- By Scott MacLean & Steven White
Draws & Teamlists as received HERE
It’s the halfway point of the Swindale Shield and the annual McBain Shield match tomorrow between Petone and Hutt Old Boys Marist is also a top of the table clash.
The ‘McBain’ is only one of seven massive fixtures coming up tomorrow: two others being the Sammy Saili Memorial Shield between Northern United and Tawa and the Oriental-Rongotai versus Old Boys University encounter.
It’s also a milestone week for another player as Avalon’s Thomas Kiwara, one of the hardest working members of the rugby community, reaches 100 Premier outings for the Wolves. Our congratulations to him.
In Women’s rugby, Norths and Ories meet in a feature clash in the last round of the Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy, whilst it is full steam ahead in all other grades and in college rugby with the second weekend of grading rounds and the Hurricanes Festival in Napier.
There is also forecast to be some rain about on Saturday, so a new, strange sensation falling from the sky on players (and spectators and photographers not undercover) for the first time this season could add intrigue into the mix.
Another not insignificant factor for some teams will be the loss of Hurricanes U20s players from tomorrow. These players go into camp and are expected to be out of club rugby for two to three weekends. This is replicated throughout the country.
Premier Men’s Swindale Shield
There’s no doubt what the biggest game in town this week is. The McBain Shield clash between Petone and Hutt Old Boys Marist always generates a hype of its own, but with both teams unbeaten and top of the table, this year’s edition at the Petone Rec promises to be something special. Their preparation couldn’t be any more different though with the Villagers having bettered Marist St Pat’s last Saturday, while across the river the Eagles were left idle after a Covid outbreak amongst the Johnsonville squad, so how that transpires for tomorrow is anyone’s guess.
Home team Petone will be going into the McBain encounter without four of their first-choice players who are on representative duty. Fullback Harry Godfrey, midfielder Riley Higgins and No. 8 Peter Lakai are all with the Hurricanes U20s. Halfback Logan Henry is with the Hurricanes senior side this weekend. Experienced hooker Zeke Sopoaga is away, while Dylan Williamson, Josh Southall and Taylor Henry are injured. The Villagers aren’t lacking experience in their back-ups though – players who are starting in their places include Cam Ferreira at halfback, Tupou Sopoaga at No. 8, Jarrod Adams at second-five, Ben Brooking at fullback and Kaleb Sinclair at hooker.
The Eagles haven’t named a lock and three outside backs in their match-day 23, but are not foxing, just confirming the fitness of these players, who include the likes the Jordan Gillies, David Filipo, Nash Fiso, Fereti Soloa and Anthony Utanga. Nonu Tuia is their Hurricanes U20s player, while Lions Connor Collins and Brandyn Laursen at halfback and first five will be key players.
The shield itself is in memory of Alexander McBain and is the oldest interclub trophy in Wellington. A teacher by profession, McBain was also a passionate rugby man and served as President of the Hutt club and became its first Life Member in 1928, as well as Vice-President of the WRFU. It was presented by his son Hec and Captain T E Bevan in 1934 following his death, with Hutt winning the first encounter 6-5 in front of a crowd reputed to number about 4000 people. It’s been contested annually ever since, though periodically outside of the top grade owing to the standing of Hutt, Hutt OB, or HOBM at the time. HOBM are the current holders after winning 35-26 at home last year, though it has changed hands each of the past three years.
This match is also the feature call on the E Tu Whanau Footy Show, on 1161AM, 87.6FM around the city and streaming live on iHeart Radio and www.teupoko.co.nz Gordon Noble-Campbell, Andy Leslie and Adam Julian with the call. The game is also being livestreamed by Huddy Sports.
The second match amongst side in the top half of the table is across the harbour at the Polo Ground, where Oriental Rongotai welcomes Old Boys-University. Both were involved in close-run games last Saturday; the Goats were perhaps lucky to escape from Ngati Toa with all five points on offer while the Magpies suffered defeat at Poneke with all three coming in the dying minutes. There’s plenty at stake – and not just the Bill Brien Challenge Trophy that OBU are looking to reclaim after Ories won it from them late in last years Swindale – but competition points in both the chase for the Swindale but also those vital top four places.
Ories have been hit by a few injuries, in the middle of a tough stretch of matches for them that included Poneke last week, OBU tomorrow and HOBM next Saturday. They lose openside flanker Sione Halalilo to the Canes U20s, with Kristian Barber making his debut there tomorrow. Look out for a big shift from tighthead prop Whetu Henry, with Alex Fidow and Jonty Bird coming off the bench.
Visitors OBU have Dominic Ropeti with the Canes U20s, but welcome back Josh Gimblett to the loose forwards ranks, and Tiaki Fabish will captain the side from No. 8. The tight five is unchanged from the team that edged Paremata-Plimmerton last week, whilst Ty Poe comes back into centre. Reece Plumtree has experience as backs cover on the bench this week.
Poneke’s Jim Grbich win over Ories saw them regain their top four place, but start to face a tough run in coming weeks to hold that position. Before that though, they hit the road to take on a Johnsonville side that have been big improvers in 2022, but with the obvious question mark of coming out of a Covid-enforced interruption.
Johnsonville will look to Mark Sutton and Levi Grace at halfback and first-five to guide them around Helston Park and help spark their exciting outside backs contingent spearheaded by centre Aukuso Tuitama and with Knox Tuinasau on the right wing and Jacob Walmsley at fullback.
For Poneke, flanker Conor Strang and midfielder Caleb Robson will be playing their blazer games (30 starts), while lock Abraham Mataitini makes his first start with Maea Tema-Schmidt out with the Hurricanes U20s. Likewise, Noah Tuifao-Galuvao gets his first start, at tighthead prop.
After falling to defeat last Saturday, Marist St Pats have dropped out of the top four heading into this week. They head into the Hutt Valley again, this time to Fraser Park where they face an Avalon side that will be buoyed after breaking their duck with a win over Wellington.
As well as Kiwara’s 100th match, the Wolves have made a few tweaks to their side that won their first game of the season last weekend. Jordan Sului comes into hooker for Tufi Tufi, Fau Fotu comes into the midfield for Anzac Masua and Garry Naitini moves from the wing to fullback in place of Site Timu.
MSP have made a number of changes, owing to injuries and representative committments. Logan Love and Chicago Doyle are in Blenheim with the Canes U20s, while some other players such as No. 8 Keelan Whitman, flanker Josh To’omaga and prop Vince Sakaria are missing from this week’s line-up. Long-time MSP lock Tovio Apollo is set to start for his 50th Premier game. Other changes include Ken Kapeli marking Kiwara at first five, Milan Kriletich and AJ Hart at openside and No. 8 and Tuga Mativa back into the side on the right wing.
At stake is their Joe Aspell Cup. A former Marist player of the post-war years and later President and Life Member as well as a Wellington City Councillor and benefactor of many causes, Aspell was a publican and the licensee of several hotels across the region, one of which was the Taita Hotel. Originally donated for competition between Marist and Taita, through amalgamations of each it’s now played for by the successor clubs. MSP have been the regular holders of it, including last years one-sided 80-3 result, but its only four years since Avalon last won this fixture with a stunning 27-17 win at Evans Bay.
In the northern reaches of the Hutt Valley, the Upper Hutt Rams get to enjoy another weekend on the plush green of Maidstone Park but will be looking for rather better fortunes this weekend against Wainuiomata than they did with their narrow loss to Norths. You get the feeling that the Rams are only a couple of things clicking into place and they’ll be on their way, but they’ll need to be wary of Wainuiomata side that has also looked better at time then their place on the ladder reflects.
The Rams are down some forwards and have Mason Davis on debut at lock alongside key player Aiden Woodward, while the experienced Sio Fidow moves from blindside to openside flanker, and the versatile Dan Schrivers heads out to the backs and will start at centre where he played much of last season.
Schrijvers will be marking Hurricane Peter Umaga-Jensen who makes his second appearance for Wainuiomata of the year. The versatile Matt Jacobs slots into lock after four straight appearances at openside flanker. Teru Time, Greg Lealofi, Murphy Albright, Tyler Tane and Renata Kotuhi all come into the starting XV from the team that lost to Tawa last weekend.
The pair also have an interclub trophy in play, in their case it’s the Peter Jones/Dave Ritchie Cup. It honours two men who while work colleagues at St Patrick’s Silverstream were also managers of their respective clubs’ Premier sides: Jones for Wainuiomata and Ritchie for Upper Hutt. Wainuiomata hold this after their 47-22 win at William Jones last season.
Our remaining games are both across the Haywards in Porirua. At Ngati Toa Domain Paremata-Plimmerton have to dust themselves off from the disappointment of yet another narrow defeat – three of their four have come at a combined total of just seven points – and look ahead once more. Their opposition however are the winless Wellington Axemen who after last week’s defeat will be looking at this as one of their better chances to get a win in their remaining schedule, however given the much-improved form of the Hammerheads this year they’ll be the favourites.
The Axemen see Joe Reid coming off the bench for Cameron Rosingrave, Ihakara Masoe come into lock for Regan Pope and Ben Jackson for Josh Michael at flanker. Cameron Hislop returns after a week off and lines up at centre.
Paremata-Plimmerton have a largely settled team from that which pushed OBU close last weekend. Second five Eli Moata’a is out after taking a knock in that game, replaced by Joe Faleafaga and with Rikeli Grey at centre and Esi Komaisavai at fullback and Blake Neve on the right wing.
And finally, there’s another of the season’s traditional blockbusters; the Sammy Saili Memorial Trophy clash between Norths and Tawa, this year at Jerry Collins Stadium. A contest where seldom is a quarter asked or given; it’s been characterised by its physicality. The home side have lost all three of their outings on their field and would dearly love to change that that against their rivals, but their win against the Rams last Saturday came at some cost. Tawa have rebounded from their loss to HOBM with a pair of emphatic wins and are starting to look like their usual selves once again which will pose problems for Norths, and maybe everyone else.
Tawa have made a hatful of changes from their 27-8 win over Wainuiomata last week. Up front, Rob Carr gets his first start at hooker since 2020, for Hurricanes U20s rake. Joyner Gaulalofa and Ben Aumua-Peseta starts at tighthead prop after making 10 straight appearances off the bench going back to last season, for Hurricanes U20s prop Siale Lauaki. George Sims makes his first start of the year at halfback and PJ Iosefo also comes on to the wing in place of Hurricanes U20 player Isi Saumaki.
It’s Old Timers’ Day at Norths so the drums will be beating loud. The home side have made several changes, with lock and captain Waylon Baker not playing and Siauini Ulugia-Mao starting at lock. Bradley Crichton is with the Canes U20s and Callum Watts-Pointer misses his first game at the season in the loose forwards. Mike Teofilo is at halfback and Luke Kapene drops to fullback and TK Bishop and Johnny Teleaga are missing from the outside backs and Ropati So’oialo and Faraimo Nofoaiga come off the bench into the starting XV. A familiar face at reserve hooker in Aidan Cains, while three players on debut coming off their bench, forward Reuben Spitzberg-Teorata and backs Wesley Faatuatu and Misiperemalelei Lauvi.
Sammy Saili was something of a legend amongst the Tawa, Samoan, and church communities. Himself a veteran of over 200 Premier matches across both Norths (1992-95) and Tawa (1996-2008), he also coached at Tawa at junior level and Tawa College and was hugely influential in recruiting many players to Lyndhurst Park right up until his untimely passing in 2009. Norths have held this since 2018 including last year’s 22-14 result at Lyndhurst and have won the last seven meetings between the pair, a streak that includes the bizarre and surreal 5-0 result from two years ago.
Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield and National Mutual Cup
After maintaining their winning streak a week ago, Harper Lock leaders Tawa head up the road for a meeting with neighbours Norths at the JCS. Ories are also unbeaten and are back at Polo where they’ll host OBU in the early game there, while after getting on the board last Saturday HOBM head up the valley to meet the winless Upper Hutt Rams at Maidstone. The fourth match is another local derby with meaning, as Poneke cross Evans Bay Parade to face MSP at Evans Bay.
Meanwhile here’s hoping for a full round in the National Mutual Cup division. That’s highlighted by the meeting of the two unbeaten sides – Avalon and Petone – at Fraser Park. The other 1pm game is across at Ngati Toa where hopefully Wellington can front against Pare-Plim, while in the 2.45pm slot Stokes Valley and Wainuiomata take to Delaney Park. Johnsonville has the bye.
Women’s Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy
The first piece of club silverware for the year will be handed over at Porirua Park tomorrow as perennial contenders Oriental Rongotai (30) and Norths (25) meet for the first time this season. The home side only needs a point to ensure that the trophy named for one of their club icons stays in their trophy cabinet for another year while the task is much more difficult for Norths as, almost entirely due to their opening round defeat to MSP, they need to win with a bonus point and deny Ories anything if they are to claim the trophy.
There’s also some intrigue over who will join them in the championship division for the next round. Marist St Pat’s (25) are already assured of being there with either Avalon (16) or Petone (12) to join them. Avalon need just two points to ensure its them but that is made all the trickier as they host MSP at Fraser Park, while Petone would be favourites to collect the full five when they head over the hill to take on Wainuiomata at William Jones. Poneke and Paremata-Plimmerton are both already headed for Division 2 and they finish this part of the season with their meeting at Kilbirnie Park.
Colts Paris Memorial
Through two rounds only three teams are two-from-two, and two of those meet tomorrow with Petone and HOBM providing the opening entertainment to the McBain festivities. The third of those, Old Boys-University will remain there for this weekend as they have the bye. Avalon, winners last Saturday after having the first-up bye, host MSP at Fraser Park while also in the wider Hutt Valley, Wainuiomata are at home to take on Tawa at William Jones. Over at Helston, Johnsonville and Poneke also provide the curtain raiser for their respective Premier outfits.
The fifth match of the day however has that special extra meaning as Wellington and Pare-Plim meet at Hataitai Park. After a couple of years hiatus, they’ll contest the Daniel Baldwin Memorial Trophy which honours the young Axeman tragically lost after being injured in a match between these two teams five years ago.
Under 85kg JC Bowl
Unlike the Colts grade, no fewer than four teams are unbeaten three rounds into the season. That seems likely to change tomorrow, as heavyweights the Upper Hutt Rams and Avalon clash at Maidstone Park in a match that could go a long way to deciding where the trophy ends up in two months’ time. The other unbeatens are grade runners-up Johnsonville, who host neighbours and strugglers Wests in a rare Saturday match on the Alex Moore turf, and early season surprise Stokes Valley who venture into the city once again, this time to take on MSP on the College turf.
The remaining three matches have JC Bowl holders Eastbourne hosting Poneke at HW Shortt, the OBU Scallywags and Wellington meet at Nairnville, and Petone and HOBM clash in their own McBain battle.
The second weekend of the season sees most grades still in qualifying or grading though some move into competition mode. The top four 1st XVs are in Napier where after last weeks whitewash they’ll be hoping to get at least parity with their Super 8 counterparts, with those matches seeing Silverstream taking on Gisborne Boys and Town facing Palmy Boys in the early bracket, followed by Wellington College taking on hosts Napier Boys and Scots lining up against Hastings Boys.
Locally, the qualifying process to fill out the Premier divisions continues. Two sides to join the Tranzit quartet in the Premiership will be found tomorrow as Rongotai hosts Hutt International and St Bernard’s meets Mana; the winners of those go through while the losers get a second chance next week. Also looking for an opportunity are the other 12 teams, where only the winners of their matches tomorrow get that Premiership chance next week. In those Bishop Viard host Paraparaumu, Taita takes on Hutt Valley HS, Aotea meets Wainuiomata, Naenae head over the hill to Masterton and Wairarapa College, Upper Hutt face Kapiti, and Porirua meets Tawa in a local derby.
Elsewhere grading continues for the Under 15 and Under 65kg grades, with both the Under 80kg and Under 55kg grades into their first rounds,