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Tussle for playoff spots set to heat up this weekend

  • By Scott MacLean and Steven White

Draws &  Results HERE 

The pointy end of the Premier season is drawing near, so with just three weeks to play before the championship semi-finals, there is much at stake in Wellington club rugby tomorrow for all 14 teams in the Swindale Shield.

As an added bonus for fans following the action from afar on the third straight weekend of Covid-19 Level 2 conditions, several Hurricanes, Super Rugby players and freshly Wellington Lions are in action tomorrow.

It’s a similar story in the Premier Reserve, Colts and Reserve Grade competitions – where unbeaten teams the Upper Hutt Rams J8s and Ories Vatos meet in a colossal Mike Copeland Trophy round-robin clash – while it is the last round of the U85kg competition and four teams are playing to join already top confirmed top qualifier Avalon in the playoffs.

Premier Swindale Shield

As we do at this stage of the season, we take a look at the contenders and what they have left, though in this most unusual of years, it’s not just for the Swindale but for the Jubilee Cup as well. And in that, there’s six teams still standing.

Old Boys-University: 1st on 42 points
To play: HOBM (A), Wainuiomata (A), Ories (A)
Tiebreakers held: (over) Petone, Norths, Tawa

After winning their top-of-the-table clash against Petone, the Goats have jumped into the driver’s seat in their attempt to win the Swindale for the third time in five seasons. But to do that will mean winning all three matches, all against difficult opposition, all on their opponents home grounds, and probably having to get bonus points in two of those as well given who their main rivals have left to face. There’s also the question of how much that bonus point they didn’t get against Wellington when the match was abandoned will matter as well. They’ll face a desperate HOBM side at the Nest tomorrow, but their side is bolstered by big guns Wes Goosen at centre and Teariki Ben Nicholas at No. 8. Ben Nicholas’, inclusion sees in-form Shamus Hurley Langton switch to openside flanker.

Marist St Pat’s: 2nd on 40 points
To play: Pare-Plim (H), Johnsonville (A), Wellington (H)
Tiebreakers held: OBU, Norths, Tawa

By complete contrast MSP’s run in comprises three of the current bottom four, where they’ll be not only expected to win, but claim the four-try bonus as well; and should OBU drop one of their remaining games, they’ll be in the box seat to claim their first Swindale since 2014. Form suggests that tomorrows outing at home against Pare-Plim will be a formality, but minnowphobia has struck before in uncomfortable ways. Their side for tomorrow sees several players rested and rotated on to the bench, but also features two Super Rugby players as well. Chief Naitoa Ah Kuoi starts at lock and Hurricane Billy Proctor runs on at centre.

Petone: 3rd on 40 points
To play: Tawa (H), Pare-Plim (H), Norths (A)
Tiebreakers held: MSP, HOBM

There’s no way to sugarcoat it, Saturday’s loss to OBU hurt and their hopes of claiming the Swindale for the first time since 2004 now rest on OBU dropping one of their remaining games and matching what MSP do at the very least. But perhaps more pressing will be making sure they’re in that top four and a win tomorrow over Tawa should make that a step closer; a loss though will likely make their final round trip to Norths a must-win.  Petone are missing Piri Paraone at fullback (headknock) from tomorrow’s line-up, his place taken by Ben Brooking, who returns from injury alongside hooker Josh Houston-Tupou and 2019 captain Jarrod Adams on to the reserves bench. Jacob Gooch captains as part of a settled loose forward trio that also features Jarrod Hrstich and Tupou Sopoaga.

Norths: 4th on 39 points
To play: Ories (A), Avalon (A), Petone (H)
Tiebreakers held: Tawa, HOBM


After losses in the opening two rounds, Norths’ eight-game winning streak is the longest in the competition and they showed no mercy to neighbours Pare-Plim last Saturday. But they cannot afford for that streak to end without other results also going their way, and their venture into the eastern suburbs to face Ories will be a test they’ll need to overcome lest their last round match against Petone becomes a virtual quarter-final. For the Norths coaches, it is a matter of who to leave out this week, with last week’s four-try hero Luke Bowden gone and 30-point scorer Sam Clarke on the bench. The Garden-Bachop brothers, Jackson and Connor, take their places in the starting line-up. Look out for Malachai Fox-Unasa to have an impact off the Norths bench against his former team.

Tawa: 5th on 35 points
To play: Petone (A), Upper Hutt (H), Pare-Plim (H)
Tiebreakers held: HOBM

The first team outside the top four Tawa still control their own destiny, but that is almost absolutely reliant on beating Petone tomorrow and even denying the Villagers a competition point and even then might require someone else slipping up. But they lose at the Rec, then their charge might be over even if they’d be favourites to take 10 points from their last two matches. Former Jubilee Cup winners, No. 8 TJ Fermanis and fullback Randall Bishop, add extra firepower to their side, while Sitiveni Paongo’s selection at hooker will fire Petone up.

Hutt Old Boys Marist: 6th on 32 points
To play: OBU (H), Poneke (H), Avalon (A)
Tiebreakers held: MSP

Will Scott Svenson’s sideline conversion last Saturday be the Eagles’ Titanic moment? Only time will tell for sure, but if they lose tomorrow against OBU their charge is pretty much done. A win keeps them in the picture, but even then they too become reliant on results elsewhere. Chase Tiatia has departed for the BoP Steamers, but they still possess plenty of proven firepower to beat OBU tomorrow. The halfback-first-five pairing Connor Collins and Pakai Turia should be a strength, with the experienced and dangerous Brandyn Laursen, Tomasi Alosio and Glen Walters all out side of them.

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After that come the sides battling for places in that group of 5th to 8th, who’ll play off in this season for the Hardham Cup. It’s almost a given that two of these will be from the sides above, leaving Oriental-Rongotai (26), Wainuiomata (24), Poneke (21), and after their win last Saturday the Upper Hutt Rams (20) to scrap it out for the remaining places.

Two of these face each other straight up, with Wainuiomata heading up the valley to take on Upper Hutt at Maidstone where the odds on claiming one of those places greatly shorten for the winners. The Rams will surely be buoyed by last week’s result, and tomorrow field a largely settled team that features Soa Fainga’a making his first start at No. 8.

Wainuiomata will want to take a step up from their outing against Johnsonville, and they welcome back some of their injured players to their match-day 22, including Ruben Love and Sam Smith who both start off the bench. Together with the likes of TJ Va’a at flyhalf, Josh Robertson-Weepu at fullback and John Monu as a super-sub they are a very dangerous side for their next three opponents.

Ories can both improve their chances and create some mayhem further up the table when they host  Norths at Polo, but the worst case scenario for them sees them end the day sitting ninth. Ories will rely on Whetu Henry and Tuakana Metuarau in the pack, with the experience of Sean Hay and explosiveness out wide of such players as the Va’a brothers, Steven and Reuben, centre Ethan Webster-Nonu and left wing Saia Paese.

Poneke make the short journey up to Hataitai and a match with the Wellington Axemen (11), who like Pare-Plim seem unlikely to drop into the bottom two and go without any post round-robin action, but would like to get a scalp of one of their local rivals this season. Only a win really suffices for Poneke though if they are to contest the Hardham Cup playoffs, and their side tomorrow sees hooker Andrew Jones and midfielder Jimmy Hewitt both returning from injury and Siale Siale and James Mose earning their first starts of the season. However, Greg Foe, Cole Stewart and Hennie Tui are all out injured. The Axemen continue to struggle with injuries, with loose forward Xavier Smith starting in the midfield tomorrow and Aiden Fleming on debut on the right wing. Much will depend on halfback Issac Bracewell and first five-eighth Matt Goosen.

Paremata-Plimmerton (13), who sit one place ahead of the Axemen in 11th, will be looking to really set the cat amongst the pigeons with what would be a monumental upset against MSP. They welcome back James Corcoran to their pack, while Stu Simonson starts at hooker in two experienced selections. But could face difficulties out wide as they did last week against Norths with MSP

Lastly and well away from the race for the top four places and others, is the battle to avoid the wooden spoon with bottom pair Avalon (2) and Johnsonville (4) clashing on Wolves turf at Fraser Park. Despite their winless records, the two seem to have gone on opposite directions in recent weeks with the Hawks having lost to Pare-Plim at the death, unlucky against Wellington, and pushed Ories while Avalon’s last decent performance was a month ago against Poneke with a string of heavy losses since.

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A reminder of the tiebreaker rules:

  • If two teams are tied then the head-to-head result between the two determines who has higher seeding. If that match was drawn, it goes to points difference.
  • If three or more teams are tied, then the order is most wins in the round, then points difference.

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Once again there are several interclub trophies in play tomorrow:

  • HOBM and OBU will battle over the Wood Cup, which honours Ron Wood, who was a 1945 founding member of the Woburn club (later High School OB which merged with the Hutt club in 1967 to form Hutt OB) and had also played for Wellington College OB. HOBM are the holders after their 38-17 win at Nairnville early last year.
  • Ories and Norths contest their To’omaga Alex Iona Memorial Cup. First played for in 2011, Alex played for Ories after arriving from Samoa, then moved north and played for the old Porirua club. The Magpies are the holders after their 32-25 win in last year’s Swindale, which they also backed up with a 35-17 win the Jubilee Cup.
  • Upper Hutt and Wainuiomata have their Peter Jones/Dave Ritchie Cup, which is named for former managers of each club and held by Wainuiomata after their 58-25 win at home last year; and
  • Wellington and Poneke square off for their Spud Lindsay Memorial Trophy. Ray Lindsay was a Poneke player, administrator, and senior coach through the 30s, 40s, and 50s until he was replaced as senior coach in 1958. He then moved to the Axemen where he was heavily involved until his death in 1973. Poneke hold this after their big 60-7 win last season.

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Premier Reserve Harper Lock Shield

UPDATED: Norths (47) continue to steam ahead at the top of the standings and can take another step towards the round-robin crown with a win tomorrow, but that won’t be easy as they head to the Polo Ground to face Ories (32) who are one of several teams in the mix for those top four places for the Ed Chaney Cup playoffs. MSP (42) will advance their cause by 5 competition points as they have been defaulted to by Paremata-Plimmerton.

Behind the leading pair, just four points covers the next six teams. Four of those are in head-to-head matches with Petone (35) hosting Tawa (34) at the Petone Rec while across the river HOBM (34) and OBU (31) clash. Along with Ories, Poneke (34) are the other team in that group and they’re also at Petone to meet the Villagers Brotherhood (8). The remaining fixtures are between bottom six sides with Avalon (13) hosting Johnsonville (19) at Fraser Park, and Stokes Valley (13) play their last home of the round-robin when Wainuiomata (8) visit Delaney Park.

Colts Paris Memorial Trophy

Including the catch-up round from 15 August, there is three rounds left to play in the Colts regular season, before the playoffs.

OBU Green (38) have an 11-point buffer at the top of the standings to the chasing pack headed by Petone (27), who are one of four teams bunched together and circling the other three semi-final spots.

OBU Green have a bye this weekend, with the Wellington Axemen withdrawing from the competition, while Petone plays Norths Blue (26) at Porirua Park at 1.00pm in a tussle between second and third, while fourth placed HOBM Green (26) play OBU Black (19) in town at 1.00pm. The Upper Hutt Rams (14) play Johnsonville (6) at Maoribank Park at 12.30pm.

In a Friday night game tonight, Norths White (26) are at home to Tawa (21), while Poneke (11) has the scheduled bye in the Colts grade.

U85kg JC Bowl

UPDATED: This weekend’s U85kg grade round is the same draw as that two weeks ago that was postponed, and it’s the final round before the semi-finals next weekend when the top four will play for the Paul Potiki Shield and the bottom four for the Tony O’Brien silverware.

This weekend’s U85kg grade round is the same draw as that two weeks ago that was postponed, and it’s the final round before the semi-finals next weekend when the top four will play for the Paul Potiki Shield and the bottom four for the Tony O’Brien silverware.

The Upper Hutt Rams (34) have already qualified top with a round to spare, but their opponent tonight Avalon (24) has everything to play for on the Fraser Park Artificial.

The match tomorrow between the OBU Scallywags (20) and Wellington (22) is a straight shootout with the winner taking a semi-final spot. Wellington could still lose and sneak in on bonus points should Eastbourne (23) lose to Poneke who sit further down the table.

MSP (15) and HOBM (6) meet in the other match at the Evans Bay Park Artificial, while Wests have the bye.

College

A big round in the First XV Premiership. The highlight game is on the peninsula where Scots host Town in a game that could decide one of the finalists next month, with it being carried live on Sky TV. Like Scots, Silverstream will look to remain unbeaten as they host Rongotai in their annual match, both at 2.30pm.  At 1pm Wellington College will look to right their ailing ship when they host Tawa, while St Bernard’s head over the hills to Masterton to take on Wairarapa College. The fifth match of the round was played on Wednesday, with Aotea beating Mana 26-8 for their first win, which also doubled as a Beard Trophy defence.

In Premier 2 unbeaten leaders Upper Hutt will look to keep it that way when they host the Town 2nds with the Silverstream 2nds aiming to do likewise when they’re visited by their Wellington College counterparts, and there’s a game of interest when Hutt International head over the Haywards to take on Porirua. The fourth match is the local derby on the coast between Paraparaumu and Kapiti which is also their annual Rosebowl match.

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