Last week the top two Men’s grades and Premier Women’s grades got underway, this week sees the Colts, U85s, Reserve Grade competitions and President’s rugby all starting.
The sun was in quarantine most of last week as Wellington only witnessed six minutes of sunshine. In the big wet, Tawa, Petone and Marist St Pats were the only teams to emerge with maximum points and all three will fancy their prospects of a repeat tomorrow in the second round of the Swindale Shield.
Johnsonville v Poneke
Referee: Steve Newson
Venue: Helston Park
The Ben Huntley-led Poneke side was in the game for long periods, but some handling mistakes and ill-directed kicks at key moments proved costly in a defeat to OBU.
Poneke have made changes to their back row, with Cole Stewart, Hauwai McGahan and Galu Taufale from last week all out and DJ Taoipu, Connor Strang and Greg Foe into their starting XV.
For Johnsonville, first-five Ivan Vaisagote will front against his former club and the hosts will back themselves at the set-piece.
Old Boys University v Northern United
Referee: Jamie Fairmaid
Venue: Nairville Park
Recent Norths v OBU matches have been thrillers. Norths has claimed spoils three times in the past four encounters, but OBU won the 2018 Jubilee Cup final.
OBU were workmanlike in foiling Poneke. The scrum was especially solid.
Norths were belted by MSP, a powerful team misfiring. Norths have some line-up tweaks this week, former OBU pivot Manahi Moana will be hoping for a better outing against his former team.
Dashing centre Sam Reid will celebrate his 50th match for the Billy Goats in this match for both the Bill Brien Challenge Shield (OBU holders) and Ken Douglas Trophy.
Oriental Rongotai v Paremata-Plimmerton
Referee: Colin Te Pohe
Venue: Polo Ground
Ories were ferociously competitive against HOBM in their opener, but careless mistakes and a lack of ball for the backs resulted in the narrow defeat.
Weather permitting, Ories will employ greater width to involve the likes of Steven Va’a and Roderick Solo more often. Lock and regular captain Tuakana Metuarau are missing, but Hurricanes Ardie Savea and Alex Fidow are listed to play.
Paremata-Plimmerton brings experience in the forwards with Peni Taupau and Shane Hedges longtime regulars, but Ories haven’t lost this fixture since 2015.
Tawa v Avalon
Referee: Richard Gordon
Venue: Lyndhurst Park
Tawa has assembled a powerful team in 2020, retaining much of its 2019 squad and adding quality recruits like Trent Renata and Eammon Carr. Thrilling counterattack and earnest defence were key in the win against Wainuiomata.
The Wolves lost their way against Wellington. Despite outscoring the hosts two tries to one, the concession of penalties was to cost the Wolves the game. Patrick Roil and Sefo Aumua got on the scoresheet in a worthy forward display.
Upper Hutt Rams v Marist St Pats
Referee: Andrew Lawler
Venue: Maidstone Park
Upper Hutt beat MSP for the first time since 2002 last year and started 2020 with a 20-8 win against Paremata Plimmerton but knocking over the Reds again will be a tall order. MSP has won 12 of their last 13 games and overpowered Norths 28-5 last week in a strong team performance.
Upper Hutt will be determined to put on a show at Maidstone Park where they haven’t played since 2018. Watch for Daniel Schrijvers in the midfield and former Blues flanker Murphy Taramai.
Wainuiomata v Petone
Venue: William Jones Park
Referee: Jack Sargentina
Petone tops the table after belting Johnsonville 34-5. Halfback Logan Henry profited from a strong forward effort to score 19 points, including two tries. Wainuiomata is smarting from a 31-3 hiding at the hands of Tawa. Scrum and lineout issues were a particular weakness.
There has been a draw and two games decided by less than a converted try in the last five meetings between the clubs. Expect big improvement from the hosts, but Petone with greater firepower off the bench and a settled backline are favorites. Watch young Ruben Love try and spark the hosts’ backline while Kaliopasi Uluilakepa is a formidable anchor front for Petone and Hurricane Kobus van Wyk debuts on the wing for the Villagers. The Darren Larsen Cup is on the line.
Wellington v Hutt Old Boys Marist
Venue: Hataitai Park
Referee: Nick Hogan
Better discipline and a grinding forward effort led both the Axemen and Eagles to victories over Ories and Avalon respectively. Matt Goosen kicked four penalties and grafting lock Ben Strowger-Turnock crashed over for a try as Wellington resisted Avalon.
HOBM’s victory at the Polo Ground against Ories was impressive. After an early Salesi Raysai strike, there were no points for an hour until Brandyn Laursen kicked a 50-metre penalty and 25-metre drop goal.
HOBM will employ their huge size to try and suppress Wellington who haven’t beaten the Eagles since rejoining the topflight. Wellington will scrap honestly, but that might not be enough.
The Petone Ponies come off their first-round bye to play Poneke in one of two games side-by-side at Kilbirnie Park in the Premier Women’s grade.
The Petone – Poneke fixture is on Kilbirnie 1, adjacent to the Marist St Pats Women hosting Paremata-Plimmerton. Of these three teams that played last week, just Paremata-Plimmerton were winners, having roared back to beat Hutt Old Boys Marist 30-24. MSP lost to Ories 0-54 and Poneke lost to Avalon 5-20.
At Ian Galloway Park, the OBU Impalas host Avalon, with the former losing to Norths last week and the latter beating Poneke.
At the Hutt Rec, first round losers Hutt Old Boys Marist host Ories. Norths have the second-round bye.
All Premier Women’s matches kick off at 11.30am.
The Opening round of the Colts Paris Memorial Trophy sees defending champions Old Boys University Green hosting Norths Blue at Ian Galloway Park at 1pm in the feature game.
The other three matches in the Colts competition are spread far and wide. In one game in town, the Axemen Colts host HOBM Green at Hataitai Park at 1pm. The Johnsonville and Poneke Colts meet at Newlands Park at 1pm, the Wainuiomata and Petone Colts play at Mary Crowther Park at 12.45pm and the Tawa Colts and OBU Black (second team) meet at Redwood Park at 12.30pm.
It is also the first round of the U85kg JC Bowl competition, with the defending champions the Avalon Wolves playing beside the seaside against Eastbourne at 2.45pm, the MSP and Poneke teams playing on Kilbirnie Park at 2.45pm, the OBU Scallywags hosting the HOBM Howlers at MacAlister Park at 1pm and the Rams and the Wests Roosters playing at 2.45pm at Maoribank Park.
The Wellington Axemen U85s have the bye in the nine-team U85kg grade, with last year’s championship finalists Paraparaumu not entered this year.
Tomorrow also sees the start of the Reserve Grade and Presidents Grade seasons.