The Upper Hutt Rams are gunning for their fifth straight win when they play Northern United at Porirua Park tomorrow, while Wainuiomata will want to get their campaign back on track following recent home losses when they travel to Tawa. PHOTO: T-Paul Gale.
Draws & Results HERE
- By Scott MacLean
It seems remarkable that after tomorrow, one-quarter of the Premier season will be over. The early going has thrown around the established order and provided plenty of intrigue so far, and whether that continues will be at least as interesting as what’s happened to date.
It’s another full slate of club games from Premiers to Pressies, with College rugby also getting underway.
Petone are also celebrating their Old Timers’ Day, with four games on the Rec at 1.00pm and expect the clubrooms to be heaving afterwards.
Tomorrow’s radio broadcast match is the Old Boys University v Marist St Pat’s kick fixture. The E Tu Whanau Footy Show is on air from 2.00pm. Tune in at 87.6FM in the city or 1161AM throughout the district and on the app Wharekōrero.
And as a reminder, State Highway 58 over the Haywards is closed this weekend for works, so players and supporters will need to factor this and increased traffic on both SH1 and 2 north of Ngauranga into their plans.
Premier Swindale Shield
We start at the top of the table this week, as the Upper Hutt Rams make the journey to Porirua Park to take on Northern United. The Rams remain perfect on the year with 20 points from 20, and while there are some grumblings about who they’ve played to date (only Pare-Plim are in the current top eight) you take the wins as you can get them and so far, their form has been irresistible. For their part Norths take to their temporary home field of Porirua #2 for the first time this year – their previous home game was played on the artificial turf at Ascot Park – and begin a run of five games of six there before the lower bowl of Porirua Park is handed over to the Women’s Football World Cup in its entirety. After last week’s loss to Poneke, they’ll be hunting down a much-needed win and defending the Bill Brien Challenge Trophy as well.
The home team have an unchanged starting pack which continues to include NZ U20 squad member Bradley Crichton and the hardworking Callum Watts-Pointer. They make three in the backs with Rodney Roebeck at halfback, Zac Hunt at centre, and Kayd Parata at fullback. For the Rams Josh Houston-Tupou makes his first Premier start in nearly two years, with veteran duo Daniel Schrijvers and Jack Wright joining Toby Crosby in the loose trio.
The only other unbeaten side is Old Boys-University, who welcome old foes Marist St Pat’s to Rugby League Park. The Goats made a rampant start against Avalon last Saturday but will be concerned at how they let the Wolves back into the game after that first 20 minutes and have a looming sequence of four of their next five being away. MSP might have cashed in their ‘Get Out of Jail’ card in snatching a late draw against Johnsonville, but the signs are there that are rounding into form and will surely be looking to make a statement against one of the few teams above them on the table.
Callum Harkin returns for the Goats after a week off, but he’ll be partnered by Muri Stewart as Kyle Preston starts on the bench for the first time in nearly two years. Taine Plumtree is also back in town and comes in in what amounts to a swap for Caleb Delany, and Ty Poe starts at centre this week in his 50th match for the side. MSP make a handful of changes with Meinrad Fitisemanu, Curtis Finnigan, Mikaere Wiki, and Noah Guise coming in and Sanasco Crichton and Francis Mettrick amongst those dropping out, along with Naitoa Ah Kuoi who is back with the Chiefs for their clash with the Crusaders.
Oriental Rongotai’s own last-gasp winner against Petone pushed them into joint-third as they go in search of a trophy they’ve never won. Their opponents tomorrow at the Polo Ground are Johnsonville, who have lifted the Swindale, and this year’s side seems to have taken on the spirit of that side from 25 years ago. The Hawks head east of the tunnel for the second-successive week after last week’s draw with MSP and looking to remain unbeaten out there having already beaten Poneke on Kilbirnie as well. The Magpies might be looking for a breather after last Saturday but will have to be ready for the men from Helston.
Ories make two changes from the side that started against Petone with Sammy Seau in the loose trio for Siaosi Lavea who drops out of the 22, while former Wellington College midfielder Johnny Maiava starts in midfield after being an early replacement for Skivi Va’a last Saturday. Irish duo Mark Sutton and Niall Delahunt reunite as the halves pairing for Johnsonville with Raja Sami and Finlay Sharp also starting. Interestingly it’s Olly Paotonu who drops to the bench, and alongside him his former WC standout Ish Perkins who has made an early season switch from OBU.
Paremata-Plimmerton’s first-ever win over Tawa propelled them into joint-third, but after three weeks at home they start their run of four of five away from the Ngati Toa shark tank. The first stop is at the Hutt Rec where they meet their former coach Justin Wilson and his Hutt Old Boys Marist side, who at least got the wheels back on their bus with their resounding win over Wellington and seem to now be headed in the right direction. The visitors will be smelling blood though and looking to add to their list of scalps for the season.
The Eagles have an unchanged starting XV this week as they look to continue the momentum. That means another go-ahead for centurion duo Simon Malaeulu and Glen Walters. Where there are changes is on the bench where Mika Alaifatu and David Filipo return to provide impact. The Hammerheads get Pasilio Tosi once again, while an intriguing move sees erstwhile hooker Alex Hinchliffe start in the #7 jersey for the first time at this level. Joe Faleafaga drops out of the backline with his place taken by Caleb Alaga.
Despite that loss at Ngati Toa, Tawa remains joint-fifth and return to Lyndhurst for the visit of Wainuiomata. It’s doubtful that the 2021 champions are panicking just yet, but perhaps the same can’t be said for their opponents who’s early success has vanished with a pair of heavy home defeats and will be looking to right their own ship. The home side will be keen to get back into the winners circle themselves, especially with Petone, Ories, and Upper Hutt coming over the horizon.
Tawa badly missed midfield enforcer Lumafale Lualua last week against Pare-Plim and he returns this week. Robb Carr and Eamonn Carr are given starts, but the real interest is at halfback where Kemara Hauiti-Parapara appears in a Tawa jersey for the first time since the 2021 Jubilee Cup final. The visitors make a raft of changes as Tui Yandall, Cory Sue, and Eti Moananu come into a pack that will be missing Greg Leolofi. Veteran duo Tyler Tane and Michael Lealava’a pair up in midfield, while TJ Va’a’s latest return to club footy will come from the bench.
Kemara Hauiti-Parapara returns to start at halfback for Tawa tomorrow.
The region’s second and third-oldest clubs clash out at the Petone Rec when Poneke travel out to meet Petone. Another of the season’s eagerly awaited clashes there’s plenty of intrigue in this. The Villagers have slipped to a pair of losses in the last two weeks to fellow contenders OBU and Ories and you would feel cannot afford another, while Poneke have looked all at sea so far this year until running down Norths last Saturday and will want to get one over their great rivals on their patch.
It’s a milestone day for two players in this one. Petone’s Cam Ferreira starts at halfback in his 50th match, while Poneke’s Nick Robertson makes his 100th start from fullback. Elsewhere the Villagers get back veteran forwards Alapati Soke and Jack Ross, and Taylor Henry partners Riley Higgins in midfield as they get the latter and Peter Lakai for another week. Andrew Jones is back at hooker for Poneke, Isaac Moe Jenkins gets a start in midfield, and there’s a belated debut for flanker Tevita Vatuvei after he was sent off in their preseason outing against New Plymouth’s Tukapa.
And finally, there’s the battle of the two winless teams out at Fraser Park, as Avalon hosts Wellington. It’s been a curious start to the year for the Wolves who have dominated some of their matches for stretches, but poor starts have hampered them and surely their coach Thomas Kiwara will try something different this week to address that. The Axemen venture to the Hutt for the third week in a row, and while they have a run of four at home at Hataitai after this they will want to be much better than the past two weeks.
Its an almost unchanged team for Avalon, with Pena Sione-Leota at No.8 in place of Faalolo Wright, while there’s positional switch in the backline with Site Timu and Garry Naitini switching places with the young excitement machine getting a chance at centre. For the Axemen, Ben Stowe moves from fullback to first-five, with Matt Day on the bench for this one. A new midfield, with veteran Jeff Makapelu on the bench and George Afele and Dermot Frengley start at hooker and tighthead prop respectively. Former MSP veteran Terry Soli is No. 8 and former HOBM loose forward Mateo Setefano is on their reserves list as well.
There are no fewer than five interclub trophies in play tomorrow:
- Norths and Upper Hutt play for their Terry Farrow Memorial Cup. Farrow was another instrumental in the merger of Porirua and Titahi Bay, and a Life Member of Norths, just as his father George was a Life Member of Upper Hutt. First played for in 2000 after Farrow’s passing the previous year, it is held by Norths after their late, and perhaps controversial, 31-30 win last year. As mentioned above Norths will also be defending the Bill Brien Challenge Trophy in this one.
- The Jack Lamason Memorial Cup is the prize for OBU and MSP. Lamason was a famous identity of Wellington sport in the inter-war years representing the region in both rugby and cricket and was profiled on this site yesterday. In the former he was part of the 1930 Ranfurly Shield winning side and in the latter good enough to tour England with the NZ team in 1937. Originally played for between Wellington College OB and St Pats OB from 1962 following Lamason’s passing the year prior, it is now with the successor clubs and is held by MSP after their 48-38-win last season.
- Ories and Johnsonville contest their Ash Pointon Cup. Pointon was a legendary figure to both clubs, racking up a century for each and more than 270 top-flight matches in all as a rugged forward, and his passing in 2017 from cancer at just 56 was a significant loss to the rugby community. Johnsonville’s last win in this fixture came just days later, with Ories holding it after winning 25-15 in last year’s final round
- Tawa and Wainuiomata play for their Chris Stirling Cup. Stirling played over 200 games for Tawa before serving as the Club Coaching Co-ordinator (the forerunner to the GDO role) for both clubs in the late 2000’s and then embarking on a coaching career that has taken him to the UK and back home where he is currently the Director of Rugby at St Pats Town. It is held by Tawa from their 27-8 win last year
- And finally, the F.J. Tilyard Memorial Shield is up for grabs between Petone and Poneke. Fred Tilyard was a star of the post-WWI era winning four titles with Poneke, a Wellington representative for seven years, and an All Black in 1923. His brothers Harry and Brun were also Wellington reps and another, Jimmy, also turned out for Wellington and the All Blacks. Donated in 1958 for matches between the powerhouses, it is held by Poneke after their 28-23 win last year which was the only loss Petone suffered on their way to winning the Swindale Shield.
As usual, all seven matches kick-off at 2.45pm
Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield
With Ories dropping from the ranks of the unbeaten last week just four teams are yet to taste defeat in 2023. Two of those – Petone and Poneke – meet in the early game at the Petone Rec while the other two, Tawa and HOBM, are both at home against winless pair Wainuiomata and Pare-Plim respectively, and both will be expected to make it five-from-five. Ories will look to rebound against bottom-side Johnsonville at Polo, Upper Hutt will aim to keep pace when they visit Norths at Porirua Park, and MSP will look to do likewise at RLP against OBU.
The seventh match of the round is the usually hard-fought local derby between Avalon and Stokes Valley at Fraser Park, where they will contest the sixth interclub trophy of the day, their Roger Mildenhall Cup. Mildenhall was a Life Member of Avalon who lived in the Valley with the trophy donated in 1995, and it’s currently held by the Wolves following their win at Delaney last season.
All seven matches are timed for 1pm starts.
Premier Women’s Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy
The feature clash of the day is at the Polo Ground where eastern suburbs duo Oriental-Rongotai and Marist St Pat’s meet with both looking to make up ground on the leading duo and both coming off big wins last week. Joint-leaders Norths and Petone are both at home, against Avalon at Porirua Park and Poneke at the Petone Rec respectively with their potential round-winning clash looming next week. The fourth match is at the Hutt Rec where the HOBM/Wainuiomata combined side hosts Paremata-Plimmerton.
All four matches are 11.30am starts.
Colts Paris Memorial Trophy
It’s Friday Night Lights for the age-grade competition with four of the five matches happening tonight from 7.30pm.
Starting at the head of the valley, the Upper Hutt Rams and Norths will play the first competition game at the NZCIS campus while across the Haywards Tawa and Wainuiomata meet at Lyndhurst Park. In the city Wellington hosts HOBM at Hataitai with Rugby League Park the scene for the match between MSP and OBU.
The fifth match is tomorrow at 1pm with Petone hosting Poneke at the Petone Rec, with Ories having the bye in round two.
Under 85kg JC Bowl
Three teams are unbeaten through three rounds of the lightweight’s competition, and tomorrow you’ll find two of them at Kilbirnie Park. On the main ground the Poneke Wanderers face neighbours Wellington while across on #3 the OBU Scallywags line up against MSP. The third team, Stokes Valley, make their way to Helston and a meeting with defending grade champions Johnsonville. Tawa is away to HOBM at the Hutt Rec while its an early 1pm start for Petone and Eastbourne as they each look for their first competition points on the field when they meet at the Petone Rec. Pare-Plim were due to hosts Wests at Ngati Toa Domain but the Roosters are believed to have defaulted once again and is so, this makes it their third no-show this season and their continued place must be in serious jeopardy.
All matches are at 2.45pm, bar the one stated at 1.00pm.
College Rugby returns this week, albeit only at the Premier (open weight and age) level. Last year’s top four sides are in action in the annual Tranzit-sponsored First XV Festival in the next two weeks, with the first round happening this year at the NZCIS campus in Upper Hutt. The two matches at 11.30am see Wellington College take on Gisborne Boys High alongside Rongotai facing Feilding High, who are standing in for Napier Boys who are away at the Sanix tournament in Japan. The 1.00pm matches have St Pat’s Town lining up against Palmerston North Boys High, with defending Wellington Premiership winners Silverstream taking on Hastings Boys which shapes as the match of the day.
The remaining sides begin the process of qualifying for their places in this year’s competitions. In selected matches Hutt International host neighbours and last years Coed Cup winners Upper Hutt/Heretaunga, Mana travel over the hill to Masterton to face Wairarapa College, and Bishop Viard’s quest to return to the Premiership starts against St Bernard’s in Lower Hutt. Scots were drawn to play Taita, but the latter have forfeited due to a numbers crunch.