- By Scott MacLean
Draws & Teamlists HERE
The midpoint of the Swindale Shield is rapidly approaching next week, and it’s getting to that time where some teams will have to get into gear if they want to be contenders for the Jubilee Cup in 2023. Around the grounds it’s a nearly full weekend with the lower grades of the college game starting up and the first appearance of the 85’s Club Cup as well.
It’s Old Timers’ Day at three clubs, with festivities at Norths, Hutt Old Boys Marist, and Wainuiomata.
This week’s radio broadcast is from Lyndhurst Park for Tawa v Petone, on air from 2.00pm Tune in to Te Upoko o
Te Ika broadcasting 1161AM and 87.6FM around the city, and streaming on Whare Korero and iHeart Radio Apps.
Premier Swindale Shield
By quirk of the draw and the standings, all the top four are on the road this week.
Sitting at the top of the hill are the Upper Hutt Rams, who’s perfect five from five with bonus points in each remained intact after their win over Norths. They head down the valley to provide the opposition for Hutt Old Boys Marist on the Eagles’ Old Timers Day at the Hutt Rec, and while the Rams season goes from strength-to-strength HOBM’s continues to be one of struggle after going down to Pare-Plim last Saturday. While both sides will dearly covet a win, at this point in the season it’s for quite different reasons.
Rams coaches Matt Lee and Adam Campbell return to where they had much success, including the 2014 Jubilee Cup where the opposing coach that day, Justin Wilson, is the HOBM coach now. Wilson’s changes from last week are limited, with David Filipo and former Ram Taine Tata his locking duo and youngsters Kobe-Joe Vulu and Sapati Tagoai given opportunities out wide. The Rams welcome back Toby Crosby after he was a late withdrawal last week along with Eli Hunt and Jared Woodward, speedster Jono Ryan drops to the bench alongside Leon Tuiloma who is line for his Rams debut, and former Eagles Fritz Rayasi and Todd Svenson are in their backline.
Old Boys-University likewise remain unbeaten though after an extended run on their new grazing block at Rugby League Park the Goats head for a different pasture, Helston Park, and a meeting with the high-flying Johnsonville Hawks. If you’d offered the home side wins over both of their fellow ornithologically-nicknamed sides they’d have bitten you hand off, but after conquering Ories and HOBM they’ve done just that and taking another big scalp will confirm them as contenders. OBU’s credentials this season are also there for all to see, so this shapes as being a cracker.
Johnsonville make just two changes from the side that beat Ories, with Josh Betham coming onto the blindside and Sean Rankin moving to lock, with Olly Paotonu returning to midfield in place of Andrew Ellis. By contrast, the Goats make a swag of changes; Nico Aandewiel, Blake Love, and Tana Maene-Lokeni come into their forward pack which will be without Taine Plumtree, while Jackson Wright replaces Ty Poe in the backline. Of interest though is the absence this week of Kyle Preston with Malo Tevita-Manuao and club chairman Te Wehi Wright taking places on the bench.
Sitting in third, Paremata-Plimmerton are swimming in waters that are unchartered for them but will be brimming with confidence after beating HOBM on their turf a week ago. They head back into the valley again this week, this time to Fraser Park and a meeting with Avalon who themselves entered the winners circle with their victory over the Axemen, so this will feature two teams currently on a high.
As covered yesterday and confirmed here, Pare-Plim skipper Tane McMillan-Parata plays his 100th Premier match. Sam Clarke returns to the starting side at #10 with Dale Sabbagh moving back out, but of interest is the naming of long-time club servant and recent Premier referee Ryan McLean at fullback. Another Premier centurion, Danny Herewini, is on the bench as is Peni Taupau who is edging up on the mark as well. The Wolves have just one change with Phil Green replacing Faalolo Wright on the openside as they stick with the side that triumphed last week.
Despite their loss to Johnsonville, Oriental Rongotai remain fourth but will understand their hopes of a first Swindale triumph could rest on not having further slips along the way. Their assignment this week takes them to Titahi Bay and a meeting with Norths at Onepoto on their Old Timers Day. With just one win in five Norths are in the same position they were last year before going on that run to the title, and their hopes of even being in position to defend it could rest on getting a result tomorrow in front of the blue army.
The home team makes just one change from last week’s starting side. Kayd Parata drops out and is replaced by Yannis Faletau with Jaxon Poutama reverting to fullback, while their bench may include a return to action for veteran prop Solomona Sakalia. Ories bring back in props Jason Seumanufagai and Siatua Taituave and bruising No Siaosi Lavea returns from injury, while there are also returns for Malachai Unasa and Pose Tuilaepa.
The two teams will also contest their To’omaga Alex Iona Memorial Cup. Iona first played for Ories after arriving from Samoa, before later moving north and continuing his career at Porirua, later moving into coaching and administrating before and after the creation of Norths. He was also prominent within the Wellington Samoan union and community. Donated in 2011 after his passing, it is held by Ories after their 35-17 win in the early rounds of last year.
Another of those matches that are eagerly awaited when the draw comes out is at Lyndhurst Park as Tawa hosts Petone. Both are on the edge of the top four, with Tawa having ruthlessly seen off Wainuiomata last week and Petone having enjoyed a pleasing, though at times ragged, Old Timers Day win over Poneke. Both will also be aware that having dropped two matches already hopes of claiming the Swindale for this season might well be gone with another loss here. As for what me might expect, there’s last year’s two matches that saw a draw, and then an 80th minute winner for the Villagers in the Jubilee Cup semi-final for recent reference.
Tawa go with the same starting pack as last week, so Hemi Fermanis remains inreservie off the bench. Mika Cooper-Finau steps in to partner Kemara Hauiti-Parapara in the halves and both Mofate Siupolu and Reweti Leat come onto the wings. Petone are able to name an imposing looking side. Peter Lakai and Riley Higgins are available to them again, both Losi Filipo and Lester Maulolo return, and Logan Henry and Cam Ferreira swap places. There’s also a return to Premier rugby for Iona Apineru from the bench. The battle between Hauiti-Parapara and Henry in the #9 jerseys will be well worth watching.
One side looking to make some headway is Marist St Pat’s, who been beaten and held to a draw in their recent outings. They make the short journey up the hill to Hataitai Park and Wellington in the only Premier encounter east of the Mt Vic tunnel. While on paper MSP will be at very short odds, memories only need to go back to 2019 when an undermanned Axemen side stunned MSP in a result that went some way to seeing the latter miss the Jubilee Cup for the first time in over 40 years.
Wellington are again much changed, with a whole new front row and erstwhile midfielder Junior Purcell packing down in the forwards, and old head Jeff Makapelu partners skipper Will Cosgriff in the halves. Five debutants on the bench as well. MSP are able to bring Sanasco Crichton, Josh Naa, and Lucky Tuiatua back into their forward back, with Logan Love behind them at halfback.
And finally in this preview there is Old Timers Day at Wainuiomata where Poneke are the visitors to William Jones. In 9th and 13th respectively, their early seasons haven’t gone as they might have hoped and each desperately need a win, and in the case of the home team especially so after three heavy defeats in succession against Ories, Upper Hutt, and last week’s disaster at Tawa. Poneke showed glimpses of what they’re capable of against Petone but need to do that more consistently if they’re to start climbing the ladder.
The hosts make a handful of changes with Thomas Chase-Pona, Dion Lealofi, and Renata Kotuhi all elevated to the starting lineup, along with TJ Va’a for his first Premier start since the end of 2021. Poneke are without regular skipper Andrew Jones, so former captain Cole Stewart will take the reins tomorrow with Mitchell Gough coming in for Jones at hooker and Abraham Mataitini also in the starting side to add another option at lineout time
These teams will also play for their interclub Hakaraia Trophy. Paul Hakaraia Senior joined Poneke after serving in WWII before later moving to Wainuiomata in the 1950’s where he played, coached, and managed sides for many years and eventually the club’s Patron. All five of his sons turned out for Wainuiomata with two – Paul Jr and Peter – playing for Poneke as well. Donated after Paul Sr’s passing in 2000, it commemorates both him and Peter who was tragically lost in a diving accident in 2007. Poneke hold it after their narrow 17-12 win in last year’s opening round
All matches are at 2.45pm as usual
Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield
No prizes for guessing the feature game in the grade tomorrow as Petone, who removed Poneke from the ranks of the unbeatens in a compelling clash last Saturday, head to Lyndhurst to take on the assignment of Tawa, who’s long unbeaten run remains intact so far this season as well. HOBM are the third unbeaten but face a difficult assignment of their own against a well-performing Upper Hutt Rams side at home on the Hutt Rec, while Ories will be looking to keep pace with the leading trio when they take on Norths at Onepoto. Poneke will look to rebound when they meet winless Wainuiomata at William Jones, OBU will be looking to add to their tally against bottom-side Johnsonville, and two sides each looking for their first win meet at Fraser Park with Avalon hosting Pare-Plim who almost tipped over HOBM last week. All six of these matches are at 1pm.
The seventh is at Delaney Park at 2.45pm, with a midtable clash between Stokes Valley – who finally get back home after playing four of their opening five matches away – and MSP.
Premier Women’s Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy
The focus here is on Onepoto Park in Titahi Bay, where unbeaten duo Norths and Petone clash in a match that could determine the fate of the first-round prize for 2023. Petone have a perfect 20 points so far, with Norths two back after their high-scoring draw with Avalon, and a Petone win could put the matter all-but out of reach. Marist St Pats are third, and after their big win over Ories head to Fraser Park to take on the resurgent Shewolves who will be buoyed by that result against Norths. Oriental Rongotai will need to get back on track, but Paremata-Plimmerton promises to be no pushover at home at Ngati Toa Domain, while HOBM/Wainuiomata and Poneke provide the early entertainment at William Jones.
All four matches are at 11.30am
Colts Paris Memorial
As with last week, it’s a Friday night start for the Colts grade with a couple of feature games on the slate. The first of those is tonight at Te Whaea where perennial contenders OBU play host the upstart Upper Hutt Rams in what should be an absorbing encounter, while at Lyndhurst Park Tawa welcomes Wellington to the northern suburbs with both kicking off at 7.30pm. Tomorrows matches are headlined by the matchup between unbeaten pair HOBM and Ories at the Hutt Rec with the young Magpies coming off the bye. Defending champions Petone head over the hill to strugglers Wainuiomata at Mary Crowther (12.30pm k/o), and Norths and Poneke clash at Onepoto. MSP has this weekend off.
No play this weekend in the JC Bowl, with the National Club Cup knockout competition taking precedence. Just two matches are in Wellington with one each day this weekend. Tomorrow MSP and Tawa meet at Kilbirnie Park at 2.45pm to see who will progress, while on Sunday at Helston Park at 1pm Johnsonville welcome the Wairarapa Bush Clippers over the hill with the visitors one of two Heartland union-based sides (along with Thames Valley) entering this year. HOBM are on the road to the Hawkes Bay to face Saracens with the winner of that to play either Johnsonville or Wai-Bush, while both Poneke and Wellington head to Whanganui to face Taranaki opposition; the Wanderers face newcomers New Plymouth OB for the right to play Petone in the next round with the Axemen playing competition regulars Tukapa with the winner of that to face the winner of the match at Kilbirnie. OBU were due to play Blenheim side Central – for the third year in succession – but the latter withdrew last week and so the Scallywags go through to a second-round clash with Stokes Valley, likely to be played next week. Pare-Plim, Eastbourne, and Wests are not entered in this competition.
The first full weekend of the season with the Under 15, Under 65kg, and Under 55kg grades getting underway with grading matches, as well as the second weekend of the Tranzit Festival and second round of Premier qualifying.
This week’s Tranzit matches are at Hastings Boys High, with Wellington College taking on the hosts. Rongotai face Palmerston North Boys, Silverstream take on Gisborne Boys, and Town get Feilding High in the other games.
Back home two more sides for the Premiership will be found when Scots hosts Wairarapa College (1pm) and Hutt Valley-duo St Bernard’s and Hutt International clash (2.30pm); the winners get next weekend off as well as their place, while the losers get a second chance next week. Vying to also make those final qualifiers next week are the remaining 12 teams with, in selected matches, Paraparaumu hosting Hutt Valley HS, Aotea at home against Naenae, and Bishop Viard at home against near neighbours Tawa.
Runaway Horowhenua-Kapiti leaders Rahui could all-but wrap up the first-round when they host Foxton at the Otaki Domain. Paraparaumu have moved into second and host Levin COB next to the railway while Waikanae hosts Shannon with Levin Wanderers having the bye this time around.
Over in Wairarapa-Bush their short, sharp, first-round concludes with the crossover matches between the north and south sections. The Lane Penn Cup decider is between north side Pioneer and south side Martinborough with both unbeaten in their three matches so far. Marist meets Carterton for third, with Eketahuna and Greytown meeting for fifth with all three matches taking place at Memorial Park in Masterton. East Coast and Gladstone play off for seventh at Marist’s nearby home ground.