The first round fates of several teams will likely be decided tomorrow in the tenth round of the Swindale Shield.
Old Boys University and Hutt Old Boys Marist meet at Nairnville Park in a top-of-the-table clash and a replay of last year’s Jubilee Cup final, while most of the other matches could go a long way to determining the pecking order for the championship round competitions that start in early June.
There are also several big matches in other grades, the Northern United versus Northern United Women’s game at Porirua key amongst them.
Old Boys University v Hutt Old Boys Marist
Referee: Vincent Ringrose
A replay of last year’s Jubilee Cup final and a likely decider for the Swindale Shield.
The Goats won all three games last year, but each time it was close with only a 15 point spread across all the fixtures.
Despite missing a raft of front rowers, the Eagles have hung tough in the last month to preserve their lead. Expect OBU to really target HOBM in the set-pieces. If Jonathon Fuimaono plays a blinder life could be very tough for the visitors.
HOBM’s ball carrying backrowers like Lise Soloa and Vincent Sosefo have been outstanding and will have to fire again for an Eagles win. Prop Simon Malaeulu returns to the Eagles’ bench.
The Wood Cup is at stake.
Oriental-Rongotai v Wainuiomata
Venue: Polo Ground
Referee: Steve Newson
The loser of this match will almost certainly make the drop to the Hardham Cup.
Wainuiomata have made a habit of losing close contests this year, dropping five games by less than a converted try.
Ories produced their best effort of the season to defeat Petone 25-17 at the Polo Ground a week ago on their Old Timers’ Day.
Both sides boast strong running loose forwards and relish physical confrontation. Ories have an edge in the backs if they are allowed to use them with frequency.
Wainuiomata has Peter Umaga-Jensen on the wing again but misses Ben Tupuola for the second straight week and Greg Lealofi plays No. 8. His clash with Luca Rees should be a highlight.
Marist St Pat’s v Avalon Wolves
Venue: Evans Bay Park
Referee: Mike Pinfold
MSP have hit top stride in recent weeks, inflicting a first loss upon HOBM and posting huge wins against Petone and Upper Hutt, winning the latter match 45-23 after being down at halftime.
By contrast, Avalon are in a major skid having lost seven in a row and conceded 78 against Norths last Saturday.
Ken Kapeli and Isaia Petelo have been in top form for MSP while three pairs of brothers appeared for the Wolves seven days ago.
Paremata-Plimmerton v Poneke
Venue: Ngatitoa Domain
Referee: Jordan Price
Paremata-Plimmerton won on the road for the first time in 25 matches last Saturday when they tipped over Wellington. Hurricanes halfback Richard Judd plays again tomorrow after producing a fine effort behind a forward pack growing in confidence and consistency of selection.
Poneke won their fifth match by ten points or less rallying from behind to topple Wainuiomata
With a win, Poneke will almost certainly make the Jubilee Cup.
Petone v Johnsonville
Venue: Petone Rec
Referee: Colin Te Pohe
Petone have suffered a major dip in form since the McBain Shield winning just once since Round 5. However, the Villagers remain inside the top seven and should stay there against winless Johnsonville.
Johnsonville will look to maintain the honourable intensity they showed for an hour against OBU. The evergreen Kane Thompson was a try scorer last Saturday.
Kaliopasi Uluilakepa in their side for this clash, alongside halfback Carlos Price who missed out on the Junior All Blacks squad. Piri Paraone returns to play at fullback after breaking his leg late last season.
Upper Hutt Rams v Northern United
Referee: Nick Hogan
Norths have won five games in a row and posted the biggest score of the season when they put 78 on Avalon last Saturday. Rookie Kienan Higgins scored two tries and alongside Jackson Garden-Bachop, Denny To’o and Johnny Teleaga is flourishing in a backline which is becoming more potent by the week.
Upper Hutt were strong for an hour against MSP, but fell away badly to concede nearly half a century.
Daniel Schrijvers and Nev Apineru were both try scores last week and will look to big up with industrious efforts.
The Terry Farrow Memorial Cup is the interclub trophy in this game.
Wellington v Tawa
Venue: Hataitai Park
Referee: Jamie Fairmaid
The Murray & Alan Mexted Cup is contested for in this battle between 7th and 13th. Tawa have Wainuiomata and Upper Hutt in the next fortnight so will be keen to maintain their four point gap over those teams with a win in this clash.
Tawa’s front row of James Coburn, Sitiveni Paongo and Taniela Koroi were very strong against HOBM, a match Tawa should have won turning down a kickable penalty on fulltime.
Wellington have only won twice in 2018 but with the exception of the Poneke and HOBM defeats matches have been competitive at home where visiting teams often struggle in grim conditions.
If games go to form, the status quo at the top of the Premier Reserve Harper Lock Shield competition will remain after this weekend.
Unbeaten pair Northern United and Marist St Pat’s are gunning for their 10th straight wins when they take on the Upper Hutt Rams and Avalon respectively, who are both ranked in the bottom half of the standings.
Third placed Poneke should also account for minnows Paremata-Plimmerton and likewise for fourth placed Petone against Johnsonville.
All roads in the morning lead to Porirua Park for the top-of-the-table match-up in the Women’s Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy match between Northern United and Oriental-Rongotai.
Norths won three matches straight before having their bye last weekend, while Ories have won three straight since their bye on opening day.
This is a clash between two of the recent traditional powerhouses of the women’s competition could decide the first round outcome. Norths have strong tight and loose forwards, while Ories will want to get the ball to their backs, with Ayesha Leti L’iga moving in to centre for this clash with Bernadette Robertson on the bench.
Neither of these sides could be leading after this round, however, with Paremata-Plimmerton expected to beat winless Poneke and stay at the top of the standings. The other two games could both be tight. The Avalon She-Wolves host Marist St Pat’s at Fraser Park in the third match and Petone play Old Boys University in the fourth.
The Marist St Pat’s Colts are unbeaten in the Les Mills Colts Paris Memorial Trophy and they play host to defending champions Petone who are coming off two straight losses.
Second equal placed OBU will hope to give fifth placed HOBM at Saturday afternoon tutorial at Kelburn Park, Norths along them on the table travel to Maidstone Park to play the Upper Hutt Rams, while Tawa and Ories clash at Lyndhurst.
There are two Colts Division 2 matches tonight, with both the OBU teams in this grade colliding at Te Whaea and Avalon and Wellington meeting at Fraser Park. Unbeaten Paremata-Plimmerton and Poneke meet at Ngatitoa 3 on Saturday.
There is an early season top-of-the-table match at HW Shortt Park between Eastbourne and the Avalon Wolves in the Paul Potitki Shield U85kg competition. Both have won all three of their games so far.