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This week in club rugby history: 30 May – 5 June

The late Misiluni Moananu packs down against his former Poneke teammates with Vaea Fifita and the Wellington Axemen in their 22-15 win over Poneke this week in 2015, to give them a berth in the upcoming Jubilee Cup round.

This week is traditionally one of the busiest weeks in rugby in the Wellington region.

Up until recent seasons, this week often marked the transition between the first round Swindale Shield competition and the start of the full round-robin Jubilee Cup for the Wellington Club Rugby Championship.

Similarly, this coincides with Queen’s Birthday Weekend fixtures, often drawing huge crowds at Athletic Park. For many years, Wellington and Manawatu played an annual Queen’s Birthday Monday fixture for the Coronation Cup, which marked the current monarch’s ascendancy to the throne in 1953.

From our ‘Today in History’ archives, some club rugby highlights from this week below.

1929: Poneke and Athletic are joint leaders after six rounds in the inaugural Jubilee Cup season in Wellington. A crowd of 4,500 at Athletic Park watch Poneke beat Marist 29-18. Poneke pile on 18 unanswered points in the first half ahead of a valiant Marist comeback in the second spell. Poneke can’t sustain their form and University later emerges from the pack to win the first Jubilee Cup.

1933: A grandstand finish at the Hutt Rec! Hutt score the match-winning try on the stroke of fulltime to beat Athletic 18-17 in perfect conditions. The Hutt team, who are wearing black armbands in respect to the recent passing of Alexander McBain, are troubled by the sun in the first half and scores are locked at 8-8 at halftime. Athletic gain a 17-14 lead late in the contest before Hutt wing Stevenson dives through to score in the corner and former Canterbury and now Wellington All Black Herb Lilburne converts from the sideline to give Hutt the win.

1940: Johnsonville hit the lead in the championship, beating previous leaders Athletic 11-8 in the match of the round at Athletic Park. In a battle between the forwards orientated Johnsonville and the flashy play of Athletics’ backs, Johnsonville come from a 0-5 deficit at halftime. Athletic goes on to win the 1940 Jubilee Cup.

1951: Poneke’s 14-3 King’s Birthday Monday defeat of eastern suburbs rivals and competition leaders Oriental sets up a tight points table, with three points separating the leading nine teams at this point of the competition. In bitterly cold conditions at Athletic Park, Poneke scores a decisive try early in the second spell when electric No. 8 Jim Grbich charges down a clearing kick and Vic Calcanai converts. Nineteen years after their first Jubilee Cup win in 1932, Poneke wins its second standalone title later this season.

1952: University famously wins the first of three successive Jubilee Cups this season playing positive, attractive rugby. Led by All Blacks wing Ron Jarden, who scores 14 tries in 15 games, they are deserved champions. On this day they are beaten up front, but their slick backs are superb in overrunning WCOB 29-11.

1958: A low scoring thriller at a bumper Athletic Park on Queen’s Birthday Monday, as University prevails 3-0 over defending champions and title rivals Petone. This win helps them win the Jubilee Cup later in the season, following their three-peat between 1952-54.

1964: In the clash of the giants at Athletic Park on Queen’s Birthday Monday,, Marist edges University 16-11 and now both teams are level pegging as joint championship leaders. Nothing will change at the top over the next two months and Marist and University will share the Jubilee Cup.

1965: University lead 14-0 after as many minutes and go on to beat Marist 20-8 in the biggest match of the season to date in front of 9,000 at Athletic Park. University fullback Mick Williment surpasses 100 points for the season in this match – just seven games into the season.

1968: In a major shock, University rout previously unbeaten Petone 15-6, while Hutt Old Boys make history by recording their first ever win in the Senior division, tipping over the more fancied Marist 18-14.

1977: All Black wing Stu Wilson is on fire for Wellington College Old Boys. With his side trailing Titahi Bay 7-11, Wilson intercepts a cross-kick and sprints 75 metres to score a spectacular solo effort, to see WCOB draw 11-11.

1985: Wellington beats Petone 15-12 in today’s top-of-the-table Queen’s Birthday weekend clash to go to the top of the table. However, it could have been a draw after Petone fullback Allan Hewson’s late penalty is flagged as good by the two touch touches behind the poles but their decision is over ruled and it’s no goal. Asked afterwards if his kick was successful Hewson said: “Yes. It went about three inches inside the right hand upright.”

1989: Swindale Shield decider. In a gripping conclusion to the first round, Hutt Old Boys lead Poneke 9-3 at halftime. Two John Jackson penalties level the scores up to 9-9. Poneke flanker Amico Tovia is sent off for a head high tackle, leaving Poneke competing with 14 men. Hutt flanker Mark Shaw scores a decisive try and Hutt pull clear to win 21-9.

1996: Petone win their last match but finish outside the top eight and will contest the Hardham Cup for the rest of the season. Petone beat Avalon 22-5, but Norths cling to a 7-6 win over Ponele to shut Petone outside the ‘eight’. MSP win the Swindale Shield for the third time in succession, beating Tawa 10-0 today.

1999: Western Suburbs begins their Jubilee Cup title defence with a first round 36-10 win over Norths, Ace Tiatia for Wests and captain Jerry Collins for Norths both individual standouts. MSP continue their unbeaten run for the season, edging Petone 36-20.

2005: Upper Hutt win the Swindale Shield for the first time in 15 years. Upper Hutt’s nine tries to two 62-20 win over winless Old Boys University gives them the title outright with next week’s last round to spare after title rival Norths go down 5-12 to Avalon.

2013: It’s Tawa on their own. In an entertaining game at home at Lyndhurst Park, Tawa draw their battle 29-29 with Marist St Pat’s but still win the campaign, earning the minimum of one bonus point they need from the match to seal the Wellington club rugby first round Swindale Shield outright for the first time in the club’s 66-year history. Scenes of jubilation follow.

Tawa with their maiden Swindale Shield title in 2013.

2015: Wellington Axemen supporters are happy after their side has beaten Poneke 22-15 and earned its place in the coveted Jubilee Cup starting next week. Wellington last made the top 8 twenty years ago. Hutt Old Boys Marist are presented with the Swindale Shield, despite losing 19-12 to Ories for the Bondy Memorial Cup.

2017: Old Boys University teams win Wellington club rugby’s top two division men’s first round titles. OBU teams annexed the 2017 Premier Reserve Harper Lock Shield and Premier Swindale Shield trophies within two hours of each other at Nairnville Park. Just needing to beat Avalon Wolves teams, OBU’s Premier Reserves win 61-21 to clinch the Harper Lock Shield. In the main game that follows, OBU’s top side defeats Avalon 43-10.

2018: A decade and a half after first winning it and seven seasons since they last held it aloft, Northern United are once more Swindale Shield champions. Heading into the 13th and last round, Norths were level pegging on points with Old Boys University and one ahead of Hutt Old Boys Marist and knew a bonus point win today against Marist St Pat’s would secure them the first round title.That was as good as achieved midway through the first half when outstanding openside flanker Du Plessis Kirifi barges over from a lineout drive for their bonus point and a 26-0 lead. Norths go on and win 64-36.

Norths with the Swindale Shield in 2018.

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