Isaia Petelo’s MSP and Isaac Bracewell’s Wellington follow different courses over the next month of the season. MSP host Ories tomorrow in a top four semi-final and Wellington host Johnsonville in their Hardham Cup opener. PHOTO: Andy McArthur.
- By Scott MacLean
Jubilee Cup round one draw and teamlists HERE
Hardham Cup round one draw and teamlists HERE
Colts Division 1 Semi-finals draw HERE
UPDATED #2: It’s now the business end of the season with the first week of the new Premier playoff format, and the semi-finals in both divisions of the Colts grade. There’s also the final round of matches in the top division of the Premier 2 grade, the 85s are rapidly heading towards their playoffs, and the last round of college rugby before it takes a three-week break for the holidays.
On the player front there’s one significant milestone, with MSP’s Josh To’omaga set to play his 100th match for their Premier side in their clash with Ories at Evans Bay. Our congratulations to him.
Note that kickoff times differ this week with extra-time a factor for consideration. All seven Premier matches start slightly earlier at 2.30pm and all four Colts semi-finals get underway at 12.30pm, while some other matches kickoff at slightly different times to usual.
Premier Jubilee Cup
We’ll start this week with the two elimination games, where Norths (5th seed) host Wainuiomata (8) at Jerry Collins Stadium while a short distance away Tawa (6) are at home on Lyndhurst Park against Petone (7). The stakes are high for all four; win and their championship hopes carry on for another week, lose and they drop down into the Hardham Cup for next week and beyond. Adding to the intrigue is that in the two respective meetings during the Swindale the lower ranked team won both encounters; Wainuiomata edged Norths 25-24 at William Jones when they met in round seven, while Petone shut out Tawa 12-0 all the way back in the opening round.
That result was the last time that Norths lost however, and they are arguably the form team of the moment which is somewhat ominous for the rest of the competition. Campbell Woodmass returns at halfback so TJ Perenara dons the #15 jersey, while an interesting addition to their bench is Bruce Kauika-Petersen who seems to have returned north after missing out on the Otago NPC squad after spending the season down there.
Wainuiomata will know that they’ll need to improve greatly from last Saturday where they seemed strangely out of sorts. They make a host of changes including getting talismanic skipper Greg Leolofi back, and his return sparks an interesting move with Teru Time lining up in midfield.
A popular pick for the top four, Tawa stumbled down the stretch losing three of their last four just when they were right in the Swindale chase, and it would be a stunner if they were eliminated in the first week. Tito Ioane, Akira Ieremia, Weston Sao, and PJ Iosefo are amongst those that come back into their starting side, while a big talking point is the absence of James So’oialo from their 22 entirely.
Petone showed a return to form in dispatching Wainuiomata a week ago, but The Villagers remain without several players who would be in their starting side without hesitation including Mateaki Kafatolu (Tonga), and Riley Higgins and Peter Lakai (NZ U20s). Tupou Sopoaga is on the bench after playing for the Cook Islands midweek so Sam Tonise is at No8, joined in the starting side by Caelym Box and veteran prop Hoani Tui who came off the bench last week for his first Wellington Premier action since 2008!
Leading Premier referees Jack Sargentina and Jamie Fairmaid will be in charge of the two matches.
The other two Jubilee Cup matches pit Swindale winners Old Boys-University (1) against Hutt Old Boys Marist (4) up at Nairnville, while across town is the eastern suburbs derby between Marist St Pats (2) and Oriental-Rongotai (3). These set the stages for the next two weeks, with the winners getting byes through until the semi-finals in a fortnight, while the losers face knockout rugby next Saturday against the winners of the two matches above.
Having done what they needed to a week ago to secure a return for the Swindale Shield to the Cambridge, OBU’s attentions now firmly turn to the defence of their championship crown. They did beat HOBM 23-20 when they met back in round two, but will also know that counts for very little at this point of the year. Their starting side tomorrow has just two changes from that which beat Tawa last week, with loosies Dom Ropeti and Cody Quin returning and replacing Josh Gimblett and Taine Plumtree who was a very early casualty in that match.
The Eagles have presented a mostly settled line-up, although Jordan Gillies is missing from their pack. In his place is long-serving lock David Filipo who returns for the first time since the ninth round a month ago. They will rely on their engine room up front to gain parity with the Goats, with the Manaia brothers bookending their scrum and Ben Power at hooker. Connor Collins comes back at halfback as well.
When MSP and Ories met in round 7 of the Swindale at the Polo Ground it was billed as one of the games of the season. However, MSP made a lie of that with an opening blitz that had the game essentially won inside the opening 20 minutes en route to a 40-14 win, and their motivation in the coming weeks will be to have the Jubilee Cup in their hands for the first time since 2012 though tomorrow’s will come from Josh To’omaga’s 100th. Their side tomorrow has starting returns for Tyrone Thompson, James Zino, and wingers Ryan Setefano and Willie Schutz
Unsurprisingly they make several changes from the team that beat Pare-Plim last week, with veterans Whetu Henry and Poasa Poasa returning to the front alongside the latters brother Penieli, with Saia Paese and Roderick Solo added to their back division.
Premier Hardham Cup
It’s a different set of circumstances for the bottom-six sides and the first week of the Hardham Cup. Their matches set their seedings for next week where they’ll be joined by the two teams dropping down from the Jubilee Cup, and where the home teams will be looking to keep station and the away teams to improve theirs.
Poneke’s (9) late run of wins against their fellow Hardham-bound teams came too late for them to make the Jubilee section, but as a result they’re in the best form of any of these six. Their assignment tomorrow is at home at Kilbirnie against bottom-side Paremata-Plimmerton (14) who are still looking for their first win on the year, and will be more than keen to throw an upset into the works and turn around the 45-26 result from the midpoint round of the Swindale.
Poneke get some welcome boosts with Galu Taufale back from injury and both Greg Foe and Hauwei McGahan returning after missing last week, while its an unchanged backline. Pare-Plim go back to the old firm of Teariki Kie Tonga and Danny Herewini up front, with Justin Wilson returning to halfback and younger brother Khya at fullback.
There’s a neighbourly clash at the head of the Hutt Valley, with the Upper Hutt Rams (10) at home against Avalon (13) at Maidstone. The Rams will be buoyed somewhat by their draw against HOBM a week ago though that was the first time they hadn’t lost since round 5 two months ago. They also took the earlier meeting between the two sides this year by 49-28 back on opening day. Its a different-looking side for the Rams tomorrow as they’re without Murphy Taramai which appears to have sparked a reshuffle in the pack with big Willie Tuuina and Gelu Lafaele back in, while in the backs Craig Brown makes his first start for the year at first-five.
Avalon turned in one of their better performances this year last week against Poneke, but once again lost by double-digits. They’ll know that they will need to improve to threaten the Rams, but the longer they stay in the game the better their chances will be. They make a handful of changes, but perhaps key to them is that they’ll have their big front row of Patrick Roil, Jordan Sului, and captain Daley Ena back together for the first time in several weeks.
Finally there are Wellington (11) and Johnsonville (12) who meet at Hataitai Park for the second time this season; the first was won 27-17 by the Axemen – their first win on the season – and is the most recent meeting of the two sides involved in any of this weekend’s matchups. The Axemen have won twice more since then, albeit over Pare-Plim and Avalon, and have the momentum, while the Hawks last of their two wins (over the same opponents) came back in round four though they have pushed HOBM and Poneke in recent weeks.
The Coburn brothers are reunited up front for the Axemen, with the Cosgriff/Bracewell partnership in the halves retained for another week. The Hawks get back a number of players who have missed the last couple of games including their Irish duo Mark Sutton and Niall Delahunt, first-five Ollie Paotonu, and forwards Ha’amea Ahio and Bodene Davis.
It’s business time in both Colts divisions with their semi-finals tomorrow ahead of next week’s deciders. Petone are the top qualifiers in the Division 1 John E Kelly Memorial, and arguably are already in playoff mode after hard-fought three-point wins over OBU Green and HOBM in the last two weeks. They’ll host MSP on the Petone Rec, with the Reds having held onto the last playoff spot ahead of HOBM despite going down to OBU last week. The second match is at Lyndhurst Park where Tawa hosts three-time defending champions OBU Green. It’s been a rough last few weeks for the young Goats, in part to the university holidays, but at the very least they won’t give up their title without a fight. Tawa however will be keen to take that from them and reverse the results of their earlier meetings with the students this year, and after losing their opening two matches in this round won their last three to earn home field.
The two Division 2 Vic Calcinai Memorial matches are repeats of last week. Avalon swept all before them this round and they’ll host Pare-Plim – who they beat 17-10 last Saturday – at home on Fraser Park, albeit this time on the grass rather than the artificial which just might favour the visitors a little more. The other clash is further north, where the Upper Hutt Rams take on Poneke at Maoribank after they met at Kilbirnie a week ago. Poneke won 31-29 on that occasion, which saw them make the semis ahead of Wainuiomata and will look to repeat that dose, while the young Rams will clearly be looking to reverse that result and probably breathed a sigh of relief that that loss didnt cost them being at home.
Young referees Charlie Harris and Jury Tenitenismeaton will control the two Division 1 matches respectively, with another, Shaun Lynch, in charge of a Division 2 game alongside veteran Dennis Sharman.
While the other grades are at their playoff stages, it’s the final round of matches in the Division 1 Ed Chaney Cup. Tawa (28) will be looking to keep hold of top spot as well as their season-long unbeaten run, but face a tricky test away at the fourth-placed Upper Hutt Rams (18). Norths Blue (26) will want to take care of their own business against winless Poneke (6) at home on the JCS while hoping the Rams do them a favour, while OBU (15) will be looking to push into the top four when they head to the Hutt Rec to take on HOBM (21). The fourth match is out east of the tunnel when MSP (11) and Ories (6) meet at Kilbirnie Park.
Owing to it having nine teams, there’s still two rounds after this one in the Division 2 HD Morgan Memorial. With Petone Blue (26) on the bye, Wainuiomata (26) can assume the outright lead when they host bottom-placed Wellington (1) at William Jones, and Norths White (26) can also go past the Villagers but face a rather sterner test when they host Stokes Valley (20) on the back field at Porirua Park; and it has to be noted that both Wainuiomata and Norths are yet to have the bye. Johnsonville (13) and Pare-Plim (10) will look to drag themselves back towards the top four when they meet at Helston, and Petone White (1) and Avalon (7) clash at the Petone Rec.
Avalon will be looking to press home the advantage they got from beating Eastbourne last week and keep the lead in the Division 1 Paul Potiki Shield, but are visited at Fraser Park by defending champions the Upper Hutt Rams who will be keen to make a statement. Eastbourne will look to get back on track though they face Johnsonville at Helston, while winless pair Poneke and MSP meet on Kilbirnie Park as they seek to get back into contention.
The two Division 2 Tony O’Brien Shield matches are a pair of local derbies, as Wests and Wellington meet in the Ian Galloway cage, and HOBM and Stokes Valley clash at the Hutt Rec.
Just four matches in the Premiership tomorrow, but there’s a couple of the season’s headline clashes.
Second-placed Silverstream makes the trek out to the Miramar peninsula and a meeting with leaders Scots. A win for the home side will see them put a potentially decisive break on the rest, while a Silverstream victory will tighten matters up. Also out east is the clash between Rongotai and St Pats Town which will go a long way towards determining the playoffs makeup.
The other two matches are in the Hutt Valley as Hutt International looks to make it three wins on the bounce when they host winless Aotea, and St Bernard’s are at home against second-bottom Porirua. The final match of this round between Mana and Wellington College has been deferred until the 24th owing until the latter’s participation in their Quadrangular tournament this week.
Also just four matches in Premier 2, with leaders Upper Hutt getting an early start to the break after Kapiti defaulted to them. The second-placed Silverstream 2nds will look to keep pace when they head across the Haywards to a resurgent Tawa, third and fourth clash in Porirua when Bishop Viard hosts Wairarapa, the Town 2nds venture to Naenae, and its an early start up the coast for the match between Paraparaumu and the Wellington College 2nds.
College rugby goes on a break after this weekend for the school holidays with the next full rounds on the 31st.