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Rugby inferno as Jubilee and Hardham Cups underway this weekend

  • By Scott MacLean & Steven White

Jubilee Cup draw and teams (as received) HERE

Hardham Cup draw and teams (as received) HERE

Afternoon updates: A blazing fire is about to be set under the rugby fields of Wellington as the Jubilee and Hardham Cup competitions get underway this weekend and run throughout July.

The first weekend of championship rugby sees seven important match-ups that will go far in deciding the fate of the 14 sides involved.

Likewise, it’s a key round of matches in each of the other club rugby competitions, from Premier 2, Colts, U85kgs and Reserve Grade. It’s also Old Timers’ Day at the Wests Roosters.

The college competitions resume on Saturday, with the remaining three Premiership sixth round fixtures and other grades operating.

Premier Jubilee Cup

Just four weeks separate eight teams from Wellington Rugby’s ultimate prize.

For the top four sides from the Swindale Shield, the route to it this weekend is straightforward: Win, and they’ll get next weekend off to rest and recuperate and will host the semi-finals in a fortnight’s time, but if they lose they’ll find themselves in a straight knockout game next weekend instead.

Having claimed the Swindale Shield for the first time in over a decade a week ago, the eyes of Petone (1) now turn towards a prize that’s eluded them for nearly 20 years. While they would have undoubtedly enjoyed their success, they’ll also be aware of the difficulties in doing the double. They’ll also be very aware that while they’ll be taking a side that they’ve already beaten this year (30-20 in round four), Norths (4) come to the Petone Rec as owners of an eight-match winning streak having overcome a very rocky start to their season. They’ve not only have found their groove but have been able to add some heavy hitters as well while the Villagers will again be without their young guns.

Petone go into the first match of the Jubilee round with a mostly settled look about their line-up. The only changes to their forwards see Zeke Sopoaga switch to loosehead prop for Pek Cowan and Kaleb Sinclair come into hooker. The versatile Tom Carter moves from the wing to second five and Richard Evans comes on to the wing. Jarrod Ramage Adams comes on to the bench.

Norths have named TJ Perenara at halfback for this clash, but there is no Jackson Garden Bachop of Du Plessis Kirifi this week. Luke Kapene plays first five, with Dale Sabbagh coming off the bench. No Losi Filipo either, but with Junior Time Taotua and Ropati Sooialo on the flanks Norths have try scoring aces out wide. An unchanged tight five from last Saturday’s win over Pare-Plim, but Callum Watts-Pointer switching to openside and Olano Afutoto at blindside. Experience forwards off the bench in Jerome Vaai and Solomona Sakalia.

On the other side of the bracket, and the Hutt River, Hutt Old Boys Marist (2) will have to put the disappointment of getting as close to the Swindale as you can without winning it when they welcome Poneke (3) back to the Hutt Rec. It’s a little more than a month since the pair met at the same venue, where the Streetkids dealt an ultimately fatal blow to the Eagles Swindale hopes with a 29-25 win. The visitors would grab a similar result tomorrow with both hands, but that same result should provide enough motivation on its own for the home side who racked up 216 points since including on MSP last Saturday.

Home side the HOBM Eagles will be reliant on its workmanlike pack to reverse that result, although it will be missing James O’Reilly tomorrow, with Ben Power the starting hooker between big props Brett Manaia and Vili Tauofaga. No Connor Collins at halfback ether, with Matt Poole starting, and Anthony Utanga at first five and Brandyn Laursen at second five.

Vistors Poneke won’t be lacking experience in their starting line-up, with no fewer than five centurions, including double centurion centre Ben Huntley taking the field. This also includes Cole Stewart who starts at lock and captain Galu Taufale who is back at No. 8 after playing blindside last week. In the backs, Josh Wilson starts at first five with Pakai Turia at fullback.

For the other four sides it’s straight into knockout rugby; win and their Jubilee hopes survive another week, lose and it’s off to the Hardham. The first of the matches in this preview is an eastern suburbs derby between Oriental Rongotai (5) and Marist St Pat’s (8), taking place on neutral ground at Kilbirnie Park owing to the main ground at Polo being out of commission. The recent form of the two is somewhat contrasting; Ories have won their last five albeit with four of those coming against sides in the Hardham Cup while MSP have dropped two of their last four including last week’s humbling reverse against HOBM. You have to go back to the second week of the season for their previous meeting, with MSP winning that day by 23-15 at Evans Bay.

Ories are missing a couple of big name players from last week; No Julian Savea or Alex Fidow. Ethan Webster-Nonu returns to the side at fullback. New Lion Sione Halalilo lines up at openside flanker and try-hunter Pena Va’a is on the left wing. Ories also swap out one veteran midfielder for another, with Paulo Aukuso not playing but Ahtun Masun is.

MSP have Valentine Meachen returning to hooker but have delayed naming a tighthead prop and one of their reserve front rowers. Their other changes are out in the backs, where Chicago Doyle comes back into fullback, Isaia Petelo to centre and Hanisene Pama to the left wing. Ryan Setefano moves from fullback to right wing.

No strangers to this time of year are Tawa (6), who showed last year that you can play in week one of the playoffs and still win the Jubilee Cup. That’s what lies ahead in their defence of it, starting tomorrow with a repeat meeting with Old Boys-University (7) at Lyndhurst after the pair played out a 26-20 win for the hosts last Saturday. Tawa are winners of their last three, while OBU have dropped four of their last six.

Tawa have tweaked their line-up from last week, which includes the return of front-ranker Ben Aumua Peseta who has been named to start at loosehead prop with PJ Sheck remaining at tighthead and Joyner Gaualofa moving to hooker. The experienced Tito Ioane comes into lock and Akira Ieremia starts at blindside. In the backs, Hurricane Pepesana Patafilo starts at centre, while there’s plenty of experience too in Tawa’s forward’s reserves, including Lotu Nuku, Matt Treeby and Hemi Fermanis.

OBU have shored up their team from that which missed out to Tawa last week, with Tiaki Fabish and Caleb Delany starting at lock, Taine Plumtree at blindside flanker and Hurricanes U20s players Jack Riley and Dom Ropeti at openside and No. 8 respectively. OBU’s backs led by halfback Kyle Preston and fullback Callum Harkin, will be hoping for more ball than last week and more opportunities to pile on the points.

Premier Hardham Cup

For the remaining six sides, it’s a reseeding week in their playoff picture. That’s not to say there’s nothing to play for as the Upper Hutt Rams (9), Paremata-Plimmerton (10), and Johnsonville (11) want to, at worse, maintain their standing and avoid the two sides dropping down from the Jubilee, while for Wainuiomata (12), Avalon (13), and Wellington (14) they want to win to try and avoid that same fate.

A week after meeting at Hataitai, the Rams and Axemen do it all over again at Maidstone.

The Rams bring in Salesi Rayasi to fullback for tomorrow’s game, meaning Tynan Barrett (135 points so far this season) moves to the right wing. A few other tweaks to the Rams backline, plus the return of Tafa Tafa in the midfield. Aidan Woodward comes back into lock and Sio Fidow and Toby Crosby to the loose forwards.

Wellington welcome back James Coburn at tighthead prop, to partner Joe Reid and Ben Hendry in the front row, with the latter closing in on 100 Premier games. Coach Jason Bird comes off the bench. The Axemen have also moved halfback Will Cosgriff to fullback and Samuel Rendel starts in the scrumhalf position.

Both Pare-Plim and Avalon need some confidence, and they meet at Ngati Toa in a repeat of their opening day match which the Hammerheads won easily, but the Wolves are a different side to the one that fronted that day.

Home club Paremata-Plimmerton continue to be affected by injuries and illness across the board. First choice players missing from this week’s Premier line-up include Mellenniumma Leota and Jabez Peniata, so Junior Davey slots in at blindside and Api McMillan-Parata comes up from the second side to play No. 8 and play alongside his brother and openside Tane. In the backs, Esi Komaisavai moves to fullback.

Avalon have made few changes to their side from last week. Asafo Aumua was a late inclusion last Saturday, but Leo Lagolago has been selected at hooker as part of a big tight five that will want to set a solid platform. In one change to the backs, Isaiah Lua’ai comes in on the right wing for Anzac Masua.

And finally, down the road at Helston, Johnsonville will look to repeat their win earlier in the season over Wainuiomata when they meet, though it was only 18-13 that day and the visitors will take some heart from their stubborn defiance against Petone last weekend.

The Hawks are missing some key players tomorrow, as named, with fullback Jacob Walmsley, second five Olly Paotnonu and No. 8 Sam Green all out. Irishman Niall Delahunt moves from right wing to fullback and countryman Mark Sutton moves from halfback to first five and Levi Grace moves out one to 12. Dylan Selkirk plays No. 8 with Ofa Ueseli also not playing in this one. In the reserves, Tevita Falekakala rides the pine as propping cover.

Wainuiomata have brought back experience in the inside backs, with Samoan 7s legend Uale Mai running the cutter at first five and Mike Lealava’a at second five. No Niko Patelesio this week, with Campbell Cowie at fullback offering the experience at the back. In one change to the engine room Tui Yandall comes in for David Uila at starting tighthead prop.

Premier 2 Ed Chaney and HD Morgan Memorial Cups

The Division 1 Ed Chaney Cup reaches the halfway point of their round-robin, with the highlight game of the round being the match at Lyndhurst between Tawa and HOBM who are both unbeaten through the three rounds so far. Elsewhere Poneke head to Polo to face Ories, MSP and OBU meet again at Evans Bay, and Avalon are back at Fraser for the visit of Norths.

In the HD Morgan Division 2 it’s the penultimate round of round-robin matches. Leaders Stokes Valley are at home at Delaney for the visit of Johnsonville, Petone head up the valley to meet Upper Hutt at Maidstone, and Wainuiomata welcome Pare-Plim to William Jones.

Colts Paris Memorial

After having Matariki weekend off the age grade returns to action. The feature clash here is at the Hutt Rec where third-placed HOBM (24) face unbeaten second-placed OBU (30), while a short distance away leaders Petone (31*) take on winless Johnsonville (3) at the Petone Rec. Kilbirnie Park hosts two matches with Poneke (5) taking on neighbours Wellington (16) on #1 with MSP (20*) facing Wainuiomata (10*) next door on #2, and out at Ngati Toa Pare-Plim (19) faces Avalon (7). Tawa (18) has an extended break with the bye this week.

(* denotes yet to have the bye)

Under 85kg JC Bowl

The lightweights reach their penultimate round and with a bit still yet to be decided. One thing that is certain following their win last week and the Upper Hutt Rams’ loss is that Johnsonville (43) can claim the JC Bowl tomorrow should they beat Avalon (24) at Newlands Park in a match that also doubles as a National Club Cup encounter. The Rams (37) will be hoping for a Wolves win to keep their hopes of taking it to their match with the Hawks next week, but first must get past Petone at Trentham Memorial. Elsewhere four doesn’t go into two for those remaining places in the Paul Potiki Shield round with two of those contenders, Stokes Valley (33) and the OBU Scallywags (30) clashing at Delaney Park, Poneke (31) are at home on Kilbirnie against Wellington, and Eastbourne (28) are at the Hutt Rec to face HOBM. The final match has winless Wests hosting MSP for the Roosters Old Timers’ Day match in the Ian Galloway cage.

College

Once again it’s a split round in the Premiership with the first match having taken place on Wednesday with Silverstream having maintained their unbeaten record in beating Rongotai 27-3. Tomorrow’s three matches start with Scots heading to Masterton to face Wairarapa College, followed by the meeting of Hutt International and Mana in Trentham and Wellington College welcoming St Bernard’s onto the slopes of Mt Victoria. St Pats Town have the bye.

In Premier 2 the Silverstream 2nds and Upper Hutt remain the unbeaten leaders with their match against each other still in hand. Silverstream make the short trip to Naenae, while Upper Hutt are at home against the Wellington College 2nds. Bishop Viard are up the coast to face Paraparaumu, Taita welcome the St Pats Town 2nds, and Aotea hosts Hutt Valley HS.

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