Few guesses required for what our club rugby Match of the Season was, and our Premier Try of the Season. Here, Petone’s Tupou Sopoaga charges down a Brandyn Laursen attempted pot to set in motion a crazy finish to their McBain Shield match. Petone won 27-20. PHOTO: Andy McArthur.
- By Scott MacLean, Steven White and Adam Julian
After a couple of years hiatus, we’re bringing back our Annual Awards. We’ve split it into club and college sections this year, but its still a mix of the serious and not-so.
Premier Match of the Year: Round 7, Petone vs HOBM
The McBain, few club rivalries anywhere can match it. The ending went viral on both traditional and social media, but before Tupou Sopoaga’s heroics and Sam Blackburn’s moment of fame was 83 pulsating minutes of club rugby at it’s finest between the two unbeaten leaders of the Swindale Shield. Playing with the wind at their backs HOBM led 20-3 in the shadow of halftime courtesy of tries to Jordan Gillies and Fereti Soloa and the boot of Brandyn Laursen against a solitary try to Taylor Henry, before Cam Ferriera nipped over to close the deficit. The Villagers would even matters through a second to Henry and Jacob Gooch setting up that finish where the Eagles would drive down and set up a match-winning dropped goal, only for that finish to transpire instead.
Honourable mentions: The Jubilee Cup Final, both Jubilee Cup semifinals.
Other grades Match if the Year: Ed Chaney Semi-finals, Tawa v Poneke
With a two-year unbeaten streak on the line, Tawa were warm favourites to repeat. But no one told Poneke that. Playing with the Lyndhurst wind behind them Tawa built a 19-5 lead but conceded just on half-time to see the margin cut. When Poneke first-five Ifeany Tonu’u-Nnbechukwu danced down the terrace touch and added the extras they led 30-24 and a boilover was on, but the champions showed their mettle with four tries in the final quarter.
Honourable mention: Petone v MSP Colts semifinal
Try of the Year: Sam Blackburn, Petone v HOBM
It’s doubtful that any moment in the last 10 years of Wellington has been seen by as many sets of eyes, and can probably picture it from this description. HOBM drive towards the Petone line, replacement halfback Waylon Tuhoro-Robinson fires the ball to his right to Brandyn Laursen who clips the ball off that reliable right foot. But an onrushing Tupou Sopoaga blocks it and the ball bounds backwards. The lanky Sam Blackburn gets to the ball first and toes it ahead, with Nash Fiso-Vaelai in pursuit. As player and ball reach the Eagles 22m it sits up and gleefully grabbed by Blackburn who makes it across the remaining distance and falls across the line as mayhem ensues.
The winning try at the end of the McBain Shield.
Team of the Year: Petone Colts
There’s no sugarcoating that the Village youngsters were bitter about the manner of their final loss in extra-time last year and that they were denied what would have been a title-winning try. That fueled their season, going unbeaten through the first-round Paris Memorial where they only match they didnt win was a 17-all draw with HOBM. They almost stumbled in the championship semi-finals against MSP, but made no race of the final against their valley rivals the following week. A year after they felt it should have been theirs, the John E Kelly Memorial Trophy was in their hands.
Honourable Mentions: Tawa Premier 2, Johnsonville Under 85s, Ories Vatos.
The Petone Colts with the spoils. PHOTO: Mike Lewis Pictures
Men’s Player of the Year: Peter Lakai (Petone)
Not a better breakout year by a loose forward in Wellington since Ardie Savea. A huge prospect.
Honourable Mentions: Riley Higgins (Petone), Zane Ainslie (HOBM), Callum Harkin (OBU)
Women’s Player of the Year: Harmony Ioane (Norths)
Throw any backline jersey number on the Norths starlet, and she instinctively knows what to do with a seamless transition from midfield for her club to outside back for the Pride. You get the feeling that she’s only scratching the surface of her prodigious talent.
Honourable Mentions: Tyler Bentley-Tuari (Petone), Thamsyn Newton (MSP)
Premier Coach of the Year: Reggie Goodes (Poneke)
Even with his credentials as a professional player and an apprenticeship in the coaching ranks after his forced retirement, the odds looked stacked against Goodes starting the season. But, with largely the same squad though missing talisman Greg Foe, Goodes took the Kilbirnie side from ninth to third on the Swindale standings playing a pragmatic brand of rugby. It wasn’t pretty, but it kept getting results and in this game thats what matters.
Honourable Mentions: Ryan Piper (Petone), Grainger Heikell (Norths).
Most Valuable Player of the Year: Callum Harkin (OBU)
Here at Club Rugby we don’t believe that Most Valuable necessarily means “Best”. Rather, if you took one player of out their team, what would they be like without them? For us its a no-brainer – where would the Goats be without their outrageously-talented backline maestro? Given the lengthy injury list OBU racked up, its doubtful they’d have made the Jubilee Cup playoffs without him.
Honourable Mention: Pakai Turia (Poneke)
Rookie Forward of the Year: Toby Crosby (Upper Hutt Rams)
Perhaps a controversial call, since Tawa’s Siale Lauaki is highly-rated and already a Wellington Lion, but Crosby’s impact on his side and Premier rugby this season has been greater in our opinion.
Toby Crosby peels off the Upper Hutt Rams scrum. Photo: Natural Light Photography.
Rookie Back of the Year: Sam Howling (Poneke)
The halfback came to Wellington from Kelston with big raps and delivered, adding an extra dimension to Poneke’s game and providing another goalkicking option. He gets the nod over another arrival from the Auckland 1A, MSP’s Chicago Doyle.
Sam Howling gets a pass away. PHOTO: Hugh Pretorius.
Comeback Kings if the Year: Norths Premiers
Despair to ecstasy. Through five rounds of the Swindale Norths had registered just a sole win, things looked bleak, and the Hardham section beckoned. It wasn’t any better the next week where they trailed Upper Hutt and down a man through a red card. But they pulled that out 31-30, beat Tawa the following week, and came from 17 points down to beat OBU after that. Adopting the motto “Beers or Tears” they found their rhythm, going on a eight-game winning streak. That was interrupted by a loss to Petone in the first round of the playoffs, but after seeing off MSP the next week an outrageous comeback against HOBM in the semi-finals set up a clash with Petone for the crown. And as we know the Jubilee Cup resides at Mungavin Avenue for the summer.
Upset of the Year: Round 8, Johnsonville vs MSP
If for a bit more composure this would be Paremata-Plimmerton’s award, after last years cellar-dwellers all but beat HOBM, OBU, and Poneke in the seasons early weeks. Instead it goes to the Hawks, who’s last win over MSP – as far as we can tell – came in their Swindale winning season of 1998. When MSP led 20-7 at the break it looked like a repeat of the last 25 years, but the Hawks soared in the Helston sun, running in four unanswered second-half tries to lead 36-23 before the visitors score two of their own to draw close but unable to get back ahead.
Honourable Mention: Tawa Colts over HOBM
Captain of the Year: Bradd Forster (Tawa Premier 2)
A calm presence at the head of hugely successful and driven team, Forster seems to have acquired the title of the Most Polite Man in Wellington Rugby and mastered the art of knowing what to ask of the referee, when, and how; perhaps the regions number one referee in Jack Sargentina as your flatmate does that.
Honourable Mentions: James Corcoran (Pare-Plim Premiers), Jack Tully (Poneke Premier 2), Damien Henare (HOBM Colts), Brooklyn Tapusoa (Pare-Plim Colts)
Milestone of the Year: Whetu Henry (Oriental Rongotai)
The old Koro hung up his boots after his 231st game for Ories, a come from behind Hardham Cup win against OBU. A champion player, a champion bloke.
Ories send Whetu Henry’s career into the sunset after winning the Hardham Cup final.
The Age Is But A Number Award: Aimee Sutorius (Norths)
Despite being old enough to be the mother of several of her teammates, Sutorius is still one of the top-10 players in the Wellington women’s game and comfortably one of the fittest, and its clear that she could play on for as long as she wants.
Aimee Sutorius and Harmony Ioane after the Women’s championship final in July. Norths beat MSP 58-10.
The Doing It For The Club Award: Hayden Smith and Paul Swift (OBU)
Despite both probably wishing they could have chucked their boots in the bin, the veteran Goats duo answered the call to front for their Premier 2 side on more than one occasion as injuries racked the club. Probably plenty of Voltaren consumed afterwards!
Good Bugger of the Year: Jimmy Lawler (Wellington FC and Wellington College)
There are probably few people busier over a week than Lawler, who both manages the Axemen’s Under 85s and contributes around Wellington College. A medical condition prevents him from taking part on the field as a player but his club side found a way, getting him on the park when they played Eastbourne towards the end of the season to kick a penalty into touch to a loud ovation and putting a massive grin on his face.
Match of the Year: Premiership Round 2, Scots vs Wellington College
It might have ultimately been recorded officially otherwise (see ‘Whoops’ below), but on the field the clash between Scots and Wellington College promised to be an early-season marker between two sides expected to contend in 2022. And it delivered; a tense, dramatic affair that was ultimately decided by a death-knock penalty by Wellington’s Stanley Solomon.
Wellington College supporters celebrate their last-gasp win over Scots College in Round 2 of the Premiership. PHOTO: Andy McArthur.
Team of the Year: Silverstream Under 15A
Silverstream swept the table at the sharp end of the college ranks, winning the Premiership, Premier 2, and the U15 grades. Both their 2nd XV and U15A sides went unbeaten, but we’re giving this to their youngsters on the strength of not just winning their grade, but also in winning the Hurricanes Invitational title last week as well.
Boys Player of the Year: Senio Sanele (Silverstream)
The loosehead prop was a feared opponent at scrum time all season, anchoring the best pack in the Premiership. Mobile on the carry, with high ball skills, and aggressive in the tackle, Silverstream was a different side without his presence.
Girls Player of the Year: Alexis Tauaneai (Wainuiomata)
One of three schoolgirls in the Pride setup, Tauaneai edges out St Mary’s duo Arene Langdon-Lane and Justin McGregor. A leader by example for the Wainuiomata-Sacred Heart combined side, Tauaneai has all the ball-playing skills and vision to make her mark at higher-levels.
Emphatic Win of the Year: Silverstream 1st XV, Premiership Final
St Patrick’s College, Wellington scored a try to lead the Premiership final after a dozen minutes, but after that it was all one way traffic, Silverstream storming to the biggest win in a final since 2009. A commanding forward display saw Silverstream score 28 unanswered points and flip their traditional defeat from a few weeks earlier.
Not the Premiership final, but Silverstream’s 19-12 win over Wellington College was an emphatic win as well – with supporters and garden power tools out in force that day as well.
Upset of the Year: Premiership Round 8 Wellington College vs Hutt International
Wellington College went into their final match of the round-robin needing just a win, at home, to ensure they’d host a semi-final, but nobody told HIBS that. On a miserable muddy day the Trentham school took a 10-8 lead and held firm and recording their first away win over one of the powerhouse schools.
Comeback win of the year: Premiership Round 5 Rongotai vs Wellington College
Rongotai trailed all the way until the final whistle in their Traditional Heron Cup match against Wellington College with the deficit as large as a dozen points. That was until reserve prop Joseph Samuelu barged over in the 69th minute to put his side in front for an unexpected 25-24 victory. Somewhere up above Rongotai stalwart Dave Meaclem, who passed away in January, would have a grin on his face.
Individual Performance of the Year: Stanley Solomon, Premiership semi-final
Wellington College didn’t win their Premiership semi-final against St Patrick’s College, Wellington, but Solomon did something that even Daniel Carter didn’t manage in his high school or first class career and that is score a ‘full house.’ Solomon scored all 23 points, and all four ways – try, conversion, penalty, and dropped goal – in a 24-23 defeat.
Stanley Solomon lining up a kick against St Pat’s Town in the semi-final. PHOTO: Andy McArthur.
Whoops of the Year: Scots College 1st XV
Perennial contenders Scots missed the Premiership playoffs, but not because of how they played. Rather, and not for the first-time in recent years, they fell foul of player eligibility rules. That cost them six competition points with their win over Rongotai and loss to Wellington officially recorded as 0-0 defaults, and while it set up an intriguing final round it was Rongotai who advanced leaving the Strathmore side sitting at home.