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Sideline Conversions 3 April (some rugby news and information to start the week)

Two tries on Premier debut for last year’s College Sport Wellington Player of the Year and new Upper Hutt Rams prop Senio Sanele. Both his tries came late and part of the Rams’ last-gasp 35-34 win over Paremata-Plimmerton. PHOTO: Peter McDonald. 

The opening weekend of club rugby is in the bag, and at least a couple of opening weekend results have injected plenty of interest into the competition.

Round two kicks off on Thursday night at Bernie Wood Artificial between Norths and Avalon at Bernie Wood Artificial at 7.30pm, ahead of Easter weekend.

Swindale Shield matches coming up this wekeend at a glance:

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As well as the Murray Henderson interclub trophy, Norths and Petone have awarded the Collins Medal to the Player of the Match of this fixture for the past five years. This is named after late cousins and prominent rugby idenitities Jerry Collins and Willie Collins, who passed away. This year’s winner was Petone’s Ryan Imrie.

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In 2020, Norths beat Petone 53-22 in the Jubilee Cup Semi Final with Norths first five Sam Clarke instrumental in scoring two tries. Three years later at the same venue in the opening match of the Swindale Shield, Petone beat Norths 41-3 with Sam’s younger brother, TJ Clarke, scoring two tries for the Villagers. 41-3 was also the halftime score to Norths in the 2020 match.

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Poneke captain Andrew Jones at Saturday’s post-match:

“We’ve got plenty to work on…Thanks for (Johnsonville) for pointing that out”

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Johnsonville’s win over Poneke on Saturday was their first over them in six previous occasions, going back to their 27-14 win over them in the 2017 Hardham Cup.

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And early season sledge from Dale Sabbagh who is not short of having a word or two, who suggested to Upper Hutt’s Fritz Rayasi that he “couldn’t hear him from his brother’s (Salesi) shadow”. Fritz had the last laugh though as the Rams beat Pare-Plim 35-34.

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Some great work from the William Jones Park scoreboard balcony by Jason Love, who filmed the entire Premier match for his team with a handheld handycam and seemingly kept it steady throughout. Also for chipping in with plenty of insightful comments.

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In a losing effort, it was good to see Hutt Old Boys Marist’s Lise Soloa back after a year away from the Swindale Shield and back playing for the Eagles after last playing for Northern United. His battle with the experienced Teru Time and Greg Lealofi in the loose was a feature of the match. Both No. 8s, Soloa and Time, made some big runs off the back of the scrum, with the new rules with the defensive halfbacks having to hold back working well.

Very rare though for the HOBM Eagles to concede red cards, but two in 15 minutes, plus a yellow could be an unwanted first for them?

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Tawa led Old Boys University 29-0 after 27 minutes on Saturday. Spare a though for OBU Goats supporters at that point! But the home team at Rugby League Park stopped the flow of points over the next 13 minutes and then turned with the strong wind to score 31 points of their own and win the match.

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Speaking of tight finishes, the Upper Hutt Rams were involved in several thrillers last year, with the pattern continuing in the first match of 2023 and the home side beating Paremata-Plimmerton 35-34 with a very late penalty. What about the clash of jerseys though? Perhaps when they play next they could arrange something in the livery department.

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Who are the Bill Brien Challenge Shield holders? Since the new Jubilee Cup format was introduced there appears to be some confusion over who holds it (at least at our end)!

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WRFU AGM last Wednesday.

Any news from the meeting?

It is understood but not confirmed publicly that former Wellington Axemen and Wellington Lions coach Alan Muir has succeeded Kerry Walsh as WRFU President.  Johnsonville’s Walsh served his mandatory two terms as per the constitution.

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Not just in Wellington, but in Manawatu, the opening round saw two very late wins, with Kia Toa kicking a penalty at the death to beat Te Kawau 28-26 and Old Boys Marist producing a late flurry of scoring to beat defending champions College Old Boys 39-29. Varsity beat Freyberg 40-5 in the third match. Feilding had the bye.

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Similar scenes at Waikanae Park as the home side came off their opening round bye to beat Foxton 23-21. Other Horowhenua-Kapiti Ramsbotham Cup second round fixtures saw Levin College Old Boys beat Shannon 43-32 an Rahui account for Levin Wanderers 74-0.

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The Maidstone Park construction coming along well.

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A number of familiar names scattered throughout the Premier 2 Harper Lock teamlists on Saturday. Two such players are Upper Hutt Rams hooker Josh Houston-Tupou and Paremata-Plimmerton fullback Ryan McLean. Houston-Tupou has returned from Wellington after playing Senior A rugby for the Feilding Yellows in the Manawatu competition, 200-game player McLean returns to playing after a stint refereeing for the WRRA. Also, Jamie Joseph at hooker for the Petone second XV, but likely a different Joseph to the All Blacks coaching aspirant.

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No Sport Wellington awards in 2023?

Organisers are ‘pausing’ the event. No comment here on this, but this media release on the Scoop website that can be found HERE is definitely ‘interesting’ and should generate some discussion amongst sporting traditionalists.

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We are coming off the fence on this one though. It’s not just rugby that treats its fans with contempt, it’s football too. It is our strong opinion that Saturday afternoons are reserved for community sport, particularly in this post-Covid era with participation a battle for clubs and competitions. Professional sport has the other 163 hours or so of the week to put their games on. Not so the Phoenix, who played at 2.3opm on Saturday afternoon.  Great afternoon for the yellow seats army, less so for the actual local players and club football community who can’t utilise the opportunity of going along to watch and support their team. The Hurricanes are the same as someone thought it was a great idea to play Moana Pasifika at 4.30pm on Saturday 13 May.

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What has happened to Tyler Laubscher? He has been on the Hurricanes books for two seasons at least and by our thinking he’s only played half a game.

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Feeling for Central Pulse midcourter Ana Puleiata who has suffered her third serious knee injury in six years, and for the third time she faces a long stint in recovery and rehabilitation. The first time Ana did this was playing rugby sevens, she then fought back and ruptured her ACL a second time playing  netball. Both were her left knee. This latest injury is her right knee. She was a star midfielder in St Mary’s College rugby 15s and sevens teams in 2016 and 2017, winning both the Condor 7s and National Top 4 Girls titles.

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A loose win by the Hurricanes in Palmerston North on Sunday, with the river city living up to its windy reputation. The Hurricanes looked good when leading 14-0 after just a few minutes with consecutive tries off lineouts. This included the first of two tries to Brayden Iose, who had a busy game on his home track. Captain for the day Dane Coles added to his try-scoring tally as well.

The Hurricanes won 45-42 – a scoreline that had a familiar ring to it for OG Super 12 fans. It was in 1997 that the Blues beat the Hurricanes 45-42.

Two other rip-roaring high scoring wins by the Hurricanes that spring to mind include their 64-48 win over the Waratahs just two years ago and their 50-47 win over the Cheetahs in 2011, which featured TJ Perenara in a positive way (it was either his debut match or he scored a hat-trick of tries!)

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Good to see Chase Tiatia at fullback for the Western Force on Saturday, a mixed back for the Hutt Old Boys Marist player.

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Will Brad Shields also be playing for the Wellington Lions in 2024, if not why not?

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An appearance off the bench for Tawa lock Hugo Plummer for the Hurricanes on Sunday. He must have been a late injury replacement, not named in the line-up beforehand.

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It’s only pre-season, but a second big loss for Wellington College against Manawatu opposition. After succumbing to Feilding High School last week, the Wellington College First XV met a 10-44 defeat to Palmerston North Boys’ High School in the Hurricanes curtain-raiser fixture at Arena Manawatu on Saturday.

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Would you get an All Black playing pre-season club rugby?

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