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Early start for club rugby tomorrow as tight points table comes into focus

After two heartbreaking losses, Johnsonville will want to bounce back and beat Paremata-Plimmerton away at Ngati Toa Domain tomorrow, while the Uppper Hutt Rams have a big home clash against Hutt Old Boys Marist. Photo: Andy McArthur. 

  • By Scott MacLean & Steven White

By Scott MacLean & Steven White

Most of tomorrow’s club rugby matches in Wellington start earlier tomorrow, and it’s also an abridged round with just women’s, Premier and Premier 2 grades in action owing to a Hurricanes match and King’s Birthday Weekend respectively.

Women’s games kick-off at 11.00am, Premier 2 at 12.30pm and Premier at 2.15pm. There is one exception to this, with the Avalon-Petone Premier match now still being contested at 2.45pm as per normal. Round 2 of college matches kick-off at their usual times, with most First XV Premiership matches at 2.30pm.

It’s also Old Timers’ Day at Northern United, while the HOBM and Upper Hutt Premiers play for the new Gillies-Melville Cup.

No Hurricanes squad members have been released to play club rugby tomorrow either.

Tomorrow’s feature radio game comes from Lyndhurst Park, between Tawa and Oriental-Rongotai. Tune in 1161AM, 87.6FM around the city, streaming on iHeart Radio and Whare Kōrero and

For Draws & Teamlists (as received) please visit:

Premier Swindale Shield

Leading off the preview this week is the battle of top vs bottom, with Old Boys-University (36) welcoming Wellington up their Nairnville grazing block. With the Axemen suffering yet another heavy defeat last weekend it’s hard to see this as anything but five points for the Goats, but the visitors have shown incremental improvements this season and could prove difficult if they put it together.

OBU’s depth will be on show tomorrow, with a number of changes and players being rotated out. With a handful of players with the NZ Universities team, there is also no Callum Harkin or Manu Manuo in the backs and a couple of other forwards not playing. NZ U20s midfielder Fuka Paongo starts at 12 and Tom Henderson is first-five. Other changes include Geordie Bean starting at tighthead prop and Nathanial Barry at openside.

A few tweaks to the Axemen’s team from last week as they strive for their first win of the year. Amongst these, Jeff Makapulu returns from three weeks on the sideline to start at blindside flanker and there is a new first-five in last week’s fullback Caleb Aiulu, with Charles West coming off the bench for the first time this year. Another noted change Is former MSP outside back Willie Schutz starting at fullback.

Working out next to the head of the valley, and one of two local derbies out that way with the Upper Hutt Rams (26) back at Maidstone after their late late show at Helston got them five valuable points and back into the top-eight. The opposition tomorrow are joint-second placed Hutt Old Boys Marist (31) who will be looking to continue their chase of the leader, having gotten back on track with their win over Wainuiomata.

The Rams have two players celebrating milestones. Lock Jared Woodward plays his 100th Premier match (split between the Rams and the HOBM Eagles) and hooker Eli Hunt plays his 150th contest, having debuted against Poneke in 2009. Both players start in a pack with one change, Jack Wright for Josh Mallon in the flank forward unit. In the backs both Scott and Todd Svenson return to the starting XV, for Soli Malatai and Tynan Barrett.

For the Eagles, Jason Hoffman replaces Hurricane Benet Kumeroa at loosehead, but hooker Harry Press and tighthead Vil Tauofaga remain with Brett Manaia coming off the bench. A couple of other tweaks to the pack with Benjamin Tuiomanufili returning to No. 8 and Jordan Gillies going to openside and Fred Sunia dropping to the pine. An unchanged backline for the Eagles from last week.

The second match in the valley is down at Fraser Park, where after having fattened their account last weekend, Petone (30), will be looking to so the same against winless Avalon (2) who, like Wellington, will be reeling from another heavy defeat. The Villagers were clearly in a mood last Saturday and if they find that gain it could be a long afternoon for the Wolves, but it’s not that long ago that they surprised Petone in this very fixture. As noted in the introduction above, this match still kicks off at 2.45pm, while no Hurricanes squad members means some changes to Petone’s backline.

But with the likes of Harry Godfrey, Riley Higgins, Ngane Punivai and Losi Filipo out, in comes NZ U20s player Stanley Solomon to first-five, before he departs to South Africa. Tom Carter also returns to the starting XV, at centre. A handful of changes to the forwards, including Connor Tuifao missing from the line-up after starting all eight matches so far, and Jono Bailey starting at blindside.

Jordan Aquila starts at centre for Avalon tomorrow, after playing all his six matches this year at first-five, while player-coach Thomas Kiwara moves from halfback back to first-five. Mark Austin comes into halfback and Niko Tuinasau on to the right wing. A few changes to their forwards, with Paris Palepoi replacing Lance Tago at lock and partnering Mark Savelio in the second row.

The epicentre of the region’s rugby tomorrow however is out in the northern suburbs with three matches on. Paremata-Plimmerton (28) haven’t given up on retaining their Swindale title just yet, and even though eight points and five places is lot to make up they do face both OBU and Petone in the remaining weeks. But before that, there’s tomorrow’s clash with Johnsonville (21) at Ngati Toa, with the visitors likely perplexed by the turn in their fortunes that has seen them concede and lose in the 80th minute the past two weeks and seen them drop to 10th on the ladder; a win here would seem to be a must for them.

James Coburn starts at loosehead prop in his 200th Premier game, with brother Tony at hooker and Werdna Maligi at tighthead prop. Maligi, for Peni Tapau, is one of a handful of changes to Paremata-Plimmerton’s line-up from last week. These include a new locking partnership, Te Whero Werehiko and Junior Davey, and Tane McMillan-Parata back at blindside for absent Hurricane Veveni Lasaqa. In the backs, a notable change sees Esi Komaisavai switches from fullback to halfback with Stehlmen Letele-Teleaga Starting at the back.

Visitors Johnsonville have three of their regular starters on the bench tomorrow, with joint best and fairest competition leader and halfback Mark Sutton among them. Sutton, Nial Delahunt and Jacob Kennedy are all riding the pine at Hammerhead Stadium. Jack Taulapapa and Morgan Williams start at halfback-first-five for them. The versatile Andrew Ellis moves from first five to fullback and Jacob Walmsley from wing to fullback. Ha’amea Ahio captains the side from tighthead prop in a mostly settled pack, with Josh Betham coming in the loose forwards for Serge Hollis one noted change.

Down at Lyndhurst Park is what looms as a titanic clash between Tawa (23) and Oriental Rongotai (31). The home team have found form in recent weeks and although they sit eighth have scored the fourth-most points in the competition, one place higher than the Magpies. Ories are joint-second on the table, and if not for that blip against Wainuiomata would be right on OBU’s tail. There’s no shortage of motivation for each side, so this promises to be a cracker.

Ories have selected a bruising team for this match inside the Lyndhurst cauldron. There is also just one change to their pack that beat Norths 45-0 last Saturday, with Siaosi Lavea returning to No. 8, with Wellington Lion Sione Halalilo not playing and Lion Dominic Ropeti reverting to blindside. The experienced Tuga Mativa comes into fullback, for Ethan Smyth-Rangi, while former Tawa outside back Tom Maiava will make his Ories debut off the bench.

Tawa are missing both props Tolu Fahamokioa and Siale Lauaki (Hurricanes) tomorrow, but Lipa Saveatama comes back to lock to partner Chris Middleton. The loose forward trio of Akiri Ieremia, Hemi Fermanis and Matolu Petaia, along with halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, is a strength. Jacob Denyer for Hunter Sao is their one change in the backline, with Denyer at fullback and Randall Bishop back to fullback.

In between those venues is a clash between two sides currently outside the top eight and desperate to join that fight with Northern United (9) welcoming Wainuiomata (18) to Jerry Collins Stadium. Norths struggles continued last week in being held scoreless by Ories, while after two wins on the bounce Wainuiomata put up a stern fight against HOBM but were eventually subdued. A win here will seem a must if either side wants to make the eight.

Norths bring in Klein Salmon to lock, in place of Xavier Tavai, while Jerome Vaai  comes into hooker for Blake Rogers and James Pese replaces Callum Watts-Pointer at blindside. A change at halfback with Jermaine Avei-Collins in for Jayde Burns who previously started every match. Fewer changes further out, but Jonty Baker replaces Arkaid Edmonds on the right wing.

Blindside flanker Greg Lealofi and fullback Campbell Cowie co-captain and Wainuiomata side with a handful of changes to that which lost to HOBM last Saturday. There are three changes to the forwards and one positional switch, which is hooker Kade Tiatia moving from hooker to tighthead prop. In the starting backs, Raymond Va’a comes off the bench to the wing with Niko Paletesio missing having joined the Police College this week.

The final game in the preview is back in the city, and one of those that people circle when the draw is released with the Battle of Kilbirnie between Poneke (21) and Marist St Pat’s (25). There’s little love lost between the two sides who are separated by the tarmac of Evans Bay Parade, and with the two sides separated by four points and two places and MSP in the top eight and Poneke in the dreaded ninth spot, there’s plenty at stake here.

Crossroad visitors Poneke have been battling injuries, but welcome back Nick Robertson to his accustomed role at fullback, after coming back from injury to the bench last week. Carlos Hihi reverts to first-five. Another change, as listed, is Andrew Jones starting at blindside flanker, the usual hooker also playing loosehead prop last week.

MSP have a relatively settled spine to their team, featuring openside flanker Milan Kiretich, No. 8 Keelan Whitman and halfback Sam Connor. They also get a couple of players back from injury, including Wellington Lion Josh To’omaga who comes on to the bench. Another change sees Iosefo Aukusitino return from a week off but to second-five for the first time, in place of Grayson Whitman.


There are five interclub trophies in play tomorrow:

  • The Horan-Millar Trophy honours two great men of MSP’s and Poneke’s past, Marist’s (and later MSP’s) Mick Horan and Poneke’s Ken Millar who each gave great service to their clubs and Wellington Rugby, and as well as being great mates off the field. Their contributions are many and too lengthy for this column, but both were awarded Life Memberships of their clubs before both passing away within months of each other at relatively young ages in 1982. MSP hold the trophy after winning 29-13 on their side of the road last year.
  • Dean Gifford was a much-respected police officer who was also lost at an early age after a battle with cancer. In 2013 his family put in play a trophy to be contested between OBU and Wellington, two clubs he played for at Premier level in a nomadic career that also saw him play for Ories, MSP, and the Petone police team. OBU hold this from their 49-0 win last season
  • Avalon and Petone contest their Morgan Family Trophy, which was first played for in 1987. Ray Morgan was a player, coach and administrator at Petone and also served as the NZRFU’s secretary and treasurer. His son Trevor played for Taita, was a Wellington representative, and following the merger with Naenae was a coach in Avalon’s early years, while his cousin John played for Petone and was an administrator for both Taita and Avalon. Petone hold this from their 38-10 win last year.
  • Alf Keating played his rugby at both Wainuiomata and Norths and following his passing his family donated the trophy in his name for play between the two. Wainuiomata hold it after winning 59-26 at William Jones last season.
  • The Upper Hutt Rams and Hutt Old Boys Marist Premiers meet for the inaugural Gillies-Melville Cup.


Premier 2 Harper Lock Shield

Despite last week’s loss OBU (35) kept their lead, and their assignment tomorrow is a home clash at Nairnville against Wellington (16). HOBM and Petone (both 33) head the chasing pack and they both hit the road and head north with the Eagles at Maidstone to face the Rams (18) with the Villagers at Fraser Park to face bottom-placed Avalon (7). Defending champions Tawa (32) are at home against Ories (22), Pare-Plim (27) likewise against Johnsonville (16), and Poneke (30) will await the arrival of neighbours MSP (12) at Kilbirnie. The final match has Norths taking on Wainuiomata (both 13) in the early game at Jerry Collins Stadium.

All matches are at 12.30pm this week.


Premier Women’s Tia Paasi Memorial and Izzy Ford Cups

The only other club grade playing this weekend are the Women’s, who are rapidly approaching the end of their season. This week’s match-ups in the championship Tia Paasi Memorial puts unbeaten Petone at home on the Rec against valley neighbours Wainuiomata, while out at Jerry Collins Stadium in the clash between the Old Firm or Norths and Oriental Rongotai.

The sole match in the Izzy Ford Cup is at Ngati Toa, where Paremata-Plimmerton will look to back up their win last week against the Poneke-OBU combined side. Avalon have the bye this week.

All three matches kick-off at 11am tomorrow


There is no Colts, Under 85s, Reserve, or Presidents grade rugby this weekend. The matching Colts round will be played at the same time as the first round of Premier playoffs as they will follow a different postseason format.



A full slate of matches in the Premiership tomorrow, and eyes in the will be turned to the northern slopes of Mt Victoria as Scots College come through the tunnel to take on Wellington College. Silverstream are at home for the visit of Tawa College, and just up the road Hutt International and Rongotai take to the NZCIS campus. Paraparaumu play their first home Premiership game in 35 years when they host St Bernard’s with all four of these matches at 2.30pm. The fifth match is at 1pm, with Wairarapa College making the long haul into the eastern suburbs to take on St Pats Town at Evans Bay.

The Premier 2 day starts early with the St Pats Town and Rongotai 2nd XVs clashing at 11.30am with the Wellington College and Silverstream 2nds meeting at the same time. At 1pm Naenae takes on Porirua and there’s the northern city derby between Aotea and Bishop Viard. The final game of the round is at 2.30pm with Taita hosting Hutt Valley HS in an all-valley clash.

The third round of the Premiership rolls around again in the middle of next week, with Rongotai hosting Wellington College in their annual Traditional match.



Only two matches in the Manawatu Senior 1 tomorrow with the competition splitting for the remainder of the season. Both matches are in the ‘Top 5’, with Feilding Yellows hosting first-round winners Kia Toa, with Old Boys Marist meeting College Old Boys at the Arena. Massey has the bye in this section, with all four teams in the ‘Bottom 4’ – Te Kawau, Freyberg, Linton Army, and Feilding Old Boys-Oroua – also having the week off.

Just one match in Horowhenua-Kapiti this weekend. Shannon celebrates 125 years this weekend and they take on Foxton in the game there. The other two matches of this round will be played on the 22nd of this month.

And in Wairarapa-Bush two games have already been played, both in Masterton. Marist inflicted a second loss of the season on Carterton with a last-minute penalty to win 31-29 on the Memorial Park turf, while a short distance away East Coast burst Red Star’s bubble with a 24-10 win. The remaining matches of the round are both tonight with Greytown taking on Martinborough at neutral Gladstone and Pioneer heading out Eketahuna.

Aisle be Back: Hurricanes v Highlanders

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