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Sideline Conversions 9 October (some rugby news and information to start the new week)

Thirty two.

That’s the number on the Wellington Lions’ mind as they lick their wounds (literally if you’re James O’Reilly) and prepare to face the Hawke’s Bay Magpies in this coming Saturday’s major NPC semi-final down at Wellington Stadium.

The Lions survived 32 phases of heated Waikato attack in the red minutes of the match, before our Player of the Match Billy Proctor won a turnover, and the fulltime whistle was sounded to give them a 32-28 win.

Hawke’s Bay answered some of their critics yesterday with a come-from-behind 38-28 victory over Bay of Plenty in the other semi-final. Mr Mercurial, Chase Tiatia, came up with he winning try against his former Steamers teammates with several minutes to play. For Hawke’s Bay, former MSP hooker Tyrone Thompson was at his best, and scored two tries. For the Steamers, lock Manaaki Selby-Rickit scored his eighth and ninth tries of the season in this match and is the competition’s leading try scorer as it stands.

Off the field, expect little accountability for the Magpies’ disgraceful behaviour once the publicity passes. Classic New Zealand reach for the broomstick stuff.


When the Lions scored their third try just before halftime to lead 25-7 and then lock Dominic Bird wrapped himself around a Waikato maul to force a turnover most Lions fans would have been happy heading to the fridge for a refreshment. But the second half proved a tight affair as Waikato all but came back to win.

Some possible injury concerns for the Lions as well, notably captain, flanker and try-scorer Du Plessis Kirifi who was clutching his arm late in the match. Tighthead prop Siale Lauaki earlier left the field and replacement hooker Peniasi Poasa came and went with apparent concussion.

The other question is what of back-up wing stocks? Riley Higgins was out of position on the left wing (although that was probably just as much to accommodate him with Peter Umaga-Jensen and Billy Proctor in the midfield). As we have alluded to previously, Julian Savea has been a tremendous player in the past, one of Club Rugby’s favourite players over a long time, but is he as sharp these days as he used to be? Players such as Connor Garden-Bachop, Tawa pair Pepesana Patafilo and Isi Saumaki and Paremata-Plimmerton duo Joe Faleafaga and Ethan Webster-Nonu are around? Presumably Losi Filipo and TJ Clarke are injured. But we don’t get any of this information so have to speculate.


What was going on between James O’Reilly and David Walsh at the end of the Lions v Waikato game? In the heat of the moment O’Reilly didn’t want to depart but these days its moronic to play on if there has been or is genuine risk of a head injury.


This week’s NPC player who would go well in the Swindale Shield is Waikato’s Pita Anae-Sue. Hypothetically, if a club was looking for a hooker for 2024, he would be a good acquisition!


Club Rugby understands that the combined Wellington Rugby Lions and Community Awards are being held this week (Tuesday).

It will be interesting to see who will be the Lions’ Player of the Year award? Several contenders. Not least centre Billy Proctor and loosehead prop Xavier Numia, who were both big against Waikato.

Who would be your Lions Rookie of the Year winner?

The  Billy Wallace Trophy Best & Fairest competition winner will be announced at these awards too. Who would be the contenders? Dominic Ropeti, Penieli Poasa, Sam Howling, Callum Harkin, Kyle Preston, Mark Sutton, Jacob Walmsley, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Esi Komisavai, Louis Northcott, Toby Crosby and Petone pair Stanley Solomon and TJ Clarke would be players all the mix. We will try and get the final tally and post the final ‘team of the season’ based on the standings.

There are some other awards to look out for, such as the Men’s and Women’s competitions Club Rookies of the Year winners, to select two.


It is ironic that music is constantly blasted out from the PA system at the Stadium during matches but musical instruments are not allowed into the ground. On Saturday there were no cowbells to add to the atmosphere – one Waikato fan had one but missed the start of the match as security escorted him away to confiscate it for the duration of the match!


They play in front of a construction site on the far side of the field, but home side Taranaki put away Tasman in convincing fashion in their NPC quarter-final on Saturday night. It was 13-13 at halftime, but the Nakians came out firing and pulled ahead to win 34-18.


Both Heartland Championship finals will be in the South Island this coming Saturday, with South Canterbury hosting Whanganui in the Meads Cup (the Jubilee Cup of the Heartland Championship) and North Otago hosting Poverty Bay (like the Hardham Cup).

The biggest win by Whanganui over Thames Valley before their 38-3 mauling of the Swamp Foxes in Saturday’s Meads Cup semi-final at Cooks Gardens was 65-18 in the first Heartland fixture at the same venue in 2006. The biggest win in a semi-final is 76-9 by South Canterbury against King Country in 2022.

Whanganui came out firing and leapt to a match-winning lead by halftime. It appeared like they were going to really open up Thames Valley in the second spell, but the visitors played much better and in fact blew at least three clear tries of their own.

Another team that came out fizzing was Ngāti Porou East Coast, who took it to the home side during the hakas and it was still 0-0 after 35 minutes. South Canterbury would go on to lead 10-3 at halftime and win 34-17, their 30th straight win.

West Coast will host a major final for just the second time in their history when they tussle with Poverty Bay in the Lochore Cup final on Saturday. West Coast was beaten by South Canterbury 23-19 in the same fixture in 2019.

A fun and raw commentary on the Wairarapa-Bush livestream. Why are the Sky broadcasters so sanitised?


Club Rugby understands that Tawa prop PJ Scheck is moving to the Blues.

The Wellington Lions prop spent time at the Highlanders this year and played one Super Rugby match. He has played 25 matches for the Lions since his debut against Northland two seasons ago.


More coaching appointments being made for next year’s Wellington club rugby competition as the pieces fall into place. Club Rugby is aware of a big one in particular that is definitely going to have people talking that is going to be announced this week – so keep your social media channels turned on.


As far as can be ascertained, there are four Sevens tournaments coming up over a short period, these being:

  • Hurricanes Schools 7s. At Masteron, Saturday 14 October (that’s this coming Saturday)
  • College Sport Wellington Condor 7s Qualifers. At Naenae College on 23 October (Labour Day Monday)
  • Sir Gordon Tietjens Manawatu 7s school 7s tournament. In Palmerston North on 28 and 29 October
  • WRFU American Ambassador’s 7S – only tournament. Venue TBC, Saturday 11 November


Finally, the Rugby World Cup has reached the moment we have all been waiting for.

It’s quarter-finals time. Matches this coming weekend are:

  • Wales v Argentina (Sunday 4.00am)
  • Ireland v New Zealand (Sunday 8.00am)
  • England v Fiji (Monday 4.00am)
  • France v South Africa (Monday 8.00am)

Get past Ireland and the All Blacks could be odds on to win the Rugby World Cup. The other side of the draw is comparatively weak and the confidence that could come from knocking over the world’s best side would be immeasurable.

Ireland were emphatic against Scotland yesterday morning. Their defence is a wall and they scored some fantastic tries. If they hadn’t of taken their foot of the pedal and subbed half their team with 20 minutes to play then a half century was on the cards.

What about their halfback, former kiwi Jamieson Gibson-Park. The former Gisborne Boys’ High School and 13-cap Hurricane could be playing the biggest match of his life for his adopted Irish homeland on Sunday.

Johnny Sexton has 25 wins in 29 matches as captain of Ireland. Brian O’Driscoll had 52 wins in 83 Tests.

Tadhg Furlong has started in six wins against the All Blacks, five for Ireland and one for the British & Irish Lions.


What about Portugal beating Fiji 24-23 this morning!


The All Blacks are also going to have play in front of a huge Irish crowd, who belt out the Cranberries after their matches.


Pick up the latest copy of the Rugby News Magazine now.

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