Tawa, Hutt Old Boys Marist and Oriental-Rongotai all won well with bonus points on Saturday’s sixth and penultimate round of the Jubilee Cup to set up a tight and thrilling race for both the Andy Leslie Trophy and the semi-finals places in a fortnight.
At least one of the semi-finalists and the venues for the first of the championship rounds is yet to be decided heading into the last round.
On an afternoon backed by a cold southerly and squally showers, Tawa beat Wainuiomata 39-17 at William Jones Park, HOBM powered past Petone 35-0 at home and Ories overcame Northern United 39-21 at the Polo Ground. Poneke had the bye.
This leaves the points table as follows: Tawa 20, HOBM 17, Ories 16, Norths 15, Wainuiomata 13, Petone 7, Poneke 6.
Next week’s match-ups see Wainuiomata hosting HOBM, Northern United entertaining Tawa and Poneke and Ories meeting at Kilbirnie Park.
In the Hardham Cup, the ‘top four’ is now confirmed, with Old Boys University, Marist St Pats, Wellington and the Upper Hutt Rams qualified and set to determine who will play who in next week’s final round.
Saturday’s sixth round Hardham Cup was tightly contested, with OBU defeating the Avalon Wolves 29-13, Marist St Pats beating Johnsonville 29-13 and the Wellington Axemen pipping Paremata-Plimmerton 18-15 at Hataitai Park. The Rams had the bye.
First round winners HOBM played into the stiff wind in the first half of their match at the Petone Recreation Ground and defended stoutly for most of that time. Petone enjoyed overwhelming territorial advantage but couldn’t break through and it was 0-0 at halftime.
Turning with the wind, the Eagles scored five tries, to fullback Brandyn Laursen, lock David Filipo, left wing Fereti Soloa and prop Joe ‘Apikotoa (2). Laursen kicked all five conversions.
Over the hill at Wainuiomata, conditions were more benign and Tawa’s 22-point halftime lead proved enough to hold off Wainuiomata in the second spell.
Tawa made a fast start, first five-eighth Luke Cummings kicking an early penalty and then kicking ahead and regathering to score and convert the opening try for a 10-0 lead. Right wing Tane Heremia and halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara also scored first half tries.
Tawa were forced into defensive mode late in the first half and held on successfully, before Wainuiomata scored first in the second spell when flanker Greg Lealofi made a blindside dart from a scrum and No. 8 Ben Tupuloa playing in his 100th Premier game scored soon after.
But Tawa scored next to move ahead 27-7, and went on to clinch the win with several minutes to play when lock Tito Ioane sprinted clear to score their final try.
Oriental-Rongotai won their match against Norths in atrocious conditions at the Polo Ground.
With Ma’a Nonu and Matt Proctor in their midfield, Alex Fidow at No. 8 and right wing Paulo Aukuso playing his 200th Premier match, Ories were fast out of the blocks against Norths. Nonu, who was playing his 50th Premier match, scored the first try and had a hand in another to wing Andrew Ellis as they went ahead 21-7. Norths No. 8 Luca Rees scored his 18th try of the season, against his former team, before Norths wing Connor Garden-Bachop crossed to make it 21-14 at halftime.
Ories edged ahead with a penalty and then scored the match-winner to replacement back Steven Va’a from a kick ahead to put them ahead 29-14. Blues hooker Leni Apisai scored off the bench for Norths, but Ories had enough points in the bank.
At Helston Park, the Johnsonville Hawks pushed visitors Marist St Pats close before missing out to them 12-29.
Johnsonville had the wind in the first half and held MSP to 7-7 and later 12-12, before MSP battled past them in the second half. They took the lead with a penalty try early in the second spell and then maintained their lead to fulltime. For MSP, No. 8 Pago Haini was a key figure in the contest, scoring two tries and also spending time in the sin-bin. Left wing Faresa Tasele scored his seventh try of the past three weeks.
The pattern was similar at Fraser Park, with the Avalon Wolves playing with the wind in the first half and taking a 13-12 lead over the OBU Goats with a try to fullback Site Timu. The Goats scored a try just before the break to turn with the elements in their favour with a 19-12 advantage. They scored twice more to run out 29-13 winners, with five players scoring their tries.
The closest match of the round was the Wellington Axemen’s 18-15 victory over visitors Paremata-Plimmerton, winning with an extra time penalty for offside play and kicked by first five-eighth Matt Goosen.
With time up on the clock, Goosen broke a 15-15 deadlock to secure his team a place in the top four of the Hardham Cup with a week to spare. Paremata-Plimmerton had earlier taken a 10-0 lead through tries to right wing Matt de Terte and No. 8 Peni Tapau. Wellington closed to 10-5 when centre Eremia Tapsell sprinted 60 metres.
Tapau scored a second try for Pare-Plim, followed by a second to Tapsell and then a penalty to Goosen before the match winning penalty at the end.
Northern United soared to a 56-7 win over Oriental-Rongotai in the top tier feature Women’s competiton match at the Polo Ground.
With lock Sanita Levave playing her 150th match for Norths, Norths came out firing and ran rampant to inflict a first defeat of the year on Ories. Norths scored 10 tries to various try-scorers.
In the other Tia Paasi Memorial match, the Old Boys University Impalas beat Petone 33-7. First five-eighth Montana Heslop and centre Thamsyn Newton both scored braces at the Petone Rec. OBU led 28-0 at halftime and then held on grimly throughout the second half into the strong wind. Petone are out of contention for the straight final in three weeks, with OBU needing to upset both Norths and Ories to make the season decider at the end of this month.
In tier two matches, Paremata-Plimmerton beat the combined Wainuiomata/Avalon side 60-0 on Friday night, with flanker Alohagia Tuangalu scoring two of their 10 tries, and Marist St Pats beat Poneke 77-15 at Evans Bay Park on Saturday with midfielder Paige Va'auli scoring four tries to take her season tally to 23.
The semi-finals are still to be decided in the two Premier Reserve competitions. In the Ed Chaney Cup Norths' 26-15 win over Ories means they will host one of the semi-finals while Tawa's 24-15 win over Wainuiomata means that they can host the other if they can beat Norths next week. Petone's 31-5 win over HOBM also assures they'll be playing in two weeks’ time, The fourth place comes down to a straight shootout between Poneke and Ories next weekend.
In the HD Morgan Memorial division, MSP got past Johnsonville 109-0, to all but assure a top spot for the side that is unbeaten all year. OBU's 68-0 win over the Wolves means a head-to-head against the Upper Hutt Rams to likely determine hosting rights between them for the following week. Like the Ed Chaney, the fourth spot comes down to a head-to-head match between Paremata-Plimmerton and Johnsonville, after the Ngati Toa side edged Wellington 36-35 in the Hataitai Park curtain-raiser to end the Axemen's season.
HOBM are assured of top spot in the Colts Division 1 John E Kelly Cup after beating Petone 75-0 at the Petone Rec. HOBM had first use of the wind and scored a steady procession of tries. They stayed in scoring mode throughout the second half. OBU Green are almost there as well, needing just a point next weekend against the Eagles after they beat Tawa 41-7. Ories went to third with their 29-20 win at the Polo against Norths, a result that pushes the latter to the brink, while MSP kept their hopes alive with a 33-0 win over Paremata-Plimmerton.
In Colts Division 2, Poneke beat Johnsonville 57-19, Wellington defeated Wainuiomata 17-5 and Avalon overcame OBU Black 51-10. The Vic Calcinai Memorial Cup sees Poneke out in front and guaranteed to finish top, but four teams battling for the other three spots and for the second home playoff date.
The Upper Hutt Rams made it three from three to start the Paul Potiki Shield U85kg competition, edging the HOBM Howlers 10-6.
The Johnsonville Terrahawks beat Paraparaumu 24-12 in the other U85kg Division 1 fixture, while both Division 2 fixtures were won by default to Eastbourne and Wellington respectively.
Stokes Valley maintained their winning streak in the First Grade, beating OBU 20-5 in their Johnsonville Centennium Cup fixture.
Likewise, the Poneke Ruffnuts stayed unbeaten for the season with a 22-5 club derby win over the Poneke Rats in Reserve Grade Division 1.