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Key third round clashes in Swindale Shield tomorrow

Above: Avalon halfback Jack Ena darts over between OBU’s defenders to score his side’s only try in last night’s third round opener at Fraser Park. OBU won 39-13. 

Below: His brother and captain Daley is the first to congratulate him, as OBU halfback Kyle Preston ducks away to console his teammates. PHOTOS: Hugh Pretorius.

  • By Scott MacLean and Steven White

Draws, results and teamlists HERE

Easter is the first of now four public holiday weekends – with the addition of Matariki at the end of June – that fall across the club rugby season, and perhaps more than the other brings the vagaries of player availability with it. With this year’s staggered start to proceedings only the Premier Men’s and Women’s competitions are in action, along with a smattering of other games.

The E Tu Whānau Footy Show is being broadcast from Porirua Park, where Northern United host Poneke. The team will be on air from 2.00pm, building up to the 2.45pm kick-off.

Premier Men’s Swindale Shield

The first match of the third round is already in the books, with Old Boys-University having consigned Avalon to a third-straight defeat with a 39-13 win under lights on the Fraser Park turf and top the table for now.

Last night’s game was running close early in the second half when Avalon cut into OBU’s halftime lead through fullback Jordan Acquila nailing his second penalty to make it 17-13. But OBU won the match with two quick-fire tries midway through the spell that extended their advantage to 29-13. Replacement hooker James Holbrook latched on to a Callum Harkin breakout and flanker Taine Plumtree intercepted a pass and galloped away. OBU ran on strongly against a fading Avalon to score twice more before fulltime.

Earlier, Aquila had opened the scoring with a penalty, but OBU scored tries through tighthead Laurence Larel-Jim, with a Wolf in the bin, and left wing Isaac Wilson, to skip out to 17-3. Avalon halfback Jack Ena made a dart at the line from a quick tap to close it up to 17-10 at halftime.

Turning to tomorrow, the highlight clash in terms of reputations is at the Petone Rec, where the home Villagers take on Oriental Rongotai. Petone go in having accounted for OBU and Upper Hutt so far, and after turning on the style in the first half against the Rams will be looking to do again.

For Petone, lock Jack Ross is playing his 100th Premier match and right wing Ben Brooking his 50th. A few Petone players are out this weekend due to travel and injury, including Peter Lakai, Tupou Sopoaga and Josh Southall from recent weeks. The good news for Petone supporters is that Riley Higgins lines up at second five, after taking a knock late in the first half against the Rams last week. He partners Lester Maulolo in the midfield.

The Magpies will be concluding a run of three matches away from the confines of the Polo Ground, one that has seen them also best the Rams before dipping out late in the local derby against MSP. Their team for tomorrow is missing Isaac Bracewell, who is leaving for Hawke’s Bay, so Declan Hay comes in one to halfback. Jake Hamlin starts at first five, inside the Va’a brothers and with Ethan Webster-Nonu making his first start of the year on the right wing. Sione Halalilo at openside flanker will also be a key operator for Ories against Petone’s loosies who will be led by Jacob Gooch tomorrow.

As well as the competition points, they’ll also contest their Jim Brown Memorial Trophy. A Petone stalwart and Wellington representative throughout the 60’s and 70’s who was reputedly denied All Blacks selection because of a broken leg, the trophy was donated after his passing in 2004 by his former employer Dominion Breweries. Ories hold this after their narrow 15-13 win at Polo Ground last year.

On paper, the only matchup between two sides yet to taste defeat is out at Ngati Toa Domain where Paremata-Plimmerton welcomes Hutt Old Boys Marist, though it comes with the asterix of the Hammerheads match against Tawa last weekend becoming the first casualty due to Covid this year. There’ll be interested in the home team’s performance for two reasons: if they can repeat the effort that saw them dispatch Avalon two weeks ago, and just how much the effects of the virus affects them. The Eagles have been handy victors in both of their matches but took 40 minutes to get on top of the Wolves last Saturday, and like Ories will be finishing a run of three games to open the season.

Paremata-Plimmerton have named a XV for tomorrow but with Covid still hanging over the squad, the side that takes the field may be this or incorporate changes following fitness tests.

Top point scorer so far Zane Ainslie returns to the club where he made his debut at fullback, but could be just one of several problems for the Hammerheads defensive line tomorrow. Wellington Lions Connor Collins and Brandyn Laursen link up at 9-10, with Albert Polu and Francis Tunavasa forming an exciting midfield, and with Sapati Tagoai waiting on the bench. Former Rams player Taine Tata gets his first start for the Eagles at lock.

Just a short distance away at Porirua Park will be another side that’s started two-from-two, though rather than home side Norths, it’s the visitors Poneke who arrive with that record.

With wins over Wainuiomata and Wellington so far, it will be a further opportunity to see how the Street kids are tracking and extending their streak to open the season will be their aim. For their part Norths will be looking to make amends for their poor opening day performance on this ground, and to make it two wins on the trot.

Poneke welcome back captain and No. 8 Galu Taufale from injury and make a few positional switches within their 22. One change is moving Nick Robertson to the right wing and bringing Pakai Turia into fullback. Together with the swift Isaac Moe-Jenkins on the other wing, they could cause problems for Norths out wide. Jimmy Lee-Hongara swaps with Sam Howling off the bench in another change-up.

Norths also have their captain returning after sitting out week two, Waylon Baker jumping into lock to partner Boston Hunt. The lineout could be a crucial area for Norths to get right; a steady supply of ball in the right areas of the field will get the drums beating on the PA and put their tails up.

They too will contest an interclub trophy, the Cyril Collett Memorial Shield. Collett played for Poneke during the 1950’s, and his sons Paul and Bruce turned out for both the Kilbirnie club and Norths’ forerunner Porirua. Norths are the holders after winning 36-22 last season, with Poneke’s last success in this fixture being in 2018 when they won 40-35.

The other unbeaten side is Marist St Pat’s, though it’s surprising that none of their fans have suffered a cardiac event given the manner that they’ve won their two games so far. They hit the road for the first time, making the trip up the valley to Maidstone Park to take on the Upper Hutt Rams where given results so far, they’ll start as favourites. The Rams have had a tough start to the season and this visit won’t make things any easier, but they have upset MSP before and will certainly be looking to do so again.

A feature of the Rams side is the Svenson brothers, Scott, Josh and Todd, lining up together at first-five, second-five and centre, as part of a rejigged backline from that which went down to Petone last week that won’t lack for pace. This includes last week’s fullback Tynan Barrett moving to the right wing and Tafa Tafa dropping from 10 to the back. Joel Stewart takes over from Jacob Free at halfback. Aiden Woodward returns to lock while Cameron Dee is one potential debutant off the bench.

MSP will have Hurricane Billy Proctor at centre, while Fa’atonu Fili had a Hurricane that skirted Northland earlier this week named after him and he starts at first five in his 21st (or is it 22nd) season of Premier club rugby. Ken Kapeli is at halfback with Luke Donaldson on the bench, while former Tasman age-grade rep Ryan Dafel joins MSP’s bench for the first time this season after last leaving the field injured early in last year’s Jubilee Cup final.

Among sides further down the table there’s one local derby with Tawa hosting neighbours Johnsonville at Lyndhurst Park in game #15,500 in our database of matches on Club Rugby. The Jubilee holders will be raring to go after sitting idle last week as a result of Pare-Plim’s Covid troubles but may find this year’s Johnsonville side – who have beaten Wellington and probably feel that they should have beaten Norths – a more difficult proposition than they have been in this contest for many years.

Johnsonville have an exciting backs division, but this game, along with most against Tawa at Lyndhurst, will be decided in the forwards. Ha’amea Ahio’s men will need to take it to their Tawa opposites, who will be fresh after their week off. Former OBU lock Sam Green is part of that engine room, making his Hawks debut.

Tawa’s aforementioned forwards look to be at full strength or close to it, while Hurricane Pepesana Patafilo starts at centre. This sees Isi Saumaki move in one to second five, Randall Bishop move to the left wing and Mofate Siupolu make his debut at fullback.

Another match with an interclub trophy at stake, they’ll play for their Carman Cup. Arthur Carman was a member of the Johnsonville club when the sponsored the entry of Tawa into the WRFU in 1947 and was appointed the latter’s first Patron, as well as prolific author and publisher who edited the Rugby Almanac for many years. Tawa have had an iron grip on this in recent years, including 52-7 a season ago.

The final match in this preview is between two of the winless sides, with Wainuiomata facing Wellington at William Jones Park. Both have gone down to Poneke so far, with the home side having also fallen to OBU and the Axemen to Johnsonville, so each will be very keen to get off the mark for 2022, particularly with a tough run of games ahead of them in coming weeks.

Home team Wainuiomata will field a new-look midfield for this clash in debutant Nick-aedyn Rahiri and Dante Kakahi, while blindside Kitiona Leitufia makes his first start. Fullback Justin Wilson returns from Paremata-Plimmerton for this first match this year. There is plenty of experience on Wainuiomata’s bench should they need it, with the likes of Greg and Dion Lealofi, Jason Love and Tyler Tane.

Covid still lingers in the Axemen’s camp, with two reserve backs yet to be named because of it and coach Jason Bird taking his place on the bench in the tight forward reserves. Matt Day, a reputable Axemen sevens and U85kg player, lines up at first five, with first year player Jonny Maiava moving in to centre from the wing. No.8 Josh Leutogi played several Premier matches for Ories in 2017.

They also have silverware on the line, playing for their Bill Jones Cup which is named for one of Wainuiomata’s greatest supporters in their early years and namesake of their home ground. Wainuiomata are the holders after last years close 16-14 result.

All of tomorrow’s matches revert to the usual 2.45pm kick-off time.

Premier Women’s Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy

Update: Wainuiomata has defaulted to MSP.

Like the Men, the Women also got underway last night with Norths easing past Poneke 67-0 at Porirua Park. That, and the rest of the fixtures seems straightforward with each of the big guns taking on one of last year’s Division Two sides. Oriental Rongotai take to the road and Fraser Park to face Avalon, Marist St Pats are at home against Wainuiomata at Evans Bay, and Petone head over the Haywards to take on Paremata-Plimmerton at Ngati Toa.

All four matches are underway at 11.30 as normal.

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