- By Adam Julian and Steven White
The Avalon Wolves and the Wellington Axemen won the two U85kg Division Wellington club rugby finals today, while the home teams for next weekend’s First XV Premiership semi-finals were determined.
After missing out in extra time last year, Avalon beat Paraparaumu 24-11 in the final of the Paul Potiki Memorial Shield at home at Fraser Park, while Wellington defeated Eastbourne 18-17 in the final of the Division 2 Tony O’Brien Shield at Hataitai Park.
Next week’s Premiership college semi-finals will both be hosted in the eastern suburbs, with Rongotai College playing St Pat’s Silverstream and Scots College hosting St Pat’s Town in the other. These are replays of this final round’s matches, that saw Rongotai defeat Silverstream 10-5 on Wednesday and Scots beat Town 39-27 today (round-up of that match below).
It tool Avalon 70 minutes to see off Paraparaumu’s challenge in a tight and willing Paul Potiki Memorial Shield final in bright sunshine on the Fraser Park Artificial.
Up to that point, Avalon had kicked four penalties, three in the first half and one midway through the second, and held a slender 12-11 lead and the final was in the balance.
Having made a succession of errors and struggling to build momentum, the home side and top qualifier finally clicked into life when launching a close-quarter assault at the whitewash from a penalty and attacking lineout and two minutes of bruising phase play later came up with the try to make it 17-11.
In a game dominated by the whistle and with both aggressive defensive lines often cancelling each out, Avalon could start celebrating when a fast keen player of theirs intercepted a pass and scampered 40 metres to score the match-winner under the posts in the 77th minute.
Earlier, Avalon had made a bright and breezy start and went close to scoring a try before settling for an early penalty to go up 3-0. They remained on top but chances were few and far between and they opted to take a second penalty kick in the 24th minute which doubled their lead to 6-0.
Paraparaumu missed a penalty kick chance, but a kick into the corner and attacking lineout gave them a try-scoring opportunity. They went close through a series of pick and goes, before being awarded a penalty for a high tackle and halfback Dylan Duffy took a quick tap and darted through to score to make it 6-5.
Avalon extended their lead to 9-5 with their third penalty, but Paraparaumu fullback Connor Williams kicked a penalty in reply on halftime and it was 9-8 to Avalon at the turnaround.
The first 20 minutes of the second half saw both sides miss point scoring opportunities and it wasn’t until the 60th minute mark that Avalon advanced the score by wing Brett Hodgetts kicking his fourth penalty to make it 12-8.
From the very next re-start Paraparaumu surged into the 22 and were awarded another penalty for Williams to slot to bring it back to a one-point game.
With the help of fresh legs coming off the bench, Avalon brought it home, with their close-quarter try and then the Russell intercept try to seal the title.
Elsewhere in club rugby today, the Johnsonville Cripples beat the Poneke Rats 48-28 to qualify top next week’s Reserve Grade Division 1 John Davies Cup semi-finals.
Johnsonville will host the Upper Hutt Rams Pirates, who had their bye today, while the Poneke Ruffnuts will entertain third placed the Petone Brotherhood after the Ruffnuts beat Tawa and the Brotherhood won by default against Stokes Valley.
Scots College finished the Premiership as the top qualifier, leading from start to finish in an entertaining 39-27 win against St Pat’s Town at Evans Bay Park .
The visitors were out of the blocks quickly with first-five Oryann Kalolo kicking a penalty and wing Ethan Webster-Nonu and hooker Sase Va’a scoring tries.
In a dashing 30-metre burst, Webster-Nonu went clean through the heart of the Town midfield, while Va’a collected the ball at the front of the lineout after a clever switch to crash over in the corner.
When Town held possession, their forwards were able to make inroads. Lock Rory Woods and No.8 Ronaldo Seumanufagai were especially effective and when wing Herman Seumanufagai involved himself he was tough to contain and was awarded with Town’s first try.
Scots No.8 Sione Halalilo was equally damaging and a third try had Scots comfortably clear.
Perhaps the pivotal moment of the second-half was an exceptional try for Roderick Solo. The Scots fullback cut onto the ball from an angle at halfway and rushed through multiple defenders to make it 34-15.
Town finished with a flourish with both Herman and Ronaldo crossing the stripe and being held up over the line with the last play.
In other last round Premiership fixtures today, Aotea College beat Wairarapa College 30-26, Wellington College broke the shackles with a 69-21 win over St Bernard’s College and Kapiti College beat HIBS 29-10.