Updated Tuesday morning: Tonight the Wellington Samoa U18s and Wellington Maori U18s are meeting at Te Whaea at 7.00pm in their re-scheduled Hurricanes series U18s match. This was deferred owing to illness last Saturday.
Two regular season rounds to play in the National Provincial Championship.
After beating the BoP Steamers yesterday and registering their 20th straight win and 18th consecutive NPC victory, the Wellington Lions return home this coming Sunday to host North Harbour at Porirua Park. The Ranfurly Shield is on the line for this match, and also for the following one against Hawke’s Bay should they defend it against Harbour.
If the Wellington Lions beat North Harbour, they could confirm home fixtures for the next four games by topping the round-robin of the NPC. North Harbour has won four in a row and last won the Ranfurly Shield in 2006. Wellington has won 20 in a row in all competitions and scored 101 tries.
If they make the final, Wellington Stadium could be out of action for them owing to the Black Ferns playing there that weekend (as discussed in this space last week). It looks like the Hutt Rec could be out of action as the turf in front of the grandstand has been removed, so the final could be played at Porirua Park.
On Saturday, there are two scheduled games at Kilbirnie Park – the Wellington Samoa Senior Men’s team and Wellington Samoa U18s team are both hosting their Auckland Samoa counterparts.
There is midweek school rugby being played at Porirua Park, the Wellington competition U15 Girls finals. St Mary’s College plays Wainuiomata High School in the main final on Jerry Collins Stadium at 6.30pm, with Sacred Heart and Wellington East meeting before them and Taita and Naenae Colleges on Porirua 2.
Dane Coles became the second oldest player to play for the All Blacks in their last match against Namibia. Coles was 36 years, 9 months, 6 days when he ran out. The record is held by Edward ‘Ned’ Hughes who played against the Boks in 1921 aged 40 years, 4 months, 2 days. Interestingly, both players represent (ed) Poneke. Read about Hughes below:
Halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara played his 50th game for the Lions. Debuting in 2017 in a 41-29 win over Manawatu, Hauiti-Parapara has spent time overseas in France, as well as playing another 10 NPC matches Otago, before returning home this season.
Our story from two years ago with All Black Roy Roper who passed away last week, aged 100:
Who is now the oldest living All Black?
Who is the oldest living Wellington Lion?
Waikato’s Tepaea Cook-Savage kicked a dropped goal for Waikato against Auckland on Saturday – the first time a Waikato player had kicked one since Lam Messam in 2004.
A cheerful and talented High School Old Boys Light Bears won the National U85kg title at North Harbour Stadium with a resounding 45-17 win over the Takapuna Bombers. It’s certainly meant a lot to the lads from Christchurch but with six premier players in their backline and at least one more in the forwards, it was perhaps inevitable that the 2023 Canterbury Metro Premier finalists would prevail. Does ‘stacking’ your team with Premier players need to be reviewed or does it enhance the calibre of this competition?
Third time lucky at Porirua Park? The Lions are tryless in their two competitive NPC matches (overcome 19-3 by Tasman in 2020 and beaten 15-6 by Northland last year.
Great try by Reon Paul for Bay of Plenty against the Lions yesterday. As highlighted in this space this time last week, Paul made his BoP debut last weekend and is a recent former Rongotai College First XV then Northern United club player. But most of the current crop of commentators would have no idea of this or similar tidbits and factual information as they don’t do or wouldn’t know how to do any research or preparation so it would have gone over their heads to inform the viewers.
Why are teams at the Rugby World Cup playing in different strips than usual, when there is no clash? Why were Ireland playing in white when they play in green in international rugby? Update – we have an explanation. “A new policy from World Rugby will see old foes clash in new kits at the World Cup in France to help fans with colour vision deficiency (CVD) distinguish between the teams”
Ireland have won their last 15 consecutive test matches. They stopped record runs of 18 by the All Blacks and England.
Will Australian rugby sack Eddie Jones if the Wallabies don’t make it out of the Pool stages at the Rugby World Cup? The Wallabies have been a circus since Jones took over. Remember in 2007, the Reds were 0-14 in Super Rugby under Jones.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 17, 2023
Fiji has beaten Australia three times in 23 matches but before today not since an 18-16 victory in 1954. Story about that game here:
Genuine question. Are people downloading and watching NZR+? What is it like? Plenty of short promos on Twitter and social media involving movie stars and ex-All Blacks hosting content, so no doubt a big budget operation and someone is paying. Are domestic rugby supporters the target audience for this?
Similarly, reports that local photographers for the new German photo agency that NZR uses getting $650 per match to criss-cross the country doing NPC and Farah Palmer Cup games. Good on those shooters! But just an indication of where the money goes, if true as that is ab0ut 3x the going rate for a professional photographer doing one of these games.
A good game this weekend for Hawke’s Bay first-five Lincoln McClutchie. He also scored 17 points and is the NPC’s leading points scorer with 94.
Tamati Ellison becomes the second @WgtnRugby coach in the last 50 years to win their first 10 games in charge
10 Wins From First 10 Games:
2008 Jamie Joseph
2023 Tamati Ellison *
— Rugby Database (@nzrugbydatabase) September 17, 2023
Kiwi club on the West Coast have won 82 consecutive matches. *It’s believed the Mahia club, out of the Wairoa sub-union produced a run of 133 consecutive wins during the 1980’s. The Celtic club out of South Canterbury won 10 consecutive titles between 2009 and 2018, and Invercargill’s Star Club managed a yet to be and highly unlikely to be repeated, 16 club final victories on the trot between 1888 and 1903. Combined Auckland’s Ponsonby has produced more All Blacks and Black Ferns than any club in New Zealand. The Fillies women won eight consecutive championships and 86 games on the trot between 1986 and 1993. The senior men won 10 out of 11 Gallaher Shields between 2002 and 2011, which includes a run of 41 successive wins between 2008 and 2009. Marist St Pat’s in Wellington won 42 games in a row from 1978 to 1980 while Ian Upston engineered a glorious reign as Petone coach in the capital. He won 172 out of 192 matches, including eight Jubilee Cups in a decade in the 60s and 70s.
A disturbing trend in recent rugby internationals reveals the team that kicks the ball more wins 75% of matches. How can we stop this eyesore? Ban 50/22s and give the opposition the lineout throws if you choose to kick into the 22 from a penalty. That would help reduce rolling mauls.
New Zealand Schools play two matches in Hamiton this coming weekend before heading to Australia. Their overall record is shown below with results since 2016. For two years they didn’t play because of Covid.
Australia Barbarians, 49-6
Australia Barbarians Schools, 55-31
Fiji Schools, 43-8
Maori 18, 27-24
Fiji Schools, 67-15
Some post competition Farah Palmer Cup commentary
In 2022 there were 14 games decided by 20 points or more. This season 21 of the 44 matches were decided by 20 points or more.
Bridging the gap between the strongest and the weakest unions isn’t a straightforward task but with National Secondary School championships Manukura only playing four fully-fledged games this season strengthening high school rugby should be a priority.
In the Premiership, Canterbury only finished two places ahead of Hawke’s Bay. Yet on August 12, Canterbury beat the Tui 84-14 in Hastings. Canterbury fielded nine contracted Black Ferns. They have a full-time coach, Jimmy Sinclair, who works closely with Matatū rugby director and Black Ferns World Cup-winning assistant coach Whitney Hansen.
By contrast, Hawke’s Bay has five teams in their senior club competition. They played a single round that concluded in May. Coach Sione Cherrington-Kite is a primary school teacher at Te Kura o Kimi Ora. Eight players are part of the Hawke’s Bay Academy with regular access to union gym facilities. Others are only welcome if they ‘buy into the programme.’ Because of work commitments that’s often not possible so they train elsewhere. Some players were even asked to leave when trying to do voluntary extras. Hawke’s Bay does have a union-employed personal trainer who assists the Tui.
The governance review into New Zealand Rugby which indicated Provincial Unions are drastically overspending on high-performance male programs and are in a financially dire position raises question marks about the future sustainability of a 13-team women’s competition.
Post-World Cup Surge?
Overtures about a groundswell of new interest in the competition following the Black Ferns meteoric World Cup success proved misleading. While the Premiership final was well attended, the fan base at actual games was small and consigned to those close to the players and a few hearty fans.
Media coverage possibly shrunk from last year with much focus on the All Blacks World Cup campaign and governance issues within New Zealand Rugby. When Ruby Tui returned there were frivolous stories about her involvement rather than informed analysis about the actual games.
All fixtures were televised live on Sky TV. The diligent Taylah Johnson and veterans Ken Laban and Rikki Swannell provided insight as did some ex-Black Ferns who were refreshing new voices. However, much of the commentary left a lot to be desired. Basic facts were often misquoted, or just absent from a broadcast. There appeared to be a refusal to criticise poor play and not enough work was done on pronunciation.
Tearaway Canterbury openside, and Black Ferns XV selection, Holly Wratt-Groeneweg told All Blacks.com regarding her name.
“It’s been pretty entertaining listening, sometimes I think they’re talking about a different player. One commentator called me, ‘Holln-berg.’ I thought he said Molenbreg which is the Black Ferns bread sponsor.”
Why Black Ferns Sevens players are consistently shielded from the FPC when the World Series doesn’t start until November is a mystery. The Black Ferns Sevens have enjoyed a consistently higher level of profile and training than their fifteen aside counterparts. The competition would undoubtedly be enhanced by their presence even in select games.
Young is In
Established World Cup-winning Black Ferns Pip Love, Kendra Reynolds, and Joanah Ngan-Woo [understand that Ngan-Woo made herself unavailable] were cut from the Black Ferns squad while Grace Brooker was demoted to the Black Ferns XV.
The new caps in the Blacks Ferns are Auckland props Sophie Fisher and Chryss Viliko, Manawatū loose forward Layla Sae, and Canterbury wing Martha Mataele. The latter two selections are not a surprise. Sae is a contracted Black Fern and Mataele has scored at least a single try in ten of her last 13 games for Canterbury and was strong in Aupiki for champions Matatū.
Fisher and Viliko have been steady improvers throughout the season and busted the hinges on the door in the FPC final. Fisher is a converted lock who covers tighthead and kicks goals. Viliko, a big and athletic loosehead is only 20.
A Black Ferns XV of 27, with half the squad under the age of 22, was a compelling selection and suggests plenty of talent exists.
The youngest player in the team is 17-year-old Wellington centre and winger Justine McGregor. The Pride didn’t win a single game in the Premiership, but McGregor thrived. Her first-round hat-trick in a 29-58 loss to Canterbury was stunning.
With 12 tries, Angelica Vahai was the leading try scorer in the FPC. The 18-year-old Auckland wing is still in high school and thrilled with her graceful and clinical finishing.
Otago centre Cheyenne Cunningham is a shepherd who travels ten hours a week just to play for the Spirit. She has an eye for the try line and good all-around skills at centre. Her teammate Maia Joseph won the Fiao’o Fa’amausili Medal as the best and fairest player in 2022 and continued to flourish this year. Maia is the daughter of Japan coach and former All Blacks loose forward Jamie Joseph. With 130 tackles, openside Leah Miles was the FPC’s top tackler and another Otago player rewarded for a strong season.
The weakest aspect of the New Zealand game is tight forward play though mauling was much better this season and there is some real expertise in scrum coaching now.
Prop Moomooga Palu (Hawke’s Bay) and hooker Atlanta Lolohea (Canterbury) are very much investments in the future with the blessed gift of rare size. Canterbury locks Laura Bayfield and Emma Dermody looked most at home among World Cup-winning Black Ferns.