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Sideline Conversions 12 June (some rugby news and happenings to start the week)

Old Boys University halfbacks Tomasi Palu (left) and Kyle Preston, with Dave Loveridge, after Loveridge’s Testimonial match on Saturday. OBU wore Inglewood-themed jerseys for the occasion. 

Morning edition: Two weekends of the Premier Swindale Shield to go, and the Women’s Division 1 and 2 championship finals this coming Saturday.

The Division 1 Tia Paasi final is between Marist St Pat’s and Petone and the Division 2 Izzy Ford Cup decider is betweenParemata-Plimmerton and HOBM/Wainuiomata.

This weekend’s penultimate round Swindale Shield matches at a glance are:

#1 – HOBM v Norths
#2 – J’ville v Avalon
#3 – Ories v Poneke
#4 – Pare-Plim v Petone
#5 – Upper Hutt Rams v OBU
#6 – Wainui v Marist St Pat’s
#7 – Wellington v Tawa

More information later in the week, but more famous interclub trophies or ones named after famous people this Saturday. The Oriental-Rongotai – Poneke fixture is for the Jimmy Grbich Memorial Trophy, the Paremata-Plimmerton – Petone game is for the Ken Gray Cup, the Wellington v Tawa match is for the Mexted Cup and the Wainuiomata – MSP game is for the Rona-Morrisey Cup.

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Midweek First XV rugby on Wednesday sees Wellington College hosting St Pat’s Silverstream. Kick-off at the Dufferin St establishment is set down for 12.45pm.

There is also a Co-ed Cup semi-final on Wednesday at 3.30pm between Hutt Valley High School and Tawa College at HVHS.

A full round of girls schoolgirl rugby this Wednesday, with St Mary’s and Sacred Heart Colleges meeting in the feature match at Kelburn Park at 4.00pm.

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In the First XV Premiership, St Patrick’s College, Silverstream, and Scots College appear on a crash course to meet in their fifth Premiership final since 2014 judging by results in the opening month of the Premiership. Both schools have averaged over 50 points a game in four resounding victories each.

Wairarapa College is a big chance of making the semi-finals of the Premiership for the first time since 2016 after beating St Pat’s Town (for the first time in the Premiership) and Wellington College in their first five matches. Their remaining fixtures are against Scots College, HIBS, St Bernard’s, College, and Rongotai College. It seems unlikely they’d beat Scots, but the remaining three matches are winnable. HIBS are 3-1 at present. If they can repeat their win over Wellington College on July 22, they too will go very close to the semis.

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It might be four into three in the middle of the Swindale Shield table for those last Jubilee Cup playoff spots between MSP, Ories, Tawa, and HOBM, but there’s an equally intriguing battle between Petone, Johnsonville, and the Upper Hutt Rams for the two places in the top-four. But even then, Pare-Plim and OBU aren’t yet assured of those either.

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In 2017 when Petone last beat HOBM at the Hutt Rec for the McBain Shield, Lester Maulolo and Losi Filipo both scored tries in their 49-31 win. Six years later on the Hutt Rec, they both score tries again in their first win since with the score almost identical 49-32. A lot has happened in those six years, Carne Green was a trim halfback, Stanley Solomon hadn’t started college and Eugene Smith was still playing!

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A bumper Old Timers’ Day at Fraser Park, where the home side Avalon scored a try a few minutes from fulltime to lock up a 26-26 draw with Wainuiomata. The match saw Wainuiomata wing Niko Paletesio score the first of his two tries almost from the opening whistle. This was for the Anthony Waldrom Trophy. This was the second draw in the Swindale Shield this season, following Johnsonville and Marist St Pat’s’ 31-31 result in round 4.

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The shadows descend on Lyndhurst Park quickly on a sunny day this time of year.

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Tawa welcomed back PJ Sheck, who has been with the Highlanders. His presence over the next several weeks will be big for them, assuming they can make the Jubilee Cup round. Which other players can we expect back in the competition from Super Rugby over the next few weeks, and what difference will they make?

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The Tawa Second XV went a long way to defending their Harper Lock Shield first round Premier 2 title on Saturday with their 26-8 win over Poneke, after Poneke had scored on halftime to lead 8-7 at the interval. This extends their unbeaten run (including two draws) to 45 by our count. They need to beat mid-table contenders Stokes Valley and Northern United in the next fortnight to win the HLS.

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Also on unbeaten streaks, the Petone Colts lost their first game this season on Saturday to HOBM in the Paris Memorial Trophy By our count, their unbeaten streak was stopped at 25 matches.

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Some special kudos to Wellington Axeman front-rower Cameron Roseingrave. The Daniel Baldwin Memorial Trophy wasn’t scheduled to be played for, on account of Pare-Plim not having a Colts team this year. But Roseingrave – who was the Axemen’s Colts captain on that fateful day – made sure it was by pointing out that Baldwin was as much an Under 85s player as a Colts one and after burning up the phone lines ensured it was on the line when the two clubs lightweight teams met on Saturday. Pare-Plim won 34-5.

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Here at Club Rugby Towers we love ambition, and we love dropped goals. But Ories Premier 2 fullback Johnson Ifopo’s attempt when he lined one up from 60m at Rugby League Park on Saturday might have been stretching things a bit too far.

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Get Cody Quin an ice bath. Another full-throttle effort for the OBU loosie on Saturday playing as an undersized No.8 against that big Ories pack.

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In a span of 24 matches, Kyle Preston has scored 25 tries for OBU. Fittingly he scored one in the Trapper Testominal on Saturday.

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Congratulations to Oriental-Rongotai Women’s halfback/fullback Reijeli Uluinayau for playing her 150th club match on Saturday.

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Old Boys University halfback Kyle Preston and Upper Hutt Rams No. 8 Toby Crosby are the joint leading try-scorers after 11 rounds of 13 of the Swindale Shield. Both have scored 13 tries. The Rams’ Tynan Barrett (145) and Johnsonville’s Mark Sutton (140) are both closing in on 150 points for the season.

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A Billy Wallace Best & Fairest competition update?

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Some movement in the Reserve Grade standings, with the MSP Internationals beating the Upper Hutt Rams J8s 17-15 on Saturday to inflict their first defeat on them this season. The Johnsonville Cripples hold a 5-point buffer at the top of the standings to the second placed J8s after Johnsonville beat the Upper Hutt Rams Pirates team 32-17. The Cripples have yet to have their bye though, so a close competition is unfolding.

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A short thread seen on Twitter late last week suggesting that the structure of the professional rugby season is going to change, with international rugby played towards the start of the year and Super Rugby pushed out further into the middle of the year. What would that do to both the NPC and community rugby season?

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A month today until the Wellington Lions defend the Ranfurly Shield for the first time this year, taking the show on the road to Levin for their first defence against Horowhenua-Kapiti on Wednesday 12 July.

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The Wellington Pride squad’s naming is imminent as well, as their NPC season starts in a few weeks.

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The Wellington Lions squad will be selected soon too. Any players from club rugby who will be selected for the first time? It will depend on which positions they are short of, then it could be deduced from there who might be in the running.

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Lost in all the McBain hype was that there was a second trophy being played for, the Bill Brien Challenge Cup, with HOBM having taken that from Tawa last week. With Petone winning that, it’s now locked away at North Park for the summer as the Villagers remaining Swindale fixtures are away at Ngati Toa Domain and Evans Bay.

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Déjà vu for the Hurricanes in Canberra. Eliminated by the Brumbies in the Super Rugby quarterfinals following an epic tussle at GIO Stadium.  In an eerily similar fashion to 2022, there was a late concession of points that wasn’t clawed back despite a herculean effort from captain Ardie Savea.

The Hurricanes end 2023 with a 9-6 record. Last week’s victory against the Crusaders (27-26) is an obvious highlight in an otherwise frustrating campaign that saw them go 0-4 against the Chiefs and the Blues and lose to Fijian Dura in Suva. The Hurricanes scored 140 points in two games against Moana Pasifika. The Jason Holland era ends with a 32-25 record.  No Ardie Savea or Dane Coles next year and will TJ Perenara return?

Progression

Cam Roigard – Deserves team MVP and must be close to All Blacks selection. The most effective running halfback in the country scored 9 tries and showed he can distribute quickly and clear effectively with the left foot. An outstanding season. If TJ Perenara had been available for selection nobody would have bemoaned Roigard as a starter.

Kini Naholo – Finally over the worst of his horrific injuries, got busy and scored an equal team-leading 9 tries.

Brayden Iose – Only missed one game and earned six starts. His tries against the Chiefs and Crusaders were world-class. If he can stay injury free and earn regular minutes next season, he could emerge as an All Blacks contender.

Caleb Delaney – Injury ruined two-thirds of the season but when he returned, he emerged as a reliable source of lineout ball. Busy, calculated, and effective.

Du’Plessis Kirifi – With 162 tackles ranked 9th in Super Rugby for most tackles. Always a hive of energy was more disciplined and effective at the breakdown this season. A strong contender to replace Ardie Savea as captain.

Regression

Julian Savea – Is it time to park the bus? Would, the Crusaders have hung onto an ageing veteran this long? It’s been a wonderful career, but his error-ridden display in the 36-25 loss to the Blues was like watching an ageing prize-fighter fizzle out. He needs one more try to break the all-time competition record.

Bailyn Sullivan & Peter Umaga-Jensen – Injury played its part in hampering both midfielders, but both were a long way from attaining previous heights. Umaga-Jensen is a shadow of the player he was when he became an All Black in 2020 while Sullivan hasn’t grown from a breakout 2022 season.

Asafo Aumua – Was generally very good in 2023 but his nightmare against the Blues reinforced lingering doubts about his lineout-throwing ability under pressure. It seems likely Dane Coles will edge Aumua for the third All Black hooker.

Josh Moorby – Was far from awful but reminiscent of Andre Taylor went from electric one season to somewhat subdued the following year. His try against the Chiefs in Hamilton was an absolute classic and suggests he has the talent too because an All Black in future in the stars align and the competition in his position reduces.

Aidan Morgan – De-selected from the matchday 23 entirely following misfiring displays in defeats to the Chiefs and Blues. It’s important to stress Morgan is young but the backline looked a different beast when Brett Cameron was running it. Morgan often struggled for confidence and never looked particularly threatening.

Salesi Rayasi – Scores tries for fun for Auckland (34 in 43 games) but is temperamental in Super Rugby. Possibly as talented as Mark Telea and Leicester Fainga’anuku he lacks their consistency and killer instinct.

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Australian teams are 0-15 in Super Rugby playoff matches in New Zealand since 1996.

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The Crusaders are 28-0 at home in Super Rugby playoff matches.

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Lincoln University beat Marist Albion 31-24 in a top-end Canterbury Metro clash on Saturday. There were four rolling maul tries and Marist Albion was keen to put the key in the ingestion and the ball in the boot and drive all day. The rolling maul disease is rife!

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Palmerston North Old Boys Marist continue to set the pace in Manawatu Senior 1 [Premier] club rugby this year, and are on the track to add the championship to their first round title.

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Defending champions Manukau Rovers are clearly the best team in Auckland in 2023, and in fact could be the most dominant team in all competitions around the country this season.

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Napier Boys’ High School beat Hastings Boys’ High School 24-18 in their Hawke’s Bay-featured Super 8 clash on Saturday.

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The last word: why is the mainstream media so obsessed with professional sport? Listening to radio shows and watching television sports news over the weekend, it is the same old format and tired clichés.

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