Poneke and the Johnsonville Hawks are both playing at home tomorrow, Poneke hosting the Upper Hutt Rams for the Alby Makeham Shield and Johnsonville hosting the Hutt Old Boys Marist Eagles in the battle of the birds of prey.
- By Scott MacLean
- Draws & teams (as received) HERE
UPDATED 4.00pm Friday: Despite this week’s unwelcome Covid news, rugby will proceed tomorrow albeit under Level 2 conditions which has forced some time and venue changes for matches, but also a plea from both the WRFU and College Sport to not attend matches.
On the field though, the top-eight for the playoffs could be found tomorrow while the first trophies for the season will find their summer homes with the playing of both Women’s division finals.
Premier Swindale Shield
Will the silverware find it’s home for the summer at the Cambridge Hotel tomorrow, or will it all go down to next week? That’s the situation that awaits for Old Boys-University, Marist St Pats, and at longer odds Oriental-Rongotai.
Old Boys-University (50) return to stand in their Nairnville paddock for the last two weeks, although by not getting four tries in their last-gasp win against the Rams a week ago the Goats’ margin has been reduced by one over MSP. Tomorrow however the third-placed Oriental Rongotai (41) make the trip across town to Khandallah for the match of the round, with the Magpies still harbouring very slim hopes of claiming the trophy but also wary of the teams immediately below them.
As you’d expect, both sides are at as close to full-strength as possible. OBU makes just two changes from last Saturday’s lineup with Paddy Carter in for Josh Gimblett with Tiaki Fabish moving into lock. Ories have Ronaldo Seumanufagai and Samsom Alaimoana are their locking pair, while Saia Paese moves back to first-five with the ageless Paulo Aukuso lining up at centre.
OBU will also again be defending the Bill Brien Challenge Cup.
The other highlight game of the day is in the eastern suburbs, where Marist St Pats (46) host Petone (36) at Evans Bay. The home side have done what they’ve needed to in defence of the silverware in recent weeks, and will be hoping that their neighbours do them a massive favour at Nairnville. The visitors will however be looking to upset all of those hopes and keep their own ones of finishing in the top-four intact.
MSP make just one change with Ryan Dafel coming into their pack in place of Tovio Apolo, while the figure of Charlie Gubb has been added to their bench. As well as their trio (Riley Higgins, Peter Lakai, and Mateaki Kafatolu) on representative duty, both Tupou and Zeke Sopoaga are also absent for the Villagers with Sam Tonise and Tali Sina replacing them, and a potential debut for former NZ Schools rep Mitch Southall from the bench.
The two also play for their Bill Elvy Memorial Trophy. Elvy was a Petone star of the 20’s, his son Norm played for both Marist Brothers and St Patrick’s Old Boys, and grandson Martin played for MSP. It’s held by Petone after their 20-19 win where they were one of only three sides to beat MSP a year ago.
Looking to not only consolidate their place in the top-four but also potentially a place in the top-two, Hutt Old Boys Marist (40) hit the road to Helston Park to face Johnsonville (13). Having lost only once in the past two months the Eagles will be favourites, but the Hawks will be keen to leave a good impression in their last Swindale home match of the season and only need to look back to the same point last year when they pushed MSP to the brink.
Johnsonville have been forced to patch together a lineup owing to a lengthy injury list, with half the team turned over from last week though with Paula Kinikinilau, Aukuso Tuitama, and Andy Ellis they still have strike power in the backline. After easing past Pare-Plim last week HOBM make a handful of changes; centurion Francis Tanuvasa returns to their backline while up front Nonu Tuia, a standout in last year’s St Bernard’s 1st XV, makes his Premier debut at tighthead prop.
The last two weeks have not been kind to Tawa (38), as successive home losses to HOBM and Norths saw their Swindale hopes go up in smoke and they now face a battle to even make it into those precious top-four places. They’ll be overwhelming favourites to get five of those valuable points when they head into the Hutt Valley to take on Avalon (7) at Fraser Park, where the Wolves will, at the very least, want to put on a better performance against one of the leading teams than they’ve otherwise managed this year.
They make a number of changes with Lyon Pretorius, Sonny Oloapu, Jordan Aquila, and David Saumolia all coming into the starting side. Tawa have also rattled off the changes, which means starts for Hemi Fermanis, Folau Vea, and George Sim with Kemara Hauiti-Parapara taking the #10 jersey this week with Tito Ioane and James So’oialo amongst those on the bench
With two of the bottom four yet to play, Norths (36) are also still a factor for that top-four. Like Tawa they’ll be favourites to take five points from their meeting with Wellington (14) but the Axemen will be buoyed after taking their third win of the season (and third in four weeks) last week at Avalon. This game was scheduled for Hataitai Park, but owing to it’s current use as a Covid testing venue it’s been moved to Jerry Collins Stadium.
Norths have won three on the trot after a midseason stumble and amongst several changes they’ll have a new halves pairing in Luke Kapene and Zane Edwards, though if things do go pearshaped TJ Perenara is on the bench. Wellington make a number themselves, including William Cosgriff taking the #10 jersey and Davis Eni, who has started matches at both hooker and flanker so far this season, starting outside him in the backs.
At the back end of the current top-eight, Wainuiomata (29) can ensure they’ll be in that mix in a fortnight’s time when they make the journey across the region to face Paremata-Plimmerton (2) at Ngati Toa. The men in green and black need just two competition points to at least contest the first round of the Jubilee Cup playoffs, but will be looking for all five.
The home team endured another tough day out last Saturday against HOBM, and will be looking to salvage something from this campaign with two home games to close out the round-robin, and have named a side similar to that who took the field at the Hutt Rec including veterans Danny Herewini and James Corcoran who are both closing in on 100 games. Wainuiomata coach Dan Farani again straps the boots on for his side as he makes several changes; amongst those a return to Ngati Toa for Caleb Nicholas and a return to Premier rugby for Tyler Tane after he broke his leg at the Shannon 7s earlier in the year.
The two teams will also contest their Smith & Wilson Challenge Cup, named for current Wainuiomata assistant Daniel Smith and Pare-Plim coach Justin Wilson.
Finally there are the two sides that currently occupy the places immediately outside the 8, with Poneke (17) welcoming the Upper Hutt Rams (21) to Kilbirnie Park. The home side are out of Jubilee Cup contention, with the visitors needing to both win and for there to be an almighty upset at Ngati Toa Domain for their hopes to remain alive for another week. There is something more than just pride and hopes for the two teams to play for as their Alby Makeham Shield will be at stake, which honours the former Wellington representative halfback who played for both clubs across the 50’s and early 60’s and earned the nickname of “Kick it again” for the regularity he put boot to ball.
Jimmy-Lee Hongara and Jack Loader return for the home side, with the Rams bringing big Willie Tuuina, Josh Hunt, and Jack Wright back into their pack.
The first Championships of the year will be decided tomorrow, with the club Women’s competitions reaching their end and the trophies – which weren’t played for in last year’s shortened season – finding their home for the summer. Norths and Oriental-Rongotai again contest the Division 1 Tia Paasi Memorial, with Norths having hosting rights at Jerry Collins Stadium after their 34-24 win in the round-robin match three weeks ago. The pair have split their two meetings since the new trophy was introduced with Norths’ upset win in 2018 before Ories emphatically redressed that two years ago.
Just up the road at Ngati Toa Domain is the Division 2 Izzy Ford Cup final between hosts and top-qualifiers Paremata-Plimmerton and Avalon. Pare-Plim has won both matches between the two sides, 26-5 at the Petone Rec on Gala Day and then a thumping 84-0 win earlier in this round, and will be red-hot favourites. After sitting at home last week and seeing neither Poneke nor OBU overhaul them, Avalon will not be there to simply make up the numbers and will be looking to register one of the great upsets in recent Wellington rugby history.
James Malcolm will referee the Division 1 decider, having also been in charge for the last meeting between the two finalists, while veteran whistler Trevor Walker has the Division 2 Final.
The halfway point has been passed in the Division 1 Ed Chaney Cup, and Tawa and Norths Blue remain unbeaten at the head of the ladder. They might have an eye on their meeting next weekend, but have to get through tomorrow first where they face rather different challenges. Norths hit the road to Evans Bay to meet MSP who were trounced last week, while Tawa are at home on Lyndhurst against OBU who pushed Norths. HOBM and the Upper Hutt Rams will be looking to maintain their places in the current top four when they travel into the eastern suburbs to face winless pair Ories and Poneke respectively.
The Division 2 HD Morgan Memorial reaches their halfway point this weekend, and leaders Petone Blue will be strong favourites to maintain their position when they face winless Avalon at Fraser Park. Despite their loss last week, Wainuiomata are still second and will look to get back into the winners circle against Pare-Plim – also winners last week – at Ngati Toa, and Norths White will also be after maximum points against bottom-side Wellington at a venue yet to be determined. The fourth match is at the Petone Rec where the Villagers White side take on Stokes Valley, with Johnsonville having the bye this week.
Colts and Under 85s
The Colts Division 1 John E Kelly Memorial is highlighted by a top-of-the-table clash with leaders Petone heading to Nairnville to provide the early entertainment against OBU Green. The Villagers can’t drop out of the lead; a win ensures that they’ll be top qualifier but a loss could leave them with work to do next week while after a makeshift side (owing to University holidays) was well-beaten by HOBM the Goats will be hoping as many of their regulars have made it back to town in time. Elsewhere HOBM are at home against Tawa, and bottom pair Ories and MSP clash at Polo.
In the Division 2 Vic Calcinai Memorial the leading three have a chance to put distance between them and the rest. Leaders Avalon head to William Jones to take on Wainuiomata and Pare-Plim are home for the visit of Poneke while the Upper Hutt Rams can rest up with the uni holidays leaving OBU Black unable to field a team.
In the top Under 85s division Paul Potiki Shield Eastbourne will get to put their feet up again, defaulted to for a second successive week, this time by MSP, while the Upper Hutt Rams after defaulting last Saturday themselves head to Kilbirnie Park to face Poneke. The third match is between contenders Johnsonville and Avalon at Helston Park, with the pair also having agreed to have this match double as their National U85s Cup knockout match. In the second-tier Tony O’Brien Shield both matches are in the city with Wests hosting HOBM in the Ian Galloway cage and Wellington doing likewise with the OBU Scallywags at MacAlister Park, with Stokes Valley having the bye.
Another split round in the Premiership with three matches to complete the midway round tomorrow, following on from Silverstream’s 27-5 win over Rongotai on Wednesday. Scots will be odds-on to regain the outright lead when they host winless Aotea, and Wellington College will look to keep pace and create a break to the teams below them when they hit the road to face St Bernard’s. The final match is out in Elsdon where home side Mana takes on Hutt International. There was a fourth match, but Porirua have been unable to field a team and have defaulted to St Pat’s Town.
In Premier 2 it’s a full schedule. Leaders Upper Hutt College are at home for the visit of Bishop Viard, while the also unbeaten Silverstream 2nds head south to meet their Wellington College counterparts. Third-placed Wairarapa College come over the hill to face winless Naenae, the Town 2nds head up the coast to take on Paraparaumu, and Kapiti heads the other way to meet Tawa.
There’s two Premiership matches this Wednesday with Wellington College hosting Rongotai in their annual Traditional that afternoon, followed that night by Mana facing Aotea in the final Beard Trophy clash of the year.