Above: After a shaky start to 2022, Bradley Crichton, Luke Kapene and Jackson Garden-Bachop and Norths will be playing for their seventh straight win tomorrow, over the Wellington Axemen gunning for an upset.
Draws & Teamlists (as received) HERE
- By Scott MacLean and Steven White
It’s the penultimate round of the Swindale Shield tomorrow, and for four teams their third encounter in a week, but there is a lot to play for for most contenders tomorrow.
A small group of teams are chasing down leaders Petone to win the title should they stumble over the final fortnight, while a bigger batch of sides are jostling for finishing positions for the second round Jubilee Cup, as are the six teams heading to the Hardham Cup, with this all-but decided.
There is also the first of two Women’s finals tomorrow, with Avalon hosting Wainuiomata in the Division 2 decider, and the semi-finals in Division 1.
The U85kgs, Colts, Premier 2 and school competitions round-robins roll on, while it’s the start of the second round for the Reserve Grade.
It is Old Timers’ Day at Eastbourne and Paremata-Plimmerton.
A few more player milestones tomorrow, including MSP hooker Valentine Meachen bringing up his 150th Premier game. Congratulations and good luck Valentine.
This week’s radio commentary broadcast on Te Upoko o Te Ika on 1161AM, 87.6FM and around the city and streaming via www.teupoko.co.nz or iHeartRadio is Paremata-Plimmerton v the Upper Hutt Rams.
Finally, we’d like to wish HOBM prop Oakli Wilson-Tiotio a full and speedy recovery from the injury he suffered on Wednesday night which brought their catch-up match against Johnsonville to a premature conclusion.
Premier Men’s Swindale Shield
After Wednesday night’s two matches the table is all the clearer, so will the penultimate round of the Swindale Shield determine where it heads to for the summer? Its possible but perhaps unlikely, though three matches will determine that.
We’ll start with the team that occupies the box seat when it comes to the silverware race. Petone (45) have most things in their favour and know that no matter what other teams do, two bonus point wins will see the Swindale occupy a space in their clubrooms that it hasn’t since they shared it with Norths in 2009 and outright since 2004. First up for the Villagers are Johnsonville (23), who face the twin challenges of backing up from their catch-up match against HOBM on Wednesday night plus knowing that that defeat will send them into the Hardham Cup. But the Hawks will be keen to keep their form intact, and have a habit of making things tough for whoever the frontrunners are at this point in the season
Petone are without their newly minted New Zealand U20 players, No. 8 Peter Lakai and midfielder Riley Higgins (plus Hawke’s Bay-contracted Harry Godfrey) but have a number of experienced players to lead their hoped-for drive to the first round silverware. Indeed, it’s a similar team from that which accounted for Avalon last week, including Sam Tonise replacing Lakai and Taylor Henry swapping the 12 jersey with Higgins. At loosehead prop, Julius Masoe replaces Pek Cowan in the run-on team.
Johnsonville have a number of injuries in their squad, at least a couple of them season ending, following their recent stretch of three matches. But the Hawks have called up experience for their bench tomorrow in Roy Kinikinilau. The recent Johnsonville coach will bring his 20 years of club rugby experience to Petone. Several in-form players are still in the starting line-up, such as prop Haamea Ahio, No. 8 Sam Green and fullback Jacob Walmsley.
Across the river Hutt Old Boys Marist (45) drew level with their neighbours and rivals with Wednesday nights’ win, but face a more difficult assignment as fourth-placed Old Boys-University (41) are the visitors to the Hutt Rec. The Eagles will have to expect that their rivals will not just win, but with the bonus point as well, and will feel that they have to match that at the very least. While retaining the Swindale is probably beyond the Goats grasp, they still have one of those precious top four places left to play for and will provide the sort of stubbornness their spirit animal represents to hold onto that.
HOBM have rotated some of their key players back into their team for this fixture, such as Ben Power who returns at blindside flanker, with James O’Reilly starting again at hooker. Lions halfback-first five pair Connor Collins and Brandyn Laursen return, while another to make his return after missing the past several rounds is Jordan Gillies. He comes off the Eagles bench.
The Billygoats have lost Tiaki Fabish, but his place at blindside flanker has been taken by James Poloniati who has been playing in the Manawatu. Together with Josh Gimblett and Dom Ropeti, OBU’s loosies will look to out-pace the Eagles and stymie their effective phase play. Jack Riley returns from the Hurricanes U20s and injury to play lock, while the inside back match-ups between OBU captain Kyle Preston and Callum Harkin and the aforementioned Collins-Laursen pairing will be worth the price of admission, except its free to go along to the Hutt Rec tomorrow. Elijah Maene-Lokeni comes on to OBU’s right wing and Te Wehi Wright returns to fullback.
The third match is the one at Kilbirnie Park, where Poneke (44) won’t have given up on crashing the party – and should it come to it they hold tiebreakers over both Petone and HOBM – and snatching the Swindale themselves. But they too face a tough opponent in Tawa (34) who’s Wednesday win over Pare-Plim might have given them just enough breathing space to be certain of making that top eight. Quite how that effort and the short turnaround will affect the visitors is to be seen, but no one expects that Poneke will cut them any slack for it either.
For Poneke, tighthead prop Rhys Reiri returns to the starting side, while Caleb Robson starts at first five in place of the absent Pakai Turia and Pslams Latu rocks the 12 jersey for Ben Huntley, while Wiki Taanlink lines up on the wing. No Dane Coles this week, but former Scots College First XV player Junior Ifeanyi Tonu’u is in line for a debut off the bench and the hero of Maidstone Park a fortnight ago, Wade Woolly also takes his place on the pine.
Visitors Tawa have regular Premier 2 leader TJ Fermanis moving up the Premiers who he has previously won two Jubilee Cups with, to play No. 8. Look out for Hurricanes U20s centre Isileli Saumaki, who scored two tries on Wednesday night, while former Wellington College captain George Sims returns to the starting halfback role.
Looking to force their way into the top four should results go their way are Norths (36), who you would think will have few issues getting the maximum five points against winless Wellington (1) in their final home outing of the Swindale on Jerry Collins Stadium. Having run their winning streak to six games in seeing off Wainuiomata, the home side are now assured of a top eight berth which seemed well off five rounds into the season. The Axemen’s season of struggle seems set to continue, and perhaps they’ll have some of their focus on the playoffs in a fortnight’s time.
For the third straight week, Jackson Garden-Bachop wears Norths colours, and he has been a key figure for them in his previous two outings. He runs the cutter of a Norths side that features lock Waylon Baker playing his 50th Premier game. A handful of small changes elsewhere; Luke Kapene dropping from fullback to halfback, Callum Watts-Pointer shifting from the six to the seven jersey, Olano Afutoto going to blindside and Boston Hunt coming into lock and Noah Ironside replacing Solomona Sakalia in the front row.
The Axemen also head into tomorrow’s fixture minus the Coburn brothers, Tony and James, in their front row. Ben Hendry drops into hooker and Cameron Roseingrave starts at tighthead prop. Other players joining their starting XV again include Hamish Dever, Tmothy Silomiga and Lati Lati. The Axemen also have an air of intrigue on their bench tomorrow, with two players to be announced and Graycon Teleas making his Premier debut.
Two more sides that would have breathed a sigh of relief at Wednesday’s result from Lyndhurst are Oriental Rongotai (33) and Marist St Pats (32), as all they need to do is win their home matches tomorrow to book their top eight places. They each take on one of the other two sides in the bottom three – Ories faces Avalon (12) on the #2 field at the Polo Ground and MSP take on Wainuiomata (14) at Evans Bay – and with these being the last home outings of the Swindale for each they’ll be looking to put on a show for their supporters. Wainuiomata and Avalon are both headed for the Hardham Cup playoffs but would like nothing more at this point to take down one of the sides further up the table.
Home side Ories team will be looking for a big shift at No. 8 from Alex Fidow, while lock Victor Groom returns after five weeks away and Christian Semu and Sam Tautiaga make their debuts alongside him on the bench. Declan Hay, Whetu Henry and Skivi Va’a are amongst some regulars not playing this match.
A few changes in personnel to Avalon’s line-up from their loss to Petone last week. The versatile Jordan Sului drops from flanker to hooker and Boxier Fauena and Laman Ah-Wong fill the flanker positions. Jack Ena comes back to halfback, Antony Lama to the front row for Pat Roil and Isaia Lua’ai and Anzac Masua both start in the outside backs.
Hooker Valentine Meachen runs out on to Evans Bay Park to play his 150th Premier match for MSP, as part of a side that is shored up by the return some leading players from injury and Super Rugby. With Meachen assuming the rake role, James Tuia captains MSP at openside flanker and with Keelan Whitman back at No. 8. Logan Love starts at halfback and his Hurricanes U20 teammate Chicago backs up at fullback. Chiefs lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi is on the reserves bench.
Wainuiomata continue to battle injuries, but they will have Peter Umaga-Jensen tomorrow. He starts at centre, and partners Niko Patelesio who has been playing most of the season on the wing. Tighthead prop Lotomau Aliivaa is on debut, while openside Matt Jacobs and No. 8 Teru Time are also key players for them. Henry Time-Stowers has gone into camp with Manu Samoa so won’t be with them either.
The final match in this preview is out at Ngati Toa Domain, where Paremata-Plimmerton (25) host the Upper Hutt Rams (17) on their Old Timers Day. The Hammerheads will be bitterly disappointed to have come away from Wednesday night without any points whatsoever, finishing camped on the Tawa line and where two bonus points would have kept them in the hunt rather than needing a near-miracle to gate-crash the top eight. The Rams will be looking to take advantage of that disappointment and perhaps fatigue, knowing as well that they’ve been a better side this season than their results show.
For Paremata-Plimmerton, season-ending injuries rule out both Alex Hinchliffe and Tana Tusa. Peni Taupau comes back into the starting pack with Pasilio Tosi going to the back of the scrum to try and create some havoc. Injury also rules out Eli Moata’a so Zane Edwards starts, with Tia Va’alepu getting a maiden start in midfield after debuting off the bench on Wednesday night.
If the Rams can gain parity up-front against the Hammerheads they will be extremely dangerous out wide. They are quick to pounce on any opportunity and their swift backs featuring the Svenson brothers profit. Plus they have star power at fullback tomorrow in Hurricane Salesi Rayasi. He started his career at the Rams before switching to the HOBM Eagles and now he has returned. His inclusion sees Tynan Barrett move across to the right wing.
Three more interclub trophies are in play tomorrow:
- HOBM and OBU will contest the Wood Cup. Ron Wood (not to be confused with the Norths personality of the same name) was a founding member of the Woburn club in 1945 – later to become High School Old Boys and then merge with the Hutt club – who had previously attended Wellington College and played for Wellington College Old Boys during the war years. First played for in 1960 between WCOB and HSOB it’s now contested by the successor clubs and held by OBU after their 23-20 win early last year, though HOBM won their most recent meeting 25-24 in last year’s playoffs.
- MSP and Wainuiomata play for their Rona-Morrisey Cup, named for two men with ties to both clubs. Cliff Rona played for MSP for a decade after the merger during which time he played on at least two Jubilee Cup winning sides and later turned out for Wainuiomata’s senior team in the mid-80’s after moving there. John Morrisey played for the pre-merger Marist Brothers club, then began a long association with Wainuiomata that included coaching and serving as Club President. MSP hold this after their 32-20 win at William Jones last year.
- Poneke and Tawa have their Kevin Carmichael Cup at stake. Carmichael began his senior career at Tawa, but as they were outside of the top division at the time he moved to Poneke where he made 118 top-flight starts before returning to Tawa and adding 120 more and where he has since been made a Life Member. First played for in 2020, Poneke will be looking to win it for the first time with Tawa having won the previous meetings 17-15 and 49-29.
- Additionally, Norths will be defending the Bill Brien Challenge Cup in their match against Wellington and a win there will lock it up at Porirua Park for the summer.
Premier 2 Ed Chaney Cup and HD Morgan Memorial
The feature clash in the Division 1 Ed Chaney Cup is at Kilbirnie Park, where Tawa again put their lengthy unbeaten streak on the line as they visit fellow first-up winners Poneke. Two of the other three matches are also in the eastern suburbs with MSP and Norths meeting across the road at Evans Bay, while Ories and newcomers Avalon clash at the Polo Ground. The fourth match of the day is at the Hutt Rec with HOBM hosting OBU.
With confirmation of Wellington’s departure from the grade for this season, the Division 2 HD Morgan Memorial shortens up to a five-week sprint before their playoffs. The highlight match here is between first week winners Wainuiomata and Stokes Valley at William Jones, while back across the hill Petone and Johnsonville meet on the Rec. The third match is at Ngati Toa Domain where Pare-Plim and the Upper Hutt Rams provide the early entertainment for their respective Premier sides.
Premier Women’s Tia Paasi Memorial and Izzy Ford Cup
The first piece of championship silverware will be handed over tomorrow at Fraser Park, with Avalon having hosting rights for the Division 2 Izzy Ford Cup decider against near-neighbours Wainuiomata. Both sides were convincing winners in their semi-finals over Pare-Plim and Poneke respectively and while the Shewolves will be the favourites, their last meeting on this ground two weeks ago in the round-robin saw the hosts narrowly prevail 38-34.
Meanwhile, the Division 1 Tia Paasi Memorial reaches its semi-final stage. With the pecking order having been shaken up in the past three weeks there’s some serious intrigue in what might unfold both tomorrow and in next Saturday’s championship final. Marist St Pats’ win over Norths saw them qualify top, but they’ll face the only team that they haven’t beaten on the field this season in Oriental Rongotai at Evans Bay, while Norths host Petone at the JCS in the other qualifier
Colts Paris Memorial
A return – hopefully – to a full slate of matches in the Colts grade. The table is a little out of sync following the deferment of the HOBM vs Wainuiomata game last weekend, but the truth remains that Petone, OBU, and HOBM are still unbeaten on the season. Petone, who are yet to have the bye, head up the valley to take on Avalon at Fraser Park, OBU – who have had the bye – are at Mary Crowther to take on Wainuiomata, and HOBM, with both the bye and a game in hand, are also on the road against Tawa at Lyndhurst. The remaining matches have Poneke and MSP clashing at Kilbirnie Park, and Johnsonville return from the bye to face Pare-Plim at Ngati Toa. Wellington have the bye this week.
Under 85s JC Bowl
The picture in the lightweight grade got a little clearer as well, with the Upper Hutt Rams slogging past Stokes Valley in the Trentham mud while Johnsonville also remained unbeaten. The Rams return to Maidstone this week where they host 10th-placed HOBM who got their first win last Saturday, while Johnsonville – who still have their currently on-hold match against Wests to be accounted for – are at the other end of the valley against Petone. Stokes Valley head south to meet Eastbourne at HW Shortt, the OBU Scallywag ship sails into the wolves’ den at Fraser Park to take on Avalon, Poneke head to the cage to face Wests, and Wellington and MSP get the round started tonight when they meet under the new lights at Hataitai.
Four matches on in the Premiership tomorrow with three of these completing round four which started on Wednesday with Silverstream ending Wellington College’s unbeaten start to the end with a 19-12 win. Tomorrow sees St Bernard’s head back into the eastern suburbs this time to meet Rongotai out on the isthmus while a short drive away Scots are at home against Hutt International. The third match is out in Elsdon where Mana returns from the bye and look for their first win when they host St Pats Town. The fourth match is over in Masterton where Silverstream look to back up Wednesday’s win against Wairarapa College in a match deferred from the opening week of the season.
In Premier 2 the Silverstream 2nds return to action after their match was deferred last Saturday by visiting Aotea in what should be two compelling matches. Taita are back up the coast to take on Paraparaumu, Naenae are at home for the visit of the Town 2nds, and the Wellington College 2nds welcome Hutt Valley HS to Mt Victoria. The fifth match between Upper Hutt College and Bishop Viard has been deferred.
Attention then shifts to next Wednesday which sees Rongotai host Wellington College in their Traditional clash, while later that night Bishop Viard are scheduled to mount their first defence of the Beard Trophy when they meet the challenge of Premier 3 side Porirua.