- By Scott MacLean
Teams and draws HERE
It’s a mouthwatering slate of matches tomorrow in the Swindale Shield with the collisions of several big names and a round that seems fairly even across the board. That theme continues applying down the grades as there is at least one high-profile game in each plus the return of college rugby and the commencement of the Premier grades there on what promises to be a glorious winter’s day.
Four clubs hold their Old Timers’ Day tomorrow; Oriental-Rongotai, Marist St Pats, Wellington, and Paremata-Plimmerton
Premier Swindale Shield
Weekends like this don’t come around very often in the Swindale Shield, with the top six in the standings all in action against each other so expect big crowds at Evans Bay, Porirua Park, and the Petone Rec.
In the first of those, Old Boys-University went joint-top with their win over Upper Hutt a week ago but know the road only gets tougher from here with six of their last eight matches away from home, starting with old rivals and third-placed Marist St Pat’s at Evans Bay with the hosts having impressively dispatched Ories a week ago.
The home team gives a first start this year to veteran hard-hitting hooker Valentine Meachen, while another longstanding MSP servant, Isaac O’Connor, starts for the first time since round 1. They’re without one Hurricane in Jonathan Taumateine so Ken Kapeli starts at halfback, but have another with Billy Proctor lining up outside his brother James in midfield. After a couple of relatively light weeks, the Goats are at full strength tomorrow. The quartet of Morgan Poi, Caleb Delany, Shamus Hurley-Langton, and Paddy Carter are all restored to the starting side with the latter on the openside. Adam Clark is back on the left wing with Sam Reid returning to the back and Jack Green dropping out.
The two teams will again contest their Jack Lamason Cup. Lamason was a Wellington representative who played for both the Wellington College and St Patrick’s Old Boys clubs, and as a cricketer toured England in 1937 with the national side. Originally played for by those two clubs it is now contested by the successors and held by OBU after their 15-10 win in the mud at Nairnville last year, though MSP’s Hardham Cup final win is the most recent meeting between the two.
The other joint leaders are also on the road, with Tawa making the short journey to face Norths at Jerry Collins Stadium in their Sammy Saili Memorial Trophy match, which is regarded as one of the more physical and bruising going around. Tawa will be happy to have survived last weekend’s trip to HOBM with their record intact and will be glad to have on-field matters to sharpen their focus while Norths will be undoubtedly want to both keep their recent run of form going, and continue their streak of five successive wins over their neighbours.
Norths return six players to their starting pack after resting several last week with just skipper Parekura Lalaga and lock Mellenniumma Leota retaining their places. Their backline has just one change, but it comes with a twist as Sam Clarke makes his first start just weeks after leaving the club he faces tomorrow. It’s a very similar story for Tawa who likewise bring back all four forwards who came off the bench against HOBM plus lock Hugo Plummer, while their sole backline change has Andy Tilo replacing Maui Wallace on the wing.
The trophy honours Sammy Saili, who played over 200 Premier games for Norths between 1992-1995 and for Tawa from 1996-2008. He also coached junior rugby at Tawa and onto Tawa College, and was a church and Samoan community leader up until his sudden passing in 2009. Norths hold this after winning 32-25, while they also won the Jubilee matchup 24-17 and the semi-final 18-17 a week later.
The third match of the top-six showdown is at the Petone Rec, where the oldest, and probably most famous, of Wellington’s interclub trophies is at stake. Petone and Hutt Old Boys Marist meet for the McBain Shield, which has been played for since 1934 and honours Alexander McBain who amongst his many accolades was the first Life Member of the Hutt club.
Following their respective results last week, it’s the Villagers who have the edge on the ladder, sitting three points clear of the Eagles, and will be determined to return the Shield to their clubrooms after the match. Their side for tomorrow has just one change from that that beat Poneke, with Tupou Sopoaga returning at the back for the scrum for the injured Josh Southall while recent Tongan 7s rep Viliami Fine – who scored a hat-trick on debut in this fixture in 2016 – returns from injury to take a place on the bench. HOBM, who retained the McBain with their 46-26 win last year and also ended Petone’s season with a 35-0 win in the Jubilee Cup round, will be keen to rebound from last Saturday’s home loss and have named a largely unchanged XV with longtime players Blake McGregor and Glen Walters elevated to start, and the two Rayasi brothers lie in wait on the bench.
Rather overshadowed by those three matches is the contest at the Polo Ground where Oriental-Rongotai hosts Wainuiomata in a repeat of last year’s Jubilee Cup semi-final when the men from the valley prevailed. The home Magpies desperately need a win to avoid being left far behind even at this early stage, while Wainuiomata would rather like to emulate last year’s result and heap further misery on Ories but need to improve their form away from William Jones Park if they’re to be a contender.
Ories have gone for size, with Poasa Poasa, Victor Groom, and William Faialaga-Heather all returning to the pack and Hinckley Siaosi, Paulo Aukoso, and Alex Ropeti are restored to their back division, along with a first start for former St Pat’s Town star Saia Paese. Wainuiomata gives a debut to hooker Ruland Fonoti, and Zamian-Ray Blake’s return means that coach Dan Farani can name himself on the bench. The Jordan King-TJ Va’a pairing continues in the halves and Solomona Mapesone makes his first start in the fullback jersey.
After a pair of home losses, Poneke will look to regain lost ground on those teams at the head of the ladder when they venture deep into the Hutt Valley to take on Avalon at Fraser Park. The Wolves have had a tough start to the season but pushed Wainuiomata last Saturday and know that having already played four matches away from home that they have six of the last eight on their home patch.
As well as George Bower who is back with the Crusaders, the Wolves are also without skipper Daley Ena so Tui Yandall and Patrick Roil step into the propping roles. Thomas Kiwara is also absent, so the versatile Jordan Aquila moves into first-five and rookie Reihana Dalton drops into fullback. Poneke hand first starts for 2020 to four players; Hennie Tui, Brandon Feterika, Jordan Hoerara, and Alex Morrissey, with Greg Foe and Caleb Robson dropping to the bench. Avalon’s Chris Aumua (30th game) and Poneke’s seemingly ageless Soti Fa’amausili (30th start) both play their blazer games.
The other two matches feature teams in the lower part of the table. Out at Ngati Toa Domain Paremata-Plimmerton will be looking to both keep the belief gained from their comeback win against Wellington going and put on a show on their Old Timers Day against cellar-dwellers Johnsonville. For their part the Hawks pushed Norths hard in the opening 40 and held the lead at the break before succumbing after oranges.
The home team continue with their squad rotation and veteran pair Teariki Kie Tonga and Tane McMillan-Parata come into their starting side along with halfback Joshae Witana while Kayden Muller and Justin Wilson swap jerseys. Johnsonville have Ivan Vaisagote back at #10 and coach Roy Kinikinilau drops himself to the bench, though the interest is in the addition of Hurricanes squad member Kane Leau’pepe who first made a name for himself with the Hawks before shifting to Ories and later to the Bay of Plenty.
And finally, the Upper Hutt Rams head south to the slopes of Mt Victoria for the second successive week, only this time they turn left and through the Tunnel to Hataitai Park to visit Wellington. The Rams brought the heat to OBU but missed opportunities eventually proved too much to overcome as the Goats pulled away, while the Axemen were left rueing a three-minute spell in the second-half at Ngati Toa that saw Pare-Plim score twice and take their hard-earned lead away from them and sent them to defeat.
Wellington have opted to return Isaac Bracewell to halfback where he’s arguably more effective, with Sam Gard’ner and Teo Fudakowski brought back into their starting side. Wider out, there’s a welcome return to action for Paddy Hughes, who has suffered through several setbacks in coming back from injury, and last played almost three years ago to the day.
The Rams have shaken their side up with veteran duo Jayden Treviranus and Kono Feaunati starting from the pine, replaced by Craig Brown and Nevin Ruatara in their XV. Aiden Woodward again leads the side from lock, with Hurricanes loose forward Murphy Taramai again available and brings up 50 games for the club.
All seven matches are at 2.45pm as normal.
Premier Reserve Harper Lock Shield
Those same contests at the top of the Premier pile also apply to the Premier Reserves. Leaders Norths can extend their perfect start at home at the JCS but face third-placed Tawa who won’t want to lose their third on the bounce while second-placed MSP won’t want to fall back into the chasing pack, one of which is their opponents tomorrow at Evans Bay in OBU. Ories are another looking to further their claims and they host winless Wainuiomata at Polo, while midtable pair Petone and HOBM play their own version of the McBain. Poneke can also elevate their position should they beat Avalon at Fraser Park, while Pare-Plim can also climb the ladder against bottom side Johnsonville at Ngati Toa.
The seventh match however has a bit extra on it. As the only two sides that regularly compete in the third-tier First Grade that stepped up and with it being their only guaranteed meeting, the Petone Brotherhood and Stokes Valley will play for not just competition points, but also to take ownership of the Thompson Memorial Cup – which is the First Grade first-round prize – for the season.
Kick-off in all seven matches is again 1pm this week.
Premier Women’s Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy
With the halfway point in their season now passed it’s settled into a two-horse race between Oriental-Rongotai and Norths towards their meeting in the final round next month, and hopefully their fixtures away against Avalon and Poneke respectively take place. Petone’s loss last weekend means that they now need to beat one or both of the top two – who they face in the next two weekends – but must get past Marist St Pat’s at Evans Bay tomorrow first, while Old Boys-University and Hutt Old Boys Marist meet at Nairnville after their contrasting experiences a week ago. Paremata-Plimmerton has this week’s bye.
All four matches are at the usual 11.30am start time
Other club grades
The fifth round of the Under 85s is highlighted by the table-topping clash between the unbeaten Upper Hutt Rams and the OBU Scallywags out at Maoribank Park. Third-placed Avalon, who are also unbeaten, take to the road to meet MSP at Kilbirnie Park in a 1pm contest, followed at the same venue by Wellington and Poneke and Eastbourne make the journey to the Ian Galloway cage to face Wests.
The highlight match of the Colts round is the meeting of unbeaten pair Petone and HOBM which has been afforded curtainraiser billing for the McBain on the #1 ground at the Petone Rec. Fellow unbeaten side Norths Blue head down the road to face Tawa at Lyndhurst, Norths White hosts Johnsonville at Porirua Park, OBU Black return from the bye to meet Poneke at Nairnville, and Wellington look to open their account against the Upper Hutt Rams at Hataitai.
Also of interest is the top-of-the-table clash in Reserve Grade with perennial contenders the Poneke Ruffnuts heading through the cutting to meet the new boys (or perhaps not so new) and current leaders the Ories Vato’s on the back field at Polo.
First blood in the Premiership season was taken by Silverstream on Wednesday, as they accounted for St Pats Town by 26-17. The rest of the opening round is tomorrow, with defending champions Scots hosting Wairarapa and Mana making their return to the top division by hosting their old nemesis Wellington College in Elsdon, both at 1pm. In the 2.30pm contests the other returnee, Tawa College, are at home against St Bernard’s, and Aotea head into the eastern suburbs to lock horns with Rongotai.
Three of the four Premier 2 clashes are at 1pm, with Porirua hosting the Silverstream 2nds, Upper Hutt heading up the coast to take on Paraparaumu, and Wainuiomata and the Wellington College 2nds meeting at the same time at William Jones Park as the curtainraiser to a match between the Parliamentary rugby team and a Centurions Invitational selection that isn’t short on big names. The sole 2.30pm game is at Trentham where Hutt International adjusts to life in the second tier when visited by the Town 2nds. The other coast team, Kapiti, has the bye.
Round 2 of the Premiership is underway next Wednesday with Silverstream hosting Wellington College in their annual Traditional.