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Easter uprising for Swindale Shield strugglers

Swindale Shield draw and teamlists for round five HERE

It’s an abbreviated week on the club rugby fields this Easter weekend with only the top two men’s grades and the women in action. The depth of some clubs will be tested with player absences – some of that due to the seemingly needless Hurricanes Hunters trip to Japan with 18  Wellington players involved in this squad to play Japan A –  but that won’t detract from the fact that several matches are must-wins for one or both of the participants.

It’s Old Timers’ Days at both Petone and Oriental-Rongotai, with four interclub trophies on the line in the Premier clashes tomorrow.

Premier Swindale Shield

Now sitting alone at the top of the table as the only side with four wins from four and all on the road, things couldn’t be going any better for Hutt Old Boys Marist as they settle into the Hutt Rec Nest for the first time this year. Their visitors on Saturday are Wellington, with the Axemen looking to take down the other Marist club after their win over MSP two weeks ago and advance their own Jubilee Cup case. The Eagles side tomorrow has just one change in the backs with Nash Fiso coming onto the wing, while up front Tasi Fidow fronts at hooker with former Silverstream captain Jack McCormack making his Premier debut in Fidow’s usual place at blindside. Wellington have rung several changes, with seven players starting tomorrow who didn’t last Saturday plus Eremia Tapsell switching back to fullback. Two of their number, lock James Polniati and halfback Isaac Bracewell are away with the Hunters.

The only other unbeaten side are Norths, and their task tomorrow is one of the more eagerly anticipated clashes of recent years as they head down to Lyndhurst Park to face Tawa in their Sammy Saili Memorial Trophy clash. Tawa are another side affected by the Hunters and will be without Sitiveni Paongo, Pepesana Patafilo, and skipper Kem Hauiti-Parapara. Their experienced forward pack remains intact and that might be where they put the emphasis tomorrow. Norths look set to combat that, having gone with five forwards on the bench, a group that includes veteran Chris Middleton for the first time this year along with debutant Melleniumma Gerard-Leota, with Denny To’o and TK Bishop their midfield combination this week.

Sammy Saili played over 200 Premier games across the two clubs (Norths 1992-95, Tawa 1996-2008), coached both Tawa club juniors and at Tawa College, and was a respected church and community leader until his sudden passing in 2009. The trophy was presented by his family the following year. Norths are the current holders after their 36-13 win last year, and also took the last meeting between these two 22-5 in the Jubilee Cup rounds. Tomorrow’s game should be another physical encounter.

Oriental-Rongotai’s methodical win over the Upper Hutt Rams moved them into third, and on their Old Timers Day they’ll be looking to retain that at the very least when they host winless Johnsonville for their Ash Pointon Cup clash. Pointon was a stalwart of both clubs, playing over 160 for Ories throughout the 1980’s and then over 100 more for Johnsonville before his passing just before this fixture two years ago. Ories will be looking to repeat their 43-3 win from last year and look to be taking the opportunity to rest some players (such as Luke Taualupe), give others a crack like flanker Manu Maihi, and try different combinations with Paulo Aukuso lining up this week on the wing. The Hawks will be after some solace after their mauling by Tawa, and will front with largely the same side with former Petone player Brady Cutting getting his first start at No.8.

Poneke’s narrow lost to HOBM dropped them to fourth, and they make the trip out over the Hill to face fifth-placed Wainuiomata at William Jones. They’ll play for their Hakaraia Trophy, which honours both Paul Hakaraia – who was associated with both clubs – and his son Peter who died in a diving accident in 2007, and held by Poneke after won 26-21 in their only meeting last year. The clash is pivotal for both teams as a win keeps them in the top-seven places, while for the loser they could find themselves on the outside looking in.

The notable inclusion for the home side is TJ Va’a at halfback and making just his second start in two years, while outside him the old firm of Michael Lealava’a and Marvin Karawana are reunited in midfield. Poneke have switched up their backline with Kurt Sickler moving into #10 and Pakai Turia to fullback, while in the pack Brandon Feterika makes his first start and Api McMillan-Parata is at openside with Greg Foe absent.

Two sides currently on the edge of the top-seven clash at the Petone Rec, with the hosts Petone facing the visit of Old Boys-University with their Marc Verhoeven Memorial Trophy at stake. Verhoeven captained both Petone and the Wellington representative side in the late 80’s and early 90’s, winning several Jubilee Cups with the former, and was later OBU’s (then Harlequins) first Premier captain following the merger. His untimely death in Sydney in 2011 was a shock to the Wellington rugby community and the trophy donated in time for the following years fixture. OBU hold it after their 19-5 win at Nairnville Park last year, with that result (along with Ories doing what they needed to) consigning the Villagers to the Hardham Cup.

After successive draws, Petone will be looking for a much-needed win in front of their Old Timer faithful. Their side tomorrow does get back Adam Simpson, but are without Kaliopasi Uluilakepa (NZ U20s) and Mateaki Kafetolu, and Piri Paraone (Hunters duty) with their places taken by Marcus Roil, Jacob Gooch, and Carne Green. The Goats have been forced into a host of changes owing to the university holidays and the Hurricanes Hunters trip to Japan with their whole opening round loose trio involved, but get experience with Morgan Poi and the otherwise-retired Ian Kennedy come into the side and much will fall again on the shoulders of Matt Fowler and Dale Sabbagh to guide an inexperienced looking backline. Brothers Tupou and Zeke Sopoaga line up against each other.

Back in the city it’s a must-win clash for two sides that many pundits had pegged for the Jubilee Cup section. For Marist St Pats that record stretches all the way back to 1976, while the Upper Hutt Rams offseason recruitment had them being talked up as a real contender, but barring a draw on Saturday one of these teams will be in the position of having only won one of their opening five matches and will have a lot of work to do in the remaining weeks.

MSP return a couple of familiar faces up front in Vince Sakaria and Valentine Meachen, the latter making his first start for the club since the end of the 2017 season, while Grayson Whitman will again deputise for James Proctor at 10. The Rams make the journey into the eastern suburbs for the third successive week looking for more luck than the last two. They’re also much changed with the Luamanu brothers locking the scrum, Nic Apikatoa at tighthead, and Daniel Schrijvers returning to the starting side. But they’ll need to overcome the fact they’ve lost 26 consecutive matches against MSP since their last success in May 2002 when Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me” topped the music charts.

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Finally, at Fraser Park two sides who face a real struggle to make the top-flight if they lose tomorrow when Avalon takes on Paremata-Plimmerton. Matches between the two have been close affairs in recent years (Avalon won both 37-25 and 33-31 last year), and there’s no real reason to expect anything different tomorrow. The Wolves have named a couple of real veterans in Scott Waldrom and Ben Peni with the latter returning from rupturing his Achilles last season, with Tajun Crosland-Misa – who has impressed so far this season – switching to fullback for tomorrow. In keeping with the theme of the weekend Pare-Plim have likewise made several changes, amongst them Justin Wilson pushing up into 10 and Matt de Terte returning on the wing after two tries off the bench last weekend.

All seven Premier matches kickoff at the usual time of 2.45pm

Premier Reserve Harper Lock Shield

It’s a big weekend in the context of the second-tier with the top four sides – all unbeaten so far- in action against each other. MSP and Tawa are both a perfect 20 points from 20 to top the table so far and both have home matches tomorrow; MSP welcome the third-placed Upper Hutt Rams to Evans Bay while out in the northern suburbs its Norths who are the visitors to Tawa’s Lyndhurst Park.

Elsewhere there’s a clutch of mid and lower-table matches. Fifth-placed Wainuiomata are at home on William Jones to take on Poneke, OBU venture to Petone to face the Villagers at the Rec, and Ories host Johnsonville at Polo. Winless pair HOBM and Wellington clash at the Hutt Rec, and Pare-Plim also go looking for their first success when they visit Avalon at Fraser Park.

All seven matches are at 1pm.

Women’s Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy

Just three of the four scheduled matches will take place tomorrow. Norths will run out onto Porirua Park for the first time this season and should have little trouble against competition minnows Poneke. Out in the valley are they other two matches which should be closer affairs with Petone kicking off the clubs Old Timers Day against Marist St Pats after both sides enjoyed wins last week, while over the hill Wainuiomata face valley rivals Hutt Old Boys Marist at Mary Crowther.

All three of these matches get underway at 11.30am. The fourth match was to have Oriental-Rongotai against Old Boys-University but the Impalas are unable to field a team due the university holidays and have had to default, while Paremata-Plimmerton has this week’s bye.

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