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Dominic Ropeti – Maintaining faith while stealing the ball

Dominic Ropeti (left) with the Jim Brown Plate and brother Alex with the Jubilee Cup, surrounded by supporters and family.

It was fitting Dominic Ropeti kicked the ball out to end the Jubilee Cup final. The Oriental Rongotai flanker won the Jim Brown Memorial Medal as the best player in the decider, as Ories beat Paremata-Plimmerton 34-21.

Where did the actual ball go?

It hit Karina Smith in the head, and she took it home as a souvenir for her dad. Karina is the daughter of Bob Smith, a founding member of the Paremata-Plimmerton club. When it was suggested to Bob, he should give the ball to Ories he quipped, “Bugger that, they had enough of it during the game.”

The supremacy of Ropeti in the lineouts was a big part of the Hammerheads being deprived of possession.

“I felt like our set-piece has been dominant all-year round. Even through our losses, I have felt like our scrum and lineout have been operating the best that I have ever seen,” Ropeti told Huddy Sports this week (link below).

“I like to think of our forwards as the Rolls-Royce pack, and they really fronted up on Saturday.

“I am just the one who gets all the camera time for stealing the lineouts but it’s a full eight-man forward job so full credit to everyone.”

Two tries for Dominic Ropeti in the final as part of a Player of the Match performance.

Discipline was a major focus for Ories at the Hutt Rec on Saturday.

“Maintaining our discipline is something that troubled us in games this year, and we often found ourselves behind on the scoreboard due to that.

“We talked a lot about that heading into the final, and we trained to the conditions that we expected, and together with those things we probably put together the best 80 minutes of our season.”

In the previous week’s semi-final, Ories had conceded a 23-0 deficit to Johnsonville, before coming back to win 39-26.

Playing with the advantage of the strong southerly, there were a couple of hairy moments in the first half on Saturday such as Paremata-Plimmerton’s intercept try, but for the most part, it all came together well for the Magpies.

Playing into the wind in the second half after leading 27-14 at halftime, Ories had to dig deep, and such were the conditions and the danger Paremata-Plimmerton posed out wide, it had to come from the forwards.

“Our skipper Penieli Poasa really led the way, and the boys followed him and backed him up,” Ropeti said.

“He provides so much leadership to this team. I am fortunate to have him as my cousin as well. We are all family in this team and Penieli is the one who leads us around the park and at training.”

Ropeti scored his second try of the match and their only try of the second half with just over 60 minutes gone, extending their lead to 20 points.

How important has been the church connection within the Ories team?

“A lot of our boys are big on their faith, and that is a big reason why we won the Jubilee Cup.

“Hard work and faith are what the boys really buy into. We say our prayers before we run out in the field.”

Such was Ropeti’s form on Saturday he was a clear-cut Player of the Match. He himself was modest.

“There were a lot of boys who were as or more deserving of that than myself, anyone else could have won that award and I was just the lucky one who got it on the day.”

Ropeti winning another lineout in the final on Saturday. 

Ropeti praised the Ories coaching staff of Whetu Henry, Fale Seve, and Poasa Poasa as well as an extensive management team who “kept us level-headed especially when it didn’t look like winning the Jubilee Cup was an achievable goal for us.”

The lowest-ranked qualifier has won six of the last eight Jubilee Cup finals.

Ropeti came across to Ories from Old Boys University, whom he played for in 2021 and 2022. He made the move primarily to play with some of his close friends and family.

He previously attended Scots College and rates the 2019 Premiership final win against St Patrick’s College, Silverstream as his favourite First XV match.

Ropeti was the Wellington U19s captain last year, and earlier this season he was in the Hurricanes U20s that made the Super Rugby U20 final against the Blues.

From there, he was named in the initial New Zealand U20s squad, playing against Australia in Upper Hutt.

“I loved getting my first taste of international footy, and I desire a lot more now that I have got that experience.”

He didn’t make the final side that went to South Africa for the World Rugby U20s Championship, but New Zealand’s loss proved to be Ories’ gain.

New Zealand finished seventh in the tournament, where would New Zealand need to develop the strength of their game at that level?

“The European boys look a lot bigger than our ones. I feel like we have got the goods to be the best in the world and we showed that in glimpses in games,” Ropeti answered.

“Anything to help us get more equipped and ready for that U20s World Cup will be valuable. You see the difference of having a Six Nations competition for those countries, so it has got to be good for us. The more footy we get at that high level there is not reason why we can’t still be the best in the world.”

Ropeti recently signed his first professional contract with the Wellington Lions and has already been involved in two successful Ranfurly Shield defences against Horowhenua Kapiti (68-7) and South Canterbury (67-21).

This coming weekend Wellington plays Taranaki at Manaia. The Lions NPC squad is expected to be named at the end of this week.

Jubilee Cup Final Aftermath Snippets from the Te Upoko O Te Ika broadcast post-match

Grayson Whitman

“It’s crazy, it’s crazy, it’s been a long year. I don’t know we just keep on going one more week, one more week.”

“Nothing changed, we always had that belief, it was just about getting combinations right and getting one win and one more.”

Connor Lemon

So good, so proud of the season. We’ve been in elimination mode for a month. We won one, we won another. Unbelievable.”

“I guess I wanted to always be it (a centre); I was just too big.”

Alex Ropeti

My proudest moment in club rugby.”

“He’s alright, best player, best guy I know.” (On brother Dominic Ropeti)

Did You Know?

Forwards have won each of the last three Jubilee Cup Player of the Final gongs, with Hemi Fermanis (Tawa) in 2021, Boston Hunt (Norths) in 2022 and Dominic Ropeti (Ories) in 2023 these recipients. The last back to win was Dale Sabbagh (OBU) in 2020, with Sabbagh playing second five for Paremata-Plimmerton on Saturday. When Ories won their previous Jubilee Cup in 2011, the winner was Iani Pahulu, who was playing No. 8 that day. Ropeti is the only blindside flanker to win this award since it was first introduced in 2004.

Jim Brown was a Wellington and Petone second-five who tragically broke his leg after being picked for the 1972 All Blacks tour of the UK and France. He was fitted in a team suit and photographed as an All Black before the injury. He died in 2004. His son Mark Brown was a professional golfer.

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