Northern United No. 8 Luca Rees with ball in hand in his side’s win over Avalon on Thursday night. PHOTO: Chainsaw Photos.
- By Steven White & Scott MacLean
The second round of the 2023 Swindale Shield continues tomorrow with the remaining five matches to be played, while it’s the also the second round of the Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield and the start of the Women’s Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy competition. Colts are in their second weekend of grading.
Round two Swindale Shield teamlists and Draws & Results HERE
Premier Swindale Shield
As the smoke clears on the opening round, another tantalising slate of fixtures come into view with Easter weekend seeing two of the more-eagerly awaiting match-ups of the season.
By the time you read this however, the second week has already gotten underway with two matches last night under lights. Norths rebounded from their heavy opening loss to beat Avalon 28-24 on the Ascot Park turf and retaining the Bill Brien Challenge Cup in the process, while Wainuiomata had a successful venture into the city as they overcame Wellington 31-16 at Hataitai and retained their interclub Bill Jones Cup.
The first of those two match-ups mentioned above is at Rugby League Park, where Old Boys-University welcome Hutt Old Boys Marist. The Goats will be on a high after their remarkable comeback from being 0-29 down to Tawa to win, while conversely the Eagles will have to pick themselves up after having had their wings unexpectedly clipped by Wainuiomata.
OBU have the services of Blues squad member Taine Plumtree, who will slot in at lock in a mostly settled forward pack from last week’s comeback win. Scots College school leaver Tana Maene Lokeni is set to make his debut at openside flanker, while Cody Quinn will win his 50th Premier cap for the Goats if he takes the field.
The Eagles have made a number of changes and positional switches from their side that lost to Wainuiomata last Saturday. Starting at the back, Zane Ainslie joins the team at fullback, with Joseph Pinfold moving to halfback and Mo’o Falaniko moving to the left wing. Justin Wilson is at first five and Francis Tunuvasa moved from 10 to centre. Amongst changes in the forwards, Ben Power moves from hooker to blindside, with Freddie Sunia starting at hooker between the Manaia brothers and Mika Alaifatu comes into the team at No. 8 for Lise Soloa.
Up the road is the second, where Tawa is back at Lyndhurst for their home opener, and probably still shaking their heads at what transpired in the city last Saturday. They’ll need to move on quickly as Marist St Pat’s are the visitors, and the Red Machine were able to get into their work against Avalon, albeit with a margin that was perhaps a bit flattering in the end.
After playing for the Hurricanes last Sunday, Hugo Plummer slots in at lock for Tawa tomorrow, in a typically strong looking pack that also includes hooker Joyner Gaualofa and No. 8 Matolu Petaia. A couple of changes in the backs from round one, including Solomon Uelese in for George Sims at halfback and two new wings in Isi Saumaki and Rewiri Leat.
Marist St Pat’s have made some tweaks to their travelling 22 for this match. Such as switching around the starting positions of their loose forwards Miikare Wiki, James Tuia and Keelan Whitman, bringing in last year’s hero of this match, Ken Kapeli to starting halfback, swapping out one experienced player at fullback for another in Tuga Mativa for Ryan Setefano and Valentine Meachen starting at hooker for Charles Hankins.
One other addition that is sure to turn heads is one Viliame Rarasea on the bench. He is making his debut in Wellington club rugby for MSP but is a 100-game Ardmore Marist lock-flanker in the Counties Manukau competition and an established Steeelers NPC player.
In between those two venues is the only match between two sides that both won on Saturday as Johnsonville welcome Petone to Helston Park. The Hawks will be flying high after downing Poneke, but will likely need to match that performance against a Villagers side that looked in good form as they put Norths to the sword in the Jubilee Final rematch.
For home team Johnsonville, Raja Sami starts at hooker and Siale Vea at lock in two changes to their tight five from the win over Poneke. Serge Hollis moves from lock to No. 8, whilst Morgan Williams lines up at first five. Two Johnsonville debutants off the bench, with former Rams prop Sean Rankin and Ngahau Tepaa.
Petone have the services of Hurricanes centre Riley Higgins for this clash tomorrow. Higgins slots into the backline around such players as Losi Filipo Lester Maulolo and Jarrod Rampage Adams, so they will prove a handful for the Hawks. In the forwards, Filipo Sipaia makes his first start at No. 8 after playing off the bench last week, while a different locking pair from round one will be Sam Tonise and Jack Ross.
Riley Higgins starts for Petone against Johnsonville.
Continuing north, Paremata-Plimmerton make their home debut for the season when they host Oriental Rongotai at Ngati Toa Domain. The locals were gutted at the manner of their late-late loss to Upper Hutt despite outscoring the Rams five tries to four but have laid down a marker for the season. Ories come in on the back of the biggest win over the opening round and while they’ll be confident, they also won’t be taking much for granted.
The Hammerheads have named the same backline as last week, but have some tweaks to their forwards, including Hurricanes prop Pasilio Tosi at tighthead prop. He partners Tony Coburn as the other prop, whose brother James is set to make his club debut off the bench. Luke Omeri captains the side from No. 8.
Visitors Ories have named a similar side to that which over-ran the Axemen last weekend, which includes Declan Hay playing his second consecutive match at fullback, mostly known as a halfback. Malachi Unasa switches wings from the right to the left wing and Hurricanes U20s loose forward Dom Ropeti again packs down at lock.
With, unusually, no matches in the Hutt Valley this week it’s back into the eastern suburbs for the remaining two games. At Kilbirnie Park it’s one team that got itself out of jail against one that didn’t as the Upper Hutt Rams come down from the head of the valley to face Poneke. The Rams will have the momentum of their comeback against Pare-Plim on their side while it’s probably been a tough week at training for Poneke after their loss to Johnsonville.
Poneke have Te Hiiri Ponga making his debut at openside and two debutants on the bench, with French connection Antoine Ruchaud and Italian extraction and Wellington College school-leaver Sam Meo both on the bench. Andrew Jones captains the side at hooker that also includes 200-gamers Cole Stewart at No. 8 and Ben Huntley at centre.
The Rams have named a settled side from the won in week one, with one featured addition being Todd Svenson coming into centre to play alongside his brother and fullback Scott. Soli Malatai moves to the right wing, with Jono Ryan coming off the bench as outside back cover.
As well as the Bill Jones Cup there’s two other interclub trophies in play this weekend:
- OBU and HOBM meet for the Wood Cup, currently held by HOBM after winning 31-5 last year. It honours Ron Wood (not to be confused with the current Norths personality), who played his rugby at Wellington College and then Wellington College OB, before being a founding member of the Woburn club – later High School OB – in 1945. Introduced for play between WCOB and HSOB in 1960, it has been played for by the respective successor clubs since 1993.
- Poneke and the Upper Hutt Rams play for their Alby Makeham Cup. Introduced in 1989 it commemorates the Wellington representative halfback of the 1950s who started his career with Poneke and finished it with Upper Hutt and earned the sobriquet “Kick it again” for the frequency he put boot to ball. It’s held by Poneke after their 26-24 win last season.
As usual, the five matches tomorrow kick-off at 2.45pm
Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield
After an opening round dominated by big margins, things should be a little tighter in the second tier.
The first match is this afternoon at 3.30pm at Rugby League Park between Old Boys University and Hutt Old Boys Marist.
The feature clash tomorrow is the early game at Lyndhurst where Tawa takes on MSP.
Poneke and the Upper Hutt Rams meet in a match between two first up winners, Petone are at Helston to face Johnsonville, Ories head up the highways to Ngati Toa Domain and Pare-Plim, and Norths and Avalon will try to get into the winner’s column when they meet at Porirua Park, with all six of these matches underway at 1pm.
The seventh match of the round is in the 2.45pm slot as Stokes Valley have their first outing at Delaney Park for the year as they welcome Wainuiomata in a clash that has routinely been close in recent years.
Women’s Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy
After last week’s starter, the Women’s grade gets underway properly this week. It’s highlighted by the clash between perennial winners Oriental Rongotai and Norths at the Polo Ground while the other two heavyweights – Petone and Marist St Pat’s – meet at the Petone Rec. Over the hill the combined HOBM/Wainuiomata side welcome Avalon to William Jones in a local derby, and Poneke make the trek out to Ngati Toa for a second week to this time take on Paremata-Plimmerton.
All four matches kick-off at 11.30am
The age-grade is in their second week of grading with the competition proper kicking off next week. Wellington and MSP have already played their match this week as the early game last night at Hataitai with the latter winning 55-5. Tomorrow sees Poneke and OBU meeting at Kilbirnie Park, Tawa is at home at Redwood Park for the visit of Petone, and Hutt pair Upper Hutt and HOBM meet at Maidstone. Ories, Norths, and Wainuiomata are scheduled for a game-of-three-halves at the Polo Ground with no sight of Johnsonville in the draw, so it may be surmised at this point they’re non-starters this year as well.
The Under 85s have Easter off and resume next week, along with the Reserve and Presidents grades getting underway.
With it being Easter there’s little other rugby on, however there is some school action next week. Auckland 1B school Macleans College are in town and play the Silverstream 2nds on Monday followed by St Bernard’s 1st XV on Wednesday, while Christchurch power St Bede’s are also in town for two legs of the triangular series with the St Patrick’s schools and play Town on Tuesday and Silverstream next Friday.
In our neighbouring unions Horowhenua-Kapiti are taking the week off, with Wairarapa-Bush starting their season next weekend.