- By Scott MacLean
The second stage of the season kicks into gear tomorrow with the opening rounds of the Jubilee and Hardham Cups, along with their accompanying Premier Reserve competitions as well as the two Colts divisions.
Elsewhere its an abbreviated week for Queen’s Birthday, with just a handful of lower grade matches and no Women’s or 85s games scheduled at all. There are however celebrations at Stokes Valley for their 70th Anniversary since their founding in 1949 and its Old Timers’ Day at Norths, as well as milestone achievement for one of the province’s well-respected campaigners.
Premier Jubilee Cup
Draws & Week 1 Jubilee Cup teamlists: http://www.clubrugby.co.nz/wellington/games-results.php?competition=3&season=15&round=1
The immediate quest for Wellington rugby’s ultimate prize starts here, and with Swindale winners Hutt Old Boys Marist having chosen to take the first week off and having caught white line fever the remaining six teams will be looking to put themselves ahead of the Eagles on the ladder. The value of that first up win can’t be overstated; last year the three sides that lost in week one were those that missed the playoffs and in 2017 only one of the four (eight teams then) made it.
Northern United finished runners-up but must find their feet quickly after producing just one good half in the past two weeks plus have the pressure of an expectant Old Timers’ Day crowd. In a boost for them they have Jackson Garden-Bachop who will start and captain Parekura Lalaga returns after a week’s breather, though there’s no Losi Filipo with his place in midfield taken by Denny To’o. Poneke provide the opposition and having done just enough last weekend to secure their passage the need now is to kick on deep into the season. Their side tomorrow has the same familiar faces in the locks and loose, but also a whole new front row and are without Pakai Turia again and their top try-scorer Nick Robertson.
With the pair not meeting during the Swindale round, they’ll also contest their interclub Cyril Collett Memorial Shield. Collett played for Porirua in the 1950’s, with his sons Paul and Bruce later turning out for Porirua and Poneke. It’s held by Poneke after their 40-35 win in last year’s Swindale.
A short distance away, Tawa and Petone meet at Lyndhurst for the second time this season and again in the first match of the round after both sides got the results they needed last weekend to make sure they got to this stage. Tawa will be after a much-improved performance after they were flat in that first meeting and are largely unchanged from the team that beat the Rams last Saturday with Luke Cummings, Hugo Plummer, and Des Matofai those coming in, with Sitiveni Paongo shifting to prop. Conversely Petone will want a repeat of that 41-22 result and have just one change from a week ago with veteran prop Tyral Vigne starting but are without Pasi Uluilakepa and Mateaki Kafetolu who were immense figures in that Opening Day meeting.
The third match is at the Polo Ground, where Oriental-Rongotai will be very keen to arrest their own three game skid with a win over Wainuiomata. However the first of those losses came at William Jones where the Magpies were blanked 27-0, so a degree of redemption will also be part of the equation. Wainuiomata were a popular early-season pick to miss the Jubilee Cup but defied those predictions to run up more wins than anyone except HOBM.
Ories have something of a loose forward crisis and are without all their first-choice trio tomorrow. They do however still have Xavier Numia, and Andrew Ellis makes his return to the Premier side after playing Ireland over the summer. There’s an interesting name on their bench as well with Ha’amea Ahio returning to Wellington club rugby after a period in Southland. Wainuiomata will start youngsters Tanara Haenga, Sam Smith, and Solomona Mapesone amongst their veteran core, including the seemingly ageless Uale Mai at halfback. They also have Josh Robertson-Weepu back after he missed last week’s win over Wellington.
Premier 2 Hardham Cup
For current Jubilee Cup holders Old Boys-University there’s the bitter disappointment they won’t be able to even defend their crown, becoming the first side since Poneke in 1997 to slip to the Hardham after winning the Jubilee the previous year. They’ll begin their first Hardham since 2012 by hosting Wellington at Nairnville Park, where one of just two survivors of that campaign, captain Jonathan Fuimaono, will become the first player in the merged clubs’ history to reach 150 Premier outings. His side are almost unchanged from the romp over Pare-Plim, with the reinstatement of Zeke Sopoaga the only one. The Axemen make only a few themselves with Xavier Smith, Philip Elo, Isaac Bracewell returning. The pair met just a month ago, with OBU winning 36-10 at Hataitai.
It hasn’t been uncommon seeing the name Marist St Pat’s in the Hardham draw, however that’s usually been their second side after earning promotion on the back of their first-round efforts. This time around however it’s their top side, who missed out on playing for the main prize for the first time since 1974. Like OBU they get started at home, with Paremata-Plimmerton the visitors to Evans Bay and with the Bill Brien Challenge Trophy at stake for the first time.
Despite the two sides respective recent form recent form, MSP aren’t taking things lightly with most first-choice players named. Vince Sakaria is back up front, while twins Tyrone and Leo Thompson start a Premier game together for the first time. Last week’s concession of over 100 points represents the nadir of a tough season so far for Pare-Plim – including a 67-7 result to MSP when they met three weeks ago – but it’s a changed side with several who didn’t play (or start) last week back this time out.
The final game is at Helston Park, where the Upper Hutt Rams head to face Johnsonville just two weeks after their last meeting at Maoribank, which the Rams won 34-17. The home side have a handful of new faces as they continue to chase their first success of the year with Jacob Walmsley continuing in the #10 jersey, while the Rams hand a first start to halfback Jacob Free and a Premier debut on the openside to former NZ Schools flanker Josh Southall.
The Avalon Wolves have the first-week bye.
All six Premier matches are underway at 2.45pm.
Premier Reserve Ed Chaney Cup and HD Morgan Memorial
The Premier Reserve matches all follow the pattern of the six Premier matches. In the Division 1 Ed Chaney Cup Harper Lock Shield runners-up Norths are at home against Poneke in the early game at the JCS, Tawa host Petone at Lyndhurst, and Ories welcome Wainuiomata to Polo.
Like the OBU Premiers, MSP’s second side are unable to defend their title from a year ago, albeit due to the WRFU competition rules rather than anything they had control of. They open their Division 2 HD Morgan Memorial campaign against winless Pare-Plim at Evans Bay, with OBU facing the also-winless Wellington at Nairnville, and the Upper Hutt Rams head to Helston to take on Johnsonville.
All six matches are at 1pm, with HOBM and Avalon having the respective byes this week.
Colts John E Kelly and Vic Calcinai Memorials
The Colts also start their second round, with all seven matches across the two divisions being played tomorrow. In Division 1 the two first-round trophy winners – promoted Oriental-Rongotai and OBU Green – meet at Polo with the remaining three games out in the north; Norths and MSP are at Porirua Park, Tawa and HOBM meet at Redwood, and Pare-Plim and Petone clash at Ngati Toa.
In Division 2 the matches have OBU Black and Wellington at the Ian Galloway cage, Wainuiomata and Avalon meet at William Jones, and it’s a later 2.45pm start for Poneke and the Upper Hutt Rams -relegated from Div 1- at Kilbirnie.
The early matches are all at 1pm, except the Tawa vs HOBM match which is slightly earlier at 12.45pm
For most of the other grades it’s a weekend off. However one that it isn’t is the First Grade, where Stokes Valley needs just one competition point against OBU to claim the Thompson Memorial Cup for the first-round in front of the anniversary crowd at Delaney Park at 2.45pm. That’s preceded by the only Reserve Grade match of the weekend, lining up against Petone at 1pm.
The Women’s competition also takes the weekend off, though the provinces best have a training camp and trial game as they look to impress Pride head coach Ross Bond. That gets underway at 11.30 at the Petone Rec.
There are just four matches tomorrow in the Premiership, with the round having started on Tuesday with St Pat’s Town beating Wellington College 22-17 in their annual Traditional. The big news of the week over has been that Scots College have been stripped of their points from last weeks win over Rongotai after they disclosed they had broken a player eligibility rule in error. They’ll look to get off the mark for a second time when visiting St Bernard’s, while in the other games Rongotai hosting Wairarapa College at 1pm, Aotea will look to repeat last weekend’s impressive opening when hosting Kapiti, while Hutt International host the local derby with Silverstream.
The Premier 2 round has Porirua hosting Tawa after both won first-up last week. The same applies for Hutt Valley HS and Taita, with the Town 2nd XV heading to Mana. In a pair of 1pm games Upper Hutt hosts the Rongotai 2nd, with the Silverstream 2nds heading down the valley to Wainuiomata.
For Wellington First XV draws & results visit www.collegerugby.co.nz