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Sideline Conversions 18 March (some rugby news and information to start the week)

Monday morning edition: Week four of pre-season 2024 and kickoff for the Horowhenua-Kapiti Ramsbotham Cup competition coming right up.

Look out for our preview at the end of the week canvassing what’s coming up next Saturday, but there are at least five inter-club Premier fixtures between Wellington clubs scheduled. Poneke also travel to New Plymouth to take on Tukapa in their recently revived annual Zemba Cup fixture.

We are also working on our annual pre-season content and stories to usher in the new Swindale Shield competition, including starting to collate the annual ‘Gains and Losses’, formerly done by the Dominion/Dom Post/Post newspaper and carried on here on this website.


Opening day Horowhenua-Kapiti Premier grade fixtures on Saturday (kick-offs 2.45pm) sees Shannon host Rāhui in a replay of last year’s final (won by Rāhui 23-22), Foxton play Levin College Old Boys at Easton Park and Levin Wanderers and Waikanae meet at Playford Park. Paraparaumu with the bye.

A quick turnaround for round two the following Thursday night (the start of Easter weekend).


The Hurricanes are back in Palmerston North this Friday night to play the Rebels, and will be favoured to go 5/0 to start the season. The Hurricanes Poua play the curtain-raiser against the Chiefs Manawa.


A high scoring opening set of Super Rugby U20s games on Saturday in Taupo. The Hurricanes U20s beat the Fijian Drua 67-32 in a 99-point fixture. The Blues beat Moana Pasifika 42-26, the Chiefs defeated the NZ Barbarians U21s 43-22 and the Crusaders beat the Highlanders 40-24.

The next round of matches coming up tomorrow (Tuesday) sees the Hurricanes U20s play the Chiefs U20s at 3.05pm and the Blues U20s play the Crusaders U20s at 5.05pm in the two major semi-finals. In the bottom tier, the NZ Barbarians U21s and the Fijian Drua U20s kick off at 11.05am and the Highlanders U20s and Moana Pasifika U20s play at 1.05pm. The finals are on Saturday.


It’s only pre-season, but quite the entertaining game  in Palmerston North on Saturday between home team Kia Toa and Oriental-Rongotai. Whilst Ories came out and started playing like it was their first game together for several months, Kia Toa looked like they were several matches deep. The fixture was played in quarters and Kia Toa scored two tries to go 14-0 up at the first 20 minutes. This continued into the second quarter, even as Ories rolled out the likes of Dom Ropeti and Sione Halalilo, scoring twice more and leading 26-0 (or was it 28-0?) at the next mark. New head coach Whetu Henry delivered his first halftime talk of the year and Ories climbed into their work with more urgency. The result was four tries of their own – all long-rangers – to tie it up at four tries all after 60 minutes. The fourth was a 90-m breakout and kick ahead after Kia Toa should have scored from an extended period inside their 22. Ories took the lead immediately after with a 60-m runaway to Wellington U20s fullback Daniel Tafili and there was no further scoring as the game swung from end to end. They played another 20 minute period after that but our camera battery was flashing red so we departed Bill Brown Stadium and started on our journey south.

Kia Toa are doing it tough heading into the new season owing to their clubrooms almost being destroyed in a fire. The blaze in mid February  took out the iconic Cloverlea Tavern in Highbury, with Kia Toa’s clubrooms part of the building. The senior part of the clubrooms was hard hit and Kia Toa lost all their apparel and playing gear and sadly some of their memorabilia, although most of their photos are digitised so these are recoverable (a lesson for all clubs to back-up their history, if the contents of the library of Alexandria was backed up our understanding of pre-history would be so much clearer). The junior part of the clubrooms was also mostly saved, and luckily, some of their stuff was stored there. A shoutout to their rep at Struddys Apparel for working hard to try and get the club re-kitted out in their own colours before the start of the MRU competition which kicks off on Good Friday, 29 April.

The fire ravaged Cloverlea Tavern with Kia Toa’s now former clubrooms in blue at the left. PHOTO CREDIT: The Stuff website.


The Super Rugby title race is wide open after the first month.

It would be almost inconceivable if the faltering Crusaders made the playoffs after their worst-ever start. The Hurricanes have found a way to win two games in big pickles and were convincing in victory over the Force and Blues. The Reds have impressed with openside Fraser McReight establishing a formidable reputation and Tom Lynagh (son of 1991 Rugby World Cup Winner Michael Lynagh: 72 Tests, 51 wins, 911 points) excelling at first-five. The Brumbies have been less convincing but three wins in four matches is satisfactory. If the title route is through Canberra where the Brumbies have won 152 out of 207 games, they could be very tricky. The Blues have won three out of four and have the firepower to threaten though their scrum looks vulnerable and the attack often clunky. The Chiefs are perhaps the best side when they click, though their second stumble in two seasons to the Reds shows they’re not invincible. The defense has leaked 25 points or more in three games.


The Crusaders have won 86 of 104 matches in their makeshift stadium built in 2012 to replace Lancaster Park which crumbled during the 2011 earthquake. The Hurricanes have handed the Crusaders five of their 17 defeats at the replacement venue.


Three wins from three for Old Boys University on Saturday:


Imagine being Petone’s Josh Southall’s body when he’s 40:


A quartet of tries in the first dozen minutes of the second half powered the Blues to a record 52-5 thumping of Hurricanes Poua in Auckland  in Super Rugby Aupiki. For the Poua, backing up the almost spiritual victory over Matatū last Saturday proved an impossible task. It’s difficult to create the ‘backs to the wall’ intensity they showed against Matatū every week with the serious limitations they have in their roster which include a lack of a game driver at ten, a shortage of fitness among some front rowers, a weaker bench than the opposition, and exuberant youth who are growing.


In television scheduling news, Sky TV’s Sky Open channel (formerly Prime) is now showing a sports game every Friday night for the poor amongst us who can only watch sport this way. Although on Friday night they selected a rugby league match between two Sydney teams over the Hurricanes – Crusaders Super Rugby match. Unless the Warriors are playing hopefully that was in error and a once off.


France beat England 33-31 in an epic Lyon Test to cap the Six Nations. France had the first-half momentum; England struck back with a flurry of points before France arrested the ascendancy again. Sharpshooter Thomas Ramos (7 from 8) slotted a last-minute penalty from near halfway. A ridiculously long advantage was applied to allow the shot. Overall, France probably deserved to win the game, but surely multiple phases and a 25-metre gain is advantage over.

Can a coach get worse or are playing stocks and administrative factors a bigger consideration? Warren Gatland’s Wales finished a winless last in the Six Nations. It’s just the second time since 1999 Wales have been last in the Six Nations. Gatland’s longevity is worthy of respect but in 2020 he lost an unprecedented eight consecutive matches as Chiefs head coach. Eddie Jones’ Wallabies imploded at the Rugby World Cup. After winning a world record 18 successive Tests with England, his tenure ended badly before the Wallabies failure.



A tough day on the sideline on Saturday for Upper Hutt Rams photographer Peter McDonald, who had taken up his position on his chair at a seemingly safe distance on the sideline, only for the action to come to him as he was bowled by two players as they bundled into touch. Asked if he had gone down shooting, he said there was no chance of that particular photo sequence as he was protecting his gear and himself from the imminent collision.


Billy Guyton, the former Blues and New Zealand Māori halfback who died last year aged 33, had a brain injury likely to be connected with repeated head knocks.

The stunning diagnosis of stage 2 chronic traumatic encepahlopathy (CTE) was relayed to his family following extensive testing at Auckland’s Neurological Foundation Human Brain Bank.

It makes Guyton the first New Zealand-based professional rugby player to be diagnosed with the condition, following on from US-based Kiwi Justin Jennings, who died in 2020 aged 50.

Read more HERE


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2 thoughts on “Sideline Conversions 18 March (some rugby news and information to start the week)

  1. TV Coverage free to air is one league game Friday night, and one rugby game Saturday night. Last Saturday on Sky Open was Chiefs v Drua. They actually played 2 league games on Friday (one live), with a replay of Warriors.

    1. Thanks for clarifying this. The assumption was that it was a deliberate decision to show one game ahead of the other, and questioning why, when two NZ professional sports teams are also playing each other in primetime, they showed the two Australian teams playing each other over the all-NZ fixture.

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