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Competition contenders set to shine in round nine

By Scott MacLean and Steven White

Draws & Teamlists HERE

Friday afternoon edition: It’s all systems go tomorrow in the last weekend of May with the start of the college rugby competitions and the start of the second round Division 1 Women’s competition after a misfire last weekend, and all other club rugby competitions in full round-robin competition mode.

There are top-of-the-table fixtures, more interclub trophies and it’s Old Timers’ Day at Marist St Pat’s, where James Tuia will play his 100th Premier match against Old Boys University.

This week’s E Tu Whanau radio broadcast has Hutt Old Boys Marist v Poneke, on air from 2.00pm with build-up, previews and rugby kaupapa. You can find this at Te Upoko o Te Ika on 1161AM, 87.6FM around the city, and streaming on iHeart Radio and www.teupoko.co.nz.

The weather forecast is kind once more, so plenty of exciting action is in store for tomorrow.

Premier Men’s Swindale Shield

It shapes as another blockbuster weekend, with three of the seven matches being between sides that currently occupy places in the top eight.

Despite suffering their first loss of the season last Saturday Petone (34) remain atop the standings and although they return home to the comforts of the Petone Rec, they face the challenge of upstarts Paremata-Plimmerton (23) who will be buoyed after taking a hard-fought and rare win away from Ngati Toa. At this stage of the season the points are valuable – for Petone to stay in the chair to lift the Swindale in a few weeks and for Pare-Plim to stay in the hunt for a Jubilee playoff match.

Petone have the services of Logan Henry for the final time this season tomorrow, Henry lining up at halfback ahead of travelling to Manawatu to spend the remainder of 2022. Petone’s backline is mostly settled, but they have a few forwards changes for this game against the Hammerheads. These include Iona Apineru switching from blindside flanker to tighthead prop, Alapati Soke changing over to loosehead prop and Brad Pritchard and Jacob Gooch filling the two flank forward positions.

Paremata-Plimmerton have made a handful of changes, illness forcing some of these. As such, Colts captain and former Aotea College captain Brooklyn Tapusoa is in line to make his Premier debut at openside flanker. Kayden Muller makes his return to the team, to start at first-five, and Junior Davey starts for the first time this season at blindside flanker after coming off the bench last. Pasilio is with the Hurricanes but they have Werdna Maligi back for extra thump from the pine.

Across the Hutt River third and fourth clash when Hutt Old Boys Marist (29*) welcomes Poneke (29) to the Hutt Rec nest. The Eagles will have been pleased to come away from the Polo Ground with the win, though that bonus point they didn’t grab could yet prove pivotal in the end. Poneke were understandably delighted to have ended Petone’s run of wins, and that ugly second half against OBU aside have shown that they belong in the discussion for the year so far.

The Eagles have made four changes to their starting line-up from the team that beat Ories in Miramar last Saturday – all experienced players coming in. These are Ben Power at hooker, David Filipo at lock, Mika Alaifatu at No.8 and Connor Collins at halfback. Also, Nash Fiso joins the reserves after a month away from the Premier competition.

Poneke see Moses Tuifao-Galuvao replace Andrew Jones at hooker in an otherwise unchanged pack from that which beat Petone last week. In the backs, Josh Wilson returns to first five and Pakai Turia drops back to fullback, while Elnino Peniamina slots into the midfield to partner Ben Huntley in place of Hurricane Tei Walden. On the bench, James Mose and Patrick Sitagata return.

The third high-profile match of the day is across the water at Evans Bay, where Marist St Pats (25) are at home for their Old Timers’ Day meeting with Old Boys-University (30), and where the sincere hope is for another cracking game between the pair like last year’s epic at Wellington College and none of the events that immediately followed. Both sides come into this one on the back or surprising losses; MSP going down to Johnsonville while OBU were run down by a resurgent Norths.

For MSP, hooker James Tuia will run out on to Evans Bay Park to play his 100th Premier game. MSP do have a couple of frontline players back from injuries and unavailability’s for this fixture. Tom Martin returns to the side and will play blindside flanker. Meinrad Fitisemanu returns to play loosehead prop, with Tui Tuia at tighthead. In the backs, Luke Donaldson comes into halfback while a new midfield for this match will be Zack Paterson and Isaia Petelo. A couple of positions still to be confirmed.

OBU have Owen Wright coming into the team for the first time this year. The former Aotea College captain lines up on the left wing, in place of Josh Morgan Ranui. Other changes see Tobias Christensen starting at tighthead prop, a different locking combination from last week in Matt Eathorne and Cam Jackson, Harry Bampton starting at blindside flanker and Cody Quin at No. 8. Sam Champion lines up at fullback and there are a couple of further changes to their bench, so a lot of movement for OBU this week following their late loss to Norths.

Tawa (25) held their place inside the top-eight after comfortably seeing off Wellington last Saturday and remain at home at Lyndhurst to take on the Upper Hutt Rams (15) who were similarly successful a week ago against Avalon. The Rams are not out of contention for the top eight, but likely need to win four of their last five to be a factor while Tawa will be looking to push for one of those valuable top four places and knowing that they still have three of the current top four yet to play.

Tawa have selected Trent Renata at first five in the Hugo Plummer-captained side to play the Rams. Tawa will look to the veteran to guide the backs around the field. Tawa will first look to their forwards to go big and withstand Upper Hutt’s challenge.

The Rams will arrive at Lyndhurst Park with a settled side from that which put 50 points on Avalon last weekend at home. Just one change to their starting XV sees Cameron Dee come into tighthead prop for Paraz Kingi, who drops to the bench. A couple of tweaks only to their reserves as well. Fullback Tynan Barrett scored 17 points last week, the competition’s leading points scorer just 10 points off reaching the century milestone. Replacement loose forward Sio Fidow is a former Tawa player, making the switch to Maidstone Park after the 2020 season.

Norths (21) vaulted themselves back into the reckoning with their comeback win over OBU, and with things looking like they’re starting to click they could be a difficult proposition for their remaining opponents down the stretch. They head over the Haywards to Fraser Park and a meeting with Avalon (6) who seem destined for the Hardham playoffs but would dearly like to take down some of the sides they’re yet to face.

Avalon have Victor Visa making his first Premier start at first-five tomorrow, coming in for Thomas Kiwara. He plays outside halfback Jack Ena who replaces Ezra Sione in the starting XV. Jordan Sului plays his Avalon blazer game at hooker, while former Norths prop Daley Ena is on the bench.

A few tweaks to the Norths line-up for this week’s game, mostly in the forwards. Ethan Robinson-Mate comes into starting hooker and Daniel Filemoni to loosehead prop. Olano Olufato returns to the loose forwards, with Ezra Seiuli taking a breather. Luca Rees has scored five tries in his last two matches for Norths at No. 8, and he captains the team tomorrow. A late change at flyhalf, with Dale Sabbagh ruled out and Luke Kapene coming into the 10 posiiton.

After their first win in the top-flight over MSP since 1998, the belief of the Johnsonville (18*) Hawks will be sky-high. But they will need to be wary of being overconfident, as they welcome a Wainuiomata (12) side to Helston that, with a bit more confidence, patience, and accuracy from the boot, will feel that they should have beaten Pare-Plim last Saturday. You get the feeling that Johnsonville has more to lose though, and that should provide plenty of motivation.

Johnsonville have named their side that has two changes to the Starting XV and a couple more to the bench, but otherwise mostly resembles the side that beat MSP. Lookout for the inside backs, the energetic Mark Sutton at halfback, Levi Grace at first five and Olly Paotonu at inside centre. The changes see Lucas Aukuso return to hooker for Dan Hoare and Levi’s brother, Zyrus, come up from the U85kgs side to replace the injured Marzy Karim on the left wing.

Visitors Wainuiomata have Peter Umaga-Jensen in their midfield for this game, after being named last week but then receiving a later call-up to the Hurricanes. Tyler Tane drops to the bench. In an otherwise unchanged team, just some tweaks to their back three this week, with Jason Love moving to fullback and Trei Mu and Niko Patelesio being Wainuiomata’s starting wings this week.

And lastly in this part of the preview there’s another eastern suburbs derby. Oriental Rongotai (18) have to leave home as the redevelopment of their Polo home gets underway, but only have to travel as far as Hataitai Park to take on bottom-side Wellington (1). The Magpies will be warm favourites and will have the need to stay in touch with the top-eight to motivate them, but the Axemen have the capacity to spring a surprise; maybe that happens tomorrow?

Ories have Whetu Henry at tighthead prop for this game, the veteran coming in to the front row for Alex Fidow. Peniali Poasa makes his second consecutive start at blindside flanker, while John Tuia moves from lock to openside flanker for Kristian Barber. In the backs, Saia Paese drops in to first five from fullback, Malachai Unasa comes into centre and Ethan Webster-Nonu is at fullback. The evergreen Paulo Aukuso rides the pine.

The Axemen have once again made several changes to their team line-up, mostly positional switches – for example Ben Hendry starts at openside flanker after six previously starts at hooker and blindside flaker this year. Fullback Liam Rukuwai is on debut, as is replacement forward Russell Hughes off the bench.

(* the outcome and any points related to the HOBM vs Johnsonville fixture remains to be determined)

As with most weeks, there are a swag of interclub trophies in play tomorrow:

  • MSP and OBU will contest their Jack Lamason Memorial Cup. Lamason was a legendary figure in Wellington sport either side of WWII in both cricket and rugby. In the former he played for Wellington and toured England with the New Zealand team in 1937 and a Wellington representative for eight years in the 20s and 30’s with the oval ball. Originally donated for competition between the Wellington College and St Patrick’s Old Boys’ clubs, it’s now played for between their successors and held by OBU after their death-knock 20-18-win last season.
  • Petone and Pare-Plim will play for their Ken Gray Cup. While Gray’s contributions to Petone, Wellington, and New Zealand rugby are well-known, few will know that the legendary All Black hardman’s first club after leaving Wellington College was the pre-merger Paremata, from where he made the Wellington B side in 1958 and then moved on to Petone. First contested in 2019, the Villagers have held it every year including last season’s 54-10 win.
  • For the second successive week Tawa play for an interclub trophy with the name ‘Mexted’ on it. This time it’s the Mexted Motors Cup with Upper Hutt, which was donated by the family business for competition between the two clubs in the areas where their business operates. Tawa holds it after their 38-19 win last season.
  • The Alby Jack Memorial Cup is between Ories and Wellington. Alby Jack played for Oriental before, during (including in the combined team with Poneke), and after WWII in which he also saw service in the Middle East and North Africa. After captaining Ories to the Hardham Cup in 1949 he switched to the Axemen for another decade before retiring, after which he served as a Vice President of the WRFU, was a founder of the Wellington Supporters Club, and early member of the Centurions. Ories will be looking to retain it after their 54-22 win last year.
  • The fifth is the Roy Johns Memorial Shield between HOBM and Poneke. Roy Hollie Reginald Johns was a member of the Poneke FC (and the combined Poneke-Oriental senior team) in the 1940’s, Johns was originally selected for Wellington B in 1941, but owing to the unavailability of the first-choice halfback (O’Halloran from Athletic) he was selected to play against Hawke’s Bay that year, a match lost 13-16. Johns went on to represent Wellington throughout the war years as the regular halfback and was noted to have had “an excellent game” in Wellington’s defeat of Auckland in 1944 by 12-9. Johns also represented the Brooklyn Cricket Club (which played in Wellington Cricket’s Second and Third Grades during the War years) as a batsman, famously scoring 133 not-out in a match against the Hutt Club in 1941. Roy died in 1988 at which time the Memorial Shield was created and first competed for.

Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield and National Mutual Cup

Potentially both of these trophies could find their summer homes tomorrow depending on results. In the Division 1 Harper Lock Shield, only holders Tawa (25) and Ories (23) can win it and they clash tomorrow in the early game at Lyndhurst. Tawa have been the dominant side in the grade since the start of last year, but Ories are also undefeated and will fancy their chances. A Tawa bonus-point win will lock the trophy away while an Ories victory will take it to next week. In the remaining matches both MSP and the Upper Hutt Rams will be looking to avoid a possible drop to Division 2 when they host OBU and Poneke respectively with HOBM and Norths meeting at the Hutt Rec.

It’s a similar story in the Division 2 National Mutual Cup as only Avalon (24) and Petone (20) can win it, and with it possible promotion. The Wolves have the bye, meaning Petone can go past them for now when they host Pare-Plim in the early game at the Village, but they in-turn have the bye next weekend and will need Avalon to slip up against Wainuiomata next week. Wainuiomata are at Helston to take on Johnsonville, and Wellington are scheduled to face Stokes Valley at Hataitai.

Premier Women’s Tia Paasi Memorial and Izzy Ford Cup

After last weekend’s postponement the top division belatedly kicks into gear with this week’s initially scheduled round. That sees an eastern suburbs derby between Marist St Pats and Oriental Rongotai to kick off MSP’s Old Timers’ Day, while Petone and Norths lock horns out at the Rec.

The second division matches are also as per schedule after they went ahead last week. Winners Avalon and Wainuiomata will look to stretch their advantages as they switch opponents from last Saturday; Avalon are at Ngati Toa to take on Paremata-Plimmerton and Wainuiomata are back at home for the visit of Poneke.

Colts Paris Memorial

There’s a familiar look to the top of the table as the traditional powers flex their muscles. The highlight game of the day is on Kilbirnie #2 where, like their senior sides, MSP take on OBU in a match between second and third at this juncture. Leaders Petone head over the hill to William Jones to face neighbours Wainuiomata, while the other top-four side, HOBM, are at home on the Hutt Rec against Poneke. In the remaining matches winless Johnsonville meets Tawa at Newlands Park and Avalon takes on Wellington at Fraser Park. Pare-Plim has this week’s bye.

Under 85kg JC Bowl

Some tasty match-ups headline this week’s round in the lightweight’s grade, particularly the top-three clash between the third-placed OBU Scallywags and leaders the Upper Hutt Rams at Nairnville while another of interest is out at HW Shortt when holders Eastbourne face grade champions Avalon with both teams currently mid-table. The also-unbeaten Stokes Valley side are at home on Delaney against Petone, Johnsonville – officially still with a game in hand – are in the city to take on MSP on the St Pat’s turf, winless HOBM line up against Poneke on the Hutt Rec, and either Wests or Wellington will break their duck when they meet in the Ian Galloway cage.

College Premiership and Premier 2

And finally in this preview, the College season gets into full competition mode for 2022 with the opening round of matches in the Premiership and Premier 2 the features.

As mentioned in Monday’s column, it’s a nine-team Premiership for this season and the first match has already been played with Wellington College beating St Pats Town 29-21 in their annual traditional on Wednesday. The remaining matches tomorrow have Wairarapa College making their return to the top flight by hosting Silverstream in Masterton, Scots hit the road to meet Mana in Elsdon, and St Bernard’s host Hutt International in an all-Valley affair.

In Premier 2 the opening match is up the coast with Paraparaumu hosting Aotea, followed by the Silverstream 2nds hosting Hutt Valley HS. After that Taita takes on the Wellington College 2nds, Naenae clash with Upper Hutt, and Bishop Viard hosts the Town 2nds.

Looking ahead to next week there are three games currently scheduled for next Wednesday. Silverstream takes on New Plymouth Boys at home in their annual Traditional as do St Pat’s Town against St John’s Hastings, while St Bernard’s and Mana have agreed to play their Premiership clash early ahead of the weekend.

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