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Midpoint for Swindale Shield, lower grade trophies presented and college grading concludes

Wainuiomata return home tomorrow to play Northern United for the Alf Keating Memorial Trophy, while competition leaders Old Boys University make the trip to Helston Park to play the Johnsonville Hawks. PHOTO: Stewart Baird.

  • By Scott MacLean & Steven White

Draws & Results are HERE 

It’s the halfway point of the Swindale Shield where the table continues to shake itself out, while a host of first-round trophies will also be handed out by various WRFU dignitaries across the afternoon. In terms of player milestones there’s two significant one as HOBM’s Blake McGregor becomes the latest Eagle centurion on their Old Timers’ Day and Isaia Petelo plays his 150th match for Marist St Pat’s. Paremata-Plimmerton also hold their Old Timers’ Day tomorrow.

Premier Swindale Shield

Leaders Old Boys-University hit the road this weekend, making the journey to Helston Park to face Johnsonville. Maintaining their unbeaten record would be the first order of business for the Goats

OBU forwards will look to get the job against the Hawks. Establishing set-piece dominance will be the Goats’ goal. Luke Chisholm comes in for Morgan Poi and Caleb Delany for Taine Plumtree. In the backs, Ty Poe moves into centre and Alex Ropeti to second five-eighth.

Johnsonville will look to their experienced props Ha’amia Ahio and Tevita Falekakala to take on OBU’S formidable pack, while recent OBU player Oliver Paotonu starts his second match in the flyhalf position for them. Andy Ellis returns to midfield, while Irish duo Mark Sutton and Nial Delahunt are at halfback and fullback respectively.

Two points behind and with that one loss on their record, Marist St Pat’s head east through the cutting for what the points table would say is the game of the day against Oriental Rongotai at the Polo Ground.

The competition’s leading try-scorer with seven tries, James Tuia, lines up at openside flanker in another mostly settled side for the defending Swindale Shield champions. The only change to their pack which beat Johnsonville last week is flanker Ryan Dafel in for Andre Hart. A couple of minor changes to their backs, such as Luke Donaldson in at halfback for Ken Kapeli and the return to the starting XV of midfielder Isaia Petelo.

Ories have made just one change to their run-on team from that which pulled away late against the Upper Hutt Rams last week, with Connor Lemon at prop in place of Tua Taituave. Look out for Sione Halalilo at blindside flanker and for the Paese’s, Setefano and Saia at halfback and first five-eighth to run their side around the Polo Ground, inside Petelo who plays his 150th match.

Behind the leading duo, six teams – including Ories – are covered by just two points.

Two of those clash at Maidstone, with Tawa making the journey over the Haywards to take on the Upper Hutt Rams. The Lyndhurst side have hit their stride after a sluggish start and appear determined to try and run down the teams ahead of them, both of whom they are yet to face. Things get real now for the Rams, who now face a run from now until the end of the Swindale against teams that finished ahead of them a year ago and need to pick up wins amongst those to stay in that top-eight hunt.

Tawa’s depth will be on show tomorrow, with their coaches able to rotate their large squad sufficiently to leave players such as James So’oialo, Lotu Nuku, PJ Sheck, Hugo Plummer and Tito Ioane on the bench. A couple of positional changes too, with Sitiveni Paongo moving to loosehead prop and Kemara Hauiti-Parapara switching out to first -five.

The Upper Hutt Rams have selected Joel Stuart at halfback to make his Premier starting debut, while Konelio Feauanati lines up at second-five, in his first Premier start of 2021.

The other three though have an opportunity to pick up valuable points against teams in the bottom half of the table, with all three matches in the Hutt Valley. Furthest north, Hutt Old Boys Marist will be looking to continue their recent run against winless Wellington in the main game on the Eagles’ Old Timers Day.

Blake McGregor starts on the right wing in his 100th match for the Eagles, while Francis Tunuvasa slots in at centre for Jordan Glen-Bradbrook and Anthony Utanga starts at first-five for Glen Walters, in three changes in the backs. In the loose forwards, Jordan Gillies starts at openside flanker for Willie Rua and Aisea Mafileo comes in to lock for Gillies.

James Kusel is on the HOBM bench, and if he takes the field it will be his first Premier appearance for six years.

The Coburn brothers, Tony and James, at loosehead and tighthead prop respectively, could be key to the Axemen’s hopes at the Hutt Rec, whilst Tom Robertson comes into the loose forwards for Rory Woods in one change to the pack. Matt Day starts at fullback and Dean McMahon on the left wing and Beau Murphy in the midfield for Ranui Burchett in some tweaks to their backline.

Across the Hutt River, Petone welcomes Avalon down the valley and onto the Petone Rec. The Villagers will be stung by the loss of the McBain and will seek a return to winning ways, though the Wolves will be buoyed by breaking their duck last weekend. This particular fixture has seen a massive variance in results in recent times; five years ago Avalon pulled off a smash-and-grab 8-6 win, but two years ago were on the receiving end of a 91-5 thrashing.

Petone’s propping crisis means the call-up of Samuela Kurusiga, who makes his Premier Debut in place of the injured Taliauli Sina. Kaleb Sinclair comes in as hooker as well. Petone’s tight five will be eager to feed the backs as much as possible, where Riley Higgins and Vince Aso team up in midfield in a potentially dangerous combination for Avalon to contain.

Avalon too have made some changes from the team that earned their first win last week. Tighthead prop Daly Ena captains the team that is lock missing Teofilo Paulo, No. 8 Mike Va’a and flanker Mike Va’a. In the backs, Jayson Aquila starts at 10, David Saumolia at 12 and Charles Mataitai on the right wing.

Over the Hill Road, Norths will be after the points at William Jones but will face a stern challenge from home side Wainuiomata who will be desperate to bridge some of the gap to the top eight.

For Norths, Johnny Teleaga comes back into the side, but to midfield, in place of Joe Faleafaga, while Lise Soloa comes on to the bench with two players making their debuts, Greig Tasani and Keenan Ng. A key player for them tomorrow will be hooker Leni Apisai, an Auckland contracted player.

Waininuomata’s attack will be based around returning Hurricanes centre Peter Umaga-Jensen, who plays outside playmakers TJ Va’a and John Monu. The green and blacks will be dangerous if this trio gets the chance to shine, although Josh Robertson-Weepu is missing from their line-up as named. Captain Greg Lealofi, Sam Smith and Teru Time team up in the loose, while lock Bevan Clark is a workhorse for them.

And finally two of the bottom four meet at Ngati Toa, with Poneke the guests on Paremata-Plimmerton’s Old Timers Day. The visitors left themselves too much to do to chase Norths down a week ago, while the home side would have left Fraser Park bitterly disappointed in how they fell away against an Avalon side that had been reduced to 14; it goes without saying that both need a reversal of fortunes.

For Poneke, Jimmy Hewitt plays his 30th game and earns his club blazer lining up in the second five-eighth position.

Poneke bring a settled pack to try and get their season back on a winning track, with Andrew Jones coming back to start at hooker and Moses Galuvao dropping to the bench. Isaac Moe-Jenkins comes back into the starting XV on the left wing, replacing Psalms Latu who is out with a broken hand.

Paremata-Plimmerton have made a few changes as well, with Liam Tooman in at hooker for Stu Simonson and James Moore for Luke Omeri at blindside flanker. Michael Martinez comes off the pine to halfback and Justin Wilson starts the game at flyhalf and Blake Neve lines up at centre.

There are three interclub trophies in play this weekend:

  • Petone and Avalon contest their Morgan Family Trophy. It was donated in 1987 by cousins John and Trevor Morgan on behalf of the family who have ties to both clubs
  • Upper Hutt and Tawa play for their Mexted Motors Cup, donated by the company where they have dealerships in both areas.
  • And Wainuiomata and Norths have their Alf Keating Memorial Trophy, which honours a man who played for both clubs.

Premier Women

With the first-round trophies having been handed out last week the focus for the Women switches now to the championship round, a short sprint over the next six weeks for the Tia Paasi Memorial Trophy in Division 1 and the Izzy Ford Cup for Division 2.

In the former, Hutt Old Boys Marist make their bow in the division following promotion after winning Division 2 last week, and host neighbours Petone on the Hutt Rec in the first senior match of their Old Timers’ Day. The second match has eastern suburbs neighbours Marist St Pat’s and first-round winners Oriental Rongotai meeting for the third time this year, this time on Kilbirnie Park #1.

The two Division 2 games have Paremata-Plimmerton at home against winless Old Boys-University, with valley pair Avalon and Wainuiomata meeting at Fraser Park. The two sides that would otherwise have the bye each round are currently scheduled to meet in a non-comp fixture, though the two this week – Norths and Poneke – have opted to forego that.

Premier 2

Contrasting states of affairs in the two divisions heading into their final week. In the Division 1 Harper Lock Shield Tawa wrapped up the trophy after beating MSP last week coupled with Ories’ loss to OBU and will be presented with it after they meet Norths at Lyndhurst. Ories will look to hang onto second when they host MSP at Polo, HOBM and Poneke clash at the Hutt Rec, and OBU will look to extend Petone Blue’s misery when they head to the Hutt Rec.

In Division 2 however, the title remains up for grabs. Despite losing last week, the Upper Hutt Rams control matters and a bonus point win against Wellington at home on Maidstone will be enough, while Stokes Valley will be hoping the Rams slip up while doing what they need against Pare-Plim at Ngati Toa. If the pair end up on the same number of points, the title would be Stokes Valley’s after their win last Saturday. The other two matches have Wainuiomata hosting Avalon at William Jones, and Johnsonville are at Petone to take on the Villager’s White side.

Colts

It is a similar story in the two Colts divisions. OBU Green cannot be headed off to retain the Division 1 Paris Memorial no matter the result of their meeting with second-placed MSP on Kilbirnie Park. HOBM could overtake the latter when they take on Petone on the Hutt Rec, while both Ories and Tawa will be looking for a positive end to the round, and avoid potential relegation, when they meet at Polo.

In Division 2 its OBU Black who control their own fate, as a bonus point win over Wainuiomata at Nairnville will ensure the JRD Cup also heads to the Cambridge. It is Avalon hoping that the students can’t get the job done, but they face a tough assignment against a resurgent Pare-Plim at Ngati Toa. Complicating the picture is that the latter, plus the Upper Hutt Rams who host Poneke at Maidstone, could themselves claim the trophy and it’s possible that all four teams could end up tied which would lead into a deep-dive into the WRFU’s bylaws.

College

It is a busy weekend as well for the school game with a couple of high-profile matches and the final set of qualifying matches. At that sharp end Silverstream hosts Palmerston North Boys in their annual Traditional match, while back in the city St Pat’s Town entertain Napier Boys at Evans Bay.

Elsewhere, the last four teams for this year’s Premiership will be found. Three of those matches are in the Porirua basin, with Porirua meeting Aotea for the second successive year at this stage though this time Porirua are on home turf, Mana – like Aotea – get a second chance against Paraparaumu, and Tawa host Hutt International. The fourth match is in Lower Hutt where regulars St Bernard’s and Wairarapa clash. The four losers of those will head to Premier 2 where they will be joined by the winners of four more matches. In those Hutt Valley HS are at home against Bishop Viard, Naenae welcome the Scots 2nd XV, Taita likewise for the St Pats Town 2nds, and Wainuiomata head up the coast to take on Kapiti.

As well as last year’s top four, Wellington College and Upper Hutt have already qualified for the Premiership, with the Wellington College and Silverstream 2nd XV’s likewise for Premier 2.

Attention swiftly turns after this weekend to the first of the year’s Traditional matches with St Pat’s Town and Wellington College opening the Premiership season when they meet at Evans Bay on Wednesday, while earlier that day Scots take on Napier Boys who are evidently here for a few days.

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JOINT STATEMENT BY OLD BOYS UNIVERSITY RFC, MARIST ST PATS RFC & WELLINGTON RUGBY FOOTBALL UNION

 Following an incident at a match between Old Boys University RFC (OBU) and Marist St Pats RFC (MSP) Premier Men’s teams on May 8th, a meeting was held on Thursday evening 20th May at the offices of the Wellington Rugby Football Union (WRFU).   Representatives from the two clubs, along with representatives from the Wellington Rugby Referees Association (WRRA) and the WRFU, all met to resolve any issues.

The parties were all pleased with the meeting and express regret and dismay at the events that occurred towards the end of the match.  There was a united view that such incidents are completely contrary to the values of the clubs, the union and of our wonderful game.

Both MSP and OBU have enjoyed a long-standing fierce on-field rivalry against a background of equally long-standing mutual respect and friendship.   MSP acknowledged that OBU is not a racist club.  The clubs, the WRRA and the WRFU are united in their condemnation of racist comments or slurs.

The clubs have confirmed their continued co-operation with the WRFU in improving side-line behaviour across all grades.  From now on there will be a better patrolling of side-lines to proactively call out bad behaviour and better manage issues relating to alcohol consumption at grounds.

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