Mud and glory. After two weeks of driving rain and heavy conditions, the sun is expected to make a welcome return for matches tomorrow around the Wellington region. Who will it shine on the most? PHOTO: Hugh Pretorius.
- By Scott MacLean
- Draws & teams (as received) HERE
Updated 4.00pm: It’s the decisive day in the Premier Swindale Shield with the final round, and the silverware is still up for grabs along with those remaining and important top-four places, as well as sorting out the balance of next week’s draw. Further down it’s the final week in the Colts grades before their playoffs, plus there’s some key matchups in the Premier 2, Under 85s, and Premier College grades.
There’s also the matter of tomorrow’s two international matches where Wellington has several players involved, but perhaps no prouder day for Avalon where they’ll have three sons of the their club run out with Asafo Aumua joined by debutant Giorgio Bower on the All Blacks’ bench as well as Teofilo Paulo in Samoa’s clash with the Maori All Blacks. It’ll also be a special night at Petone as one of their favourite sons, Mateaki Kafatolu, starts for Tonga against the All Blacks.
Premier Swindale Shield
So where will the trophy end up? Returning to the top of Mt Victoria, or heading to the Cambridge on the other side of the tunnel?
Despite their loss to Ories last week, Old Boys-University (51) still control their own fortunes, and in that respect the bonus point they got out of that match was crucial as without it, it would be out of their hands. Should they win and score four tries, they’ll be the ones presented with the century-old piece of silverware (see tiebreaker rules below). But it will not be easy to achieve that, as Tawa (43) are the visitors to Nairnville and they harbour hopes of sneaking into that top four for next week, as they’re already assured of hosting one of those 5th-8th matches at least.
Unsurprisingly the Goats are at as near full-strength as they could be. After being a late scratch Caleb Delany pairs up with Taine Plumtree at lock, Josh Gimblett returns after playing for Hawkes Bay in their Ranfurly Shield defence on Wednesday night, and Wes Goosen runs out at centre; though they did lose Kyle Preston after Wednesday’s Wellington XV outing so Matt Fowler steps in at halfback. Tawa’s extensive depth has taken a hit in recent weeks with a mounting injury list, and thats reflected in tomorrow’s side. There’s some familiar, grizzled, veteran faces, but also some fresh ones as John Samuelu and Tootai Ioane make their first Premier starts in a pack fronted by Sitivent Paongo, Lotu Nuku, and PJ Sheck. Kemara Hauiti-Parapara returns to halfback, though is partnered by Luke Cummings with James So’oialo on the bench
Eagerly awaiting news from Nairnville will be Marist St Pats (51), who will be looking to do what they can control and that is to take the maximum five points from their visit up (or down) to Hataitai Park and a clash with Wellington (14). If OBU fall short of matching what they do, then they’ll receive the Swindale. The Axemen though have upset MSP in recent times, two years ago when they prevailed 13-10 in a result that helped send MSP to the Hardham Cup that year and will be very keen to replicate that.
As has been their way, Wellington have reshuffled their lineup. Issac Bracewell starts at #10 this week, Jonathan Fidow gets a start up front, and Liam Privett starts at openside in his blazer game. MSP make several changes from the side that swept Petone aside. Amongst them are veterans Valentine Meachen, Charlie Gubb, and Tovio Apolo, while its a largely unchanged backline with another of that longserving contingent Ryan Setefano back in on the wing.
In something akin to no-man’s land are Oriental-Rongotai (45), who cannot finish any higher than third but could slide out of that top-four place they worked so hard to earn last week. However they face bottom-side Paremata-Plimmerton (2) at Ngati Toa, so will be favourites to get the five points they need to be certain of retaining their place in the standings.
Ories have made a number of changes from the side that beat OBU and claimed the Bill Brien Challenge Trophy a week ago including brothers Jonty Bird and Alex Fidow starting and Grayson Whitman swapping places with Saia Paese who heads to the pine. Pare-Plim cannot improve their position, so are already destined to play next week whichever side finishes in ninth. With it possibly being their last home of the year they’ll be looking to put out a good performance and add to their points tally. They get some veteran punch restored with Tane McMillan-Parata returning, and first sightings this year of Matt de Terte and Taisson Lealaisalanoa.
Holding onto that fourth-place are Hutt Old Boys Marist (44) who like Ories also face Hardham Cup-bound opposition as the Upper Hutt Rams (21) come down the valley, and also like the Magpies the Eagles will fancy getting the five points they need to keep that place. The Rams will have been frustrated by not just their result last week, but also their inability this season to beat any of the sides that finished above them a year ago, and tomorrow’s game represents the last opportunity that they have to do that in this year’s Swindale.
HOBM make three changes to their run-on side with Vili Tauofaga coming into the front row and Jordan-Glen Bradbrook and Blake McGregor joining the backs, while Brandyn Laursen will see if he can overhaul OBU’s Sam Reid as the Swindale’s leading points-scorer. Upper Hutt’s changes amount to returns for Nic Apikatoa, Jared Woodward, and Hokianga Morunga at prop, openside, and the left wing respectively.
Also in that top-four mix are Norths (41), though although they face Johnsonville (13) at home at Jerry Collins Stadium they’ll need either Ories and HOBM to lose, and Tawa to do so as well. Even if they do find themselves in those 5th to 8th matches next week, which seems likely at this point, then their recent form suggests that they’ll be difficult opposition as long as their season lasts. The Hawks are headed to the Hardham, but will take heart from the fact their somewhat makeshift side last week proved difficult for HOBM to break down.
Many of those faces back up again this week for Johnsonville, including a starting debut for South African halfback Eben Claassen and Andy Ellis shifting into second-five, but they’ll have their work cut out as Norths have a pair of high-powered additions with both TJ Perenara and Du’plessis Kirifi starting, along with a return from injury and suspension for Dale Sabbagh.
Two more sides that are set for the Hardham clash at Kilbirnie Park, with Poneke (21) hosting Avalon (7). Like the Rams who they beat last week, the home team will be rueing their inability to beat sides further up the table which has left them in this position. Andrew Jones will captain the side with James Mose coming in to add thump to their pack, and Ethan Coffin given a start on the right wing.
The Wolves continue to fight on and will be looking for a second success on the year, but may also just be happy to get away from the bog their home ground has turned into. They make a number of changes, but a significant one for them is the return of hard-running Ale Peni in their midfield.
And finally we come to two sides that are certain of two things; that they are inside that top-8 but cannot move up the table enough to have home matches next weekend. But what Petone (36) and Wainuiomata (34) can do is decide who’ll finish 7th and 8th and set the seedings for next week, as well as settle local bragging rights for the season.
Brothers Tupou and Zeke Sopoaga return for the Villagers, with Jack Ross amongst those dropping out. Youngster Richard Evans also gets a start over on the left wing. Wainuiomata makes just a handful with Kade Tiatia returning up front and Peter Umaga-Jensen back, though skipper Greg Leolofi remains an absentee.
A reminder of the tiebreaker rules, which goes right through the Premier table as seeding applies for next week, and for all remaining WRFU grades:
- If two teams are tied, then the team that won the most recent meeting between the two is the higher seed. If that match was drawn, then points-difference is the determining factor
- If three or more teams are tied, then they are split firstly by the number of games won in that round, then by points-difference.
There’s a pair of critical matchups at the top of the Division 1 Ed Chaney Cup in tomorrow’s penultimate round. At Porirua Park unbeaten pair Norths Blue and Tawa go at it, with the reward for the winner being that they’ll likely top the standings after next week. The teams behind them, HOBM and the Upper Hutt Rams, also meet over at the Hutt Rec where the winner will keep an outside chance of a top-two place. Elsewhere OBU will look to move back into the hunt when they host winless Ories, and at Kilbirnie Park Poneke will welcome MSP across the road.
Still some weeks to go in the Division 2 HD Morgan Memorial. There’s a real grudge match and leading pair Petone Blue and Wainuiomata clash in the early game at the Rec though they, and third-placed Norths White who host Johnsonville up on the top fields at Porirua Park, are all yet to have the bye. Of the teams that have, Stokes Valley has the most points and they’re at home on Delaney Park against Pare-Plim in the late game, while winless pair Wellington and Avalon clash at Hataitai. Petone White has the bye this round.
The age-grade reaches its last set of matches in both divisions before next week’s playoffs. In the Division 1 John E Kelly Cup Petone (19) are assured of top spot irrespective of results tomorrow, including their own match at home on the Rec against HOBM (8) who need to win to force their way in. Tawa (11) will look to make sure they’re the other semi-final host when they face Ories (6) who are still alive but need other results to go their way. The central match to the round is at Kelburn Park where OBU Green hosts MSP (both 10) where the winner will be through and the loser anxiously after the results from elsewhere.
It’s a similar situation in the Division 2 Vic Calcinai Memorial. Leaders Avalon (20) are certain of top spot and tomorrow they’re at home on the Fraser Park turf to take on Pare-Plim (12), who are also guaranteed to be involved next week. That also applies to the Upper Hutt Rams (15) who venture to Kilbirnie Park to face Poneke (9) where the home team needs at least two competition points to assure their passage, otherwise they could be overhauled by Wainuiomata (5) who are at home against OBU Black who’s pair of recent defaults owing to the Uni holidays has them out of contention.
The third-round of matches in the Championship Division 1 Paul Potiki Shield is highlighted by the clash between Eastbourne and Avalon at HW Shortt, where the home team will be looking to shake off the rust quickly – having been idle for a month – against one their fellow title challengers. Elsewhere the Upper Hutt Rams are home against MSP and Poneke welcome Johnsonville to Kilbirnie Park.
In the two Division 2 Tony O’Brien Shield matches the OBU Scallywags and HOBM meet in the Ian Galloway cage, and Wests venture out to Delaney Park and a clash with Stokes Valley.
Once again just three matches in the Premiership tomorrow with the round having started on Wednesday with Wellington College beating Rongotai 34-0 and Mana accounting for Aotea 27-13 to also complete a sweep of the Beard Trophy matches this year. The highlight match tomorrow is at Evans Bay where St Pats Town will look to end Scots’ long local winning run, while Upper Hutt plays host to the other two matches. After almost toppling Wellington College last week St Bernard’s heads up the valley to face Silverstream, while a short distance away Hutt International welcomes Porirua to Trentham.
In Premier 2 leaders Upper Hutt venture north to Masterton to face second-placed Wairarapa College in the match of the round. In the remaining fixtures the Silverstream 2nds are at home against Paraparaumu, Naenae head up the coast to take on Kapiti, Bishop Viard hosts the Wellington College 2nds, and the Town 2nds are at home against Tawa.
There is also the first of the College grade finals tomorrow with the conclusion of the Under 80kg competition which had just three teams this year. Silverstream hosts Wellington College, with their two previous matches having ended in a 38-all draw and a 29-22 win to Silverstream.