Oriental-Rongotai v Marist St Pat's
The defending champions versus the 13-time winners. The explosiveness of Oriental-Rongotai Tracer Construction against the experience of Marist St Pat's. This Jubilee Cup final between these two proud eastern suburbs rivals to decide Wellington's club rugby supremacy; looks set to be a cracker. Nothing could decide these sides just a fortnight ago when they finished all square at 9-9 after 80 minutes of tough round-robin rugby. Neither will give an inch in this final rematch between Ories, who won't relinquish their crown lightly after beating Norths 40-18 in last year's final, and MSP who last won back-to-back in 2008 and 2009.
In black and white hoops, Ories are coming off a 45-17 semi-final win at home over Wainuiomata, blasting past the fourth placed qualifiers with a three-try burst just before halftime. Wearing their distinctive scarlet strip, MSP enter today's final having outlasted Northern United 33-6 at Evans Bay Park in the other semi-final. Leading 15-6 deep into the contest, MSP pulled clear of last year's beaten finalists in the closing 10 minutes.
Ories and MSP have similar season records. With eight wins and seven bonus points from 11 games, MSP finished second behind Hutt Old Boys Marist in the first round Swindale Shield. With eight wins and four bonus points, Ories finished fourth. In the Jubilee Cup round-robin, both won five, drew one and lost two of their matches.
For Ories, over half their side that featured in last year's match-day 22 for the final will be retuning today. Players to look out for include dynamic openside flanker Ardie Savea, New Zealand U20 backs Matt Proctor and Ambrose Curtis, and key forwards, skipper Donal McNamara, Hurricanes lock Mark Reddish, former MSP No. 8 Joe Maiava, Pau and Kelipi Halafihi and Hurricanes hooker Motu Matu'u. Key players up front for MSP include props, four-time Jubilee Cup winner Kas Lealamanua and Hurricane Jeff Toomaga-Allen, former Hurricanes lock Bernie Upton, former Tongan lock Lua Lokotui and 2011 Best and Fairest winner Liu Taituave at hooker. In the backs, halfback Peter Sciascia and first five-eighth Fa'atonu Fili loom as key protagonists.
Silverstream v Wellington College
The NZ Uniforms Premier 1 competition has again been strongly contested; with the calibre of talented athletes and coaches enabling the path to the finals to be open to most schools in Premier 1 in 2012. Schools such as St Bernards, St Patrick's Town and Scots College may consider it the year that one got away, however full credit should be given to Wellington College and Silverstream for the season they have produced to date.
Top qualifiers Wellington College are expected to be tested by St Pat's Silverstream today in a replay of last year's NZ Uniforms Premier 1 final won by Wellington College 20-18.
Both these teams are coming off tough semi-finals wins last week, Wellington College holding off St Pat's Town 18-12 and second placed qualifiers Silverstream coming from behind to pip Scots College 23-20.
Wellington College also contested the annual Quadrangular tournament last week in Christchurch and were held to a 31-31 draw by Nelson College in the final. Heading into today's final they have won 16, drawn one and lost twice in 19 matches all season. Both losses by a combined margin of six points were to Christchurch Boys' High School and Hastings' Boys High School. They have scored 605 points and conceded 168 and, not including their three pre-season Williment Trophy matches, have scored 43 tries and conceded eight. Wellington College won their two games against Silverstream 29-3 and 24-11. They are going for three wins against Silverstream in the same season for the third time in history after achieving this feat previously in 2002 and 2009.
Silverstream's season record is won 12 and lost six in 18 matches. After a shaky start to the Premier 1 competition that saw them lose 26-28 to St Bernard's and then Wellington College 11-24 in successive weeks, they have not lost in Wellington since round three. In Wellington games they have scored 34 tries and conceded 14. Silverstream's recent victory over Palmerston North Boys' has confirmed the team deserve their finals place and are a genuine contender in todays final.
However, a great season can only be measured by the result of their last game, something that both teams will be well aware of.
Hardham Cup final preview: Poneke v Old Boys University
Poneke and Old Boys-University both have points to prove when they meet in this year's Hardham Cup final at the Petone Recreation Ground on Saturday. Both will be especially eager to claim the Premier 2 Hardham Cup, after earlier missing out on the chance to play for Wellington club rugby's major prize, the Jubilee Cup.
Poneke want to capture the Hardham Cup as a consolation prize after having a disappointing first round, and finishing outside of the top eight for the Jubilee Cup for the first time since the 1990s. After beating Jubilee Cup finalists MSP 19-15 in their season opener, OBU slipped to ninth in the first round, missing out to Petone by a whisker for a place in the Jubilee Cup round. OBU also lost to Tawa 20-25 in last year's Hardham Cup final after playing through the second round unbeaten. Today OBU are playing in their third Premier 2 final in four years after comfortably beating the Wests Roosters 42-8 in 2010.
Both Poneke and OBU arrive at the Petone Rec having won contrasting semi-finals. After being kept in check by Marist St Pat's B in the first half, Poneke pulled clear in the second half to win 50-0. OBU came back from an 8-14 deficit late in the contest to beat the Wests Roosters 15-14.
Clearly the best two teams throughout round-robin play, Poneke and OBU won all their matches against the other Hardham Cup opposition. Unbeaten Poneke were the most impressive of the two, scoring 284 points and 49 tries and conceding 51 points and just five tries in their seven matches. OBU, whose sole defeat in the Hardham Cup round was to Poneke 18-24, scored 279 points and 48 tries and conceded 59 points and 10 tries. Both sides qualified first and second for the knockout rounds with two weeks to spare. Poneke's top try scorer in the Hardham Cup is fullback Michael Sage with seven, while OBU wing Te Wehi Wright has scored eight including four in one game against Northern United B.
Head-to-head this season, OBU won their first round Swindale Shield clash 22-20 after Poneke had got off to a flyer and skipped out to a 20-5 lead at halftime. A turning point in that match came late in the first half when Poneke and Hurricanes midfielder Charlie Ngatai re-injured an ankle in the act of attempting to score a try. OBU held on, Poneke lost their best attacker at that point and OBU managed to claw their way back into the match. Roles were reversed three weeks ago when Poneke kept their noses ahead throughout and won 24-18. Overall, Poneke have won four of their last five contests with Ngatai scoring seven tries in three games against the students. However, his inclusion in this fixture is in doubt due to him sustaining an injury playing for the Ricoh Wellington Lions against Manawatu in a pre-season fixture on Wednesday.
Poneke will also be without openside flanker Galu Taufale (injured in last week's semi-final) and first five-eighth Cameron Clement (returned to Wales), but will still field several big-game players such as the Moananu brothers, Hurricanes prop Reg Goodes, Lions lock Joe Latta and long-serving halfback Brad Faulkner. OBU can call upon former Southland Ranfurly Shield winner Seminar Manu in the backline, former NZ age grade wing Joe Hill and will receive good go forward up front in such players as lock/No. 8 Thomas Fleming, and NZ Universities prop Con Williams.
In two curtain-raisers side by side on the Petone Rec, the Junior Wellington Axemen and Old Boys University meet in the John E Kelly Memorial BNZ Age Grade Division 1 final, starting at 12.15pm, and Wainuiomata and Norths clash in the Victoria Tavern Trophy Premier Women's final on the main ground from 12.30pm.