- By Scott MacLean & Steven White
Club Rugby Draws & Teams HERE
First XV Premiership draws HERE
Late edition: It’s an abridged weekend of club and college rugby, with several grades having the holiday weekend off. But that’s not the case across the Premier levels who remain in action.
We may have ticked over to June, but the Swindale Shield is heating up considerably. Including tomorrow, there are four weeks remaining and all but a handful of the 14 teams have much to play for as far as their 2022 Championship aspirations go and some contenders first round Swindale Shield glory.
Our congratulations to Jerome Vaai for playing his 100th Premier match against MSP tomorrow, to MSP Women’s captain Jaydah Timu on playing her 5oth against Petone and to Malachai Unasa playing his 50th for Ories against Paremata-Plimmerton.
Depth in some teams will be tested again, with several debutants making their Premier debuts tomorrow.
The Colts and Reserve Division grades are in abeyance this week. The U85kg grade also has the weekend off but the OBU Scallywags are in action in the National U85kg Club Knockout Cup. The Scallywags travel to Blenheim to take on Tasman side Central. The Eastbourne Seagulls and the Upper Hutt Rams were listed to meet at H.W. Shortt Park as per a NZR media release this week but this has been deferred.
This week’s radio commentary game is at Jerry Collins Stadium for Northern United v Marist St Pats kick. Gordon Noble-Campbell and John Morrison are on air from 2.00pm. Find Te Upoko o Te Ika Radio on 1161AM, 87.6FM around the city, www.teupoko.co.nz or stream them on the smart phone at iHeart Radio.
Premier Men’s Swindale Shield
We’ll start at the top of the ladder with leaders Petone (39) who are now five points clear, but who’s worst case outcome would have them behind Poneke on Saturday night. After a surprisingly easy win over Pare-Plim a week ago, the Villagers remain at the Rec for the visit of Tawa (29) who they beat in the opening round of last year’s Swindale but were comfortably beaten by in the playoffs three months later. The visitors sit 6th but face a brutally challenging run in the last month so any points they can grab would be valuable.
Petone have one of their recent Hurricanes U20 players back tomorrow, with Peter Lakai taking his place at No. 8, alongside Tupou Sopoaga and Jacob Gooch. Riley Higgins is injured and Harry Godfrey has returned to the Hawke’s Bay where he is a contracted player. Petone’s inside back pairing tomorrow Cam Ferreira and Carne Green will be key operators tomorrow against Tawa’s who have been far from settled in that area to date. Ryan Imrie returns from injury to reserve hooker, whilst a debut off the bench for reserve flanker Blake Ford.
Tawa have Hurricane Reed Prinsep at blindside flanker, with Hemi Fermanis and Tito Ioane also in the loose forwards. Eamonn Carr hoins captain Hugo Plummer in the locking department. In the backs Trent Renata starts again at first five, while Ryan Preston plays his blazer game at centre. Hurricanes U20 players, prop Siale Laukai and outside back Isi Saumaki, return and sit on Tawa’s reserve bench.
Second-placed Poneke (34) continue to defy those who thought their wheels would have fallen off by now, with HOBM their latest victims. Their disparity in points to the leaders is entirely down to bonus points, as they’ve scored four tries just twice this year but if they keep winning, they’ll stay in contention. They hit the road into the Hutt again this week, this time to Maidstone Park and a meeting with the Upper Hutt Rams (15) who will be looking for another eastern suburb scalp to go along with MSP’s from earlier in the year and which might be badly needed to keep their Jubilee playoff hopes afloat.
For the Rams, Tafa Tafa returns for the first time in six weeks and starts at second five. Todd Svenson is at centre, meaning Dan Schrijvers moves back to openside flanker. In the forwards, Henry Grey moves from blindside to lock and Sio Fidow returns to the lineup in the 6 jersey.
Visitors Poneke have Andrew Jones back from illness at hooker, while Jordan Hoerara gets his first start of the year at halfback and Hurricane Teihorangi Walden comes back into the midfield and Wiki Taankink returns from injury to play fullback. Rylan Tuwairua-Brown is set for a Premier debut for Poneke off the bench.
They’ll also play for the first of the three interclub trophies on the line tomorrow. Alby Makeham was a Wellington halfback of the 1950’s who played for Poneke throughout the 1950’s before heading north to Upper Hutt for the last few years of his career and earned the nickname “Kick It Again” for the regularity with which he put boot to ball. Following his career, he mentored several halfbacks including one Ofisa Tonu’u. The Shield in his honour was first played for in 1989 and is held by Poneke after their 24-10 in the penultimate round last year.
Back-to-back defeats to Norths and MSP will not have improved the mood in the Old Boys-University (30) camp, yet they remain – provisionally – in third such is the nature of this competition. While they’ll need Petone to slip up if they are a chance retain the Swindale, there’s also holding on to one of those valuable top-four places. The Goats return to their Nairnville grazing block where they’ll take on Johnsonville (22*) who are looking to break into that top-eight and having won two on the trot, the Hawks could very well prove difficult opposition.
OBU welcome back Tiaki Fabish for the battle of Burma Road, from the NZ Barbarians team at the Super Rugby U20 tournament. But no Dom Ropeti or Jack Riley. Fabish replaces Cody Quinn in an otherwise unchanged engine room. Tom Henderson returns to first five, pushing Callum Harkin back out to second five.
The Hawks have made just two changes to their starting XV from that which defeated Wainuiomata last Saturday. Both of these are in the loose forward department, where Asafo Faamafu comes in for Ofa Ueseli at blindside and Tyler Hall for Dylan Selkirk at openside. This pair will form a loose forward trio with former OBU player Sam Green, playing against his former teammates for the first time. Second five Olly Paotonu also meets his old club.
Of the leading quartet, its Hutt Old Boys Marist (30*) that has the most straightforward assignment as they head to Hataitai and a clash with bottom-side Wellington (1). The Eagles will have been frustrated in losing out to Poneke, but the Axemen have found the going tough in the past month and anything short of a comfortable HOBM win would be something of a surprise.
HOBM continue to rotate their squad, with Brandyn Laursen, Ben Power and Connor Collins all missing from this week’s starting XV. Fred Sunia comes into hooker, Matt Poole to halfback and Anthony Utanga to first five. Other changes include Heremoni Nepo swapping off the bench with Mika Alaifatu at No. 8, Jason Hoffman with Matt Sleith at blindside, Francis Tunavasa slotting back into the backline at centre and Nash Fiso back on the right wing. In the reserves, Joseph Pinfold is set for his debut in the backs.
The Axemen have made a few tweaks only to their line-up, changes including Regan Pope returning to the run-on team at lock and Ranui Burchett coming in to right wing. A few TBCs on their bench, to be finalised closer to kick-off.
Tomorrow also sees one of the more eagerly anticipated clashes of each season, with Norths (26) and Marist St Pat’s (30) meeting at Jerry Collins Stadium. The hosts have sparked into life in the last month after a lacklustre start with wins over the Rams, Tawa, and OBU before last week’s incident-packed win over Avalon, and another here would be further evidence of their improvement. MSP’s recent form hasn’t been near as impressive with a lacklustre win over Avalon and a loss to Johnsonville but got themselves back on track by beating OBU. If the weather allows, this could be a cracker.
Norths have Hurricanes playmaker Jackson Garden-Bachop in their line-up at first five tomorrow. He plays outside Luke Kapene who moves there from playing 10 last week. Boston Hunt comes in to lock for Siauini Ulugia-Mao, while Jerome Vaai comes into loosehead prop for Daniel Filemoni and Ezra Seiuli comes back into the side at openside flanker. Solomona Sakalia is on the bench against the club he started with a decade ago, Bradley Crichton returns from the Hurricanes U20s and Pule Mamea is on debut as outside back cover.
MSP will have Perry Laumalili making his first start in scarlet at tighthead prop, with Steve Moli coming on to the bench, with no Tui Tuia or Jeremiah Tuiatua. Other tweaks to the MSP pack from their win over OBU last week include Tovio Apollo in at lock, with Josh Naa replacing Tom Martin. In the backs, Isaia Petelo partners the returning Ben Tuia in the midfield and Keron Tyrell is on the right wing for Tuga Mativa.
They’ll also play for not one, but two trophies tomorrow. They’ll play for their Maurice Standish Cup, named for the former MSP Jubilee Cup champion player and coach who also played for Titahi Bay and coached at Norths following the merger, and remains a well-respected member of both clubs. It is held by MSP after winning 45-25 last season with their more recent meeting being MSP’s 48-26 win in the Jubilee Cup semi-final. Norths however will be defending the Bill Brien Challenge Cup, which they won from OBU a fortnight ago.
With the work on their beloved Polo home getting underway, Oriental Rongotai (23) are at home on the road with their match tomorrow at Kilbirnie Park. Their equal on the points table, Paremata-Plimmerton (23), are the opposition, with each having experienced very contrasting days out last Saturday; the Magpies had little trouble in seeing off Wellington, while the Hammerheads had a day they’d like to quickly forget against the leaders. Aside from the obvious need for competition points to further their place in that top-eight, there’s the quirk that they’ve each been to this ground already this year and both suffered narrow losses.
Ories will welcome back in-form loose forward Sione Halalilo from the Hurricanes U20s. He takes his place at No. 8. Prop Jonty Bird packs down at tighthead prop, along with Alex Fidow and Connor Lemon in the front row. After coming off the bench last Saturday, veteran midfielder Paulo Aukuso is at second five for this first start of the season.
Fidow will oppose fellow Hurricanes squad member Pasilio Tosi tomorrow in a team with a few changes. One chance sees Mellenniumma Leota return to the Hammerheads from a fortnight on the sideline to play No. 8. In the backs, Rikeli Grey moves from centre to second five in place of Kona Feuanati and Joe Falefaga lines up at centre. Eli Moata’a comes back on to the bench after taking a knock against OBU a few weeks ago.
Our final game is out at William Jones, where valley duo Wainuiomata (13) and Avalon (6) meet. The home side is probably at the last chance saloon in teams of those Jubilee playoff places and after narrow defeats the past two weeks will be after a change in luck. The visitors have been in spoiler mode for a couple of weeks now and would probably quite like to be the ones who take their near-neighbours down with them.
The Wolves welcome back captain Daley Ena to tighthead prop, joining his brother and halfback Jack in the side. Akuila Alatinin comes back into lock in a mostly otherwise unchanged team from last week, with Ezra Sione coming on to the right wing.
Wainuiomata have made a number of changes to their 22 for this home fixture. This includes no fewer than four Premier debutants: starting halfback Jacob Renor and bench-riders Aviata Sa’u, Tane Nicholls and Cory de Kort. In terms of experience, they welcome back Mike Lealava’a to second-five, to partner Campbell Cowie in the midfield, while outside them right wing Niko Patelesio is the try try-scorer with eight tries.
Aside from local bragging rights the pair also contest the third of the interclub trophies tomorrow. First played for in 2018, the Anthony Waldrom Trophy honours the former Wainuiomata first five-eighth with the connection to Avalon coming through his sons Scott and Thomas who need little introduction and whose exploits in rugby are well-known. It’s currently in Wainuiomata’s possession after their 27-13 win at Fraser Park at a similar stage last season.
(*as with recent weeks the points total for HOBM and Johnsonville do not yet reflect any outcome from their scheduled round six match)
In this space next week we’ll take a look at what each side left in the run-in over the last three rounds on the Swindale
Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield and National Mutual Cup
It’s a bit of a holding pattern for the final round in Division 1, as the Harper Lock Shield has already been retained by Tawa and the Upper Hutt Rams now unable to avoid the drop and a return to Division 2 for the remainder of the campaign. The winners finish up this part of the season away at Nairnville against OBU, the Rams host runners-up Ories at Maidstone, Norths and MSP provide the early entertainment at Porirua Park, and Poneke and HOBM meet at Kilbirnie.
In Division 2 eyes will be on William Jones Park where Wainuiomata hosts Avalon, with the Wolves requiring just a single competition point to claim the National Mutual Cup and with-it promotion to the Ed Chaney Cup for the second round. However, if they fail to manage that then Petone, who have the bye, will go up instead. Elsewhere Pare-Plim and Stokes Valley meet at Ngati Toa, and Johnsonville are scheduled to face the Axemen at Alex Moore tonight.
Premier Women’s Tia Paasi Memorial and Izzy Ford Cup
The second round of matches in the championship part of the season in the Division 1 Tia Paasi Memorial are both out in the eastern suburbs. At the Polo Ground Oriental Rongotai and Norths meet for the second time this season, with both having had to come from behind last week – Ories to beat MSP and Norths to draw with Petone – and with the hosts looking reverse the result from three weeks ago. Back through the cutting Marist St Pat’s hosts Petone, albeit over the road from Evans Bay on Kilbirnie #2, with each looking to get one in the win’s column.
The Izzy Ford Cup division are into their third round. Avalon and Wainuiomata, both two-from-two, meet in what could be a final preview at Fraser Park, while Paremata-Plimmerton and Poneke take to Ngati Toa Domain each searching for a win.
Every other club grade has the weekend off, except for the warriors of the Reserve Grade Division 2. However one Under 85s team will be in action as the OBU Scallywags set sail across the Strait for their National Knockout tie against Blenheim’s Central club on Sunday. Eastbourne and the Upper Hutt Rams were also to meet – their JC Bowl clash came before the draw for the National comp was made – but this has been deferred to a yet-to-be-confirmed date.
Only the four Premier divisions play tomorrow, with the age and weight grades idle this weekend.
In the Premiership, the first match of the round has already been played with St Bernard’s notching their second win of the campaign by beating Mana 36-10 on Wednesday afternoon. Tomorrow’s round is headlined by the clash between first-up winners Scots and Wellington College out at Strathmore, while across at Evans Bay St Pats Town will look to rebound from that Traditional lost to College when they host returnees Wairarapa College. The third match of the day is out at Trentham, where Hutt International hosts a Rongotai side that’s been idle for a couple of weeks owing in part to having the draw last week. Silverstream – who lost narrowly to New Plymouth Boys 17-20 on Wednesday – have the bye this week which combined with the deferment of last Saturday’s match with Wairarapa means they’re yet to take their bow in the competition this year.
In Premier 2 first-up winners Upper Hutt and Taita meet, Aotea welcomes Naenae, Hutt Valley HS hosts Bishop Viard on their temporary Hutt Rec home, Paraparaumu travel into the city to take on the Town 2nds, and the Wellington College and Silverstream 2nd XV’s meet on the slopes of Mt Victoria.