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Upsets and thrillers mark opening day in Wellington club rugby

Petone made a fast start to the Swindale Shield with a big win over Northern United. PHOTO: Andy McArthur. 

  • By Scott Maclean & Steven White

Week One results (individual scorers to be added once known) HERE

The long-awaited 2023 Wellington Club Rugby season kicked off this afternoon in blustery and sometimes showery conditions, and defending first round champions Petone made a statement by comfortably beating Northern United 40-3 in their replay of July’s Jubilee Cup final.

Petone retained the Murray Henderson Trophy with their win,  centre Lester Maulolo scoring what proved to be the winning try just after halftime by running in a length of the field team movement which was converted from in front. From there, Petone kept the pressure on to shut out an out of sorts Norths.

But it was results elsewhere that set the competition alight on opening day, with at least three epic finishes and at least a couple of results that could be considered upsets based on last year’s pecking order.

Two matches that were only decided in the dying embers were Wainuiomata’s 16-15 win over Hutt Old Boys Marist at William Jones Park (extended report below), and the Upper Hutt Rams’ 35-34 victory over Paremata-Plimmerton at Maidstone Park.

Other close results saw Old Boys University come back to beat Tawa 31-29 in their first match at their new home of Rugby League Park and the Johnsonville Hawks beat Poneke 31-24 down at Kilbirnie Park (more below).

Tawa rattled on all their points inside the first half hour of the match, through converted tries to wings Tony Solomona and Samoanoa Euta, hooker Joyner Gaualofa and centre Tofuku Paongo. They led 29-0 at halftime, but were now turning into the wind.

OBU came back to score through recent Axemen lock Regan Pope, halfback Kyle Preston, prop Samson Koneferenisi and flanker Harley Richards who scored the winning try with just a few minutes to play. Callum Harkin kicked all four conversions and slotted a penalty.

Elsewhere, Marist St Pat’s defeated the Avalon Wolves 41-17 for the Joe Aspell Cup at nearby Evans Bay Park to mark first five Andrew Wells’ 150th Premier game and the Oriental-Rongotai Magpies accounted for the Wellington Axemen 72-15.

Ories scored 12 tries against the Axemen, with Skivi Va’a bagging a double in his 50th game, as well as Dom Ropeti and Penieli Poasa also scoring two tries. They led 29-8 at halftime and retained the Alby Jack Memorial Cup.

Like HOBM, Paremata-Plimmerton were left lamenting discipline errors that proved costly for them. The Hammerheads conceded no fewer than three yellow cards and ran out of rope on the scoreboard clock to prevail.

Paremata-Plimmerton had raced to a 12-0 lead, that soon became 19-3 and 19-10 by halftime as heavy rain started falling. This soon became 26-10 and the visitors were seemingly in charge. The Rams, known for their close losses last season, scored to close the gap to 26-17.

The Hammerheads then saw two players sent to the sin-bin, as the Rams scored again to close to 26-22. Both sides scored further tries and Paremata-Plimmerton held a 31-29 lead.

Paremata-Plimmerton then saw a third player sent to the bin, but subsequently kicked another penalty to go back in front 34-32. The Rams had the final say, with the winning kick in the dying seconds.

Wainuiomata held on in a thriller to beat a rattled and ill-disciplined Hutt Old Boys Marist by a point in an exciting finish at William Jones Park.

After missing moments earlier, replacement Wainuiomata kicker Jacob Renor kicked the match-winning penalty in the 78th minute.

The drama didn’t end there, as however, former Wainuiomata player and replacement HOBM kicker Justin Wilson had a last-gasp penalty chance to retake the lead, but pulled his kick and Wainuiomata cleared and soon celebrated referee Charlie Harris’s full time whistle.

Playing with a stroppy wind in the second half, the Eagles struggled to break out of their territory as Wainuiomata applied significant pressure on them over the final 25 minutes. Wainuiomata had scored their second try right after half time to flanker Kitiona Leitufia in the left hand corner soon after halftime. This put them ahead 13-8, which remained unchanged for much of the rest of the game.

Try time for Wainuiomata early in the second half.

Under pressure, experienced Eagles hooker Ben Power was red carded, and this was subsequently followed by a yellow card to lock Teofilo Paulo and later a second red card to outside back Kobe-Joe Vulu. Wainuiomata would also lose their debutante school leaver lock Ma’a Tauaneai to a yellow card. So the dramatic closing few minutes were played 14 on 12.

Amongst this disorder, the Eagles finally put themselves in a scoring position inside the 22. From a penalty and lineout in the corner, second five Junior Paulo scored near the posts for a converted try to put the Eagles up 15-13. But although Wainuiomata rallied once more, they couldn’t cross the line but the winning penalty was well struck.

The match started off amid high intensity and it was the Eagles who appeared to get on top early through their big forward pack. They duly scored the game’s first try from a lineout and a forwards drive at the line to go up 5-0. Wainuiomata climbed into the contest and were led by outstanding performances by talisman Teru Time, ably supported by returning openside flanker and this year’s captain Greg Lealofi.

In this period, the Eagles also went desperately close to scoring a second try through returning No. 8 Lise Soloa who was just short of the line from a pick-and-drive play.

Somewhat against the run of play, Wainuiomata struck back with their first try running from a back-pedalling scrum near half way and first five Mikade Fono scored from the bust to make it 5-5.

The Eagles were ultimately left ruing a missed penalty kick from a handy position as well. They were also left rueing a playmaker such as Brandyn Laursen to help turn the green and blacks around in the second half.

With the strong wind and a hint of rain about, Wainuiomata second five Tyler Tane kicked a 47m penalty, and Wainuiomata went into half time leading 8-5.

As alluded to above, the other boilover of the day was at Kilbirnie Park, where Johnsonville prevailed over Poneke 31-24 to register their most impressive away win since they toppled Ories at the Polo Ground a few years ago.

The Hawks had the use of the breeze in the first half and dominated territory and possession against a Poneke side that were strangely out of sorts. Halfback Mark Sutton picked off three penalties intersposed by a breakout try to the home side where Sam Howling won the race to the deadball line, but the decisive moment came when Jacob Walmsley picked off an intercept and scampered 70 metres to score.

The hosts did hit back right on halftime when Cole Stewart strode through some weak defence to make it 16-14 to the visitors after Hawks openside Tyler Hall became the player to incur the wrath of referee Ethan Loveridge and headed to the bin.

Reggie Goodes had some harsh words for his side at the break and they started the better, taking the lead through a Howling penalty before the Hawks struck twice. The first came from a scything break from Walmsley that was ultimately finished by Hall, and the second scored by No.8 AJ Meafoou that were both magnificently converted by Sutton.

Poneke did grab a try under the posts to close the margin but Johnsonville held on for a well-deserved victory. Walmsley, Sutton, and fullback Finlay Sharp were superb, but credit needs to be given to the Hawks pack that delivered the sort of sleeves-up second-half performance usually attributed to their hosts.

Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield

Results were largely as expected in the opening round of the Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield. Defending champions Tawa were largely untroubled in seeing off OBU 45-7, Ories saw off Stokes Valley 30-3, HOBM accounted for Wainuiomata 24-13, and MSP were too good for Avalon by 56-19. There were surprises in terms of margin as the Upper Hutt Rams were too good for Pare-Plim by 32-5, while Petone trampled Norths by 42-17.

Club Rugby was at Kilbirnie Park where the home side was far too good for Johnsonville by 50-14. Poneke led 24-7 playing into the breeze and simply ran away with things in the second half while not really getting out of second gear with halfback Jordan Hoerara and hooker Mitchell Gough enjoying good games.

Club Rugby was also at the early match at Wiliam Jones Park, where HOBM scored two converted tries in the first 25 minutes with the wind in their favour to lead 14-0, and Wainuiomata came back with two unconverted tries to trail 14-10 at half time.

HOBM scored their third and what proved to be winning try 12 minutes into the second half after a long build-up and finally stretching the defence out wide.

As in the game that followed, there was a red card, with Wainuiomata reduced to 14 combatants, and with seven minutes to play, HOBM scored their fourth and bonus point try. The home side kicked a penalty with a couple of minutes to play, hoping to score again and earn a bonus point.


The opening weekend of the U85kg JC Bowl opened with the first default of the season, with Wests failing to field a team ahead of time against Petone.

On the field on Saturday, The OBU Scallywags beat new side the Tawa Ducks 40-5,  the Poneke Wanderers defeated the Eastbourne Seagulls 41-0 and the Johnsonville Terrahawks beat the Wellington Light Axemen 39-15.

In closer contests, Paremata-Plimmerton edged the HOBM Howlers 12-5 and Stokes Valley beat Marist St Pat’s 17-5 in the feature game at Delany Park.


The Women’s seasoned opened with what amounted to an organised preseason hitout, hosted by Paremata-Plimmerton at Ngati Toa Domain. The feature billing was given to MSP and Oriental Rongotai, and the letter were too good winning 58-19. Avalon likewise comfortably handled Poneke 40-5, while the home side toppled the combined HOBM/Wainuiomata outfit 36-22. The result of the fourth match between Petone and Norths wasn’t forthcoming at time of publication.

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