington and Petone meet at Prince of Wales, Wests and Paraparaumu do likewise at the Ian Galloway cage, and MSP and the OBU Spartans are at the St Pats turf, with all five of these matches at 2.45pm. The remaining match is between HOBM and Johnsonville on the Hutt Rec at 1pm.

Elsewhere the 23 First and Reserve Grade teams are lined up in grading matches, with some notables here having last year’s unbeaten First Grade champions the HOBM Barbarians lining up against the OBU Wolfpack, the Stokes Valley Chiefs heading to face competition returnees Norths, and Reserve grade winners the Upper Hutt Thirsty Rams are across in Wainuiomata. And finally, the Presidents Grade returns as well with 12 teams this year.

Crowds at Lyndhurst Park last week. PHOTO: Barry Stead.

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