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Frontrunners looking to push on as club rugby in full swing tomorrow

  • By Scott MacLean and Steven White

Draw & teamlists (as received) HERE

Sunset edition: Finally, we hit the first full weekend of club action with the Colts, Reserve, and Presidents grades getting underway, while it’s the fifth round of action in Premier Mens and Women’s competitions.

It’s Old Timers’ Day at both Oriental Rongotai and Old Boys-University and plenty of stories will be told at each of those clubs. For the latter there’ll be double celebrations with popular outside back Te Wehi Wright bringing up a century of appearances for the Goats, as does Petone inside back Carne Green who raises the bat for the Villagers.

Premier Men’s Swindale Shield

Four weeks in, and four teams remain unbeaten at the head of the table.

By virtue of their big win a week ago, Hutt Old Boys Marist have assumed the sole lead on 19 points, and they get to enjoy another weekend at home on the Nest with Wainuiomata making the journey over the Hill Road into Woburn. With the second-most points for and fewest against the Eagles have come flying out of the gates and will be hot favourites, but despite their troubles so far in what is a rebuilding year Wainuiomata will always be up for a contest against their valley rivals.

The Eagles have swapped out their entire tight five for this clash from the starting team that beat Tawa last weekend. This includes a first appearance of the year for Rei Manaia, who starts at tighthead prop. His brother Brett rides the pine. Ben Power survives from last week but drops from hooker to blindside flanker, as does Jordan Gillies who moves from blindside to lock. Matt Sleith, at openside flanker, keeps his place in that position. The Eagles backs are more settled, with Anthony Utanga and Jerome Harimate starting at 10 and 12 for Brandyn Laursen and Albert Polu respectively.

Wainuiomata don’t have the same luxury of depth of players but have also made several tweaks to their team from a week ago. After starting the first four matches of the year at first-five, Murphy Albright drops to the reserves and Justin Wilson moves to 10. Keanu Kotuhi comes back into halfback and Trei Mu slots in to second five with Tyler Tane missing this game. Up front, Jordan Gush hooks the scrum and Kade Tiatia moves across to tighthead prop and Xavier Smith returns to the line-up at lock.

Behind HOBM on the ladder are their great rivals Petone, who head south to Hataitai Park for the second time this season. Having beaten OBU there in the opening round, they’ll be favourites to do so again against a Wellington side that sits at the foot of the table without a win or a point at this stage and coming off a heavy defeat to MSP. For their part, Petone extended Norths’ drought at home this season a week ago.

Home team the Axemen’s line-up has a number of positional changes from that which missed out to MSP last Saturday. It sees Will Cosgriff return to halfback from fullback last week, while Ben Hendry returns to hooker from blindside flanker, Tony Coburn from hooker to loosehead prop and Sam Rendell moves from halfback to the left wing. Philip Elo moves from wing to centre, with outside back Joe Southorn in line for a debut off the bench.

Petone welcome back captain Jacob Gooch to openside flanker as one of a handful of changes for this match. Kaleb Sinclair swaps places with Josh Southall at hooker and Iona Apineru misses this match which means a debut off the bench for prop Eric Botham. All eyes will be on Carne Green when he takes his place at first five for his 100th Premier match. At centre, Taylor Henry comes in for Tom Carter and Richard Evans starts on the left wing for Mason Henry.

In contrast, Poneke – the third unbeaten outfit – face a rather sterner test as they head into the wilds of the city’s west and a clash with Old Boys-University at Nairnville Park on the Goats’ Old Timers Day. The Streetkids left it late to just edge Pare-Plim a week ago, but equally OBU found Upper Hutt tough to tame. The only match between sides currently in the top-six, this one has the feel of a real arm-wrestle that will be decided by a piece of individual brilliance.

This match is also this week’s E Tu Whanau Footy Show commentary game. Tune in from 2.00pm, checking in with the Hurricanes across the ditch and a comprehensive preview of Round 5 matches around the rohe. Te Upoko o Te Ika is on 1161AM, 87.6FM around the city and streaming live both on and on the iHeartRadio app.

Poneke make five changes to their run-on team that pipped Paremata-Plimmerton by a point last week, with the rotation at halfback between Jimmy Lee-Hongara and Sam Howling continuing with the former starting this match. Two changes to their front row, with Moses Tuifao-Galuvao replacing Andrew Jones at hooker and Rhys Reiri coming into tighthead prop for Moses’ brother Noah. Last year’s Scots College captain Maea Tema-Schmidt returns to lock and El-Nino Peniamina returns to the midfield for Caleb Robson. Hurricane Tei Walden starts at centre for the second straight week.

For the home side, Te Wehi Wright rolls back into fullback to start his 100th game for the OBU Premiers. Tom Henderson returns to first five, with Callum Harkin at 12 and Ty Poe at centre. In the forwards, the return of Tiaki Fabish to blindside and co-captain Dominic Ropeti to No. 8 will make a big difference to the inexperienced pack that has three changes to the tight five from last week’s late win over the Rams.

Alongside OBU, Marist St Pat’s heads the chasing pack and after their surprising loss to the Rams righted the ship by thrashing the Axemen. They’re at Evans Bay for the fourth time already this season and will be looking to cash in on that home advantage before a run of games on the road to come. The opposition this week are Paremata-Plimmerton, who will be bitterly disappointed to have lost at the death across the road and are dearly looking for a big scalp to validate their improvement so far this season.

MSP will be missing Andrew Wells, Luke Donaldson and Ryan Dafel from their team last week, while after stepping out for the first time in 2022 last week Chicago Doyle drops to the bench, presumably for cotton-wool reasons. In some changes to their line-up, Charlie Hankins starts at hooker, James Proctor moves from 12 to flyhalf and Tuga Mativa drops back to fullback. Isaia Petelo returns from suspension to join Doyle and the returning Logan love on the bench.

There is one enforced change in the Pare-Plim pack, as Taisson Lealaisalanoa sits out due to concussion, so Mitchel Taupau comes in with Mellenniumma Leota and Tane McMillan-Parata moving places. In the backs Zane Edwards returns, with Blake Neve moving into centre this week. Two potential debuts for the Hammerheads, left wing Tane Tusa and reserve flanker Dylan Patu who is ex-Johnsonville.

The last of the top-six sides is Oriental Rongotai, with the free-scoring Magpies topping the points-for list despite two losses so far. They also get to enjoy another weekend at their Polo Ground fortress and on their Old Timers’ Day host what is one of the feature clashes of the season, their To’omaga Alex Iona Memorial Cup clash against Norths. The hosts will be the favourites, but even with the difficulties they’ve encountered so far it’s unlikely the visitors will put up anything less than a stern fight. Ories will also again be defending the Bill Brien Challenge Trophy.

Look out for Alex Fidow in the Ories front row. After two weeks on the bench, he gets a shot in the starting XV so will want to take his chance. Elsewhere, Ethan Webster Nonu makes his 27th Premier appearance for Ories but his first at fullback, with Malachai Unasa playing at centre either side of the Va’a brothers. Unasa played for Norths in 2020. Victor Groom starts at lock after three straight runs off the bench. The Poasa brothers also return from their wedding last weekend, Peniali starting at hooker and Peteli at blindside.

Norths will be shored up this week by the return of two experienced players, hooker Ethan Robinson-Mate and No. 8 Luca Rees. Hooker Robinson-Mate is a newly minted married man, while Rees has been serving a month-long suspension for a red card offence in their final pre-season match. Rees also knows the Polo Ground better than many Ories players, having played for the Magpies in 2017 and 2018. Peter Pili also comes off the bench to play his first match of the year at blindside. The Norths backline is unchanged, with Losi Filipo primed for this one at centre.

Johnsonville sit just inside those top-eight places alongside Pare-Plim and will be looking to continue their good start to the season after beating Avalon last Saturday. This time it’s the Upper Hutt Rams who come to visit Helston, and they’ll be after a win to move up the table after a near-miss against OBU last Saturday.

The Hawks have named a settled side from that which ran rampant over Avalon, with the return of Tevita Falekakala at tighthead prop and a couple more positional tweaks in the forwards such as Sam Green moving from six to eight and Serge Hollis moving from lock. The Hawks backline is unchanged, with early season form wing Knox Tuinasau returning but coming off the bench.

The Rams will have the services of Hurricane Josh Moorby at fullback for this clash, while Sio Titie makes his debut as reserve hooker. Cassius Misa returns to the starting XV but on the left wing, with the three Svenson brothers again lining up at 10, 12 and 13 in the Rams backline. Moorby’s inclusion means Tynan Barrett moves to the right wing. This could be an exciting attacking game.

And this week the final match of this section of the preview is just up the road. Jubilee Cup holders Tawa haven’t had the start to the season they or their supporters would have demanded, especially after their reverse against HOBM a week ago, but have the ideal opportunity against winless Avalon to start pointing their ship back in the right direction. For their part the Wolves will want to be better than they were last week less they suffer an even heavier defeat.

Tawa won’t be lacking firepower in the forwards, although Sitiveni Paongo’s departure could be felt.  But the front row of PJ Scheck, Joyner Gaualofa and Siale Lauaki is a formidable one at this level A notable addition to their side is Kalim Kelemete at first five – his first appearance for Tawa since the last round of the Swindale Shield in 2020.

Daley Ena returns to tighthead prop and Patrick Roil moves to loosehead for the Wolves for this match. But No. 8 Chris Lafaele and lock Teofilo Paulo are both absent from their teamsheet. Jack Va’a also comes back into the team at halfback, with Ezra Sione moving to the left wing. Anzac Masua lines up at centre after making five appearances at left wing last year.

There’s some of the more well-known pieces of interclub silverware in play this weekend:

  • Poneke and OBU will play for their Beet Algar Rosebowl. Beet – short for Beethoven after the composer – was a Poneke star of the years around World War I, a Wellington representative, and an All Black. Heavily involved with the club until his death in 1989 at age 95 he put the trophy in play for matches against Wellington College Old Boys in 1985, succeeded by OBU in 1991. It is currently held by OBU after their 25-19 win last June.
  • As mentioned, Ories and Norths play for their To’omaga Alex Iona Memorial Trophy. Iona first played for Ories after arriving in Wellington, then onto the Porirua club after a move north where he remained involved after he finished playing. He was also heavily involved with the Wellington Samoan Rugby Union and community. Ories are the holders after winning 32-26 last season.
  • Wellington and Petone contest two trophies. At stake in the Premier match is the Bill Francis/Jack Taylor Trophy which honours two former All Blacks of the Axemen’s lengthy past who each played their internationals just prior to the two World Wars and is held by the Villagers after winning 60-12 last season. The two clubs also have their Air New Zealand Trophy in play, which is a cumulative trophy across all matches between the two clubs.

All seven matches get underway at 2.45pm.

Premier Women’s Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy

The women also hit their fifth round, where one fixture stands out on paper. That one is at Porirua Park where Norths host Petone, with both having enjoyed similar scorelines over Pare-Plim in recent weeks. The two other ‘Big Four’ sides are also at home with leaders Oriental Rongotai being visited by near neighbours Poneke, and Marist St Pat’s are on Evans Bay for the arrival of Paremata-Plimmerton. The fourth scheduled match is at William Jones where Avalon head over the hill to take on Wainuiomata, though given the home side’s record so far this season that would have considerable doubt over it.

All four matches are at the usual 11.30am kickoff.

Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield and National Mutual Cup

Just one of the matches in the Division 1 Harper Lock Shield is between sides that won on the grades opening day, with OBU and Poneke taking to Nairnville Park ahead of their respective Premier outfits. Big first-up winners and reigning double-holders Tawa are at Lyndhurst for the first time this year as they welcome the Upper Hutt Rams, Ories are at Polo for another week for the visit of Norths, and MSP and HOBM will look to open their accounts when they clash at Evans Bay.

In the National Mutual Cup division first-up winners Avalon and Petone will look to make it two-from-two when they host Pare-Plim at Fraser and visit Wellington at Hataitai respectively, with Johnsonville hosting Stokes Valley at Helston in the third. Wainuiomata have the bye this week, and after being left idle a week ago due to issues in the Axemen’s camp will have to wait another seven days before taking to the field in a live game.

With Stokes Valley on the road, all seven matches are at 1pm.

Colts Paris Memorial Trophy

The age-grade competition takes its bow tomorrow, though with a disappointing number of just eleven teams entered. That has led to a single-division round-robin being adopted with the playoff format to be determined at a later date. Defending double-winners OBU Green – with just one team this season – begin their defence at Newlands Park against Poneke, while runners-up Petone head over the hills to face last year’s Division 2 winners Pare-Plim at Ngati Toa. Elsewhere MSP and Tawa meet at Kilbirnie Park, Johnsonville head to William Jones to take on Wainuiomata, and HOBM get curtainraiser duties at home against Wellington.

All seven matches get underway at 1pm.

Under 85kg JC Bowl

With the first week in the books, the lightweights begin to settle into their season. Two of the big winners in week one, Eastbourne and Upper Hutt, both hit the road; the Gulls head to Newlands Park to meet the OBU Scallywags, while the Rams are at Kilbirnie to face Wellington. The third big winner – Poneke – are back home, with a 1pm clash with fellow week one winner Johnsonville on Kilbirnie Park, while a short distance away MSP and HOBM take to the St Pats College turf. The remaining matches are in the Hutt Valley, with Avalon hosting Petone at Fraser Park and Stokes Valley welcoming the Wests Roosters to Delaney Park.

Unless mentioned, all matches are at 2.45pm.

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