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Club Rugby set to soar in round four

  • By Scott MacLean and Steven White 

Draws & Teamlists at:

Updated: The opening three weeks of Premier Swindale Shield club rugby has yielded few clues as to which teams will emerge from the pack and compete for this year’s first round title.

A tightly contested competition so far is set to continue into round four, while the start of more grades means more action to look forward to tomorrow. This includes the U85kg JC Bowl and the Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield and National Mutual Cups.

In player milestone news, there’s another entry into the centurions club as Paremata-Plimmerton’s veteran robust prop Danny Herewini reaches 100 Premier matches for the Ngati Toa side. Our congratulations to him.

Premier Men’s Swindale Shield

It’s perhaps the tightest table after three rounds in many years, with three teams tied on 14 points and unbeaten so far.

By points difference Hutt Old Boys Marist lead the pack, and after seeing off a stubborn Pare-Plim a week ago make their return to the Hutt Rec Nest for the first time this season. It won’t be a straightforward homecoming however, as Jubilee Cup winners Tawa are the visitors and themselves coming back to the place they lifted the Holy Grail last July.

Ben Power and David Filipo come back into HOBM’s pack for tomorrow’s clash, while Nash Fiso and Fritz Rayasi replace Jerome Harimate and Kobe Joe-Vulu on the wings. Other key players include blindside Jordan Gillies and Wellington Lions halfback and first five pair Connor Collins and Brandyn Laursen.

After being left idle the week before, it took Tawa a while to get going against Johnsonville before getting the better of their neighbours. Their team for tomorrow, as expected, has a powerful forwards look about it, led by their front row trio of props PJ Sheck and Siale Laukai and hooker Sitiveni Paongo, who could otherwise have been playing for the Hurricanes tomorrow under different circumstances. Plus, Hurricanes U20s hooker Joyner Gaualofa on the bench. Two experienced players in the backs making their first appearances for the year are second five Lua Lualua and right wing Ryan Preston. Randall Bishop drops to fullback for this one.

The Tawa v HOBM match will also be livestreamed on Huddy Sports, via Facebook and You Tube.

The only one of the leaders on the road are Petone, who make the journey around the Hayward’s to Porirua Park and Norths. The Villagers only just hung on to their unbeaten record a week ago, edging Ories in the match of the season so far, and while Norths haven’t exactly enjoyed a vintage start to the season they remain a dangerous outfit and if only for a bit more composure last week would have pegged Poneke back.

Norths have made a handful of changes in personnel to their run-on side for this match from that which missed out to Poneke last week. Dale Sabbagh gets his first start in the 10 jersey this year, with Luke Cummings dropping to the bench, as does the equally experienced Johnny Teleaga at fullback. Up front, James Tangitamiti, Siauini Ulugia-Mao and Ezra Seiuli come in at hooker, lock and openside respectively. Of note, Peter Pili is on the bench and he is a past winner of the Collins Medal (see below).

Likewise, Petone have tweaked their line-up from last Saturday. Up front, Josh Southall comes into hooker and Zeke Southall moves to loosehead prop. Jacob Gooch is sitting this one out, with Bradley Pritchard playing openside flanker and flyhalf Carne Green the captain this week. Petone’s trio of Hurricanes U20 players are playing – No. 8 Peter Lakai, second five Riley Higgins and fullback Harry Godfrey. In the backs, Cam Ferreira comes in for Logan Henry, Tom Carter and Mason Henry replace last week’s winning try scorer Lester Maulolo and Sam Blackburn at centre and left wing respectively.

This match is the only one this weekend that has an interclub trophy in play; in this case the Murray Henderson Trophy. First played for in 2016, Murray Henderson was amongst those that facilitated the merger of Norths’ predecessor clubs Porirua and Titahi Bay, a great friend of many Villagers, and his tireless work for community rugby saw him made a Life Member of the WRFU. They also have the Collins Medal – honouring late cousins Jerry and Willie – at stake for the player of this match.

The third of the leading trio is Poneke, after their winning stand against Norths a week ago. While you can argue that they’ve only played sides that currently exist in the bottom half of the table, it’s not like they aren’t where they are right now on merit either. They welcome Paremata-Plimmerton to Kilbirnie Park, and though cynics will state the Hammerheads points total is artificially inflated by the points awarded from their un-played match against Tawa, they’ve been well worth those that they’ve won on the field.

Poneke are boosted tomorrow by Hurricane Teihorangi Walden, who slots into centre, outside Caleb Robson who comes off the bench. Sam Howling also swaps places off the pine with Jimmy Lee-Hongara at halfback, while Pakai Turia moves from fullback to first five. Jimmy Hewitt moves from blindside to openside flanker and Antonio Vaka replaces Maea Tema-Schmidt. Poneke will also be praying for a storm off the bench when Psalms Latu and El-Nino Peniaminia come on later in the match.

For Paremata-Plimmerton, tighthead prop Danny Herewini will be running out for his 100th Premier game. Herewini is part of an all-new front row for this match from that which dipped out to HOBM last Saturday. Werda Maligi and Davis Eni fill loosehead prop and hooker respectively. ‘E’ stands for excitement, in the form of former Norths players Eli Moata’a and Esi Komaisavai in the starting line-up together. Eli starts at 10 and Esi at fullback, the latter switching roles off the wing with Blake Neve. Kona Feaunati returns to the midfield, with Rikeli Grey dropping to the reserves. A possible debut for outside back Reuben Siliga off the bench as well.

Staying out in the eastern suburbs, the Bill Brien Challenge Trophy goes on the line for the first time this season as holders Oriental Rongotai make their return to their beloved Polo Ground and will be hoping for better luck than they’ve had the past two weeks; some better decisions late on and they would be unbeaten at this point. Wainuiomata make the long trip around the harbour and will be buoyed after getting off the mark against Wellington, with the signs that their combinations in this new era are starting to click.

Ories are missing a handful of players for this clash, but welcome back a couple more. Players not playing tomorrow include all three Poasa brothers, who will be away at a wedding, and Whetu Henry, while players coming in include Malachai Unasa at centre and John Tuia and Paulo Aukuso on the bench. Alex Fidow is on the bench again as well.

For Wainuiomata, Kade Tiatia moves from tighthead prop to hooker and will run out for his 50th Premier cap for his club. Jason Matehe moves into tighthead prop. An experienced loose forward trio will be key for them tomorrow, in Greg Lealofi, Matt Jacobs and Teru Time. Two changes in the backs where Tyler Tanes comes into 12 for Dante Kakahi and Renata Kotuhi switches from wing to fullback with Josh Sa’u coming on to the left wing and Justin Wilson riding the pine.

In between those venues is our next. Marist St Pat’s will be stung by their somewhat surprising loss to the Upper Hutt Rams and will be looking to get back on track. That should be relatively straightforward as Wellington makes the short trip down from Hataitai to Evans Bay, with the Axemen firmly rooted to the foot of the table. However Wellington have sprung a surprise on their hosts before and despite their struggles so far will back themselves to do it again.

Chicago Doyle makes his debut in Wellington club rugby tomorrow for MSP at first five-eighth. The former Auckland First XV player will have plenty of experience outside him in James Proctor and further out at fullback in Andrew Wells. James Tuia returns to the line-up to play his second match at hooker, with Wellington Lion Keelan Whitman at No. 8. At halfback, Luke Donaldson comes in for Ken Kapeli.

The Axemen were off the pace against Wainuiomata, turning over far too much ball on a platter, but their lineout went well and they showed good heart in the final quarter to show what they are about. They have made a number of changes, which include positional tweaks. Two of these see Ben Hendry move from hooker to blindside flanker and Will Cosgriff from halfback to fullback.

Across town MSP’s vanquishers Upper Hutt venture into the city for the first time this season, heading into the western suburbs to take on Old Boys-University in the battle of cloven-hoofed quadruped spirit animals at Nairnville Park. The Rams will be coming off an obvious high, while the Goats also come in off a win, and with a couple of extra days rest since beating Avalon last Thursday night.

For OBU, Callum Harkin moves from fullback to first-five, with former Dunedin Sharks’ Tom Henderson on the bench after taking an early knock against Avalon. Former Upper Hutt player George Fainga’a makes his OBU debut at second five after being a late scratching last start, with Te Wehi Wright’s 100th on ice for another week as he has family commitments. In two more notable changes, Wirangi Parata takes Taine Plumtree’s role at 6 and Ty Poe comes into centre. There are no debutants this week.

Visitors the Rams have a settled look about them too for this clash, with just the one change in the forwards and one in the backs from the run-on Rams that beat MSP. First year No. 8 Toby Crosby takes a break this week, so Jack Wright moves there from lock and Henry Grey comes off the bench to the second row. At halfback, Nate Moen comes in, with the rest of the backline unchanged and with all three Svenson brothers lining up together again. Cassius Misa comes back on to the bench to replace last week’s surprise comeback inclusion of Max Pearson, whilst Bailey Maule debuts off the pine.

And lastly in this preview is the first of the club Old Timers’ Day’s for the season, as Avalon have their festivities at Fraser Park. The home Wolves will be desperate to make it a memorable one for their supporters and notch their first win of the year, as well as change the narrative of their matches so far where they’ve been competitive through 50-60 minutes before the wheels have off. Johnsonville are the visitors, and after an opening win have endured a pair of losses to northern rivals Norths and Tawa, but it’s also a measure of how far they’ve come that these have been far less heavier than in previous years.

Lock Teofilo Paulo will captain the Wolves in the place of tighthead prop Daley Ena, who is missing from the line-up along with his brother and halfback Jack. Pat Roil take’s Daley’s place and Ezra Sione Jack’s, from last start. Amongst other changes from the OBU match, Thomas Kiwara comes into 10 with Fau Fotu starting off the bench and Gerry Naitini lines up at fullback in place of Jordan Aquila. A likely debut off the bench for flanker Boxier Fauena, after Laman ah Wong took a heavy knock early in the OBU match.

A few tweaks only to Johnsonville’s line-up from that which went down to Tawa last Saturday. At hooker, Lucas Aukuso replaces Dan Hoare. Adney Roebeck returns to lock and Sam Green moves to blindside for this second start for the Hawks. With four tries in three games, Knox Tuisasau misses this game and Marzy Karim replaces him on the left wing, with Jason Tuitama moving to fullback. Special mention to Niall Delahunt, recently arrived back in Wellington, sitting on the bench in his first outing for 2022.

This match is also the feature game on the E Tu Whanau Footy Show on Te Upoko. They’ll be on air from 2pm, with the programme including an extended interview with newly-minted Hurricane Bruce Kauika-Petersen.

All seven matches kickoff at 2.45pm

Premier Women’s Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy

Unfortunately, it looks to be another round of largely predictable results with the big four again all in action against one of the minnows. Three of the four fit the bill of local derbies, with Avalon hosting Petone the pick of the bunch on paper, while Norths head up the road to Ngati Toa to face Paremata-Plimmerton and Marist St Pat’s the walk across Evans Bay Parade to play Poneke. The fourth match has Wainuiomata defaulting to leaders Oriental-Rongotai at William Jones Park.

All four matches are at the usual 11.30am kickoff time.

Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield and National Mutual Cup

After an extended preseason, the second-tier gets underway tomorrow. Defending Harper Lock/Ed Chaney double winners Tawa get their defence of the first trophy underway when they visit HOBM in a repeat of last year’s Ed Chaney decider at the same venue of the Hutt Rec. Working clockwise the other Division 1 matches have Ories hosting neighbours MSP at Polo, OBU and the Upper Hutt Rams set the stage for their respective Premier sides in the early match at Nairnville, and Norths and Poneke take to Porirua Park.

Just seven sides will contest Division 2 to start the season at least, with Petone’s and Norths’ second teams dropping out. All three matches are in close proximity in the Hutt Valley with defending HD Morgan Memorial winners Avalon opening up at home on Fraser Park against Johnsonville, Wainuiomata do likewise against Wellington at William Jones, and Stokes Valley welcome Petone to Delaney Park. Pare-Plim has the opening round bye.

All matches kickoff at 1pm, except Stokes Valley against Petone which is at 2.45pm.

Under 85kg JC Bowl

The lightweights also get started tomorrow, and in a pleasing development 12 teams will front for the first-round, up two on this time a year ago with Stokes Valley (a midseason addition a year ago) and Petone joining the fray, but still well down on the numbers in the grade’s heyday.

Reigning JC Bowl winners Eastbourne get the defence of this underway by hosting Wests at HW Shortt Park, with championship round winners Avalon doing the same when HOBM make the short trip north to Fraser Park. Elsewhere in the Hutt Valley the Upper Hutt Rams and MSP take to Maidstone Park, and Petone make their return by hosting Poneke at the Rec. The remaining two matches see Johnsonville take on the OBU Scallywags at Helston Park, and Stokes Valley head into the city to face Wellington at Hataitai.

All six matches get underway at 2.45pm.

There is also a smattering of Colts and Reserve Grade preseason matches on tomorrow, with their competitions kicking off next Saturday.

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