The Hutt Old Boys Marist Eagles have flown out of the gates in this year’s Swindale Shield competition.
After three full rounds, the Eagles sit alone at the top of the table with three handsome bonus point wins in the bank. On Saturday they retained the Bondy Memorial Cup with a 47-15 win over Oriental-Rongotai at the Polo Ground.
The win was built around a strong forwards effort, with Hurricanes hooker James O’Reilly again leading the way and with second five-eighth Chase Tiatia orchestrating their backline attack.
There were other striking results from the third round, including Paremata-Plimmerton’s 34-7 win over Johnsonville, Poneke’s 25-20 victory over Tawa and MSP’s 44-19 win over Wainuiomata.
Paremata-Plimmerton’s last Swindale Shield win was 19 games previously in mid-2016 against the same opposition. In blustery conditions at home at Ngati Toa Domain, they played smart rugby and led Johnsonville 15-0 at halftime. With Hurricane halfback Richard Judd and lock James Corcoran leading the way, they kept their foot on the pedal in the second half to claim a five tries to one win.
A tight and willing battle at Lyndhurst Park came down to the final few minutes. With scores locked at 20-20, and with Poneke a loose forward down to the sin-bin, the visitors attacked from a scrum on halfway. The move ended with a Pakai stab kick into the in-goal that forced a 5-metre scrum. From this, Player of the Match Greg Foe peeled away and set up a try from a subsequent ruck to lock and captain Cole Stewart.
Earlier, it was tit-for-tat penalties, with both sides scoring first half tries but goal-kickers, James So’oialo (Tawa) and Charlie Russell-Vick and Turia (Poneke) traded blows off the tee. Poneke had led 14-11 at halftime. Foe was the Player of the Match, with flanker Corey Lawrence also playing well. For Tawa lock Hemi Fermanis was busy and centre Ryan Preston showed some nice touches.
At William Jones Park, recently selected NZ U20 centre Billy Proctor was an attacking standout as Marist St Pat’s clicked into gear in the second half to beat Wainuiomata for the Rona-Morrisey Cup.
The first half was a tense and willing arm-wrestle, with MSP having first use of the blustery wind and leading 10-7.
Now playing into the second half, centre Billy Proctor helped spark MSP with an 80-metre run setting up a try to second five-eighth Ryan Setefano to put the visitors ahead 15-7. Proctor made a second blistering break, leading to a try to right wing Willie Schultz, followed by a try to hooker Joe Walding-Karaitiana and suddenly MSP were ahead 25-7.
Wainuiomata hit back with a second converted try to cut the lead to 25-14, but MSP sealed their win with several minutes remaining with another forwards try, A flurry of scoring by both sides made the final score 42-19 to MSP.
At Maidstone Park, No. 8 Tupou Sopoaga and stand-in first five-eighth Carlos Price helped lead Petone to their 43-14 win over the Upper Hutt Rams for the Ted Connolly Cup.
Petone beat the Rams seven tries to two, pulling clear after leading 12-7 at halftime. Fullback Adam Simpson scored two tries, following his hat-trick last week, while Hurricane Murray Douglas, Wille Fine, Losi Filipo, Willie Tufui and Jack Ross also found the whitewash at Upper Hutt. The Rams, along with Johnsonville, are the two sides yet to register a win.
Old Boys University got their season back on track with a 40-12 win over Avalon. OBU established early dominance in the set-pieces and were swift to punish Avalon errors, sailing to a 23-6 lead after 20 minutes and then to 26-5 at halftime. Wing Tai Neli crossed the chalk for the first two tries using his silky feet to finish in opposite corners.
The OBU scrum earned a penalty try for the first score of the second-half, but Avalon showed some commendable spirt and captain Sefo Aumua scored after a break from his younger brother Chris Aumua. In a spluttering second-half it was fitting the elusive Neli had the last say. In a rare moment of brightness, contrasting against the darkening skies, Neli gathered a pass on the half volley from a scrum and pushed through six Avalon tacklers and his own teammate Paddy Carter to complete a hat-trick.
Previously, Northern United had opened the Easter round on Thursday night at Jerry Collins Stadium with a 33-8 win over the Wellington Axemen.
In a scrappy and sometimes fiery affair, the hosts eventually wore down a determined Axemen outfit. Honours were even at halftime, but Norths pulled away in the final quarter to claim the second-half 25-0. Openside flanker Du Plessis Kirifi was a standout for Norths in their second win of the year
Harper Lock Shield
Northern United, Poneke and Marist St Pat's are the three unbeaten teams after three rounds of the Premier Reserve Harper Lock Shield competition.
Northern United beat Wellington 62-12 on Thursday night – pulling away in the second half after leading just 10-5 at the break. On Saturday, Poneke fought for a 28-20 win over Tawa in the early game at Lyndhurst Park.
Poneke settled faster and two tries to them in the first quarter proved the difference. Tawa grew into the game and hit back with a counter-punching try and a penalty on halftime. Poneke led 15-13 at the turn.
Misty rain set in just before halftime and the second half was tense and willing. With the blustery wind in their favour, Poneke extended their lead with their third try. Tawa struck right back with a converted try out wide, closing the gap to 22-20 in Poneke's favour. Poneke sealed their win with two further penalties.
In the closest match all day in either grade, Johnsonville defeated Paremata-Plimmerton 26-25.
OBU beat Avalon 18-13 and Ories overcame HOBM 19-7, while Petone blanked the Rams 31-0 and MSP defeated Wainuiomata 79-0, leading 43-0 at halftime and maintaining the pressure in the rain in the second spell.