Above: Teenager TJ Perenara was the Jubilee Cup final MVP in 2010. Norths beat Poneke 24-5. PHOTO: Chainsaw Photos.
As to be expected, Jubilee Cup finals are tight and testing affairs. No quarter is given and none is asked for. As well as the willing forwards struggle, it is more often than not either a halfback or first five-eighth in the winning team that rises above the rest to play a blinder.
The MVP of the final is awarded the Jim Brown Plate, after the player who was a stalwart of the great Petone teams of the 1960s and 1970s, playing over 200 matches for the club. He passed away in 2004 and his family donated the Jim Brown Plate that year.
Here is a look at some examples of past Jubilee Cup finals where an inside back has played a leading role. some of whom won the Jim Brown Plate – ‘nine of the best’ as the majority are halfbacks:
1996: James Ogden – Poneke
The lowest scoring final of the past 25 years saw Poneke edge Western Suburbs 9-8 and win their first Jubilee Cup since 1975. As the score suggests, this final was won up front and in defence. In typical Poneke fashion, they ground down first time finalists Western Suburbs and kept play simple and tight. Poneke first five-eighth James Ogden landed two dropped goals and a long-range penalty into the wind. Wests were starved for opportunities and wing Shane Tiatia’s try in the 15th minute was the only try of the final. Ogden gave Poneke their 9-8 lead with his second dropped goal and then they held on for 20 minutes.
2004: Tamati Ellison – Northern United
Then rookie Norths midfielder Tamati Ellison was moved into the 10 jersey to direct play and take the goal-kicking duties. Ellison, later an All Black and only 21 at the time, rose to the occasion. He kicked four goals, set up a try for former Poneke player Peato Lafaele and played an assured all-round game to guide Norths to their first Jubilee Cup title. Despite a late rally by Poneke, Ellison’s men held onto win by 20-18. Ellison’s celebrations on Sunday evening were somewhat reserved. He had a university examination the following morning.
2005: Earl Va’a – Petone
28-test Samoan international Earl Va’a was instrumental in Petone’s dramatic revival to beat Northern United, 21-20. Playing into a stiff southerly, Petone was down 6-20 early in the second-half. An error by Va’a was responsible for a Norths try, but he later rallied and produced a top display. Marshalling his forwards and occasionally taking the ball to the line, Va’a helped Petone to peel off the deficit. Va’a’s goal kicking would be the difference. He nailed the sideline conversion of Willie Moala’s try in the 70th minute and then in the 75th minute, when Petone was pressing again, he kicked a 25 metre-angled penalty to edge Petone ahead and ultimately win the game.
2006: Lua Vaoloaloa – Northern United
Northern United became the first team in several years to achieve the coveted Swindale Shield-Jubilee Cup double in the same season by beating Poneke 25-12 in the 2006 Jubilee Cup final. Fielding a team with several household names, including All BlackJerry Collins at blindside flanker, Norths were all over Poneke like a rash from the get-go. They took control in the opening 50 minutes of play with pressure in the set-pieces, a strong defensive effort around the fringes and much more penetration than Pon
eke when they moved the ball. Halfback Lua Loaloaloa was front and centre of their operations, directing much of their play and marshalling their troops. Norths led 20-0 at halftime. They had the Cup in the bag seven minutes into the second spell when Vaoloaloa fired a bullet pass from an attacking scrum across to wing Peato Lafaele who scored the game winning try.
2007: Nick Risdon – Hutt Old Boys Marist
The 2007 Jubilee Cup final between HOBM and MSP was a battle of attrition for the most part, with HOBM slowly wearing down their opposites to eventually break through and score two tries over the final quarter to win 18-10. HOBM’s director in the trenches was halfback Nick Risdon, who together with his forwards, maintained relentless pressure on MSP before the dam finally broke. Their forwards picked and drove and Risdon sniped and organised proceedings in conjunction with his first five-eighth Jonathan Bentley. Scores were locked up at 6-3 after 50 minutes, before tries to second five-eighth Malakai Kisinia and centre and future Tasman Mako Mike Pehi sealed an 18-10 victory for HOBM.
2009: Peter Sciascia – Marist St Pat’s
Following the previous year’s drawn final with Norths (10-10), MSP won the title outright. Halfback Peter Sciascia was the conductor and centre Chris Slade kept the scoreboard ticking over off the kicking tee as MSP defeated Norths in this rematch. Slade’s seven penalties carried his side to a decisive come-from-behind victory over Norths, who scored the game’s only two tries but let themselves down through ill-discipline and a spate of handling errors. In general play, Sciascia was the standout performer in a superb team performance, laid down by the tight five and carried by the loose forwards and the well organised backs.
2010: TJ Perenara – Northern United
The 2010 Northern United side was one of the most dominant and exciting teams to win the Jubilee Cup. In 20 games they achieved a 17-win, one lost and two-drawn record, scoring 819 points and 123 tries. New Zealand Sevens representative Buxton Popoalii ended the year with 23 tries, just short of Petone’s Mike Clamp’s 1981 record of 25 tries, and Samoan International James So’oialo finished the season with a record 281 points. In the Jubilee Cup final Norths overcame Poneke 24-5, scoring four tries to one and achieving the biggest win in a final since Wests beat Tawa 53-21 in 1998. Popoalii scored two tries, but the Jim Brown Player of the Day medallist was a schoolboy. TJ Perenara, out of Mana College, was a regular starter for Norths in 2010, never playing in a losing team. His snappy passing, abrasive defence and incisive running close to the ruck were all on display in this game as North’s overpowered Poneke.
2013: Steven So’oialo – Tawa
In 1998, Steven So’oialo helped Wests destroy Tawa, 53-21 in the Jubilee Cup final. Fifteen years later the veteran of 38 tests for Manu Samoa returned as a player/coach for Tawa in their second Jubilee Cup final against Oriental Rongotai. The
halfback had a profound influence. Besides his sharp passing, astute tactical kicking and abrasive defence around the ruck, So’oialo scored a crucial try when his side was down 13-7 just before halftime. Toby Robson reported in the Dominion Post. “Steve So’oialo scored the try of the match…minutes before halftime after a sweeping 80-metre movement. It started when wing Alfred Pelenise took a mark from a (Fa’atonu) Fili cross kick. Randall Bishop made inroads from the quick tap before James So’oialo fended his way into the open and found Pelenise on his outside. The wing then turned the final pass into his halfback for the try and a 14-13 halftime lead, which Tawa would not relinquish.” Tawa went onto to win the game 26-21. They finished the season with a record of 16 wins from 20 games and won the Swindale Shield, Andy Lesile Trophy and Jubilee Cup for the first time in their history. Steven immediately announced his retirement after the game. Co-coach, Former All Black, Dion Waller described Steven as “inspirational.”
2018: Matt Fowler – Old Boys University
For the third time in four years, Old Boys University became the Jubilee Cup champions, defeating a fast finishing Northern United 37-31. OBU produced a near faultless first-half to lead 25-3 at the interval.
Part of this match-winning scoring spree included a try to lively halfback Matt Fowler, from an unexpected dummy and dart at the line, as below: