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Eastern suburbs focus for fourth round Swindale Shield fixtures

Above and below: Action from last weekend’s match between Oriental-Rongotai and Tawa. Ories are back at the Polo Ground tomorrow against the Upper Hutt Rams. PHOTOS: Barry Stead.

Round 4 Swindale Shield teams and draw:

It’s another full weekend on the club slate, and while tomorrows weather doesn’t look the greatest, it is meant to improve by the time the Premier matches kick-off. That should lead to ideal conditions and with it the promise that tomorrow’s fourth round could not only lead to some entertaining rugby but start seeing the points table taking shape towards the midpoint of the first-round.

Premier Swindale Shield

The place to be tomorrow is out in Wellington’s Eastern Suburbs with all four Premier clubs based on that side of the Mt Victoria at home, while conversely not even one of the Hutt Valley clubs are. Another factor in play tomorrow is the absence of some leading club players, reportedly being rested ahead of the upcoming Hurricanes Development team’s trip to Japan.

The highlight clash of the round is the top-of-the table one at Kilbirnie Park, between the last two sides to have perfect three-from-three records; Poneke and Hutt Old Boys Marist. The Streetkids have been impressive out of the gate and get a real boost tomorrow with the return of both Greg Foe and Pakai Turia back in their line-up, while prop Hennie Tui will earn his club blazer with his 50th start. HOBM won’t have James O’Reilly and Salesi Rayasi tomorrow, but their confidence will remain sky-high over seeing off OBU and will be wanting to be perfectly placed before they return to the Nest next weekend. There’s also the odd curiosity of their bench which might as well be called the “Jeagles” tomorrow as Nash Fiso is the only one who’s first name doesn’t start with J.

The two also play for their Roy John Trophy. John played his club rugby for both Poneke and Hutt FC and was a Wellington representative in both rugby and cricket. HOBM hold this after their 29-22 win last season, though Poneke won their Jubilee Cup clash 50-33 in the final round with both teams already having been eliminated from making the playoffs.

Just up the road at Hataitai unbeaten Norths – with two wins and a draw – visit Wellington. After last weekend’s heroics, can the Axemen do it again? They won’t have Richard Judd but do get Henry Hocking back at full back in a largely unchanged line-up. Midfielders Satch Pryor and Lati Lati kept Billy Proctor in check last weekend and will be called on again with Losi Filipo back in the Norths side. He’ll be outside Jayden McCarthy – an interesting selection at first-five with Esi Komaisavai on the bench – indicating that they may go with a physical ball-running approach.

At the farthest end of the rugby chain at the Polo Ground, home side Oriental-Rongotai will be looking to get back on track against the Upper Hutt Rams after losing their unbeaten record at the hands of Tawa. They have some enforced changes put will keep faith in their bruising ball carrying duo of Luke Tau’alupe and William Heather and will see if Malachai Unasa can add to his record of scoring doubles in every match so far this year.  For the second successive week, the Rams make the bus trip into the city and ideally need a win to avoid falling into a one-win three-loss hole at this point of the year. They are largely unchanged up front, but talking points include Tyler Tane moving to first-five and Nua Fono-Hunt to halfback in a reshuffled back division. Daniel Schrijvers will return to 15s duty from the bench, and there’s inclusion of otherwise-retired veteran Ben Aoina there for another week.

They’ll contest their Bob Lendrum Cup. Lendrum was Oriental’s senior captain in the 1960’s, and player-coach in the years following the merger with Rongotai College OB. He then had a stint coaching Fiji during which they beat both Queensland and New South Wales, before returning to settle in Upper Hutt where he mentored several coaches. The Rams are the holders after their narrow 36-34 win at Maidstone last season.

The fourth game in the city is one of the perennial highlights with Marist St Pat’s taking on Petone at Evans Bay. The visiting Villagers are near to full strength with both Mateaki Kafatolu and Piri Paraone returning to the starting side for the first time since the opening day win and will be greatly buoyed by holding Norths to a share of the spoils last weekend. For MSP they need to rebound from the shock loss to the Axemen and defeat here would leave them with their worst start to a Swindale Shield in many years. Their side tomorrow sees Naitoa Ah Kuoi make his first appearance of the year with Tietie Tuimauga swapping sides of the front row to prop against Petone’s Pasi Uluilakepa.

At stake is their Bill Elvy Memorial Trophy. Elvy played for Petone soon after arriving in Wellington and was a representative player during the 1920s. His son Norm played for both the Marist and St Patrick’s Old Boys clubs, and grandson Martin played for MSP. MSP are the holders after their 50-22 win last year

Heading out of the east, Old Boys-University will be looking to get back on track at after consecutive losses, with the Avalon Wolves the visitors to Nairnville Park. The injury bug is already a concern for the Goats, with 17 different players having suited up for their backline alone. That means even more responsibility falls on the old stagers like Finnbarr Kerr-Newell, Jonathan Fuimaono, and Agustin Escalona in the pack and the returning Dale Sabbagh to drive the herd around the pack. The Wolves will be stinging after failing to fire a shot last Saturday and will look to make amends in a big way and will be bolstered by the returns of veteran lock Akuila Alatini and youngster Chris Aumua, with outside back Poata Tuisamoa playing his 50th match. OBU took this match last year by 40 to 12.

Heading out north, two teams that won last weekend clash with Paremata-Plimmerton hosting Wainuiomata at Ngati Toa Domain. The home side were happy with the result but not the performance against Johnsonville, but a win here could put them on the fringes of the top seven. Prop Teariki Kie Tonga makes his first appearance for the year with Willie Va’alepu handed his debut, and the visitors will have to be wary of conceding kickable penalties given the form that Hayden Saunders is in with the boot right now. Wainuiomata come up against their former coach Justin Wilson and roll out a side with several changes to that that saw off Avalon. Amongst them Josh Robertson-Weepu returns at fullback, and Teru Time switches to No8 with no Ben Tupuola. There’s also one TJ Va’a named on the bench in his latest comeback to rugby at this level.

Finally, its back to Helston where Tawa make the short trip to their southern neighbours. Johnsonville make just a handful of changes as they continue to look to break their Swindale duck that now stands at 19 games since their last win in this part of the season. Facing the bottom side Tawa have taken the opportunity to try some players in different spots – such as Tom Maiava at centre – and lighten the workload on others, but should they be needed the likes of Hemi Fermanis, Sitiveni Paongo, and skipper Kemara Hauiti-Parapara are on the bench

The two sides contest the Carman Cup, named for Arthur Carman who was a Johnsonville club member and first Patron of Tawa when it was formed in 1947; their entry into the WRFU was sponsored by their hosts on Saturday

All seven matches are at the usual 2.45pm start time.

Premier Reserve Harper Lock Shield

Defending HLS champions MSP continued on their merry way, racking up their 18th consecutive win in this competition last Saturday over Wellington, and tomorrow they welcome midtable side Petone to Evans Bay. The other three unbeatens are the Upper Hutt Rams who are at the Polo Ground to face fifth-placed Ories, Tawa are just down the road from home to face Johnsonville at Helston, and Norths head to Hataitai to face winless Wellington.

The remaining three games have Poneke taking on winless HOBM in the early game at Kilbirnie Park, Pare-Plim and Wainuiomata clash at Ngati Toa, and OBU and Avalon meet at Nairnville in a meeting of the two sides smack-bang in the middle of the table.

Women’s Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy

Women’s second round Draws & Results and teams (as available):

The second round of the Women’s grade gets underway tonight with a pair of matches under lights, with three of this weekend’s being of real interest to observers, as they’ll give further indication of the relative strengths of the side. In tonight’s games, Marist St Pat’s will be looking to get some confidence at home on the St Pats artificial against Wainuiomata, with the latter opening their campaign after having the week one bye, while up at Te Whaea Poneke – who hopefully will be able to field a team this week – face the massive challenge of taking on Oriental-Rongotai. Both games kick-off at 7.30pm.

The remaining two matches are both in the Hutt Valley tomorrow. One is a repeat of last year’s Division Two Izzy Ford Trophy final at the Hutt Rec between Hutt Old Boys Marist and Old Boys-University. The Impalas won that match last year but will have to rebound from a first-up loss, while the Eagles didn’t have to leave home, having been defaulted to by Poneke. The second is at the Petone Rec between last year’s Division 1 beaten semi-finalists, where the Petone Ponies take on Paremata-Plimmerton. Petone put up a spirited resistance against Ories, even managing to score four tries against them, while Pare-Plim started with an emphatic win over OBU. Both are timed for 11.30am, with Norths having this week’s bye.

Colts Paris Memorial and JRD Cup

It’s a case of winners and losers in this week’s top division draw. Marist St Pats looked impressive in the opening week and remain on home turf on the St Pats artificial to take on Petone who had the first-round’s smallest winning margin.  The second match is at Porirua Park where two of the perennial powerhouses – Norths and defending champions OBU Green – meet. The remaining matches have Pare-Plim returning home to Ngati Toa for the visit of HOBM, and Tawa head over the Haywards to face the Upper Hutt Rams at Maoribank Park.

The week’s Division 2 contests start tonight with Johnsonville and Oriental-Rongotai taking to Alex Moore Park at 7.30pm, while tomorrow Wainuiomata and Poneke clash at William Jones, and OBU Black are in action for the first time when they host Avalon at the Ian Galloway cage. Wellington have the bye this round.

All Saturday matches are at the normal 1pm time.

Other grades

After last weekend’s semi-abortive start hopefully there’s lift off in the Under 85kg grade this time out, though with only five games after Petone withdrew leaving 11 sides. The schedule has the Upper Hutt Rams heading up the coast to take on last week’s big winners Paraparaumu in Waikanae at 1pm. At 2.45pm Avalon and MSP are on the Fraser Park turf, HOBM and the OBU Scallywags (formerly the Bunnies) are at Trafalgar Park, Wests make the journey out to HW Shortt to face Eastbourne, Wellington and Johnsonville take to the Te Whaea artificial, and the OBU Spartans have the bye.

The First and Reserve Grades are in the second of their two weeks of grading with their structure to be confirmed after that, while the Presidents are back out there again.

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