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Blockbuster King’s Birthday weekend of rugby lined up [updated]

Ories and Avalon meet in a crunch match at Fraser Park tomorrow, while HOBM travel to Tawa in a similarly key encounter for both sides,and in hopefully kinder weather conditions after rain over the past two weekends. Photo: Caroline Lewis.

  • By Scott MacLean

Draws & Results HERE 

 Afternoon tea Friday edition: The first iteration of King’s Birthday in over 70 years brings with it a reduced schedule of matches but also the hope of better weather than we’ve had the past two weeks, even if it’s still going to be soggy underfoot for what shapes as a pivotal round across several grades.

This week’s radio commentary match comes from Maidstone Park, where the Upper Hutt Rams host Johnsonville. 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

With four rounds remaining, it seems that the Swindale Shield race has settled down to three contenders though a fourth, holders Petone, are still in the fight.

Leading the pack is Paremata-Plimmerton (40) who will be well-buoyed by their debut win over Norths with a performance described by one observer as “the perfect execution of a game-plan tailored to the conditions”. They return home to Ngati Toa Domain this week to face another opponent they’ve never beaten in Marist St Pat’s (29), who after their win over Poneke sit in sixth and are within range of those precious top four places but also have little breathing room between themselves and that dreaded ninth spot.

The Hammerheads have three changes to the side that beat Norths; Willie Va’alepu returns at lock, Alex Hinchliffe at openside, and Ethan Webster-Nonu in midfield. Christian Fa’avae, who impressed in his debut last week, drops out with an injury suffered at training. The visitors make a single personnel change, with Milan Kriletich back in the #7 jersey and James and Lucky Tuiatua shuffling places in the loose trio. 150-gamers Andrew Wells and Isaia Petelo again form the core of their backline.

Sitting just a point behind are Old Boys-University (39), who make the short journey across to Kilbirnie Park to take on Poneke (16). Despite injuries and absences, the Goats keep on rolling, but after this weekend have a difficult run-in and should they lift the Swindale once more they’ll have earned it. Last week’s loss put a significant dent in Poneke’s top-eight hopes and another one here will likely extinguish them completely, so motivation should be easy for coach Reg Goodes to find.

The host are still without Andrew Jones, Cole Stewart, and Nick Robertson. Connor Strang, Nathan Marsh, and George Jacobs all come into this week’s starting pack, while Saimoa Siale makes his first Premier start in nearly two years on the left wing. OBU revert more to their normal side after playing Wellington with a return to the side for try-scoring prop Samson Koneferenisi and centre Ty Poe. Club chairman Te Wehi Wright starts on the left wing while Callum Harkin’s return from injury will come from the bench.

Last week’s battling win over Avalon would be another reminder to the resurgent Upper Hutt Rams (36) that very little in this competition can be taken for granted, and they’ll get another taste of that tomorrow when they welcome Johnsonville (31) to Maidstone Park. The Rams remain in the hunt to claim a prize they haven’t lifted since 2005 but, like OBU, also face a tough finish. The Hawks however have lost only once in the past six weeks – that coming in agonising fashion against the competition leaders – and have the belief they can beat anyone after taking down Tawa last Saturday.

The Rams make several changes from last week. Up front Josh Houston-Tupou and Jared Woodward come in at hooker and blindside respectively, while in the backs Tynan Barrett and Zyrus Grace swap places and Kaide McCashin is back at halfback. The Hawks stick with their well-functioning backline while in the pack Regan Herbert switches from hooker to No.8 with Raja Sami returning to the rake spot in the front row.

Of all the contenders, it’s Petone (33) who have the most straightforward assignment tomorrow as they take on strugglers Wellington (0). However, with the Petone Rec out of commission, this is across the river in ‘enemy’ territory for the Villagers on the Hutt Rec instead. That facet aside, the Villagers might relish the better field and probably won’t mind getting acclimated with the place since they’ll be back there next week for the McBain. For the Axemen it’s another chance to get some points on the board and some confidence ahead of the Hardham playoffs in a few weeks.

As with most teams that are facing Wellington at present, Petone have made a few changes from last week. Amongst them Iona Apineru makes his first start of the year at lock, Jono Bailey makes his starting debut, and Taylor Henry starts in midfield in place of Riley Higgins. Pek Cowan is again on the bench alongside Stanley Solomon, with Max Hosking and Colts captain Connor Tuifao in line for their Premier debuts. As per it’s another revamped lineup for Wellington, though ever-presents Will Cosgriff and Cameron Roseingrave are again in the side.

Further down the table however, there’s a real battle brewing as four doesn’t go into three for those Jubilee playoff places. Along with MSP above and Ories below are Tawa and Hutt Old Boys Marist (both on 26), who meet at Lyndhurst Park. After three weeks away that netted wins over Ories and Upper Hutt before last week’s loss to Johnsonville, the home side will be happy to get back to the leafy confines of home. But in their first defence of the Bill Brien Challenge Cup since taking it from the Rams, they would rather they didn’t have to face an Eagles side that have thrown off the shackles of their early season malaise and has scored freely over the past month.

The home side have just two changes from the side that went down at Helston, both at lock where Hemi Fermanis and Tito Ioane come in, while there’s a boost for them on the bench with Tofuka Paonga back in action. The visitors swap out their whole front row which includes a return to action for abrasive hooker Ben Power, while Zane Ainslie is named again to return at fullback, pushing Sapati Tagoai to centre and Justin Wilson onto the wing.

Losses the last three weeks have seen Oriental Rongotai (26) dragged from being Swindale contenders to now fighting for a chance at the Jubilee Cup. They too have a difficult run-in which makes getting maximum points away at Fraser Park against second-bottom Avalon (7) vital, but the Wolves record is somewhat unflattering as most sides this year have found them to be difficult opponents for long stretches of matches. The Magpies could have their work cut out for themselves and if they’re low on confidence the Wolves will look to pounce.

Avalon make a few changes; amongst those veteran Ryan Nepia again starts at hooker, Koli Bower is on the openside, and Jordan Aquila moves back into the #10 jersey. The return of Ezra Sione-Leota should provide some spark from the back as well. Ories coach Mason Malagamaali’I has changed up most of his forward pack with loose forwards Ronaldo Seumanufagai and Siaosi Lavea amongst those back in. There’s also a new midfield with Alex Ropeti making his first start after returning to the club last week alongside Teni Tautau’a.

And lastly in this preview it’s over the Hill Road to William Jones for two sides that are almost certainly out of the Jubilee Cup hunt. Both Wainuiomata (9) and Norths (12) would have liked to have enjoyed better seasons so far, but each will be looking for a win to provide a bit of brightness and to get themselves heading in the right direction ahead of their very likely Hardham Cup matches.

Norths have been bit by injuries once more, so much so that assistant coach Aiden Cains is lacing up the boots and will start at hooker for the first time since 2016. Parekura Lalaga is named to return after being a late scratch last week. Dion Lealofi will play his 150th game for Wainuiomata at hooker, who also have Peter Umaga-Jensen with them for another week.

As well as the Bill Brien, there’s three other interclub trophies in play this weekend:

  • Poneke and OBU contest the Beet Algar Rosebowl. A hugely influential part of Poneke’s history Beethoven Algar (yes, named for the composer), was a Poneke player and senior captain, Wellington representative, and an All Black in and after the WWI-era; and after retiring a long-serving administrator for the club and was its Patron at the time of his passing in 1989. OBU are the holders however, after winning 51-18 at Nairnville last season.
  • Petone and Wellington play for their Bill Francis/Jack Taylor Trophy. Donated in 2017, it commemorates two members of the Axemen’s long history who both played for the All Blacks while at the club: Francis immediately prior to WWI and Taylor before WWII. Petone won this 71-17 last year, and it is one of two trophies the great old clubs play for – the other is the Air New Zealand Trophy which is played for across all meetings over the season.
  • Wainuiomata and Norths have their Alf Keating Memorial Trophy. Keating played for both clubs with the trophy donated after his passing. Norths hold it after their 62-14 win last year which came during their run over the second half of the season that carried them to the Jubilee Cup.

All matches are again at 2.45pm

Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield

The leading four sides have largely cleared out from the pack at the head of the second-tier table, but these sides remain closely bunched. Tawa’s (41) lead has shrunk to one point after their narrow win against Johnsonville and their long unbeaten streak will face another test as fourth-placed HOBM (35) come to Lyndhurst Park. Of the other top-four sides Petone (40) are on the ‘neutral’ territory of the Hutt Rec against Stokes Valley (26), with Poneke (39) at home on Kilbirnie for the visit of OBU (21). The Upper Hutt Rams (27) will look to claw back some of the gap to the leaders when they host Johnsonville (5), MSP (25) make the trip to Ngati Toa and a midtable meeting with Pare-Plim (21), and Avalon (3) and Wainuiomata (3) each go again in their search for their first wins when they host Ories (24) at Fraser Park and Norths (20) at Mary Crowther respectively.

All seven matches are at 1pm this week.

Premier Women’s Tia Passi Memorial and Izzy Ford Cup

Last week’s two winners of the opening round of the Tia Passi Memorial, Oriental Rongotai and Marist St Pats, provide the feature clash of the day in the Women’s grade when they meet at the Polo Ground while Petone and Norths will look to get on the board when they clash out at the NZCIS campus.

The two Izzy Ford Cup matches sees last week’s only winning side – the HOBM/Wainuiomata combined team – head into the city to face Poneke, with Avalon going over the Haywards to take on Paremata-Plimmerton at Ngati Toa Domain.

Ories’ Barbra Taumoli becomes the clubs latest centurion as she plays her 100th game for the Magpies.

All four matches are at the regular 11.30am start time

Colts Paris Memorial

Once again, the Colts action is split between tonight and tomorrow afternoon, with two matches under the lights. Unbeaten Petone and perennial contenders OBU take to the CIS campus in Trentham while MSP and Ories clash at Rugby League Park, both at 7.30pm. Wellington and the Upper Hutt Rams were also meant to meet at Hataitai, but a numbers crunch has forced the Axemen to concede a default.

Tomorrow’s two matches have leaders HOBM at home on the Hutt Rec against Poneke, while Wainuiomata go in search of their first win when they meet Norths at Mary Crowther with both games at 1pm. Tawa has the bye this week.

Under 85kg JC Bowl

The lightweights are into the run home in the first-round JC Bowl with tomorrow the eighth round of 11. Leaders the OBU Scallywags are at home against midtable HOBM, while chasers Poneke have already banked the five points with Wests defaulting. Tawa head for Delaney Park and a meeting with Stokes Valley. There’s another midtable clash as Petone host Pare-Plim (at 1pm) on the only relatively dry piece of ground at the Petone Rec, Eastbourne will look to back up their Old Timers Day win over Wests with another over Johnsonville at home at HW Shortt, and Wellington and MSP take to MacAlister Park.


One game is already done in this round of the Premiership, with Wellington College having rebounded from last Saturday’s loss to Scots by thrashing Rongotai 60-0 in their annual Traditional clash on Wednesday. Tomorrow’s matches have Scots heading west to Evans Bay and a meeting with St Pats Town, Silverstream are at home once more for the visit of fellow valley school St Bernard’s, and the third unbeaten side so far, Hutt International are at the nearby CIS campus to meet Tawa College, all at 2.30pm. The fifth match of the round between Mana and Wairarapa College has been deferred to a later date.

One match has also been completed in Premier 2, with Aotea getting back on track yesterday afternoon with a 27-5 win over Porirua. Tomorrow’s remaining matches are all at 1pm with unbeaten duo Paraparaumu and Naenae meeting up the coast while the third unbeaten – competition favourites the Silverstream 2nds – are away at minnows Newlands. The St Pats Town 2nds are at home on Evans Bay against HVHS, while the Wellington College 2nds home clash with Bishop Viard has been moved to the latter’s ground owing to the state of their own.

The Under 15 and all weight grades have the long weekend off, bar one Under 55kg game that is being played.

There are a trio of 1st XV fixtures next week. On Tuesday Hutt Valley HS hosts Whanganui High in their sports exchange while there are a few matches on Wednesday. Tawa and Wairarapa College also have their annual match which this year doubles as their Premiership encounter originally scheduled for the 17th, Hato Paora are back in town after their loss to Mana last week this time to face the Silverstream 2nd XV and brining their Under 15s with them, and later Mana and Porirua meet at Ngati Toa Domain for the third Beard Trophy match of the year, which is also a Coed Cup semifinal. The other Coed semi is the following Wednesday between Hutt Valley HS and Tawa. There’s also a Girls 1st XV game of note as Sacred Heart, who pushed St Mary’s last Wednesday, takes on Manawatu powerhouse Manukura at the Hutt Rec.


King’s Birthday provides a break in both the Wairarapa-Bush and Horowhenua-Kapiti competitions. There’s no rugby at all over the Remutaka’s and just one game up the coast with Levin Wanderers hosting Foxton at the Levin Domain in the feature game of their 125th Anniversary weekend celebrations.

Hurricanes and U20s

A double header at Wellington Stadium tomorrow.

The New Zealand U20s play the Junior Wallabies in their second international match. Kick-off is at 4.30pm, so rugby supporters can catch this on their television monitors at clubrooms.

The Hurricanes play the Crusaders in a match that will help determine the quarter-final standings for next week’s Super Rugby knockout matches. Kick-off is 7.05pm.

Aisle be Back: Hurricanes v Crusaders and NZ U20s

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