Johnsonville and Wellington are both at home tomorrow, with the Hawks hosting Tawa and the Axemen playing Old Boys University.
- By Scott MacLean
Draws & Teamlists HERE
UPDATED: It’s shaping up as another damp weekend for rugby, but it’s doubtful that will change how teams up and down the grades will approach tomorrow given how they took to the first real winter weekend last Saturday. The schedule is full of interesting and intriguing matches that will make getting out worthwhile.
Two items of note: Firstly, its Old Timers’ Day at the province’s smallest club – Eastbourne, while several matches around the grounds will be controlled by referees from outside the province as the WRRA has another of its interchange weekends.
There’s also a centurion and a double centurion-reaching milestones tomorrow.
This week’s radio commentary match comes from the Petone Rec, where Petone host Wainuiomata for the Darren Larsen Trophy. On air from 2:00pm ahead of a 2:45 kick-off, and with Darren Larsen himself on the co-commentary. Tune in Te Upoko o Te Ika 87.6FM around the city, 1161AM and streaming Whare Korero and iHeart Radio.
Update #2 The top seating deck of the Petone Rec Grandstand has been closed by the Hutt Council due to concerns on the strength of the roof in an earthquake. There will be no access to the stand tomorrow for the Premier v Wainuiomata match.
Premier Swindale Shield
There’s a series of high-profile matches that make up tomorrow’s round, but we start this in the north of the province.
For the first time in the club’s history, Paremata-Plimmerton (35) are the outright leaders of the Swindale Shield. They, of course, would like to stay there but face the pressure of visiting their illustrious neighbours and it would be fair to say that while two sides are in very different positions to what we’ve become accustomed to over the years Northern United (12) will be in no mood to simply lie down and let themselves be marched over, let alone on their home patch. Fireworks may be expected!
The home side is largely unchanged from last week. Josiah Tevita-Metcalfe returns to the front row after being absent last week while Boston Hunt is back at lock after Sia Ulugia-Mao’s red card last Saturday. There will be a change at fullback as well with Jaxon Poutama ruled out for this week and Khayde Parata filling that role.. The Hammerheads are able to welcome back Pasilio Tosi with the notable inclusion of flanker Christian Fa’avae who played an NPC game for Taranaki last year. Sam Clarke is back in the 10 jersey as they revert to their twin-playmaker axis.
A short distance down the road at Helston Park is another match that has often been a foregone conclusion in recent years, but this time seems anything but. Johnsonville (27) and Tawa (27) share fifth on the table and both will be seeking the full allotment of competition points as they chase one of those top-four places that come with a life in the first week of the playoffs. With both sides in good recent form, this too could be well worth getting along to.
The Hawks make few changes from the side that beat Wellington, with Adney Roebeck and Tyler Hall returning to their forward pack and Jacob Walmsley returning to fullback after starting last week on the bench from where he still managed to nab a hattrick. Tawa are without captain Hugo Plummer so Akira Ieremia slips into lock and Matolu Petaia returns on the flank. They also have just one backline change with Hunter Sao getting the nod on the wing.
There’s a pair of matches out in the eastern suburbs. Old Boys-University’s (34) hard fought win over Norths moved them into second, and they make the short journey through to Hataitai Park to face Wellington (0), who came close to getting points on the board last Saturday. The Goats will be even-money favourites, but while the Axemen are already heading for the Hardham-tier they will certainly look to play spoilers in the weeks ahead.
As per it’s a re-shuffled Axemen side though the Will Cosgriff-Matt Day tandem remains intact and flyer Bede Murfitt is at fullback this week. Prop Cam Roseingrave will be after another try after crossing at Johnsonville, while openside flanker Ben Hendry is set to play his 100th Premier game for the club. As you’d expect OBU have made several changes for this game though Blake Love, who impressed against Norths last week, remains at No 8. Kyle Preston brings up 50 games against the side where his father is one of the assistant coaches.
Around the corner is one of those matches that people circle on the calendar when the draw comes out, the Battle of Kilbirnie between Marist St Pat’s (24) and Poneke (16) which this year is at Evans Bay Park. MSP’s battling defence of their lead against Ories might have laid to rest the demons of the week prior while Poneke’s recent revival was brought to a halt by HOBM. But despite that, there’s no match that either club gets up for more than this one so anything can happen.
MSP bring young gun Jack O’Brien back into centre with Ben Tuiatua switching to the wing while Jacob Dunn and debutant Christopher Simone come into their pack. Poneke are still missing some vastly experienced people and add Cole Stewart top that list this week. Ezekiel Fiso takes on the captaincy and they bring back in Maea Tema-Schmidt and Abraham Mataitini to add some steel to their forwards
The remaining three matches are all in the Hutt Valley, with all five Hutt teams. The Upper Hutt Rams (32) narrow loss to Tawa dropped them to third, and although they have a bit of a buffer back to Petone in fourth they will not want to use that up against Avalon (7) when they head down the valley to Fraser Park. Each side will have their own motivations here, even if for the Wolves its also to play spoiler now.
The home side are largely unchanged with Pena Sione in at No.8, Daniel Sinkinson at fullback, and Ilai Maravu in the midfield. That last move allows Garry Tuilekutu to move back to the wing where he’s arguably far more dangerous. The Rams hand the keys to former Johnsonville 85s pivot Zyrus Grace who has been in tremendous form for their Premier 2s, while standout prop Senio Sanele is bracketed and likely a game day decision. Veteran duo James Norman and Josh Hunt are on the bench.
South of the Hutt River Petone (28) are at home against a valley opponent for the second successive week, only this time it’s Wainuiomata (9) who come over the Hill. The visitors have hit some dark times since their bright start to the year but taking down their big brother in the lower valley would certainly improve their mood. For their part, Petone are still in with a chance of retaining the Swindale Shield but that could rely on taking maximum points the rest of the way.
The Villagers make several changes from the team the beat Avalon. Veteran duo Ryan Imrie and Marcus Roil return to the front row, and Cam Ferreira is back at halfback. Mason Henry starts on the openside in his Blazer (50th) game. Wainuiomata too have changes from the side that went down to Pare-Plim, but the big feature here is the inclusion in their midfield of Hurricanes duo Peter Umaga-Jensen and Bailyn Sullivan, and their clash with ‘Canes teammate Riley Higgins and Lester Maulolo should be well worth the watch.
And last but certainly not least is the clash across the river at the Hutt Rec between Hutt Old Boys Marist (21) and Oriental Rongotai (25). Another of those matches people look for in the schedule it comes this time with the added spice of both sides hanging around that eighth spot that gives a chance at the big prize. The last of the years “Battles of the Birds”, the Eagles have taken flight since their rough start to the season and won four of their last five, while the Magpies might be keen to get away from Polo for once having lost there the past two weeks.
Aside from the regular rotation of their locks – Teofilo Paulo and Aisea Mafileo are there this week – the only change to the starting side from last week for the Eagles is Zane Ainslie returning to fullback. Jordan Gillies returns to rugby from the bench. The Magpies make just a couple of personnel changes with Sammy Se’au swapping in for Ronaldo Seumanufagai and Sam Tautiaga in on the wing with Daniel Tafili moving into centre.
In something of a rarity, each game this week has interclub silverware being played for:
- Norths and Pare-Plim will contest their Ivan Hardgrave Trophy. Hardgrave was administrator at the old Titahi Bay club and a Porirua City Councillor for several terms. He put the trophy up for a Ranfurly Shield-type competition between the four Western Bays clubs – Tawa, Titahi Bay, Porirua, and Pare-Plim – but it is now contested only by the latter. Norths have held this for every year it’s been contested at Premier-level, with Pare-Plim’s last win coming in 2014 in the last year of the old Senior 1 comp against Norths’ second side
- The Carman Cup is at stake between Johnsonville and Tawa. Arthur Carman was Johnsonville member who served as Tawa’s first patron after their entry to the WRFU in 1947 was sponsored by their neighbours, and an editor – including the Rugby Almanack – and publisher. It too has been held by Tawa for many years
- As highly contested as any is the Horan-Millar Trophy, the prize for MSP and Poneke. Marist’s Mick Horan and Poneke’s Ken Millar were great adversaries on the field and friends off it, both hard men of the game of the 50s and 60s, and both decorated with Life Membership by their clubs. Their passings, within weeks of each other in 1982 and far too early, were terrific blows to the rugby community. Poneke are the holders after winning 31-29 on their side of Evans Bay Parade last year
- Wellington and OBU contest their Dean Gifford Memorial Cup. A police officer, Gifford played for many clubs including MSP, Ories, and the Petone Police side, but played at Premier level for both OBU and the Axemen. Currently held by OBU, it was first played for in 2013 after Gifford’s passing the year before after a battle with cancer
- The Harper Vine Trophy is what Avalon and the Upper Hutt Rams play for. Donated by their families, it commemorates Taita’s Tammy Harper and his intense rivalry with Bob Vine of Upper Hutt. Harper was later the first person elected as a Life Member of the merged Avalon club with Vine also honoured by Upper Hutt. The trophy is held by Upper Hutt
- Petone and Wainuiomata play for their Darren Larsen Cup. Now a leading coach at the professional level with the Hurricanes, Larsen was a front-rower for Wainuiomata who made his name in the coaching ranks with several roles at Petone. The Villagers are the holders
- And lastly, the Bondy Memorial Cup is in play for HOBM and Ories. Don Bond did almost everything there was to do at Oriental and Oriental Rongotai from player to Patron and was awarded Life Membership. He passed in 2011 just weeks before his beloved club claimed the one prize that had eluded him in life: the Jubilee Cup. HOBM however hold this trophy after their 22-12 win at Polo last year.
All seven matches are at their usual 2.45pm kickoff time
Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield
Tawa resumed their place at the summit with their win over Upper Hutt and will be odds-on to stay there when they meet Johnsonville at Helston even after the Hawks dragged themselves off the foot of the table with their upset win over Stokes Valley last Saturday. Poneke and Petone are the main chasers with the Villagers at home to winless Wainuiomata while Poneke have the more difficult assignment heading across Evans Bay Parade and fifth-placed MSP. HOBM’s loss to Poneke drops them to fourth and they face sixth-placed Ories.
Upper Hutt will look to bounce back when they visit bottom-side Avalon at Fraser Park while the other two matches are between the sides in 8th to 11th as Pare-Plim visits Norths and, in the only 2.45pm kickoff, OBU venture to Fraser Park to play Stokes Valley, owing to
Premier Women’s Tia Passi Memorial and Izzy Ford Cup
The grade splits after last week’s conclusion to the first round Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy, and the two teams that shared that title meet at Petone in the opening round of the Tia Passi Memorial with the Ponies taking on Marist St Pat’s and looking to repeat their win from their meeting earlier in the year. Norths will want to rebound from their loss to MSP which saw them miss out on retaining that silverware when they host Oriental Rongotai at Porirua Park.
The latter game sees North stalwart front-rower Patsy Schwalger reach 200 matches for the side.
The two Izzy Ford Cup matches see HOBM/Wainui face Avalon at the Hutt Rec, while Poneke hosts Paremata-Plimmerton at Kilbirnie in the other.
All four matches are at their usual 11.30am start time
Colts Paris Memorial
Another bumper Friday night with four matches under lights from 7.30pm. Leaders HOBM head over the Haywards to face Norths at Ascot Park as do the Upper Hutt Rams who head for Lyndhurst and a meeting with Tawa, and Ories welcome minnows Wainuiomata to Te Whaea. The fourth match is a local derby between Wellington and Poneke at Hataitai Park where they’ll play for the Misiluni Moananu Memorial Shield, honouring the late Poneke prop who was also involved with the Axemen at the end of his career.
The sole match tomorrow is at the Petone Rec where the only other unbeaten side, Petone, returns from the bye to face MSP at 1pm. OBU has the bye this week.
Under 85kg JC Bowl
The OBU Scallywags have sailed clear at the top of the standings, and they go in search of further points tomorrow against midtable Johnsonville at Newlands Park. Poneke are back in second and face fourth-placed Stokes Valley at Kilbirnie Park, while its fifth vs third when Pare-Plim and Tawa clash at Ngati Toa. Further down the table Petone welcomes Wellington to the south side of the Hutt River with HOBM and MSP on the north side, and Eastbourne and Wests meet at HW Shortt for Eastbourne’s Old Timers’ Day.
All six matches are scheduled for 2.45pm starts.
With the Under 15s having completed grading, all grades are now in their competitions proper. The Premiership round starts off at 12.30pm when St Bernard’s and Mana – who took the Beard Trophy midweek – meet on the main ground at the Hutt Rec. Over in Masterton it’s a 1pm start for Wairarapa College and Town while the remaining games are all at 2.45pm. Competition favourites Silverstream are now at home against newcomers Tawa College owing to the latters grounds being closed, Hutt International head into the south of the city to take on Rongotai, and out in Strathmore is the feature clash of the day with Scots hosting Wellington College.
In Premier 2 one game this round has already been played, with Porirua beating Newlands 61-19 on Tuesday in a game that also doubled as a Coed Cup match. It’s an early start for the Silverstream and Wellington College 2nd XVs at 11am, followed at 1pm by Naenae and Aotea in the Hutt with the Town 2nds are up the coast to face Paraparaumu. The remaining match is at 2.45pm when Bishop Viard hosts Hutt Valley HS, which is also a Coed Cup fixture.
The next round of the Premiership comes around quickly, with Wellington College and Rongotai facing off in their annual Traditional match on Wednesday with a 12.15pm kickoff.
If seeing the country’s elite rising talent interests you then there’s a pair of matches over the next week for you as the New Zealand Under 20s take on their Australian counterparts. The first of those is Monday at 2pm at the CIS campus in Trentham with the second next Saturday afternoon at Sky Stadium as the curtain-raiser to the Hurricanes clash with the Crusaders.
There are two Ramsbotham Trophy matches in Horowhenua-Kapiti tomorrow, both on the Kapiti Coast. At Waikanae Park, the home side hosts the Paraparaumu Solidiers in the battle of the Expressway, and at Otaki Domin, competition leaders Rahui will want to extend their winning run when they host Shannon. Foxton and Levin Wanderers play next week in the one scheduled King’s Birthday Weekend fixture.