The Hutt Old Boys Eagles and Petone return from their byes last week to host the two Jubilee Cup semi-finals, both kicking off at 2.15pm.
- By Scott MacLean and Steven White
Semi-finals fever hits the fields of Wellington club rugby tomorrow, with the two championship Jubilee Cup and Hardham Cup playoffs the main event of the day.
The Jubilee Cup semi-finals are both in the Hutt Valley, while the Hardham Cup playoff fixtures are in town.
A reminder that club matches are 30 minutes earlier this week owing to the third All Blacks vs Ireland Test at Wellington Stadium, at 12.30pm and 2.15pm.
Congratulations to two players playing their 100th games in tomorrow’s semi-finals, Ories hooker Poasa Poasa and Norths centre Te Kahui Bishop.
There are also semi-finals in the Premier 2 Divison 2 HD Morgan Memorial competition, whilst it’s the start of the second round for the 12 U85kg teams and the representative season gets underway at Porirua Park between the Wellington Pride and Canterbury Women’s teams.
College rugby is on hold at present owing to the school holidays.
The club rugby radio commentary match tomorrow featuring Gordon Noble-Campbell and Andy Leslie is the major Jubilee Cup fixture between Petone and Tawa. Live on air from 2.15pm on 1161AM, 87.6FM around the city, stream via your device iHeart Radio or WhareKorero plus www.teupoko.co.nz.
Premier Jubilee Cup
The road to glory goes through the Hutt Valley, and in particular the two venues that straddle the river. On the south side a rested Petone (1) will look to reach their first decider in nearly two decades, but to do it must resist the challenge of the reigning champions in Tawa (6). The Villagers saw off Norths two weeks ago to get their reward of a week off so getting rid of any rust quickly will be paramount, while Tawa are following their own blueprint from last year with wins over OBU and Poneke and peaking at the business end once more. Your other reminder is that when these two met at the same venue six weeks ago, the result was a 21-all draw.
New Zealand U20s, midfielder Riley Higgins and loose forward Peter Lakai, return to Petone’s team for the semi-final but via the reserves bench. Otherwise, Petone’s team appears to be at or near full-strength and will be well-rested after their 42-28 win over Norths a fortnight ago. Key players for Petone’s run-on side include Lions prop Iona Apineru, flanker Jacob Gooch, No. 8 Tupou Sopoaga, first five Carne Green and centre Lester Maulolo.
Tawa have made a couple of tweaks to their team that stormed through to beat Poneke 36-16 last week. As named, the front row stays the same, but props Ben Aumua-Peseta and PJ Sheck swap sides of the scrum with Sheck playing loosehead against Iona Apineru. Lotu Nuku was a late change last week at No. 8 for veteran TJ Fermanis, with the latter named to start tomorrow. In the midfield, barnstorming Lua Lualua comes off the bench for Kalim Kalemete. Tawa’s bench is boosted by the return of last year’s final MVP Hemi Fermanis and U20s representative prop Siale Lauaki.
Across Ewen Bridge are two sides looking to get back to the final to atone for their last appearance in the decider. Like Petone, Hutt Old Boys Marist (2) had last week off after beating Poneke in the first week and face the same challenges to take flight early on. Northern United (4) venture in the Hutt for the second time in three weeks, having lost to Petone a fortnight ago but will have been battled-hardened by their win over MSP last Saturday. For the record, their earlier meeting came back in the opening round with HOBM winning 25-10 at Porirua Park.
Home team HOBM will look to their clinical pack and the halfback-first five combination of Connor Collins and Brandyn Laursen. Laursen moves in from second five and Anthony Utanga, who has been playing first five all year, drops to fullback for the absent Zane Ainslie who had played there in every match thus far but left the field during the Poneke game with a shoulder injury. In the forwards, Wellington Lion James O’Reilly starts at hooker, with Ben Power lining up at blindside flanker.
Laursen will line up against Jackson Garden-Bachop in the flyhalf position, one of two confirmed professional players in their ranks for the semi-final as of Friday. The other is Du Plessis Kirifi at openside flanker. Norths haven’t named their numbers 20, 21, and 22 on their bench citing injuries and availabilities of other players. Other key match-ups include loosehead prop Bradley Chrichton up against Vili Tauafoga and the midfield of Faraimo Nofiaga and Te Kahui Bishop in this 100th game against HOBM pair Albert Polu and Jerome Harimate.
Two of Wellington’s up and coming referees will control the two semi-finals. Matt Thomas – who refereed the McBain thriller – earlier in the season will have the whistle at the Petone Rec with the tall figure of Tomas Roche in the middle at the Hutt Rec.
Premier Hardham Cup
While both Jubilee games are in the Hutt, the end of the City is where you’ll find the two Hardham Cup matches. With their preferred home field out of order, Oriental Rongotai (5) take their match to Kilbirnie Park for the second time in three weeks and not doubt looking for better fortune then when they exited the Jubilee Cup by losing to MSP. They’ll be favourites tomorrow again but take on a Wainuiomata (12) side who will have their tails up after seeing off Johnsonville and Paremata-Plimmerton – both away from home – and will fancy pulling off another upset.
Ories hooker Poasa Poasa plays his 100th Premier game in this semi-final, while Ories will also look to new Wellington Lion Sione Halalilo at openside flanker to give his side impetus and tighthead prop Whetu Henry and halfback Declan Hay will look to impose their experience if the going gets tight. Malachai Tia also replaces Victor Groom at lock. No Julian Savea this week, but Pena Va’a starts on the left wing and he has scored 13 tries so far this season. Second five Ahtun Masun is also a vastly experienced player, along with prop Henry a veteran of their 2011 Jubilee Cup winning campaign. Ories beat Wainuiomata 56-24 when they met back in round four of the Swindale Shield.
Wainuiomata played cohesive, committed rugby in beating Paremata-Plimmerton in the mud and wind last weekend, and will need to do the same here to knock over Ories. As always, much will rest on their experienced players and none more so than Uale Mai directing proceedings at first five. Michael Lealava’a is outside of him at second five and wing Niko Patelesio and fullback Campbell Cowie are also key players out wide, in the continuing absence of Peter Umaga-Jensen. Teru Time leads the forwards from No. 8, which has one change and that being hooker Tyrone Lepau on debut and Dion Leaofi on the bench.
Out in the western suburbs, Old Boys-University (7) get another run on their Nairnville paddock where they’ll take on the Upper Hutt Rams (9) for a shot at silverware next week. The Goats made no race of their quarter-final running all over Avalon, while the Rams similarly put Johnsonville to bed early on. Their earlier meeting was a tight affair that saw the Rams denied at the death and OBU prevail 22-17, so it’ll be no surprise if something similar transpires again.
The OBU Goats have the services of Taine Plumtree at blindside flanker, with his brother Reece at centre and the steadying hands of Kyle Preston, Callum Harkin and the evergreen Tomasi Palu inside him in the backline. Tom Henderson drops to fullback while Hurricanes U20s player Jack Riley partners Oskar Lynch in the locking department. A possible debut off the bench for Matthew Hope.
Visitors the Rams have named an unchanged forward pack from that which beat Johnsonville 36-17 at home last Saturday, but changes in the starting team at halfback and right wing. Nate Moen comes off the bench to start at halfback in place of Joel Stewart and Josh Svenson comes off the bench to the wing to join his brothers Scott and Todd, with Tyrone Maraku on the bench.
Former Wests Roosters hooker Ben van Berkel will referee the match at Nairnville with Luke Pearce at Kilbirnie Park.
All four matches kick off at 2.15pm this week, with extra-time to be played if required.
Premier 2 Ed Chaney and HD Morgan Memorial Cups
The Division 1 Ed Chaney Cup reaches its penultimate week of round-robin play, and Norths (14) will be the latest to try and halt the Tawa (24 points) juggernaut when they meet at Porirua Park. Third hosts second when Poneke (16) meet HOBM (17) at Kilbirnie, while across the road MSP (11) faces Avalon (7). The fourth match has bottom-side OBU (4) taking on Ories (12) at Nairnville.
With fewer teams, the Division 2 HD Morgan Memorial reaches their playoff stage. After going back-and-forth, the WRFU have decided to go straight to the semi-finals so first up Petone (2) and Johnsonville (3) provide the early entertainment at the Petone Rec while later up the road top seed Stokes Valley meet Wainuiomata (4) at Delaney Park.
Colts Paris Memorial
The certainty here is that Petone (41) will go into next week’s final round as the competition leaders but having the bye this week means that OBU (35) are likely to close the gap, especially since they take on bottom-side Johnsonville (3) at Kelburn Park and leaving next week as a virtual final between two of the heavyweights. HOBM (33) retain a mathematical chance, but firstly must get all five points from their clash with MSP (25) on Kilbirnie Park, while next door Poneke (11) host Avalon (12) in what could yet decide the final place in the top 8 for a fortnights time. Pare-Plim (24) could move into the top if they beat Tawa (18) at Lyndhurst while in a third game out east Wellington (21) hosts Wainuiomata (11) at Hataitai.
Under 85kg Paul Potiki and Tony O’Brien Shields
The lightweights head into their championship round, and after much conjecture and many proposals the originally proposed three-division format has been retained, though modified slightly to accommodate the remaining National Club Cup fixtures. All Divisions will play this week, though the top two will have next week off to play the three remaining second round fixtures before resuming the week after. The top two at the conclusion of the round-robin
In tomorrow’s matches JC Bowl winners Johnsonville open their campaign to go one better than last year in the Paul Potiki Shield when they host Poneke, while the Upper Hutt Rams – who did enough in their loss to Johnsonville last week to scrape into the top four despite their points deduction – host season surprise the OBU Scallywags at Maoribank in the other.
In the Tony O’Brien Shield the round gets underway tonight with Wellington taking on last year’s grade champions Avalon under the new lights at Hataitai Park with Stokes Valley, who missed the top four only because of their round-robin loss to the Rams, are at home at Delaney tomorrow against Eastbourne, Division 3 comprises the bottom-four from the JC Bowl with MSP and Petone taking to Evans Bay and Wests and HOBM meeting at the Ian Galloway cage.
A reminder that with it being school holidays there isn’t any competition college rugby this weekend or next.
The Wellington Pride host Canterbury in the first round of the Farah Palmer Cup Women’s NPC competition at Porirua Park. Kick-off is at 12.05pm.