Crunch weekend of club rugby as semi-finals loom

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Tomorrow’s rugby sees the penultimate set of matches in the round-robin competitions of several grades heading towards finals day at the end of this month.

In the Jubilee and Hardham Cups there is much to play for, as leading teams jostle for home semi-finals and mid-table contenders scramble to book their playoff positions.

In the top two grades, none of the 14 teams have yet booked their places, while only Poneke (Jubilee Cup) and Johnsonville and Paremata-Plimmerton (Hardham Cup) have dipped out of contention.

Tomorrow’s three Jubilee Cup games are at Miramar, Wainuiomata and Petone, while the three Hardham Cup fixtures see rugby played at Hataitai, Johnsonville and Avalon.

Tomorrow’s radio game is Oriental-Rongotai v Northern United on 1503am and Radio Sport Extra on iHeart Radio​.

Short previews of each of these games are below.

In the Women’s competition, leaders Oriental-Rongotai and Northern United meet for the third time this season at the Polo Ground. Ories have won both their matches so far, but only by slim margins. The winner will likely book one of the two finals berths with two weeks of round-robin play before the straight final in the Tia Paasi Memorial. Petone host OBU in the other top flight match.

Both joint leaders Marist St Pats and Paremata-Plimmerton can win and claim home semi-finals in the tier two Izzy Ford Cup with wins over Poneke and Wainuiomata. Wainuiomata v Paremata-Plimmerton play tonight at the Fraser Park Artificial, while all other games are at 11.30am tomorrow.

In the Premier Reserve Ed Chaney Cup, leaders Norths can beat Ories and push their claims for the playoffs, while Petone will be looking to win well over HOBM as they have their bye next week. Likewise, third placed Tawa can overcome winless Wainuiomata and push for a home playoff.

In the Premier Reserve HD Morgan Memorial Cup, leaders Marist St Pats have yet to lose this season. They play mid-table Johnsonville in the early game at Helston Park.

In the Division 1 Colts competition, seven of the eight teams can still make the semi-finals.

At the top of the John E Kelly Cup table, unbeaten HOBM Colts play away to Petone who must win or they will dip out of the running. The winner of the match between OBU Green and Tawa at Nairnville Park will likely earn a home semi-final, while mid-table Ories and Norths are playing at the Polo Ground to stay in the playoff race. MSP needs to beat Paremata-Plimmerton or could dip out too.

In Division 2 Colts, unbeaten Poneke face Johnsonville at Alex Moore tonight and will cement a home semi-final with a win, while the winner of the OBU Black and Avalon Colts match will move into second ahead of the Upper Hutt Rams, who have their bye.

In the U85kg Division 1 Paul Potiki Memorial Shield, the Upper Hutt Rams will be gunning for their third straight win when they take on HOBM at the Hutt Rec and both Paraparaumu and Johnsonville are seeking their opening wins on the Kapiti Coast. The Avalon Wolves have the bye.

OBU and the Stokes Valley Chiefs meet in a feature First Grade Johnsonville Centennium Cup clash at Nairnville Park, the latter chasing their 10th straight competition win this year and also coming off two wins by default in their first three matches.

The Poneke Ruffnuts are also chasing their 10th win on the trot in 2019 when they play their fellow Poneke Rats in the Reserve Grade Division 1 John Davies Cup.


Jubilee Cup

Wainuiomata v Tawa

William Jones Park
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe

A fortnight ago Wainuiomata suffered their first defeat in seven matches and after the bye last Saturday find themselves just two points clear of fifth placed Ories.

Tawa have won six of their past seven games and last Saturday were impressive in a 48-24 take down of Poneke. Hemi Fermanis scored two tries and Tom Maiava switched from centre to fullback. Fermanis starts at openside flanker and Maiava at centre tomorrow.

Tawa have scored more tries than any other club in the Jubilee Cup while the hosts are noted for their dogged defence.

Wainui have lost Teru Time for the season, but can still count on the experience of Ben Tupuola and Greg Lealofi to cover his loss in the loose, while TJ Va’a returns from injury to start at halfback.

Tawa beat Wainui 36-23 in the Swindale Shield and appear favourites to repeat that result. 


Oriental-Rongotai v Northern United

Polo Ground
Referee: Nick Hogan

Ories have revived their season with two bonus point victories on the trot and sit just a point outside the top four. 

The Magpie's senior players have lifted. Trent Renata scored 24 points and Tuakana Metuarua two tries in the 44-29 road victory against Petone. 

Paulo Aukuso lines up on the right wing to play his 200th Premier match for Ories.

Norths travel with good form having toppled Hutt Old Boys Marist 22-18. After earlier spending 10 minutes in the sin-bin, hooker Bruce Kauika-Petersen returned to score the match-winning try in the 76th minute, finishing off a counter-attacking raid from inside his team’s 22.

Norths will be missing Māori All Black Jackson Garden-Bachop, with Eli Moata’a filling his shoes, while the forward battle promises to be explosive with both packs noted for their physicality and ball carrying prowess. 

In last year’s Jubilee Cup clash tomorrow’s fullback Alex Ropeti scored a last play try to win a thriller for Ories.


Petone v Hutt Old Boys Marist 

Petone Rec
Referee: Vincent Ringrose

With a bye next week and five points adrift of the top four, the Villagers would love nothing more than to spoil the Eagles prospects of an appearance. 

Hutt boast a bigger pack and won the McBain Shield clash 46-26. However if Petone can show the heart that foiled Wainui in round four, they have a shot.

Petone have the backline to cut anyone apart. Wing Willie Fine scored three tries last weekend while Jarrod Adams and Piri Parone are genuine threats. 

Simon Malaeulu is back in the front row for Hutt while NPC players James O’Reilly and Joe 'Apikotoa will look to dominate. 


Hardham Cup

Johnsonville v Marist St Pats

Helston Park
Referee: Ben Van Berkel

MSP won their Swindale Shield meeting 71-5. This is Johnsonville's last home game on Helston Park, so will want to finish well at home for 2019

MSP enjoyed a resounding 43-5 win against Wellington last Saturday with wing Faresa Tasele scoring two tries to go with his four the previous week. Billy Proctor comes off the bench.

Johnsonville did score four tries against OBU, but MSP will be keen to stay in second place so they have a home semi-final.

Wellington v Paremata-Plimmerton

Hataitai Park
Referee: Ryan McLean

Wellington were overcome by MSP last week, but a win in this match will secure a semi-final place.

The Axemen forwards will be more determined, but the backs are missing goal kicking wing Ollie Marshall from their line-up. 

Pare-Plim drew with Avalon 25-25 in their last start and in 2018 these clubs shared a draw in the Hardham Cup. 

On the Pare-Plim side, watch for No. 8 Peni Taupau and fullback Justin Wilson.

Avalon v Old Boys University

Fraser Park
Referee: Colin Te Pohe

OBU smashed Johnsonville 88-22 last Saturday to remain unbeaten. Sam Reid and Trevahn Ta’ufo’ou both profited with hat-tricks as part of an energetic back division. 

Avalon lost a lively contest 61-34 to the Upper Hutt Rams. Noteworthy was the impact of the Wolves bench who scored four of the five tries with Site Timu bagging a double.

Avalon have to win to stay in the semi-final hut, but it's unlikely against the BillyGoats who’ve amassed 205 points in four Hardham Cup games. Tui Yandall runs out for this 50th match for Avalon tomorrow.