- By Scott MacLean and Steven White
Although the bulk of the club season wound up last weekend, there are two more finals tomorrow with the playing of both Under 85kg division deciders, while the weekend warriors of the Reserve Grade continue on and the college grades rapidly near their conclusion.
Under 85kg Paul Potiki Memorial and Tony O’Brien Shields
Tomorrow’s Division 1 Paul Potiki Shield decider pits a story of redemption against the upstarts. A season ago Avalon headed into the final looking for an undefeated campaign but fell to the Upper Hutt Rams in the final minute of extra-time of an epic match, and this season has been about going one better. On the other side are Paraparaumu, who have confounded predictions to reach this final. Club Rugby caught up with both camps during the week.
Avalon’s Arthur Flux – a veteran of the 85s game said: “The Wolves are every bit the personification of a wolfpack. Our eldest player is 43 and our youngest 17. Within this broad span is a culture thriving in care and protection. We teach the new players to contribute their skillset as part of the game plan. Specific roles that can be performed, mastered and then ultimately replace the retiring players guiding them. From this we have a camaraderie few teams can match.”
“We have had a season full of extreme hardship off the field and it has not only galvanised our rugby family but more importantly put the game we love in perspective. Rugby isn’t just a game to us; it’s our church, our religion, and our way of life.”
On his team, Paraparaumu’s Brady Murland had this to say: “We have been in the rebuilding stages since 2014 when we made the Paul Potiki semis but lost to the MSP Blues, and then a lot of senior players decided to stop playing and moved away by the following season.
The last two seasons we’ve finished fifth which has been a bit annoying, so we were stoked when we slipped into 4th off the back of an 83rd minute try to win against HOBM, then to win our semi a week later against Upper Hutt on fulltime with a penalty. It has given the boys a lot of belief and confidence.”
“Our team is a tight bunch of guys with a good range of ages which gives us a nice balance and leaders all over the park.”
Avalon beat Johnsonville 22-3 last weekend, while as mentioned above Paraparaumu kicked a penalty with time up to knock out the defending champion Rams 15-14 at Maoribank. Kick-off tomorrow at Fraser Park is at 2.30pm.
Teamlists for the U85kg Division 1 Final are the bottom of this article.
Back in the city, Hataitai Park is the venue for the Division 2 Tony O’Brien Shield final with Wellington hosting Eastbourne. The Axemen are the current holders after their own extra-time final a year ago where they and Johnsonville remained tied after 100 minutes, with Wellington taking home the trophy on account of having scored more tries in the match. Eastbourne hope to go one better than another of the non-Premier clubs did a week ago where Stokes Valley dipped out in the First Grade final and take some silverware back across the harbour.
The two sides have split their meetings this year with both having won on home turf. Wellington beat the OBU Scallywags 22-15 in their semi-final, with Eastbourne accounting for MSP 34-14. Kick-off is also at 2.30pm.
With the U85kgs wrapping up this weekend the only club grade still in competition mode is the two divisions of the Reserve Grade. The Division 1 John Davies Cup enters its final round with the Johnsonville Cripples and Poneke Ruffnuts assured they’ll be in next week semi-finals with Tawa (who play the Ruffnuts) and the Petone Brotherhood (who play Stokes Valley) each needing wins to join them, while it’s a nervous wait for the Upper Hutt Pirates who have the bye.
In the nine-team Division 2 Alan Seerup Cup they still have two more weeks before they hit playoffs, meaning they won’t play their final until the end of the month. The Upper Hutt J8’s and Paremata-Plimmerton Punters have a large gap on the rest of the pack with six of the seven remaining teams all well in contention for the remaining two places and only the Wests Mixed Veges are playing out the season.
The Premiership Top 4 was settled a week or two ago, with the final round merely sorting out next weekend’s playoff matches. With Rongotai beating Silverstream 10-5 on Wednesday and having locked in a home semi-final, attention now turns to tomorrow’s clash between St Pat’s Town and Scots College at Evans Bay. Scots need a bonus-point win to finish top – a consequence of forfeiting the points from their first-round win over Rongotai – but if they can’t get four tries a win will mean they’re back in Strathmore next week, and they can’t finish lower than third. For Town – long the competition front-runners – anything less than two competition points will leave them in fourth, but a win will mean they have hosting rights.
Below this six sides are sorting out their finishing places, pending any plate competition matches being played. Aotea host Wairarapa at 1pm with both sides looking to finish fifth, with Wellington College – who play winless St Bernard’s in Lower Hutt at 2pm – also in that mix. The fifth match should be a fairly competitive one with Hutt International and Kapiti meeting at Trentham at 2.30pm and each looking for their third win of the campaign.
In Premier 2 Tawa and the St Pat’s Town 2nds are already assured of hosting the two semi-finals next week, but tomorrow they meet at Tawa to sort out top spot with the hosts needing just a single bonus point to secure that. Third-placed Porirua are also certain to be playing next week, but where that is will depend on the outcome of their visit to Hutt Valley HS tomorrow. Indeed it is that fourth position that remains up for grabs; a bonus point win for HVHS will mean it is theirs, but if they don’t get that then they could be overhauled by the Silverstream 2nds, Taita (those two play each other), or Upper Hutt (who host Mana), and in which case the College Sport rulebook might be called upon. The fifth match has no bearing on the playoffs with the winless Rongotai 2nds hosting second-bottom Wainuiomata.
Some other grades are already at the semi-final stage ahead of finals day in a fortnights time. In Premier 3 top qualifiers Paraparaumu host Heretaunga, with the Wellington College 2nds facing Onslow, and in the Under 15 Division 1 grade Silverstream take on St Bernard’s and St Pats Town face Wellington College.
Teams/players for the Under 85kg Division 1 final (teams subject to change):
- Cody Turley
- Paddy Crombie
- Gareth Stokes
- Graham Cherry
- Gano Perez
- Mike Francis
- Matthew Edmonds
- Bill Drummond ©
- Manu Oliver
- Damian Austin-Adams
- Quintin Te Mara
- Robert Daly
- Mark Austin
- Brett Hodgetts
- Liam Smith
- Rodderick Russell
- Jason Reder
- Shane Reder
- David Roche
- Matthew Jackett
- Schalk Van der Merwe
- Arthur Flux
- Hio Perez (one to be omitted)
Other 2019 season players: Alex Newton, Daniel Hall, Des Rathbone, Geoff Ah Wong, Hadleigh de Reus, Ben Appleyard, Jeffrey Lauina, Jason Harris, Shale Tangianau, Sinafili Malo, Stephen Rudolph, William The, Edward Hawkins
Mohi Te One (C)
Pierre van Heerden
Sage Mareikura Martin