Chase for top four positions heats up this weekend

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Round Six of the Swindale Shield is shaping up to be one of the most important of the season with a series of historical and critical clashes, while it is Old Timers’ Day at Marist St Pats, Oriental Rongotai, Paremata-Plimmerton and Wellington.

In terms of the standings, first jousts with third, sixth hosts second, fourth entertains fifth and at the opposite end of the table, Paremata-Plimmerton will seek consecutive Swindale Shield wins for the first time since 2018 when they clash with Johnsonville.

Even the fixture between Wainuiomata and Ories shapes as season-defining, with the loser conceding almost insurmountable ground in the chase for the top four. There are presently nine points separating first and seventh.

Top of the table Old Boys University will be looking to spoil the Marist St Pats 50th Anniversary celebrations when they travel to Evans Bay Park for a replay of the 2019 Hardham Cup final won 28-24 by MSP and for the Jack Lamason Memorial Trophy. 

OBU has scored more points (205) and tries (38) than any other side, but has not met a top-five opponent. MSP stumbled against Petone in week four but over-ran Ories 42-6 in an especially strong first half effort last week. 

Both sides looked settled and close to complete. The forward battle will be bruising with MSP captain and lock Tom Martin marking Taine Plumtree, the pair were a likely New Zealand Under 20’s combination. MSP openside James Tuia is in blockbuster form, scoring two tries against Ories and is set to jostle with promising rookies Josh Gimblett, Caleb Delany, and Shamus Langton.

In the backs, OBU first-five Dale Sabbagh is the leading points scorer and MSP will be fielding the Proctor brothers, James and Billy, in the midfield, with experience in Isaia Petelo and Ryan Setefano coming off the bench. 

The McBain Shield between Hutt Old Boys Marist and Petone stretches back to 1934 and is one of the biggest inter-club rivalries in Wellington. The Eagles hold the McBain after a 46-26 victory in 2019, but find themselves outside the top four, a place behind Petone in the Swindale standings.

The Eagles have lost their last two games by a combined margin of 10 points and injuries in the tight five have caused headaches, with Josh Brown again covering at lock tomorrow. Still, with Rei and Brett Manaia up front they have the size and power to unsettle anyone.

Petone is 4-1 and close wins against MSP and Poneke are prove of their greater steel. Depth is mounting with the bench a massive part of their 28-20 taming of Poneke. Prop Kailopasi Uluilakepa looks hungry and mean and his impact will help negate some of Hutt’s size while the experienced Brayden Laursen marking Tom Carter, who has scored four tries in his first five games, will be a fascinating tussle.

The Sammy Saili Memorial Trophy is at stake when Norths host Tawa at Jerry Collins Stadium. Tawa is unbeaten but lost three times to Norths last year. Norths will back their size against the gritty and young Tawa pack, but will be worried about their poor first-half against Johnsonville, despite nine changes to their starting XV from the week four roster.

Tawa welcomed back centre Ryan Preston who scored two tries against the Eagles while Josh Hunt returned to Norths with two tries. Tawa lock Akira Ieremia is growing in stature. The halfback battle between Campbell Woodmass and Kemara Hauiti-Parapara will draw a lot of attention.

Paremata-Plimmerton drew attention to themselves when they beat Wellington 21-19 on Saturday to achieve their first win in 11 Swindale games. In a torrid tussle, Shane Hedges scored a try off the bench and Luke Omeri and Justin Wilson stood out in the narrow victory.

Johnsonville led Norths 9-5 at halftime with three Andrew Ellis penalties causing the Jubilee Cup champions concern. Prop PJ Sheck continues to shine as Johnsonville improve and will be desperate to win for the first time in 25 games overall and in 31 Swindale Shield games stretching back to Round 10 of 2017.  The Hawks welcome back lock Kane Le'aupepe. Paremata-Plimmerton won both games last year 22-20 and 23-20.

A similarly close scoreline could be expected between Wainuiomata and Ories. Last year Wainuiomata won the Jubilee Cup semi-final 21-20. Last week Wainui struggled past Avalon 31-24 with a 19-point haul from Tyler Tane the difference. A win for Wainui puts them right on the cusp of the top four. Ories are desperate after two heavy defeats. The Poasa brothers, Penieli and Poasa start in the front row for Ories whose backs include two Wellington Under 19 and two New Zealand Schools reps, as well as evergreen Paulo Aukuso in the midfield.

Avalon produced a season's best effort against Wainuiomata securing two bonus points in a narrow defeat. A re-jigged backline helped the Wolves score four tries while Mateo Setefano was a powerhouse at No.8 and returns there this week. Chris Aumua starts his 30th and blazer match at centre for the Wolves tomorrow. Poneke were competitive against Petone, missing key chances in the first hour, before fading in the last quarter, vulnerable at set-piece. Prop Soti Fa'amausili starts his 30th and blazer game for Poneke. If Avalon starts well, this could be tighter than expected.

Wellington and the Upper Hutt Rams conclude the round with the Rams seeking a third win. Hurricane Murphy Taramai adds considerable backbone to the Upper Hutt back row and plays his 50th match for the Rams tomorrow, while Josh Svenson cannot stop scoring tries. Wellington welcomed back centre Jayden Kini who with more ball will cause trouble. Upper Hutt has a distant size advantage over the Axemen.

Home Team First – All Matches kick-off at 2:45 pm.

  • Wellington v Upper Hutt Rams
  • Avalon v Poneke
  • Marist St Pat’s v OBU
  • Norths v Tawa
  • Ories v Wainui
  • Petone v HOBM
  • Pare-Plim v J'ville

On form, it would be hard going past both Oriental-Rongotai and Northern United both extending their advantages at the top of the Premier Women’s table tomorrow.

Ories are scheduled to meet Avalon at the Polo Ground and Norths are down to play Poneke at Kilbirnie Park. Although, with the Pride squad playing a pre-season match against Manawatu in Otaki on Sunday, a number of leading players from the top two clubs will be on lighter duties tomorrow.

The other two sixth round Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy matches should both be competitive affairs, with OBU and Marist St Pats hosting the two other Hutt teams. At Nairnville Park, the Impalas come off a heavy defeat to Ories to host HOBM, while MSP welcomes Petone on to Evans Bay Park. 

Northern United will be gunning for their sixth straight bonus point win when they host Tawa on to Jerry Collins Stadium in the early Harper Lock Shield game.

Norths have scored 359 points and conceded 58 so far, while Tawa won their opening three matches but are coming off two narrow losses to Ories and HOBM since then.

Defending Harper Lock Shield champions Marist St Pats are second with four straight wins after they lost to Norths in the opening round, and they host OBU who are one of six teams bunched together on the table.

This includes Ories, who will consolidate a top four position if they overcome lower ranked Wainuiomata, both HOBM and Petone who clash on the Petone Rec, and Poneke who meet Avalon.

Paremata-Plimmerton will hope to join the mid-table logjam if they beat Johnsonville, while the Stokes Valley – Petone White clash on Petone Rec 3 should be hard-fought.

In the Paris Memorial Trophy Colts competition, leaders and defending Colts champions OBU Green have the fifth round bye, leaving the door ajar for both HOBM Green and Norths Blue to overtake them.

HOBM play fourth placed Petone in another expected evenly fought game as the curtain raiser on McBain Shield day, while Norths Blue are up against Tawa who are part of the chasing pack. 

The Norths White team can move into the top four and conceivably above the top Norths Blue side should the latter lose to Tawa with a victory over Johnsonville on Porirua Park.

Wellington and the Upper Hutt Rams clash in the final Colts match of the round at Hataitai Park.

All Colts games kick-off at 1.00pm.

There is a top-of-the-table fixture in the U85kg JC Bowl competition tomorrow between leaders the OBU Scallywags and the Upper Hutt Rams at Maoribank Park. OBU have won three from four whilst the Rams have won all three of their matches with bonus points and are coming off their bye.

Last year’s U85kg grade champions the Avalon Wolves will hope to win their fourth straight match when they tackle MSP on Kilbirnie Park.

The two other games are between Wellington and Poneke, on the adjacent field on Kilbirnie Park, and the Wests Roosters and Eastbourne at Ian Galloway Park. The HOBM Howlers have the bye.

There is a clash of the frontrunners in town in the fifth round of the Mike Copeland Trophy Reserve Grade competition tomorrow, with unbeaten Ories and the Poneke Ruffnuts colliding on Polo 2.

The third unbeaten side in this grade are the Upper Hutt Rams J8s, who play the Wellington Axemen at MacAlister Park. 

The Paremata-Plimmerton Punters are just behind the leading trio and are coming off a bonus point win over the Axemen side. The Punters play the OBU Teddy Bears at home.

In other Reserve Grade matches, tomorrow sees the MSP Internationals and OBU Pink Ginners meet on Kilbirnie Park 3, the Wests Mixed Veges and OBU 69ers play at Ian Galloway Park and the UH Rams Thirstys and the OBU Righteous Park play at Maoribank Park. The UH Rams Pirates have the bye. Kick-off in all Reserve Grade fixtures is 2.45pm.