The club season winds up tomorrow, while the representative season swings into gear with several matches home and away for Wellington rugby supporters to watch live and follow closely.
An action-packed club season that started at Upper Hutt’s Awakairangi and Maoribank Parks in Mid-March concludes just up the road at Maidstone Park with the Reserve Grade final between the Upper Hutt Rams J8s and the Marist St Pat’s Internationals.
In last week’s John Davies Cup semi-finals, top qualifier the Upper Hutt Rams J8s beat the Wests Roosters Mixed Veges 32-10 and second placed MSP Internationals defeated first round winners Paremata-Plimmerton 27-15.
Both Reserve Grade finalists have timed their run to the final well. MSP (fourth) and the J8s (fifth) finished the first half of the season well below the first round Mike Copeland Trophy winners Paremata-Plimmerton but have had strong winter campaigns, seeing off Wests, Paremata-Plimmerton and the four Old Boys University teams also contesting in this grade.
Head to head, the J8s and the MSP Internationals have split their meetings one apiece this year. MSP won their first round clash 24-17 at Maidstone Park, while the J8s prevailed 26-19 at Kilbirnie Park.
Kick-off on Maidstone 1 is at 2.30pm.
Down the road at the Hutt Rec, there is a pair of Hurricanes Development Shield matches, one of which doubles as a second round Festival Cup encounter.
In the early game at 12.30pm, the Wellington Maori play the Manawatu Evergreens [Development] side. The Maori were left rueing a slow start in their season opening 26-40 loss to the Centurions Development outfit last weekend, conceding a 0-12 deficit with the wind after 20 minutes before playing getting themselves into the match.
The Manawatu side has played two games already. They missed out to the Horowhenua-Kapiti Heartland side 40-29 in their first match but bounced back last weekend to beat Wairarapa-Bush 31-7.
The Wellington Maori were the only one of the three Wellington sides to beat Manawatu in this competition last year, winning 32-22 last year when they clashed in Pahiatua.
The second match at the Hutt Rec at 2.30pm is between the Centurions Development and the Wellington Samoans. The Centurions will be out to make it two from two, while the Samoans are coming off a 41-27 win over the Hawke’s Bay Samoans at Lyndhurst Park. The Samoans will be wearing black arm bands in honour of team member Jimmy Hewitt’s father who passed away last week.
All three Wellington Festival Cup teams look set to be boosted by Wellington Lions Wider Squad Members and two quality fixtures are predicted.
The Wellington U19s sauntered to a 47-7 win over the Hawke’s Bay U19s in their Hurricanes qualifying tournament opener last Sunday. They play their second match of three in this series tomorrow at 1.00pm at Massey University. Their opposition is the Heartland U20 team, who beat the Manawatu U19s 12-3 last weekend. The Heartland side is big and rugged, so the Wellington team will be hoping for firm, dry conditions.
The other match in this series is between the Manawatu U19s and the Hawke’s Bay U19s in Feilding.
The Wellington Pride play Hawke’s Bay in neutral Ashhurst in their final warm-up match before they play them again in Napier next weekend in the opening round of the Farah Palmer Cup.
The Wellington Lions defend the Harry Saundercock Memorial Shield against Canterbury, which was presented by the Saundercock family in 1965 in memory of Harry Saundercock who was the first member of the CRFU to represent Canterbury Rugby sub unions in 1935. The Lions beat Canterbury 60-14 when they met last year. Kick-off in Christchurch is 2.05pm.
In college rugby, four Wellington teams are involved in semi-finals and finals tomorrow.
Defending national champions St Mary’s College play Manawatu champions Manukura in the Hurricanes region final. The winner progresses to the Top 4 tournament in a fortnight. Kick-off at Awatapu College is 2.00pm.
Aotea College play Feilding High School in the Hurricanes Co-ed Cup semi-final at Feilding High School, while St Pat’s Silverstream host Hastings Boys’ High School in one Hurricanes boys semi-final and St Pat’s Town meet Napier Boys’ High School in Napier.