Crunch round for semi-final hopefuls this Saturday

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Both the Jubilee Cup and Hardham Cup round-robin series reach their mid-points this weekend, and some of the contenders find themselves in must-win territory or their chances of reaching this year’s semi-finals might be gone.

In the Jubilee Cup, Marist St Pat’s (0-3) play host to Tawa (0-2), with MSP needing to win to stay alive and likewise Tawa, albeit with an extra game in hand. In the Hardham Cup it is the Avalon Wolves (0-3) who need to beat Johnsonville or they are unlikely to reach this year’s playoffs.

Poneke (Jubilee Cup) and Paremata-Plimmerton (Hardham Cup) have byes this round.

 

A full round of Premier Reserve matches precedes the Jubilee and Hardham Cup matches. Ories (3 games played) and Petone (2) are the two unbeaten teams so far.

 

A feature match of the fourth round John E Kelly Cup Les Mills Colts competition is that between unbeaten second round team Old Boys University and first round winners Marist St Pat’s at Te Whaea at 1.00pm. Northern United have also won their first three fixtures and they play first round division 2 winners Paremata-Plimmerton.

 

The second week of championship Women’s matches sees last week’s winners Northern United defend the Challenge Cup against Marist St Pat’s and Ories travel to play Petone. Paremata-Plimmerton have the bye. In Division 2, HOBM host OBU and Avalon host Poneke. 

 

The Avalon Wolves U85KG team will be presented with the first round JC Bowl after their final round match with Wellington at Fraser Park, while the opening round of the First Grade gets underway with the Johnsonville Centennium Cup on the on the line.

 

A look at the six Jubilee and Hardham Cup matches follows below.

 

Old Boys University v Oriental-Rongotai
Venue: Nairnville Park
Referee: Vincent Ringrose

OBU were resounding victors in the Swindale Shield winning 48-12 in Round 5. Ories are a different beast from that day having won six of their last eight matches and extending HOBM all the way last Saturday.

OBU welcomed back key flankers Sam Coventry and Daven Candy in their 35-26 win against MSP. Will Mangos (who played in the midfield last week) and Jonathan Fuiomanu are both missing from their lineout tomorrow.  

Ories midfield pair Alex Ropeti and Malo Tuitama are in fine form. Another Magpie flourishing is Andrew Ellis who recently celebrated his 100th game and crossed twice against the Eagles. 

Ories have selected the same tight five for the first three games of the Jubilee Cup which is a if part of their from reversal.

OBU have only lost once at home this season. If the ground firms up a bit and the sun is shining this could be a cracker. OBU also defend the Bill Brien Challenge Trophy.

 

Northern United v Hutt Old Boys Marist
Venue: Jerry Collins Stadium
Referee: Richard Gordon

Northern United’s last loss at home was to HOBM 47-17 in Round 2 of the Swindale Shield. The score is unlikely to blowout this time with Norths having won 11 in a row while the Eagles have only dropped three games in 2018.

Chase Tiatia scored two tries against Ories last Saturday and his flair and experience from fullback makes a massive difference to the HOBM backline. The forward pack is settled and operates well together.

Norths had a bye after their narrow win against Poneke. The scrum was a real positive in that encounter.

Daley Harper is back from Australia ad recently celebrated 100 games and Faifili Levave is back from Japan and brings a wealth of knowledge and class at No.8. El Moata’a starts at first five-eighth, with Jackson Garden-Bachop with the Hurricanes this weekend.  

 

Marist St Pat’s v Tawa
Venue: Evans Bay Park
Referee: Jamie Fairmaid

Tawa suffered their biggest loss since the 2017 semi-final last weekend, hammered 10-44 by Poneke. 

If the 2016 Jubilee Cup champions have any chance of making the top four for a fourth year in a row they must repeat their 35-29 bonus point win from the Swindale Shield this weekend.

Tawa are down many leading forwards, but the likes of Tolu Fahamokioa and Hemi Fermanis have been in this position before. 

MSP are 0-3 and battling to make the top four and this is a must-win for them. Young front rower Meinard Fitisemanu and flanker Jay Hawkins have shown encouraging form

 

Upper Hutt Rams v Wellington
Venue: Maidstone Park
Referee: Jack Sargentina 

Wellington won a last play 49-47 thriller when these sides met about a month ago. Expect plenty of points again. Both sides are in the top four of the Hardham Cup and feature the leading points scorers Keegan Radovich (Rams) and Te Raina Richards-Coxhead (Axemen)

Upper Hutt have scored 62 tries in 2018 while Wellington's forwards have thrived with new halfback Gareth Simpson in the nine jersey.

Upper Hutt are the defending Hardham Cup champions and beat Wellington in both meetings in this competition last year.

 

Wainuiomata v Petone
Venue: William Jones Park
Referee: Jordan Price

 A top of the table Hardham Cup clash which was drawn 26-26 in the Swindale Shield should be tight again. Wainuiomata lost seven games by less than ten points in the Swindale Shield, but have found a way to win the close ones again, pipping Avalon 22-17 last Saturday. 

No.8 Greg Lealofi is in fine form and veteran centre Isaiah Mamea has played just about every game this season. Peter Umaga-Jensen slots in at centre for this one. 

Petone beat Wellington 31-17 in their last start. A feature of that win was 14 points from the bench suggesting the worse of the Villagers injury crisis is abating.  No.8 Tupou Sopoaga has scored eight tries in 2018 and captains the Villagers tomorrow in the absence of Jarrod Adams.

 

Johnsonville v Avalon Wolves
Venue: Helston Park
Referee: Colin Te Pohe

Both clubs are headed in the opposite direction. Avalon after winning four games in the Swindale Shield have lost their first three in the Hardham Cup. 

Johnsonville are 2-0 in the Hardham Cup after failing to secure a single win in the first round. 

There was six yellow cards in the Johnsonville v Paremata-Plimmerton game, but Waisea Yabakivou and Romu Senileba did provide rare moments of quality for Johnsonville proving their is light at the end of the tunnel.

Avalon have lost two games by less than a converted try in the Hardham Cup and will need to avoid concentration lapses to get off the bagel. Scott Waldrom was on the bench last weekend, but Gabe Ruflin and Daniel Smith are two flankers worth their salt. 

The Wolves prevailed 34-10 in the Swindale Shield, but the Hawks have won three of the last four meetings between the clubs.