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Tornado of rugby expected in Wellington region tomorrow

  • By Scott MacLean & Steven White

Draws & Teamlists as received HERE

Friday late afternoon edition: It’s a thunder and lightning, tornados and hail kind of day throughout the lower North Island this Friday. Friendlier conditions are forecast for Saturday and the stage is set for a big round of club and college rugby.

It’s also the eye of the storm at Kilbirnie Park, William Jones Park and Delany Park tomorrow, with Old Timers’ Days for Poneke, Wainuiomata and Stokes Valley.

A number of players remain out of club rugby action and tied up with the Super Rugby U20s tournament. This and mid-competition injuries will see depth tested throughout all wider squads this weekend.

This week’s E Tu Whanau Footy Show sees Gordon Noble-Campbell with Mike Copeland commentating the Old Boys University-Northern United fixture at Nairnville Park. This is on Te Upoko o Te Ika Radio at 1161AM and 87.6FM around the city, while streaming live on IHeart Radio and via www.teupoko.co.nz.

Premier Men’s Swindale Shield

A week after pulling off one of the more remarkable finishes to a club rugby game ever seen in Wellington, unbeaten outright leaders Petone (32) face another top-four clash as they head to Kilbirnie Park and Poneke (25) in a match between the second and third-oldest clubs in the province for their F.J. Tilyard Memorial Shield. The McBain triumph – particularly without their trio of young stars – would have galvanised the Villagers, but will have to shake off any lingering hangover, both literally and metaphorically, against a Poneke side that will be fired-up for Old Timers Day, and after righting their ship after that loss to OBU with wins over Ories and Poneke continue to defy the preseason predictions.

For Poneke, Rhys Reiri returns from injury at tighthead prop and Jimmy Hewitt starts at openside flanker in the only changes upfront from last week. In the backs,  Pakai moves back to first five, inside a new midfield pairing of Hurricane Teihorangi and veteran Ben Huntley. On the bench, Jack Loader returns and Elnino Peniamina should breeze on in the second half.

Petone have Mitchell Southall starting at openside flanker for his first Premier start, alongside Iona Apineru who moves from prop to blindside. Reserve hooker Ryan Imrie will make his 50th Premier appearance when he enters the fray. Tiaki Freeman is on debut in the outside backs, while Logan Henry returns to the squad and rides the pine.

Also defying those predictions are Old Boys-University (28), who many believed would struggle this term with an almost entirely new team and their defence of the Swindale Shield is still very much alive. The face the challenge of Norths (16) tomorrow on home turf at Nairnville Park, who will be buoyed by having put their campaign back on track with their win over Tawa last week but will also be well aware they have plenty of work still to do if they’re going to be a factor this year. As well at their Ken Douglas Trophy, OBU will also be defending the Bill Brien Challenge Trophy after claiming it from Ories last Saturday.

OBU will have Flynn Crampton on debut at lock. The former Wellington College player played mostly No. 8 for the OBU Green Colts side and had his own fan club on the sidelines. The experienced Morgan Poi makes his return to Wellington Premier club rugby after over a year off. Former Wellington Lions loosehead prop Poi has been named at No. 8. Callum Harkin moves in one spot to first five to partner halfback Kyle Preston in a key inside backs combination.

Norths welcome back experienced loosehead prop Jerome Vaai, who last played for Norths in their  2021 Jubilee Cup semi-final loss to MSP. In another change to their forwards from last week, Callum Watts-Pointer returns, to play blindside flanker with Olano Afutoto on the bench. The reserves are shored up further with Solomona Sakalia, Ethan Robinson-Mate and Waylon Baker all getting suited up and ready to come on.

Back in the eastern suburbs its one for ornithophiles as the Magpies host the Eagles at the Polo Ground. Both sides will be looking to rebound as well after Oriental Rongotai (18) went down to OBU while Hutt Old Boys Marist (25*) were of course on the receiving end of that titanic end to the McBain clash. Both sides will be keen to return to winning ways, HOBM to stay in touch with the leaders at the very least while Ories immediate aim is to stay inside that top eight though they do have a favourable run of games to come.

Ories will derive their momentum from the front row where Hurricanes props Xavier Numia (loosehead) and Alex Fidow (tighthead) pack down between hooker Connor Lemon. John Tuia slots in at lock for this 50th Blazer game. There are some positional and personnel changes in the backs, including Grayson Whitman replacing Jake Hamilin at first five and Saia Paese coming in for Jordan Tuilaepa at fullback with the latter retiring to the bench for this fixture.

The Eagles have rotated several players around their squad for this match from the Petone heartbreak McBain match. James O’Reilly comes into hooker with Ben Power starting this one on the bench. Heremoni Nepo and Mika Alaifatu swap at No. 8, as does Waylon Tuhoro-Robinson and Connor Collins at halfback. Albert Polu and Jordan Glen-Bradbrook form a new midfield pairing and Kobe-Joe Vulu comes on to the right wing for Fereti Soloa.

Marist St Pats’ (23) surprisingly narrow win over Avalon kept them in the race for those top four places but face another potentially tricky assignment this week as they head up to Helston Park to take on Johnsonville (13*). The Red Machine has spluttered in the past couple of weeks so an all-cylinders firing performance would seem to be a must, while the Hawks weren’t given any room to take flight by Poneke and being able to spread their wings would seem key their chances of victory.

Home side Johnsonville see the return of Mark Sutton after being a late scratching last week against Poneke. Sutton comes back to first-five, with Levi Grace not playing this one, out injured. Inside him Eben Claassen plays halfback and outside him Olly Paotonu lines up at second five. There are three Roebecks listed on the bench, EJ, Adney and Rodney, while their cousin and hooker Dan Hoare’s brother Dylan makes his debut on the bench.

Marist St Pat’s have named a 22 featuring three debutants, these being reserves Perry Laumalili, Leififi Johnson and Lanakila Opetaia-Tiatia. Jay Cameron returns from the Axemen after making a number of appearances for MSP between 2017-20. He lines up at second-five, outside Andrew Wells who has been playing fullback most of this season to date. MSP will look to their other experienced players such as James Tuia, Ryan Setefano, Isaia Petelo and Valentine Meachen to see them through this one.

Jubilee Cup holders Tawa (20) will be stung by their defeat to Norths, a result that extends their losing streak in that fixture further but have perhaps the ideal tonic for that as bottom-side Wellington (1) are the visitors to Lyndhurst this week. The Axemen will be battered and bruised after another big loss but will surely pick themselves off the floor, but the task for them to win here seems enormous.

After an underwhelming performance, Tawa will look to show no mercy against the Axemen, and have made several changes to their line-up. Weston Sao comes back to openside flanker, Elijah Fonoti to the left wing and Eamonn Carr to lock and Tom Cutler to right wing. Carr replaces Hemi Fermanis while Cutler was on the bench last week. Also on Tawa’s bench, the experienced Matt Treeby is joined by Tito and Tootai Ioane and Solomon Uelese.

James and Tony Coburn return to Lyndhurst Park in Axemen colours, lining up at loosehead and tighthead prop respectively. The brothers will be part of a pack that has four changes to it from last week, also including the return of Ben Hendry, Regan Pope,
Timothy Silomiga and Josh Michael. The backs are more settled, with Cam Hislop moving to fullback from centre and a likely debut off the bench for Bede Murfitt.

Across the Hutt Valley, Wainuiomata (11) hope that their narrow win over Upper Hutt will kick their season into life but find themselves wearing the underdogs tag on their own Old Timers’ Day as Paremata-Plimmerton (19) come to visit. Along with Poneke, the Hammerheads have been the big improvers in 2022 and could have run up a cricket score against Wellington if a few more passes had stuck but expect the hosts to defend their turf with everything that they have.

Wainuiomata have named an unchanged forward pack from last week and just two changes to their backline, these being Justin Wilson in at first-five in place of Murphy Albright and the evergreen Jason Love in on the left wing for Renata Kotuhi. UPDATE In a late Friday afternoon change,Peter Umaga-Jensen has been called up to the Hurricanes, so Campbell Cowie starts at centre and Renata Kotuhi comes into f lines up at centre for the second successive week.

Paremata-Plimmerton welcome back Taisson Lealaisalanoa into lock and have an unchanged backline from last week. Hurricanes prop Pasilio Tosi has been cleared to play up to 50 minutes and starts in the front row.

Finally, it’s out to the head of the valley for the local derby between the Upper Hutt Rams (10) and Avalon (5). It’s been a luckless few weeks for the Rams with their draw at Johnsonville followed by a pair of one-point home losses to Norths and Wainuiomata, so facing one of the two teams currently below them might just be the trick. However the Wolves will come in confident having beaten Wellington and all-but the same to MSP in the past fortnight.

The Rams have made only one change to their team from last week’s second straight heart-breaking loss, with the veteran Josh Hunt coming into openside flanker for Sio Fidow. The Rams have named two TBCs on their bench and the rumour train is that a big name is possibly going to fill one of those spots.

Openside flanker Laman Ah Wong will captain the Wolves, who also feature veteran Akuila Alatini making his second appearance this year and first at lock. Mo’omo’o Falaniko lines up at fullback for the first time while Ezra Sione comes off the bench at halfback in place of Jack Ena.

(* the points total for HOBM and Johnsonville do not include any from their unplayed match as this is still before the WRFU)

As touched on above, there’s plenty of interclub silverware as all but the Johnsonville vs MSP game has something at stake:

  • First played for between Poneke and Petone in 1958, the F.J. Tilyard Shield honours Fred Tilyard who played on four championship winning Poneke sides, a Wellington rep for seven years, an All Black in 1923, and a club administrator for more than 20 years. He was one of four brothers – Jimmy, Harry, and Brun – who all played for the club and the Wellington rep side, with Jimmy also an All Black. Petone narrowly won this 18-17 last year, though their most recent meeting was Poneke’s upset 32-24 extra-time win in last year’s Hardham Cup final.
  • OBU and Norths contest their Ken Douglas Trophy. The long-time trade unionist, councillor and board member – including NZ Rugby – was made a Member of NZ’s highest honour, the Order of New Zealand in 1998. Douglas played for Wellington College OB in the 1960’s, and later a member of the Titahi Bay club where he was amongst those influential in the merger with Porirua that created Norths. OBU hold it after winning 18-0 in the first-round last year though, like above, Norths won their playoff clash 13-0 at the end of last season.
  • At stake for Ories and HOBM is their Bondy Memorial Trophy, which honours Don Bond who passed away in 2011 just weeks before his beloved Magpies won the Jubilee Cup. At the time of his passing Bond was the club’s patron, having served as a player, club captain, WRFU delegate, Chairman, President, and was a Life Member. HOBM hold this after winning 37-18 last season.
  • Tawa and Wellington will contest their Murray & Alan Mexted Cup, named for the two brothers who both played for both clubs. Murray’s achievements in the game are well-known, with Alan having played alongside him in representative colours in the early 1980’s. Tawa are the holders after last year’s 26-12 win.
  • The newest of the trophies in play tomorrow is the Smith & Wilson Cup between Wainuiomata and Pare-Plim. It was donated by Daniel Smith, the current Wainuiomata head coach, and Justin Wilson who was then Pare-Plim’s head coach and the current Wellington Maori coach. It’s held by Wainuiomata after their 25-16 win at Ngati Toa late last year.
  • And lastly Upper Hutt and Avalon play for the Harper Vine Trophy, which was donated by the families of Tammy Harper, who played for Taita and was the first Life Member of the merger Avalon club, and Bob Vine, who played for Upper Hutt, and their often-intense rivalry. Upper Hutt have held this for several seasons now, including after winning 49-28 last year.

Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield and National Mutual Cup

There’s a clear gap at the top of the Division 1 Harper Lock Shield standings, with Tawa and Ories on course for a showdown clash next weekend. Before that however they have tomorrow to get through as they face the other two winners from last Saturday. Tawa head into the city to face Poneke in the early game at Kilbirnie Park, while Ories are at home against HOBM in the curtain raiser at Polo. The remaining matches have the side battling to avoid the possible drop into Division 2, particularly at Evans Bay where MSP take on the Upper Hutt Rams, while Norths head into the suburbs to face OBU at Nairnville Park.

The race in Division 2 National Mutual Cup got turned on its head after Avalon accounted for Petone, though each have the bye to come in the last two weeks. Owing to the ongoing situation with Wellington’s team – who have the bye this week – the points table is a bit of a mess, but Stokes Valley seems to be the only side that can upset the Wolves’ progress and the Rhino’s play host to that match as the feature on their Old Timers Day at 2.45pm. Petone will look to get back on track as they host Johnsonville at the Rec, while across the hills Wainuiomata and Pare-Plim clash at William Jones Park.

Somewhat atypically, there is an interclub trophy in play here as well as Stokes Valley and Avalon will play for their Roger Mildenhall Cup, which honours the late Avalon Life Member and long-time resident of Stokes Valley. The Rhinos hold it after winning 39-32 in their first-round clash last year and then 37-0 in the second, but Avalon won their most recent meeting, 8-7, in the playoffs en route to lifting the divisions HD Morgan Memorial.

Premier Women’s Tia Paasi Memorial and Izzy Ford Cups

Updated: With the first-round having reached its conclusion via calculators at WRFU, tomorrow is a short sprint to the finish next month with the field now split for the remainder. Ories, Petone, MSP and Norths will start their second round Division 1 compeition next week.

The pair of Division 2 contests see Poneke host Avalon in the first game of the day at Kilbirnie Park at 11.10am, while Wainuiomata and Paremata-Plimmerton do likewise at William Jones at 11.30am.

Colts Paris Memorial

Despite their draw last weekend, Petone and HOBM remain at the top of the standings. Its HOBM’s turn to have the bye this week, with Petone heading to Kilbirnie to take on Poneke. OBU return from the week off to host Wellington at Kelburn, while two of last week’s winners clash at Mary Crowther when Wainuiomata takes on Pare-Plim. Elsewhere MSP are at Helston to face Johnsonville, and Tawa and Avalon provide the early entertainment at Lyndhurst.

Under 85kg JC Bowl

Four rounds of at times thrilling rugby are in the books, and just three teams remain undefeated. It’s not surprising to see the Upper Hutt Rams and Johnsonville there, but seeing Stokes Valley is. They face a big test of their credentials tomorrow as neighbours and defending grade champions Avalon enter the Valley, with the Wolves hungry to get back on track after being beaten by the Rams last week. The Rams will be hot favourites in their match against cellar-dwellers Wests in the Ian Galloway cage while Johnsonville will also be at short odds against Wellington at Hataitai. JC Bowl holders Eastbourne enjoy the comforts of HW Shortt for another week against a rapidly improving Petone, HOBM and the OBU Scallywags getting the Hutt Rec to themselves for the afternoon, and Poneke and MSP meet in their own Battle of Kilbirnie.

College

It’s a big weekend for several teams as they determine where they’ll play out the season ahead. With Rongotai and St Bernard’s qualifying last week and joining Scots, Silverstream, Town, and Wellington College in this year’s Premiership, the final four will be found tomorrow.

After dipping out last week, Hutt International and Mana each could book their returns tomorrow; HIBS faces a resurgent Bishop Viard at Maidstone Park, while Mana faces Hutt Valley HS – last year’s Premier 3 runners-up – at the Hutt Rec. UPDATE: HVHS have defaulted to Mana because of Covid. Aotea are also looking to return, but although they’re at home face the challenge of Wairarapa College who are aiming to return after playing in Premier 2 last season, while Tawa will also try to return when they visit Upper Hutt College (who as a composite team with players from Heretaunga are ineligible for the Premiership)

The losers of those four matches will play in Premier 2, alongside the Silverstream and Wellington College 2nd XVs who have already qualified. As with the Premiership four more matches will determine the balance of those, and the losers heading for Premier 3. In those Wainuiomata HS hosts Taita, Porirua heads up the coast to face Paraparaumu, Kapiti come into the city to face the Town 2nds, and the Scots 2nds head into the Hutt to take on Naenae.

Elsewhere, the Under 15 grade has its final round of grading games with Under 65s joining the 55s in competition play.

After the weekend though attention quickly turns to next Wednesday with two matches. Wellington College hosts St Pats Town to kick off the Premiership season with the first of the year’s Traditional encounters just after midday, while that night at Porirua Park Mana begins this seasons defence of the Porirua-area Beard Trophy when they face Tawa.

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