The HOBM Eagles return home to the Hutt Rec tomorrow to play Northern United, while Petone are over the hill to face Paremata-Plimmerton.
By Scott MacLean
Draws & Teamlists (as received) HERE
It shapes as a decisive round across the grades where much can be decided or perhaps not much at all, especially in the Swindale and Harper Lock Shields.
The first pieces of championship silverware will be handed out tomorrow as the Women’s finals take place at the CIS campus in Upper Hutt, with MSP and Petone vying for the crown for 2023.
Elsewhere it’s the last of the years Old Timers’ Days with festivities at both Johnsonville and Oriental Rongotai on what shapes as a glorious winter’s day for rugby.
This week’s radio commentary match comes from Ngati Toa Domain, where Paremata-Plimmerton hosts Petone for the Ken Gray Cup. 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
Will the Swindale go down to a single showdown match next week between the leading pair, or will tomorrow’s matches throw up a twist? There’s only one way we’re going to find out.
Likewise, there’s a four-way scrap going on for three places to make the cut to even have a crack at the Jubilee Cup, though Upper Hutt aren’t completely clear of that either. It should be an enthralling day.
The eyes though are drawn to the northern reaches of the province for two matches involving four of the current top five. Leaders Paremata-Plimmerton (50) return to their Ngati Toa shark tank after beating Wellington but face a totally different challenge as third-placed Petone (43) come to visit. The Villagers still have faint hopes of winning the Swindale but need to win this and for the Rams to tip over OBU, but more realistically there’s locking in one of those top four places and even possibility hosting one of those games. For the Hammerheads a win is obviously the desired outcome, but a loss still leaves them with a chance of the Swindale next week against the Goats.
The home side are able to bring back those players that they rested last week in Luke Omeri, Esi Komaisavai, Louis Northcott, and Joe Faleafaga, while they also get back Hurricanes prop Pasilio Tosi. The Sam Clarke-Dale Sabbagh axis is restored the five-eighths while there’s a name of interest on their bench in the well-travelled Leni Apisai. Petone are almost that same XV as started the McBain, though Jarrod Hrstich and an injured Riley Higgins drop out and are replaced by Teddi Hern and Taylor Henry respectively. Cam Ferriera retains the halfback jersey with Logan Henry on the bench, TJ Clarke starts at fullback against his brother, and Jarrod Adams is set for a return from a lengthy break from the pine as well.
Out at Maidstone is the clash of the two clubs who’s spirit animals are cloven-hooved quadrupeds with the Upper Hutt Rams (40) hosting the Old Boys-University Goats (49). The home teams losses that past two weeks have extinguished their Swindale hopes, and while it looks like the have a comfortable buffer back to those teams below them battling to avoid finishing ninth, the worst-case situation for them is a loss tomorrow and wins for each of Ories, HOBM, and Tawa pits them into a must-win situation next week at Ories to avoid plummeting all the way to the Hardham Cup. Two points however could ensure passage and a win ensures it. OBU can’t win the Swindale tomorrow but could lose it and that should be sufficient motivation for them, but you must wonder how much last Saturday’s hard-fought win over Ories has taken out of them.
Young duo Senio Sanele and Toby Mallon start up front for the Rams, with Josh Brown making his first start in two-and-a-half years on the blindside. There’s a curious one in their backs as well, with Daniel Schrijvers named on the right wing. The Goats have opted to line Callum Harkin up in midfield so Tom Henderson returns to first-five and Josh Morgan-Ranui to fullback. Up front, the line up the same as they did last week with the industrious Cody Quin again starting at No. 8.
Sitting fourth, Johnsonville (41) will be looking to see if they can pick off a couple more places if results fall their way. The priority order of business though will be to advance their own cause and taking the maximum on their Old Timers’ Day against second-bottom Avalon (12) will be what they are after for that, and that could lock them into one of those precious top-four places. Avalon will be a little frustrated about their draw with Wainuiomata last Saturday and while they are headed for the Hardham, they can still have an impact on what happens above them.
The Hawks make a few changes to the side that overran Norths last week. Sean Rankin and Regan Herbert come into their pack, while Olly Paotonu returns to midfield. Mark Sutton again starts at flyhalf in his 50th outing, while their sparkplug Jacob Walmsley moves to the right wing for his 100th Premier match in the blue hoops. As at the time of writing the Avalon team wasn’t known.
Marist St Pats’ (34) win over the Rams was crucial for them, as a loss would have dropped them into that dreaded ninth spot. But that could all be for nought if they don’t follow that up with another win tomorrow at William Jones against Wainuiomata (14) and given how tight that group of teams are and what’s at stake, the bonus point will be highly desired as well. Like the others heading for the Hardham Cup the home side will be looking to cause an upset or two before things are done and improve their own standing ahead of those playoff matches.
Michael Lealava’a starts at centre in his 150th match for Wainuiomata, which combined with his time at Petone means he’s either close to or even past the 200 games mark overall. Inside him he’ll have Hurricanes duo Peter Umaga-Jensen and Ruben Love which are quite the additions for the home side. Logan Love starts for MSP at halfback opposite his brother, with their only change seeing Sefo Aukustino come into the backline for Isaia Petelo and a consequent reshuffle.
Next on the table come Oriental Rongotai (32), who face the disadvantage of having won one fewer game than the sides around them and could need bonus point wins in their remaining matches to make the Jubilee eight. Their task tomorrow is another of those matches that get circled on the calendar when the draw comes out, the Jim Grbich Memorial Shield clash with Poneke (17) at home on the Polo Ground. Poneke’s loss last week eliminated them, and they too are now in spoiler mode as they head for the Hardham.
Injuries and illness continue to bedevil the Magpies, but it is largely the same team that took to the park last Saturday. Sammy Se’au starts at openside, with Jake Hamlin at first-five and Grayson Whitman pushing out one place. Malachai Unasa also returns while Ronaldo Seumanufagai and Sione Halalilo provide considerable thump from the bench. Connor Lemon starts at prop in his 100th match. Poneke are able to bring back veteran loosies Cole Stewart and James Mose, while an interesting change is halfback Jimmy-Lee Hongara starting at 10 with Carlos Hihi starting this on the bench and the absence of regular halfback Sam Howling.
Tawa (32) currently sit tied with Ories but hold the tiebreaker over the Magpies from their win a few weeks ago. They too probably need a pair of wins to make the eight but unlike Ories both of their remaining opponents sit below them on the ladder with winless Wellington tomorrow at Hataitai and then Norths at home next week. That assignment seems straightforward enough, but even the slightest slip could leave them on the outside looking in. Wellington have long been consigned to the Hardham, but can they drag someone down with them?
As we’ve come to expect with the Axemen is a much-changed side, though their notable inclusion this week is a return for recent centurion Ben Hendry on the side of the scrum. Despite their opponents standing Tawa haven’t rested many, though George Sims and Samanoa Euta start at halfback and fullback respectively with regulars Kemara Hauiti-Parapara and Randall Bishop on the bench.
Last up in this preview is the Hutt Rec where Hutt Old Boys Marist (31) find themselves in that dreaded ninth place after their loss in the McBain last week, but like Tawa have only sides below them on the table left to play. First up for them are Norths (14) whose season has fallen away and at this point are playing for pride and to potentially leap ahead of Wainuiomata and Poneke in the seeding for the first week of the Hardham Cup. The Eagles will be targeting two bonus wins, but if everyone ahead of them keeps winning as well, they could end up where they are now.
With that in mind, HOBM have named a strong side with some in reserve. Former Silverstream pivot Harrison Boyle makes his first Eagles start, but in the main it’s the same side that started last Saturday. Norths are without both Dudley Parsons and Parekura Lalaga, so outside of veteran winger Liki Siliga it’s a very young and raw looking backline. That’ll put even more pressure on their forward pack which does get experienced front rower Jerome Va’ai back this week.
Once again, there’s several interclub trophies on the line on Saturday:
- The most famous of those in play is the Jim Grbich Memorial Shield between Oriental Rongotai and Poneke. Arriving in Wellington in 1950 Grbich established himself as a star and formed a lethal midfield combination at club and provincial level and for NZ Māori with Moray Bevan. He later moved into the forwards before being tragically lost in a late-night car accident near the Tawa interchange in 1962 aged just 31. The shield was presented in 1964 and is currently held by Poneke after their 15-12 win last season.
- Pare-Plim and Petone will contest their Ken Gray Cup. Gray is, of course, a titan of the history of the game not just in Wellington where his contribution to the game as a player, captain, and coach is legendary, but also to the All Blacks across 50 matches including 24 Tests. But few will know he started out his club career at pre-merger Paremata, from where he earned Wellington B honours in 1958. Petone have held this every year since its inception in 2015.
- Another recognisable name adorns the trophy that Tawa and Wellington play for, the Murray & Alan Mexted Cup. Both brothers played for both clubs and for the province, with Murray also playing 34 consecutive Tests for the All Blacks from 1979-85. Tawa are the holders
- The last is the Rona-Morrisey Cup. Cliff Rona hailed from the valley but played his Premier rugby with MSP where he was a Swindale and Jubilee winner before returning to Wainuiomata and turning out for their Premiers. John Morrisey played his rugby at the pre-merger Marist Brothers before a lengthy association with Wainuiomata as a coach and club President. MSP hold this.
As usual, all seven matches are at 2.45pm.
Premier Women’s Tia Paasi Memorial and Izzy Ford Cup
The first pieces of championship silverware will be handed out tomorrow at the NZCIS campus in Trentham, which is the venue for both women’s finals. The two sides that shared the Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy meet for the Division 1 Tia Paasi Memorial Trophy decider with Marist St Pats taking on Petone, with the pair having split their meetings so far: Petone were big 46-17 winners back on the first day of the season which remains MSP’s only loss, with MSP winning the return match 24-19 three weeks ago.
MSP will be desperate to atone for last year’s final, where they also went in as top qualifier but were simply dismantled by Norths. They’ll be led up front by hooker Valini Vaka, but their real strength in in their backs which includes Poua midfielder Monica Tagoai, Chiefs Manawa outside back Georgia Daals, and winger Lyric Faleafaga, with Maia Broughton – daughter of former MSP Premier pivot Norm – running the show.
Petone have knocked on the door of this match for many years, but this year it finally opened. It’s a young side that’s heavily influenced by the St Mary’s College 1st XV, but has an experienced spine with former Black Fern Jackie Patea-Fereti, Poua and Pride halfback Milly Mackey, openside and captain Hope Hakopa, and forwards Angel Uila and Lavinia Lea.
The Division 2 Izzy Ford Cup final will be played out between Paremata-Plimmerton and the HOBM/Wainuiomata combined side. Pare-Plim has won both meetings between the two this season, including last week by 36-10 at Ngati Toa Domain but will not be taking anything for granted. Pare-Plim are largely unchanged from last week and will lead on the experience of Tawny Burgess, Mele Kupa-Cummings, and Roimata Parata as well as the talented Kaia Pollock. The combined side isn’t short in experience either with veterans Maryann Collins and Kiri Gronbeck and a blend of young talent from the local schools thrown in.
Both matches kick off at 11.30am
Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield
Plenty can be decided in tomorrow’s 12th round in the second tier but barring an upset or two the title itself will go down to next weekend. Leaders Tawa (51) remain unbeaten, but to retain both they face a potentially tricky trip to Delaney Park against a Stokes Valley (31) side that are determined to take one big scalp and nail their own spot inside the top eight. Petone (49) are the only side that can realistically head off the champs but need help from elsewhere to do that and they have their own assignment away at Ngati Toa Domain against Pare-Plim (23). Poneke’s (44) title chances were effectively ended with their loss to Tawa last week, and they are at the Polo Ground to take on Ories (33) who are in the middle of a five-way fight for the last top four place. The others involved in that are MSP, HOBM, and Upper Hutt as well as Stokes Valley; MSP (35) are away at Wainuiomata (13), HOBM (35) are at home at the Nest against Norths (21), and the Rams (32) welcome OBU (22) to Maidstone. The remaining fixture is between the bottom pair with Johnsonville (10) welcoming winless Avalon (5) to Helston.
Colts Paris Memorial
After their win over Petone last week, HOBM (38*) have put themselves firmly into pole position to take the first-round title. They could wrap up that up this weekend but tonight face the last real remaining challenge to that when they face the Upper Hutt Rams (24*) – who will be wounded by their upset loss to MSP at home on Saturday – under the lights at the CIS campus. The other match tonight has MSP (21) and Tawa (25) clashing at Te Whaea, with both underway at 7.30pm.
Tomorrow’s matches are all in the eastern suburbs where Petone (28) will look to rebound against Ories (25) at the Polo Ground, Poneke (13) takes on OBU (21) at short distance away at Kilbirnie Park, while the two winless and points-less sides, Wellington and Wainuiomata, meet at Hataitai Park with all three at 1pm. Norths (17) has the bye this week.
(* denotes yet to have the bye)
The JC Bowl takes the week off as teams switch to National Club Cup knockout action, but there’s no games scheduled for Wellington as Stokes Valley have been forced to concede to OBU sending the Scallywags through to round three, while HOBM and Johnsonville will double-up in their JC Bowl match next week. But two Wellington sides are in action this weekend, both on a Sunday roadie to the same place: Yarrows Stadium in New Plymouth for a doubleheader. Wellington face former runners-up Tukapa to finally get their twice-postponed Round 1 clash (the last remaining in the country) done at 1pm with the winner to play Tawa in round two, while Petone follow at 3pm for their round two clash against New Plymouth OB, who accounted for Poneke in the opening round.
OBU will take on whoever emerges from the Tukapa/Wellington/Tawa group, with the winner between HOBM and Johnsonville to face either NPOB or Petone.
Just three matches tomorrow in the midway round of the Premiership. The two already played have seen Silverstream beat Wellington College 32-19 on Wednesday, while the other was played the Wednesday prior with Wairarapa College accounting for Tawa 19-5. Tomorrow’s matches are all south of the Mt Vic tunnel with unbeaten Scots at home against Hutt International who will look to bounce back from their mauling at the hands of Silverstream, Rongotai welcome St Bernard’s to Coutts Street, and Town will look to make it two wins on the trot when they face Mana, with all three matches at 2.30pm.
In Premier 2 the highlight clash is up the coast as unbeaten pair Paraparaumu and the Silverstream 2nds clash. In two other 1pm matches the Town and Wellington College 2nds provide the early entertainment at Evans Bay while Porirua hosts Naenae. The remaining matches are both at 2pm with Aotea hosting Viard in a Porirua derby and repeat of their earlier Beard Trophy clash, while bottom-side Newlands are at home against Hutt Valley HS.