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Championship club rugby starts this Saturday

Action from William Jones Park last Saturday, that saw Paremata-Plimmerton beat the home team in a close one. Wainuiomata are back home tomorrow to face Avalon, while Paremata-Plimmerton traverse Wellington to play Ories at the Polo Ground. PHOTO: T-Paul Gale.

  • By Scott MacLean

Updated late Friday afternoon: This weekend marks the opening day of championship club rugby for Wellington’s 14 Premier teams.

The top eight finishers from the just completed Swindale Shield round start their tilts towards glory and Wellington sport’s most coveted prize, the Jubilee Cup. The bottom six teams have the Hardham Cup to play for throughout July.

Likewise, it is the start of the second round in Premier 2 and U85kg club rugby, while it’s the last week of the Colts round-robin competition with several teams having much to play for to secure their places in the three-week knockout competition to come. It’s also the seventh round of college rugby, before a short break for the school holidays starting next week.

This week’s radio broadcast show comes from Maidstone Park in Upper Hutt where the home team hosts Marist St Pat’s in the first weekend of the Jubilee Cup. On air at 1161AM, 87.6FM around the city, streaming on iHeart Radio and Whare Kōrero Apps and www.teupoko.nz.

Draws & teamlists (as received) are here: https://www.clubrugby.co.nz/wellington/games-results.php?competition=3&season=21&round=1

More about the action on offer below.

Premier Jubilee and Hardham Cups

The focus now sharply swings to the business end of the season, and the short, sharp, run to the Jubilee Cup title.

For the Top Four, the prize tomorrow is a pass straight through to the semi-finals in a fortnight’s time with the alternative being a season-ending clash next week.

Rugby League Park is the venue for the first of these, with Swindale champions Old Boys-University (1) on their city block to take on Tawa (4), with the two having blitzed their opponents by a combined 189-0 last Saturday. OBU’s form in winning 12 of 13 matches across the year is undeniable, but Tawa are a different beast now to the side the Goats beat at Lyndhurst by 43-29 back in round five.

The visitors muscle up in their pack tomorrow; Super Rugby players PJ Sheck, Siale Lauaki, and Hugo Plummer all start with Hemi Fermanis also returning. The backline doesn’t quite have the same name factor, but Connor Sharrock returns to midfield and the ageless Randall Bishop returns to fullback. OBU have a significant omission with hooker and captain Louis Calvert a non-starter so Zak Pene deputises. Cody Quin starts on the openside, while the inside back trio of Kyle Preston, Callum Harkin, and Fuka Paongo is restored. Newly signed Lion Mitch McLeod drops to the bench with Preston’s return, alongside Malo Manuao and Tana Maene-Lokeni.

Out in the Hutt Valley is the McBain Shield redux as Petone (2) hosts Hutt Old Boys Marist (3) for the second time in three weeks and looking to repeat the 48-31 win that saw the venerable old trophy returned to North Park for another year. It won’t be up for grabs tomorrow, but bragging rights and that bye will be and that should be plenty of motivation.

It’s take two for Losi Filpo for his 50th game in the famous saddle after being a late withdrawal two weeks ago; he’s listed at centre outside Hurricanes teammate Riley Higgins. TJ Clarke drops back to fullback with Cam Ferreira and Logan Henry in the halves. Plkenty of changes up front with Kafaonga Katoa, Ryan Imrie, Sam Tonise, Mason Henry, and Conner Tuifao all back in the starting lineup. Props Ben Manaia and Vili Tauofaga join James O’Reilly in the Eagles front row with Ben Tuiomanufili swapping in for Mika Alaifatu at No8. Flynn Ruscoe continues at #10 in the absence of Brandyn Laursen with Jordan-Glen Bradbrook, Fereti Soloa, and Fritz Rayasi all added this week. Kienan Higgins’ opportunity to face his younger brother will come from the bench.

For the next four sides its straight into elimination rugby, at least as far as the Jubilee Cup is concerned. The winners move on, while the losers drop into the Hardham Cup.

Upper Hutt haven’t got their team to us yet due to “technical difficulties”. MSP get a couple of big pieces of their puzzle back with Vince Sakaria returning up front and halfback Sam Connor back from suspension. The latter allows Rique Miln and Grayson Whitman to return to their normal places, with Tomasi Connor installed at fullback for tomorrow.

At the other extremity of the region one of last year’s finalists will be eliminated in the first week, as Oriental Rongotai (6) hosts Paremata-Plimmerton (7) at the Polo Ground for the second time this season. That previous meeting came in the opening round and saw the Magpies prevail 29-24, and curiously both sides have largely alternated wins and losses for the last month. The form book isn’t really much of a guide here so anything could happen.

The home side are able to welcome back skipper Penieli Poasa, so Connor Lemon slides back over to loosehead. Ronaldo Seumanufagai is back at lock with younger brother Herman continuing on the blindside, with the only change to their backline seeing Chicago Doyle go back to fullback and Pose Tuilaepa onto the wing in place of Declan Hay. Siaosi Lavea is also back, and will be asked to add impact from the bench. Pare-Plim are largely unchanged; Alex Fidow is named to face his former club after being a late withdrawal last week with the reshuffle seeing centurion James Corcoran drop out. Joe Faleafaga makes his first start since the early rounds, pushing Te Manawa Staples-Rei to the bench.

The Hardham Cup matches are about placement for next week’s quarter-finals, and in that regard it’s the three home teams with everything to lose.

Wainuiomata (9) are the side in form here, having run both Tawa and Pare-Plim close in recent weeks either side of a win over Johnsonville. Their task is tomorrow at home at William Jones is bottom-side Avalon (14), who they beat 43-17 at the same venue back on Opening Day.

The hosts have the services of Peter Umaga-Jensen which allows Tyler Tane to head to the bench. Lorenzo Pili and Jason Matehe come into the front row, with Jacob Stowers-Kasiano starting on the left wing. Regan Gray and a returning Renata Kotuhi join Tane amongst the substitutes. Ale Peni stays in the front row for the Wolves with Quinn O’Kane, Semi Uluiviti, Jamie Fa’apusa, and Chalis Briskie all joining him in the forwards. There’s at least some stability in the backs as it’s unchanged from last Saturday.

After a wretched run of form Johnsonville (10) showed what might have been with their emphatic win over MSP last Saturday. They host Wellington (13) at Helston, with the Axemen having conceded 90 points in each of the last two weekends.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the Hawks stick with almost the same starting side that were victorious last week with the only change seeing the well-travelled Asafo Fa’amafu being the latest wearer of the #7 jersey and Billy Bryce moving to #8. Wings Jacob Walmsley and Finlay Sharp will look to add to the seven they scored between them last week. As of writing Wellington’s side hadn’t reached us.

The last match of this part of the preview is at Kilbirnie Park where both Poneke (11) and Norths (12) will want victory to have a slightly easier path to negotiate next week. The home side will be disappointed that they let Petone get away in the second half while last weekend will be one for Norths to forget as they suffered the heaviest defeat in their history at the hands of the Swindale champs. These two drew 27-all when they met during the Swindale.

Andrew Jones again deputises on the openside for Poneke, with David Taoipu moving into lock with Pasia Asiata returns to fill up the loose trio with captain DJ Taoipu. Tauvaga Siolo shifts to the left wing with Isaac Moe-Jenkins back into the side at centre. Not many places for Norths to go after last week; Josiah Tavita-Metcalfe comes back into the front row with Jerome Vaai moving back to hooker and Dan Aiono subs in for Callum Watts-Pointer. There’s a reshuffle in the backs with Jermaine Avei-Collins going from halfback to centre, Jayde Burns from first-five to halfback, Kayd Parata comes into the #10 jersey, and Toby Kennett returns at fullback.

All matches are at 2.45pm, with extra-time to be played if required.

Premier 2 Ed Chaney and HD Morgan Memorial Cups

As with last year, the Premier 2 grade follows the same playoff format as the Premiers. In the championship Ed Chaney Cup, the top four matches see Harper Lock winners OBU (1) host Petone (4) at Rugby League Park, with defending champions Tawa (2) at home Lyndhurst Park against HOBM (3).

The second bracket, which will see the losers drop into the HD Morgan division, has Poneke (5) hosting the Upper Hutt Rams (8) at Kilbirnie Park, while in the reverse of the premier matchup Pare-Plim (6) face Ories (7) out at Ngati Toa.

The three matches in the HD Morgan this weekend are, like the Hardham Cup, about seeding and avoiding the teams dropping down next week. In those MSP (9) face Wainuiomata (14) on Kilbirnie #3, Norths (10) take on Wellington (13) at Porirua Park, and Johnsonville (11) are up against Avalon (12) at Helston.

All matches are at 12.30pm this week

Colts Paris Memorial

The last first-round trophy to be handed out will be tomorrow, and it will be headed back to the Hutt Rec in the hands of Hutt Old Boys Marist (60) following the final round of matches which are those skipped at King’s Birthday weekend. The junior Eagles are up at Maidstone Park to face the Upper Hutt Rams (46) who will be looking to make a statement and put a halt to HOBM’s unbeaten run.

With the grade splitting into a Top Seven/Bottom Seven for the respective championship playoffs next week (Division 1 John E Kelly Cup and Division 2 Vic Calcinai Memorial), Petone (47) are assured of moving to 52 points and hosting one of the three quarter-finals as their match with Avalon (17) is no longer going ahead. MSP (44) and Tawa (43) are also certain to be in the top half; MSP cross the road to take on Poneke (25), while Tawa host Ories (41) at Redwood. Ories are one of three sides fighting for the remaining two places but have the hardest challenge as OBU (42) are at Nairnville against Wellington (9) and Norths (38) host bottom-side Wainuiomata (8) at Porirua Park. The seventh match of the round has Pare-Plim (20) at home against Johnsonville (9).

All Colts matches are at 12.30pm this week, bar an 11am start for Poneke and MSP.

Under 85s Paul Potiki Memorial and Tony O’Brien Shields

There are just three matches in the lightweight grade tomorrow as the sides start their playoffs where it’s win-or-bust. In the championship Paul Potiki Memorial, JC Bowl winners Tawa (1) and defending champions OBU (2) get to put their feet up. At Fraser Park Avalon (3) host neighbours HOBM (6) with the winner to face the Scallywags next week, with Poneke (4) welcoming Johnsonville (5) to Kilbirnie Park to play the Ducks in the semifinals.

Just the lone elimination match in the Division 2 Tony O’Brien Shield with MSP (10) hosting Petone (11) at Hataitai Park with the winner to move on to face Wellington (7) next week. The other semifinal match is already locked in for next Saturday with Pare-Plim (8) to host Eastbourne (9).

These three matches are all at 2.45pm

College

After last weekend’s somewhat truncated round, it should be a full slate of matches in the Premiership tomorrow before the school holiday break. The round starts with the 1pm kickoff in Masterton was Wairarapa College hosts Hutt International before attention shifts to the 2.30pm games, where the match of the day on paper is out on the Miramar peninsula as Scots hosts Silverstream. Around past the airport is the eastern suburbs derby between Rongotai and St Pats Town, while through the tunnel Wellington College are at home against Paraparaumu. The final match of the round is in Tawa, where the home school takes on St Bernard’s.

The Premier 2 round has leaders the Silverstream 2nds hosting Porirua College in an early 11am kickoff, followed at 1pm with the Town 2nds taking on their Wellington College counterparts at Evans Bay and Bishop Viard at home against Rongotai’s 2nds. The only 2.30pm kickoff in the grade has Aotea at home against Hutt Valley High. Taita has the bye in the competition this week, but are venturing north to Levin to play Waiopehu College.

Elsewhere

Semi-finals time in the Manawatu Senior 1 competition tomorrow. Unbeaten Kia Toa (1) are at home against Old Boys Marist (4) in one match, while the other sees Massey (2) hosting College Old Boys (3) in the championship bracket. The ‘Bottom Four’ side has Freyberg hosting winless Feilding Old Boys-Oroua, and Linton Army and Te Kawau meeting on neutral turf at Ongley Park.

It’s the final round of the round-robins in the two Heartland provinces tomorrow. In Horowhenua-Kapiti Rahui (60) put their feet up having won all 12 matches so far and get to see how the race to avoid them in the semifinals plays out. Shannon (34) host Levin College Old Boys (38) in one match and they, along with Foxton (37) who hosts Waikanae, could each finish anywhere from second to fourth. Levin Wanderers and Paraparaumu have the Levin Domain as they each seek to avoid the wooden spoon.

Marist (28) are already assured of hosting one of the championship semi-finals in Wairarapa-Bush next weekend, and will look to complete an unbeaten second round for the Moose Kapene Cup when they host neighbours Masterton Red Star. Carterton (24) should join them but it won’t be easy away at Whareama against East Coast, with Pioneer (22) looking to pounce when they travel down to Greytown. The fourth match was to see Martinborough (18) take on Eketahuna (14) for the final place, however the northerners have been forced to default after simply running out of front-rowers.

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