Poneke are back at home at Kilbirnie Park for their Old Timers’ Day and host Hutt Old Boys Marist, while Avalon head to Petone for their eighth round Swindale Shield match tomorrow. PHOTO: Hugh Pretorius.
- By Scott MacLean
For eighth round Draws & Teamlists visit HERE
UPDATED: As the weather turns the competition seems only to heat up in coming weeks as the run home in the Swindale Shield and towards the playoffs begins, while the first trophy of the year will also be handed over tomorrow.
It’s a big day for club festivities as well with four clubs – Paremata-Plimmerton, Poneke, the Upper Hutt Rams, and Stokes Valley – all celebrating their Old Timers’ Days so expect bumper crowds at all these venues.
This week’s radio commentary match comes from Kilbirnie Park, where Poneke host Hutt Old Boys Marist. On air from 2:00pm ahead of a 2:45 kick-off. . Tune in Te Upoko o Te Ika 87.6FM around the city, 1161AM and streaming Whare Korero and iHeart Radio.
Premier Swindale Shield
The run home in the Swindale Shield starts this weekend, with some intriguing games on the slate. The top-three won’t change this round, so it’s on the others to try and bridge that gap.
By virtue of claiming a bonus-point in their gasp win over Petone, the Upper Hutt Rams have reclaimed sole possession of the lead and retained the Bill Brien Challenge Cup. But their task doesn’t get any easier this time out, as while they’re at home again at Maidstone it is Tawa who come to visit. They will have renewed confidence in having ground out their win over Ories at Polo, and even though they sit sixth the Rams are the last team currently ahead of them on the table they are yet to face.
First year duo Toby Mallon and Devon Sopoaga are both named to start so Eli Hunt and Kaide McCashin both drop to the bench, with Fritz Rayasi and Sio Fidow also returned to the starting side. There’s some interest in their bench too, with Josh Brown named there in his latest return to Premier rugby. Tawa make just two changes, both up front. Akira Ieremia comes back in for Matolu Petaia who drops to the bench, with Evan Bishop starting at tighthead in place of Siale Lauaki who is on NZ U20s duty the next two weeks. Kemara Hauiti-Parapara and Luke Walmsley continue as their halves pairing.
Missing a bonus point last week drops Paremata-Plimmerton to second but given the hard-fought nature of their clash against Johnsonville and how it ended they’ll be relieved to have escaped Helston Park with four points. Owners of the competitions current longest winning streak at six, they’ll be determined to keep that intact in front of their Old Timers Day crowd at Ngati Toa Domain. Wainuiomata are the visitors and will be desperate to end their own run of losses and while the form book says otherwise, they will surely back themselves to pull off what would be the upset of the season so far.
The Hammerheads are without captain Tane McMillan-Parata owing to a slight niggle, but Mellenniumma Leota is an able replacement. Sam Clarke drops back to fullback this week and Dale Sabbagh returns to first-five, with Ethan Webster-Nonu and Joe Faleafaga pairing up in midfield. The visitors have few changes from last week. Dion Lealofi moves back to hooker with Aviata Sa’u coming onto the flank, and Markus Stowers-McCarthy returns to lock. Their backline is unchanged.
Old Boys-University hold station in third, having rebounded from their loss to Johnsonville to beat Wainuiomata last round. They head to Porirua to take on Norths in what is one of the more eagerly anticipated matches in recent years, especially considering last year’s clash at Nairnville where Norths roared back from 13-32 down with 20 minutes to play to win 34-32. The two might have gone in different directions somewhat since then but expect the home side to put up a determined fight.
The home side make a number of changes from the side that ran over Wellington. Amongst them veteran prop Solomona Sakalia starts in place of Bradley Crichton (U20s) while regular Premier 2 captain Daniel Filemoni is at tighthead. Another veteran, Quaid Martin-Laumatia, is on the bench while Parekura Lalaga continues in midfield. For the visitors the big news is the absence of Callum Harkin who will apparently miss several weeks with injury, so his place at 10 is take by Tom Henderson. It’s a much-changed Goats side as well, which also has returns for Taine Plumtree and Cody Quin.
Another one of those matches that are looked forward to is out in the eastern suburbs, as Marist St Pat’s head through the Cutting to the Polo Ground and a meeting with Oriental Rongotai. Both sides are in the top eight but come off disappointing outings last week where both lost at home, and perhaps in ways they’d want to forget very quickly. They’ll each want to rebound quickly and set themselves up for the run home in the coming weeks.
The Magpies will be without Dom Ropeti tomorrow (NZ U20s injury cover) with Siaosi Lavea and Grayson Whitman also absent. Ronaldo Seumanufagai switches to the blindside, Sione Halalilo to No.8, and Isalei Pouvalu is handed the keys at 10. MSP also have a change at 10 with the return of Andrew Wells amongst a half-dozen changes for them which includes Chicago Doyle again named at fullback after not taking the field at all last week.
Also looking to make a charge in coming weeks are Petone, who after their last-gasp loss to Upper Hutt will be keen to get back into the winners circle. That’s a place that Avalon have visited only once this year but were well in their match against Poneke last week, and like their earlier loss to Norths its perhaps only being unfamiliar with being in those situations that has prevented them from winning both. They will know though that tomorrow is a step up from those games, and more so given the points-scoring mood that the Villagers are in.
The three Henry brothers – Logan, Taylor, and Mason – start together for the first time this season. Filipo Sipaia starts at No.8 in place of Peter Lakai (U20s), Riley Higgins is still with the team, and the bench includes a return to rugby for veteran prop Marcus Roil as well as a Petone debut for Jono Bailey who has made the very rare mid-season switch across the Hutt River. For Avalon, Tobi Oliver returns to first-five so captain Jordan Aquila moves out to second-five, orop Jacob Faifai and flanker Fa’alolo wright return to the pack and two players are on debut on the bench.
Johnsonville’s own last-gasp loss to Pare-Plimmerton has dropped them all the way to seventh. That result isn’t necessarily fatal to their Swindale hopes, but to win it they might need to win every match in front of them. The second half of their impressive season so far starts with a trip to the city to take on Wellington at Hataitai where they will be warm favourites against an Axemen side that stemmed the tide against Norths for a while but the result wasn’t in much doubt.
As is their want, Wellington have rung many changes. Amongst the more significant is getting approaching centurion Ben Hendry back on the openside flank and Matt Day at first-five. The Hawks changes this week include Andy Ellis stepping in at fullback with Jacob Walmsley taking a seat in the only backline change, while Sam Green moves from lock to the openside.
The final game of this preview is at Kilbirnie Park, where two teams more accustomed to being at the sharp end of the table rather than the middle of it – Poneke and Hutt Old Boys Marist – clash with both looking to bridge the gap between them and the top eight. The Eagles might be unlikely to repeat their near-unbelievable first-half blitzkrieg across the road last Saturday against MSP but nonetheless they seem to have regained their mojo after a tough start, while the home team will be buoyed by battling past a difficult Avalon and motivated to put on a good Old Timers Day display.
The home team is much changed from last week with Mitchell Gough, Pasia Tuva’a, Cole Stewart, Suitulaga Filemoni, debutant Ratu Bishop, and Sam Meo all coming in, and Andrew Jones and Nick Robertson amongst those absent. Lise Soloa starts at No8 in his 100th game for the Eagles in a team that’s largely the same personnel-wise as last week, but you wouldn’t rule out some last-minute switching as what happened last Saturday given what transpired.
Lise Soloa plays his 100th match tomorrow for HOBM against Poneke.
No fewer than six matches have interclub silverware in play tomorrow:
- Upper Hutt and Tawa contest their Mexted Motors Cup, donated by the famous family for competition between the two clubs in the areas their business operates. Tawa holds it after winning 29-14 last season
- Pare-Plim and Wainuiomata play for their Smith & Wilson Cup. A recent addition, it was donated by the-then coaches of the two Premier sides, Justin Wilson (now with HOBM) and Daniel Smith, Wainuiomata’s current coach. Pare-Plim hold it after their 22-15 win at William Jones last year, though Wainuiomata won their last meeting in the Hardham Cup playoffs
- The Ken Douglas Trophy is the prize for Norths and OBU. Douglas’ contributions to the trade union movement are well-known and saw him appointed to the Order of New Zealand – our highest honour – in 1999, as well as serving as a Porirua City councillor and director on several boards. His rugby contributions include a playing career with both Wellington College OB and Titahi Bay and was amongst those involved in the formation of Norths in 1989. Norths won this 34-32 in their run to the title last year, but it will be poignant occasion this time with Douglas having passed away last September aged 86.
- Petone and Avalon play for their Morgan Family Trophy, which principally honours Ray Morgan and his son Trevor. Ray played for Petone and later coached and served as treasurer and also held the latter role with the NZRFU. Trevor also played for Petone, and after marrying his wife Lauren joined Taita where he also played and became a Wellington representative, like his father coached and became club treasurer, and was an influential member of the group that led the merger with Naenae OB to create Avalon in 1979. Petone have had a stranglehold on this in recent years, but it’s not that long since Avalon won it on the Rec with a gritty defensive performance.
- Johnsonville and Wellington contest their Mick Kenny Memorial Cup. Kenny played for Johnsonville before WWII and the Axemen after it and seeing service during it in Africa and Italy. During that time, he was part of service teams that played for and won a trophy known as the Harper Lock Shield and was instrumental in having that trophy donated for competition in Wellington. Johnsonville hold this after winning 28-15 in last year’s opening round.
- And finally, Poneke and HOBM play for their Roy Johns Memorial Trophy, which was first played for in 1988. Exempted from war service due to his job as an ironworker, Johns won several club titles with Poneke during the 1940s and represented Wellington as well and was also an accomplished cricketer. Poneke won this 29-25 last season, but HOBM won their more recent meeting 24-19 in the first round of last year’s Jubilee Cup playoffs.
All seven matches are again scheduled for 2.45pm kick-offs.
Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield
With both Tawa and HOBM dropping points last weekend the table here has tightened up somewhat. HOBM will look to get back to winning ways after their upset loss to MSP, but face third-placed Poneke at Kilbirnie in the highlight game of the day in this grade. Tawa’s draw with Ories keeps their unbeaten run intact, but that might have exposed a chink in the armour for the Upper Hutt Rams to exploit when they meet at Maidstone. The fourth side amongst the leaders is Petone, and they should have an easier time of things when they welcome strugglers Avalon to the Rec.
Down the ladder there’s mid-table clashes between Ories and MSP at Polo with each looking to continue their momentum from last week, OBU travel out to Norths, and Pare-Plim and Wainuiomata meet at Ngati Toa. All six of these matches are at 1pm.
The seventh match is again in the later timeslot as the feature game of Old Timers Day at Delaney Park, with Stokes Valley – coming off impressive wins over MSP and Norths – taking on bottom-placed Johnsonville.
Premier Women’s Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy
The first piece of union silverware for the season will be handed over early tomorrow afternoon, but like last year there could be a three-way tie. Fortunately for the WRFU presenting contingent there’s only two venues they need to consider and those are only a few minutes’ drive apart,
One thing that is different this year is that the union has reverted to shared titles being possible again, something driven in part by last year’s situation that saw Norths declared the winners.
Norths (28) are in the box seat again and a win would remove all doubt and ensure that the trophy spends another summer at Porirua Park, but they meet Marist St Pat’s (25) in a repeat of last year’s championship final. The Scarlets need a result elsewhere to go their way if they are to be outright winners, but a bonus point win would ensure that they would share the title at worst.
The other contender is Petone (25) who are a short distance away at Ngati Toa Domain against Paremata-Plimmerton (10) and a bonus point win of their own would see them as joint-winners at worst as well, and outright winners if MSP win without a bonus point while denying Norths two of them.
In the other matches to conclude the round before it splits next week, HOBM/Wainui (5) are on the Hutt Rec against Oriental Rongotai (18), and Poneke (1) welcome Avalon (13) to Kilbirnie Park.
All four matches are at their usual 11.30am start time.
Colts Paris Memorial
Another Friday night start for the age-grade with three matches tonight. With Petone idle this week with the bye, HOBM will be looking to take sole possession when they take on Tawa at the NZCIS campus. OBU will be wanting to make ground on the leaders, and they host Wainuiomata at Rugby League Park, while Norths – coming off their upset win over MSP – take on Wellington on the artificial at Ascot Park with all three matches at 7.30pm.
Tomorrow’s matches has the young Battle of Kilbirnie between MSP and Poneke on Kilbirnie #2 while Ories make the trek out to Maidstone to take on the Upper Hutt Rams, with both matches kicking off at 1pm.
Under 85s JC Bowl
The highlight clash in the lightweights is out at Ngati Toa Domain, where fourth-placed home team Pare-Plim play host to the unbeaten OBU Scallywags. Poneke’s loss dropped them out of the joint-lead but are still second though face the challenge of an improving Petone at home at Kilbirnie, while Tawa are at home against Wellington at Lyndhurst.
Stokes Valley will look to get back on track when they host HOBM at Delaney as will Johnsonville when they make the short drive to the Cage at Ian Galloway to face Wests, while down the table MSP and Eastbourne meet at MacAlister Park.
All six matches are at 2.45pm.
The rugby community is being asked to come together and help out the Eastbourne and Western Suburbs Under 85kg teams for the balance of the season.
Both of these Clubs are doing it tough with player numbers this year, and without your support they may not be able to see the season through. This isn’t an ideal situation for anyone, and we all know how much you enjoy playing them, and the hospitality you receive at their clubrooms. Unlike you all, they don’t have the same ability to pull players from other teams so need to try other methods.
Could you please promote the attached social tile within your networks, and on your social media channels? We would love to drum up some extra players for both these teams.
Additionally, should you have more than 22 players regularly available each weekend, could you please consider ‘loaning’ these players to Eastbourne or Western Suburbs. Management will break down any barriers to allow for players to be loaned on a weekly or more longer term basis.
There are some really good people involved at both of these clubs who would be happy to discuss this further:
- Eastbourne: Willie Davis firstname.lastname@example.org or 027 294 5543
- Western Suburbs: Mark Caldwell email@example.com or 027 632 3227
With qualifying now complete, the Premiership and Premier 2 (along with the other divisions) grades kick into life in full. The Premiership has already started with Wellington College beating Town 16-14 in their annual Traditional match on Wednesday with the remaining for four matches tomorrow.
All nine of last year’s sides are back, joined by Tawa College who are back for the first time since 2020. Tawa’s return gets underway by hosting Rongotai, Mana starts by hosting Scots, and Hutt International meets St Bernard’s for the second time in three weeks only this time at the NZCIS Campus. The fifth match is slightly earlier at 1.00pm with Wairarapa coming over the Remutaka’s for an early test of their credentials at Silverstream.
In Premier 2 there at 1pm kick-offs for the Wellington College 2nds and Porirua at WC and Newlands at home against Naenae. At 2.30pm Hutt Valley HS are up against grade favourites the Silverstream 2nds and Aotea welcomes Paraparaumu south. The fifth match was to see the Town 2nds host Bishop Viard, but the latter are unable to field a team this week.
The second round of matches starts this weekend in Horowhenua-Kapiti. This week’s schedule has the dominant team so far, Rahui, at home against winless Wanderers, Levin COB are visited at the Domain by Shannon, and defending Premiers Waikanae hit the road to Foxton with Paraparaumu having the bye.
In Wairarapa-Bush Martinborough backed up their win over Pioneer in the Lane Penn Cup final with an even more dominant win over the same opposition on Saturday and shape as the team to beat, and tomorrow head away to face strugglers East Coast. First-up winners Marist and Greytown clash, Gladstone head to Eketahuna, and Pioneer return home to face Carterton.