- By Scott MacLean
The run home begins in the top grades with just three weekends left for teams to prove their credentials and make their playoffs. For some there’s the possibility that they could book that passage as soon as tomorrow, while for others those hopes could be gone if they don’t emerge victorious from their matches.
Premier Jubilee Cup
Despite their loss last week, Wainuiomata (13) still hold the competition lead but they seem likely to be overhauled as they head into their bye week.
The two sides that can go past them meet at the Hutt Rec for the second time this season. When Hutt Old Boys Marist (11) and Norths (10) faced each other in the Swindale Shield the Eagles ran away with a 40-7 win, quashing any sort of speculation that they’d take it easy after winning the trophy the week before.
HOBM have beaten Ories and Poneke since their only loss of the season and arguably remain the side to beat for the title, and tomorrow have just two changes to their starting side with Joe ‘Apikatoa returning up front for Brett Manaia, and Connor Collins debuts at halfback. Norths have a number, among them Jackson Garden-Bachop will start at 10 and Johnny Teleaga returns to fullback, and there’s no Losi Filipo this week.
The remaining two games are must-win affairs for two of the participants and bordering on that for a third. Petone (6*) host Oriental-Rongotai (6) at the Petone Rec with both sides undoubtedly buoyed by successful outings last week, and both keen to continue that momentum. That’s slightly more pressing for the Villagers who are yet to have their bye and have the return clash with HOBM next week, though the Magpies also need points if they are to be a factor in the next fortnight.
The hosts starting side is unchanged for the third match in a row – a relative rarity these days – and the boot of Logan Henry and form of their outside backs look critical to their chances. Ories have only a couple of changes themselves; veteran Whetu Henry makes his first appearance for the year as he closes in on the 200-game mark with Alex Ropeti slotting into midfield – rumours of a repeat appearance by Matt Proctor or even a Ma’a Nonu sighting proving unfounded so far.
The two teams didn’t meet during the Swindale round, so this match will also have the Jim Brown Memorial Trophy at stake. Held by Ories after their 25-17 win in their only meeting lasting year, it was donated by Brown’s former employer Dominion Breweries following his death in 2004. Brown was a loyal Petone man – once mixing concrete on a fundraiser working bee with a broken leg wrapped in plastic – and a Wellington representative from 1965-74.
The second team in must-win territory are Poneke (6*), who head up the road to take on Tawa (10) at Lyndhurst. Like Petone, the Streetkids still have the bye to come (next week) and face the prospect that a loss here will effectively end their season. Tawa too need to get back on track after being pipped by Ories and know that their last two matches are away from home, at Wainuiomata and then Norths.
The home side have just two changes with former Best & Fairest winner Hemi Fermanis lining up on the openside for the first time since the early weeks of the season and Tom Maiava slotting in at fullback for PJ Iosefo. Poneke also have a new fullback with former Axeman pivot TeRaina Richards-Coxhead earning his first Poneke cap, while Rhys Reiri replaces Hennie Tui up front.
Premier 2 Hardham Cup
Starting in the eastern suburbs there’s the local derby between Marist St Pats (10) and Wellington (15*) at Evans Bay. There will be plenty riding on this too with both sides having rounded into form in recent weeks and could yet be one of the semi-final matchups; plus the not insignificant matter of the Axemen’s upset 13-10 win in the Swindale earlier in the year, one of several results that contributed to MSP missing the Jubilee Cup for the first time in over four decades.
Across town Old Boys University (14) put the recently won Bill Brien Challenge Trophy at stake against Johnsonville (2) at Nairnville Park. The form guide says that the Goats should have few problems against the winless Hawks, but the visitors are playing for their season and have named what looks to be their strongest available side. For their part OBU are continuing to rotate players through their starting team.
The pivotal match of the round however is up at Maoribank Park, where the Upper Hutt Rams (9*) and Avalon (8) clash with fourth place on the table – and with it the inside running for a playoff place – at stake. The Rams, playing what could be their last home game of the season (they have the bye next week and are then away to OBU) will need to rebound from last week’s defeat to MSP, while Avalon will need to take those chances they missed in their draw with Pare-Plim. Like Petone and Ories above, these two will also contest an interclub trophy after not meeting during the Swindale round. In their case it’s the Harper Vine Trophy, commemorating Taita and later Avalon Life Member Tammy Harper and Upper Hutt’s Bob Vine who had a longstanding and intense rivalry; it’s held by the Rams after their 31-26 win last year.
Paremata-Plimmerton (3) have this week’s bye and could also be eliminated from contention by Saturday evening, depending on results.
All six matches are the usual 2.45pm kick-off time.
Premier Reserve Ed Chaney and HD Morgan Memorial Cups
Petone (15*) top the ladder in the Ed Chaney division, and will seal a playoff place if they notch a bonus point win over Ories (10) on home turf. Norths (14) could all but do the same when they meet lowly HOBM (1) at the Hutt Rec, while Tawa (11) and Poneke (11*) can further their own claims and leave the other under some pressure when they clash in the early game at Lyndhurst.
In the HD Morgan section playoff both MSP (14) and the Upper Hutt Rams (14*) should lock-in playoff places when they host Wellington (6*) and Avalon (2) respectively, and OBU (11) could do as well with a bonus-point win at Nairnville against Johnsonville (10).
Wainuiomata (0) – who are already eliminated from the playoff picture – and Pare-Plim (5) have the respective byes this week.
All six matches are 1pm kick-offs
Women’s Tia Paasi Memorial and Izzy Ford Cups
The top division completes the first of the two round-robins this weekend with Oriental-Rongotai (10) hosting Petone (-2) at the Polo Ground and Norths (7) doing likewise for Old Boys-University (5) at Jerry Collins Stadium.
The pair of Division 2 matches have Marist St Pat’s hosting their counterparts Hutt Old Boys Marist at Evans Bay (at 12pm), with winless Poneke taking on Paremata-Plimmerton next door on Kilbirnie Park. Wainuiomata have the bye this week.
All matches are at 11.30am unless stated.
Colts John E Kelly and Vic Calcinai Memorials
The points penalties imposed on OBU Green and MSP have shaken the table up, with the upshot being that both Tawa (15) and HOBM (15) can secure playoff places with bonus point wins tomorrow; HOBM host bottom-placed Pare-Plim (2), while Tawa are at the St Pats artificial against MSP (4) who need to rebound from the points deduction and last week’s heavy loss if they are to make the playoffs. There’s a crunch game in the Ian Galloway cage with OBU Green (9) taking on Norths (11), while Petone (6) and Ories (7) meet at the Petone Rec needing a win to stay in the hunt.
In Division 2 the Upper Hutt Rams (15) and Avalon (10) start the weekend off tonight under lights at Maidstone Park. Tomorrows two matches have Wellington (9) and Poneke (15) taking to Hataitai, while OBU Black and Johnsonville are at MacAlister Park.
Tomorrow’s matches are all at 1pm.
Differing assignments tomorrow for joint-leaders St Pat’s Town and St Pat’s Silverstream; Town head over the Remutaka’s to face Wairarapa College in Masterton (at 1pm), while Silverstream are visited by winless Kapiti College. The two teams behind them – Rongotai and Scots – also face bottom-three opposition with Rongotai hosting St Bernard’s and Scots heading to Trentham to take on Hutt International. The key clash of the day however is on the northern face of Mt Victoria, with Wellington College looking to put their tough start to the season behind them but face an Aotea College side that will be eager to claim a big-name scalp.
There are joint-leaders as well at the mid-point of the Premier 2 campaign. Tawa host fourth-placed Hutt Valley HS while the St Pats Town 2nds head to Wainuiomata. Taita are visited by Mana in a bottom-four match, while in a pair of earlier 1pm kick-offs third-placed Upper Hutt host the Silverstream 2nds, and Porirua head into the eastern suburbs to face the winless Rongotai 2nds.
All matches are at 2.30pm unless stated.