Club Rugby mid-term Swindale Shield report card

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The first round ticked over halfway last Wednesday and the business end of the Swindale Shield is approaching. Some sides are in a good space heading into the final round, others less so. Here is an assessment on how the 14 teams are faring with five rounds to play.

 

Hutt Old Boys Marist: 1st

Replicated the great Northern United side of 2010 by winning their first four matches on the trot and scoring 40 points in each game. The last month has been far less convincing with a first defeat to Marist St Pat's on Saturday and last minute escapes against Petone in the McBain Shield and Paremata-Plimmerton.

HOBM's strength is their forwards. The Manaia brothers are a formidable duo and Ben Power is in career best form possibly sparking the interest of the Lions selectors. The back row is consistent and powerful.

The Eagles are superbly led by Sheridan Rangihuna, but the backs lack direction and spark when the Lions halfback is absent. Jerome Hairmate and Anthony Utanga have been welcome additions.

The big concern for the Swindale Shield leaders is depth. The starting XV is as good as anyone's, but HOBM have had as many as five first year Premier players on the bench this season and their Premier Reserves are struggling.

 

Old Boys University 2nd

The reigning champions have scored more points and tries than any other side, but a lack of discipline cost them victory against Wainuiomata and a stunning collapse blew a certain five points against Tawa.

Injuries have been a familiar theme for the Goats, but their depth is considerable with new players like Tai Neli and Matt McKone making a favourable impression.

Maile Koloto and Sam Coventry have been standouts and the collective effort against MSP was top-notch.

OBU are nicely place to defend both their titles.

 

Marist St Pats 3rd

Collected maximum points against the bottom three clubs, ended the Eagles' unbeaten streak and put a half-century on Petone - MSP have made a satisfying start to 2018.

The loss to Old Boys University in Round 6 was a poor performance, but inspired the Reds best performances of the year against the Villagers and Hutt Old Boys Marist the next week.

Joe Walding-Karaitiana has stepped up in his first season of captain. Tom Horan has proven to be a fine replacement for Isaac O'Connor and in the backs Jayden McCarthy looks the goods at centre.

The senior reserves and Colts are performing strongly.

 

Northern United 4th

Norths won seven of their first eight matches last year and failed to make much of an impact in the Jubilee Cup. This year Norths have won six of their first eight and with the exception of a heavy loss to the Eagles in Round 2 have been competitive in every outing.

Highlights have been a first win since 2012 against Tawa and a tough win over the hill against Wainuiomata.

Norths are a far greater threat when Wellington Lions Jackson Garden-Bachop and Du'Plesis Kirifi play which has been a regular occurrence thus far, but key contributions have come from Mike Ioapo, Falu Tuala and Parekura Lalaga.

If Norths continue to learn from 2017 they are a Jubilee Cup contender.

 

Poneke 5th

When Poneke sacked coach Mason Lawrence in Round 3 things could have unravelled quickly at Kilbirnie Park, but the Red & Blacks have overcome adversity to win six of their next seven matches.

Tellingly Poneke have beaten Tawa, Norths, Ories and Johnsonville by ten points or less. Last year they lost four games by 11 points or less in the Swindale Shield dropping to the Hardham Cup.

Wellington Lions Greg Foe and Galu Taufale have been outstanding and wing Nick Robertson can't stop scoring tires, collecting 21 tries in his last 28 games. 

 

Petone: 6th

Petone's best is very good and proof of that is the fact they have scored 39 tries, the fourth best in the competition, and trounced Tawa 36-9 in Round 4.

However discipline is a major issue for the Villagers as they have lost nine of their last 28 games by less than a converted try. Last minute losses were suffered against HOBM and Norths and a draw against Wainuiomata was unsatisfactory.

Petone has depth in their roster, but needs to learn to win the close ones against better sides.

Losi Filipo, Mateaki Kafatolu and Logan Henry are playing good footy.

 

Tawa: 7th

Tawa rallying from nearly 20 points down to topple OBU illustrates just what a dangerous side Tawa is at their best, if only they would produce it more consistently.

A strong start with a convincing win over MSP was followed by a sudden slump with the low point a hammering at the expense of Petone. Tawa regrouped against Avalon, struggled against Norths, but scored the biggest win of any team this season when they put 75 points on hapless Johnsonville.

Sitiveni Paongo, James So'Oialo and Hemi Fermanis are vital personal and young Kyle Preston and Luke Cummings have punched above their weight at times.

 

Wainuiomata: 8th

An aging roster and a shortage of depth is starting to show over the hill with the green and blacks in danger of dropping to the Hardham Cup for the first time since 2012.

Three losses by less than a converted try and a draw hurts while Wainuiomata were blown off the park by MSP.

Knocking over OBU in Round 2 shows Wainuiomata are not to be underestimated.

Ben Tupuola remains a destructive force and Justin Wilson and John Monu have sparkled occasionally in the backs.

Poneke, Ories, Tawa and HOBM remain on Wainuiomata's schedule.

 

Upper Hutt Rams: 9th

The Rams have had a resurgence winning their past four after a winless opening month. A last minute triumph against Ories and a brave comeback against Avalon have been the highlights.

Defence has been a major issue leaking 269 points, but the form of Josh Houston-Tupou and Tyler Tane has been very encouraging.

Upper Hutt are five points outside the top seven, but still have to play Norths, Tawa and MSP meaning the Jubilee Cup is still a long way off.

 

Ories: 10th

The Magpies are a precarious position. After six straight seasons in the Jubilee Cup semi-finals, Ories missed the top four last year and are now in grave danger of playing Hardham Cup.

Narrow losses to Poneke and Upper Hutt could come back to haunt Ories who have still managed to score 35 tries this season.

No.8 Luca Ress is the top try scorer and at times has been a force of nature. The legend Whetu Henry is still capable of a robust shift and in the backs Malachai Unasa continues to grow.

Ories will have to beat Petone, Wainuiomata and MSP to make the top flight.

 

Avalon: 11th

Matched their 2017 win tally with two victories to open the season, but six defeats in a row have been hard to stomach, especially given in three of those games the Wolves enjoyed a double-digit lead.

Avalon's improvement is undeniable, but can they sustain their spirited efforts for next few months?

Veterans Ben Peni and Sefo Aumua have been inspirational.

 

Paremata-Plimmerton: 12th

Losing their first two matches by a combined score of 3-101 suggested 2018 could be a total flop at Ngatitoa. However Paremata-Plimmerton achieved only their second Swindale Shield win in four years when they smashed Johnsonville 34-7 in Round 3.

Paremata-Plimmerton have enjoyed relative stability with their forward selections this past month and a growing confidence saw them almost topple HOBM and achieve four try bonus points against Wainuiomata and Norths.

James Corcoran, Taisson Lealaisalanoa and Shane Hedges have been among the Paremata's best.

 

Wellington: 13th

A first up win against Johnsonville was followed by five consecutive defeats, a rousing comeback against Avalon and a hearty display against OBU.

Unfortunatley Wellington shares the worst defensive record in the competition with Paremata-Plimmerton.

Alex Dalzell, Callum Harkin and Olly Sapsford have regularly impressed.

 

Johnsonville: 14th

Having won eight games in the 2017 Hardham Cup and showing plenty of promise Johnsonville havent been able to kick on in 2018.

Johnsonville's displays against MSP and Poneke were competitive, but losses to Paremata-Plimmerton and Tawa haven't helped.

Johnsonville have some quality players like Kane Thompson, Api Naikatini and Jeff Makapelu, and with the large large list of injured players staring to return, there is light at the end of the tunnel.