Tawa and Hutt Old Boys Marist meet in the one Jubilee Cup semi-final on Saturday, while Marist St Pat’s and Northern United meet in the other. More details below. PHOTO: Stewart Baird.
- By Scott MacLean
Jubilee Cup semi-finals and teams HERE
Hardham Cup semi-finals and teams HERE
Teams as received/subject to change.
UPDATED: Crunch time continues with this week’s semi-finals in each of the Jubilee and Hardham Cups, as well as the top Premier 2 and both Under 85kg divisions. Fortunately the forecast for tomorrow is for fine weather and light winds, which would be quite the contrast from the appalling weather and field conditions that players and supporters alike endured last Saturday.
On the player front it’s a milestone day for two who’ll face off against each other in the same game with Wainuiomata’s Matt Jacobs playing his 100th game for the side, and opposite him Pakai Turia makes his 100th start for Poneke (who only count starts as caps). Congratulations both from us here at Club Rugby.
Premier Jubilee Cup
Momentum or rest? That’s one of the questions that will be answered tomorrow in the Jubilee Cup semifinals. By virtue of their finishes in the Swindale Shield and their wins in the first week of the playoffs both Marist St Pat’s and Hutt Old Boys Marist got to rest up last weekend and avoid the weather, but they’ll face Norths and Tawa respectively who have two weeks of beating higher-ranked opponents in knockout rugby under their belt.
Starting with the only game in the city, top remaining seeds Marist St Pat’s (2) welcome Norths (6) back to Evans Bay for the second time this season, and looking to repeat the outcome of the 45-25 win back in round three in late April.
From their last outing a fortnight ago against Ories MSP make a handful of changes, some of them enforced. There’s just one change in the forwards with Valentine Meachen replacing Tyrone Thompson at hooker, while in the backs Ofa Siale comes in for the suspended Isaia Petelo and Rez Tasele takes the place of Ryan Setefano on the wing. Norths make just one change from the side that got past OBU in the Nairnville slop but it’s a high-profile one as TJ Perenara slots in at fullback for Luke Kapene, with the remainder of the 1-22 from a week ago retained in full.
For two teams that regularly battled it out for titles, it’s the first playoff meeting between the pair since 2012, when MSP ran away with matters in the second half behind two Lua Lokotui tries and a pair of signature Fa’atonu Fili drop goals to win 33-6. Of the 30 players who started that day just one, MSP fullback Andrew Wells, does tomorrow though Setefano came off the bench that day and is there again, and Petelo would also have been involved if not for his suspension.
As you’d expect there’s plenty of matchups across the park to keep an eye on, but we’ll focus on a couple. In the loose the MSP trio of Josh To’omaga, James Tuiatua, and Keelan Whitman figure to have their hands full combating the size and power of Norths’ Lise Soloa, Parekura Lalaga, and Luca Rees, while behind them how the halves pairings of Ken Kapeli and James Proctor, and Campbell Woodmass and Dale Sabbagh – each of whom is very experienced at this level – steer their respective sides around.
Out at the Hutt Rec you’ll find Hutt Old Boys Marist (4) rolling out the welcome carpet for Tawa (5), and like MSP the home Eagles will be looking to repeat their earlier win over their opponents; a last-gasp 39-37 triumph at Lyndhurst a little over a month ago.
HOBM are largely unchanged from the side that started their similar death-knock win over OBU two weeks ago. In the forwards the familiar trio of Ben Power and Rei and Brett Manaia are up front with Jordan Gillies returning to the loose and Jono Little sliding over to lock, while the only change amongst their backs sees Samoan international Tomasi Alosio return in place of Blake McGregor.
Tawa have an unchanged starting side from that which ultimately swam past Ories at the Polo Ground, with their only change in the 22 coming on the bench where Hugo Plummer returns in place of Tootai Ioane.
As with the game at Evans Bay there are match-ups to watch. There’s the aforementioned HOBM front row who’ll face Tawa’s Sitiveni Paongo, Lotu Nuku, and PJ Sheck, the battle of young tearaways at openside between Willie Rua and Weston Sao, and at halfback between current Lions incumbent Connor Collins and a former one in Kemara Hauiti-Parapara.
Both matches will be controlled by the region’s most experienced current Premier referees. Daniel Mangin will have the whistle at Evans Bay for his 95th Premier match, with Jamie Fairmaid refereeing his 74th Premier outing at the Hutt Rec.
Premier Hardham Cup
The two Hardham Cup semi’s are also in and around Lower Hutt. Petone (7) stay at the Rec for another week after they eliminated Paremata-Plimmerton last Saturday, but face the rather unusual situation of playing a match away from the grandstand and on the #2 field, with the main field closed after last weekend’s rain and to protect for next week’s Finals Day. Injuries and absences continue to bedevil the side, but they do get U20 reps Riley Higgins and Peter Lakai back and they go straight into the run-on team replacing Mason Henry and Neyla Masima respectively, with Richard Evans returning after playing in the Colts final last Saturday. Their bench is an inexperienced one, as Caelym Box’s 30 caps matches the total of the other six combined.
While the Villagers go in as favourites they’ll need to be wary of a Johnsonville (12) side that has taken down higher-ranked opponents in each of the first two weeks, having accounted for Wellington in round one and then the Upper Hutt Rams last Saturday, and the Hawks will feel like they’ve got nothing to lose. Their side is very settled and will start the same XV as they did against the Rams, meaning Ha’amea Ahio will again anchor their pack, with veteran duo Andy Ellis and Paula Kinikinilau lining up in midfield outside of former OBU Goat Olly Paotonu. When they met earlier in the year, Petone were 24-12 winners that day.
Not too far away is the second semi-final, over the Hill Road and into Wainuiomata (8) where the home side takes on Poneke (9) on William Jones Park. After losses the previous two weeks, Wainuiomata kept themselves in the running to defend the Hardham Cup by ending Avalon’s season on this same ground while the visitors kept theirs – and their recent run of wins – going by blanking Wellington on a sodden Kilbirnie Park.
It’s a much changed home side this week however. Last week’s hat-trick hero Peter Umaga-Jensen is absent so utility Caleb Nicholas slots in at centre, Jason Love returns on the wing in place of Niko Pataleiso, and TJ Va’a starts at 10 for Uale Mai who drops to the bench. Up front, Teru Time’s return allows Dan Farani to concentrate on coaching duties this week. Its rather different story for Poneke as their only changes are in the front row with Andrew Jones returning at hooker so George Jacobs moves back to prop at Hennie Tui to the bench to add some late impact, and the veteran trio of Galu Taufale, Greg Foe, and Ben Huntley all start. As well as Pakai Turia’s milestone, his halves partner Jimmy-Lee Hongara makes his 50th start. Wainuiomata were victors by 34-24 in their Swindale meeting just over a month ago.
Andrew Lawler and Matt Thomas are the two referees, with Lawler at the Petone Rec and Thomas at William Jones. These will be their 27th and 16th Premier outings respectively.
Like the Premier grade, the top Premier 2 division is also at the semifinal stage with the final for the Ed Chaney Cup part of Finals Day next week, and both matches are in the region’s northwest. Top qualifiers Tawa kept their unbeaten season intact by beating Poneke last Saturday, and tomorrow will host first-round Division 2 winners the Upper Hutt Rams at Lyndhurst Park who they beat 38-26 a fortnight ago. The Rams have more than held their own since their midseason promotion and beat OBU last week to move on, and despite that earlier result will fancy their chances of what would be an upset.
Just up the road Norths Blue are also back on home turf, having survived a stern challenge from Ories last week, and they’ll take on HOBM who rather more comfortably accounted for Marist cousins MSP. The pair have split their two meetings this season with HOBM producing what was considered an upset at the time when they beat Norths 29-22 at Onepoto Park in the first round, but Norths evened the ledger with a 40-17 win in their second round encounter, so anything could happen.
In one for the older brigade, experienced duo John Ballingall and Scott Marriner – who have refereed well over 100 games combined at this level – will be in charge of the two matches.
The Division 2 HD Morgan Memorial is into its final round before their playoffs starting next week. Wainuiomata (36) are assured of being top qualifier even though they have the bye having already beaten the only team that can match them, Petone Blue (31), earlier on. Petone still has a job to do to finish second though as they host Norths White (28) who could jump them if they were to win. Stokes Valley (26) could in turn leapfrog Norths with a win, but could be on the receiving end themselves when they take on Johnsonville (23) at Newlands Park, while Pare-Plim (9) and Avalon (9) will be looking to separate themselves from the other when they meet at Ngati Toa. The final match is also at the Petone Rec, where Wellington (1) need to win with a bonus point while denying the home White (6) side anything if their season is to continue for another week.
Crunch time for the lightweights with both divisions at the semifinal stage before the winners meet next weekend on Finals Day.
In the Division 1 Paul Potiki Shield semifinals top qualifier Avalon are up against the defending grade champion Upper Hutt Rams at Fraser Park. The Wolves have lost only once this season – to Eastbourne in the first round – and will be favourites here, but the Rams have upset Avalon on Fraser before, famously in the 2018 final where they won 17-13 and denied Avalon an unbeaten season. There also hasn’t been much in the two previous meetings this season with Avalon winning 19-17 and 20-14, the last of those coming just two weeks ago.
The second semifinal has JC Bowl winners Eastbourne leaving the friendly confines of HW Shortt and heading to the less hospitable ones of Johnsonville’s Helston Park. Winning the local title is the goal for the Gulls, while the Hawks’ season will be done with a loss as they’ve already exited the National Knockout so will be after at least one more week of rugby. As with the other match there’s been little to separate the two; Johnsonville’s 13-12 win on the same ground two weeks ago set them up to have home field, while Eastbourne won the first-round meeting 17-14 way back in the first round of the season.
In the Division 2 Tony O’Brien Shield the OBU Scallywags are the top qualifiers and host HOBM at Kelburn Park, while for the second successive week Stokes Valley make the journey to Hataitai Park and a meeting with former grade champions Wellington.
Dennis Sharman and Sam Withers are the referees for the two Division 1 clashes, with Dean Brosnahan and Simon Mallon in the middle for the two Division 2 matches.
It’s the last weekend of the school holidays, so bar one game there is not any College Sport action tomorrow. That one game being played is in the Premiership with Mana hosting Wellington College to conclude round 7, with the game having been deferred from two weeks ago owing to Wellington’s participation in their Quadrangular tournament. There is one further game, with Rongotai hosting Wairarapa College in their annual traditional match; in recent years this has been part of the regular Premiership campaign but with WaiCol dropping into Premier 2 this season it’s going ahead as a standalone fixture.
Between now and next weekend however there are two games in round 8 of the Premiership. On Wednesday afternoon Silverstream hosts Town in their annual Traditional match which is again being televised on Sky TV, while on Thursday leaders Scots travel out to Porirua for their match which also doubles as the Coed Cup semifinal with the winner to meet Mana the following week.
A mixed bag for the Wellington XV that faced Taranaki in an NPC preseason match in Whanganui today. The first-half side built a 14-5 lead at the break with a long-range try to OBU’s Wes Goosen and a rather shorter-range effort from Wainuiomata’s Peter Umaga-Jensen, with both converted by HOBM’s Brandyn Laursen. However the second-half team struggled somewhat, conceding three tries without reply as Taranaki won 24-14 overall.
The Pride has the bye in the Farah Palmer Cup Premiership this week before facing the challenge of Canterbury in Christchurch next weekend.