Rugby is in full swing this coming weekend, with all senior grades in action.
It is round three of the Premier Swindale Shield and the Premier Reserve Harper Lock Shield competitions.
The 30th season of the Women’s competition kicks off with a Gala Day at Ngati Toa Domain.
Defending first and second round Women's champions Northern United play Marist St Pats, Oriental-Rongotai and Petone meet, as do Hutt Old Boys Marist and Poneke, Paremata-Plimmerton and Old Boys University. Wainuiomata has the bye.
Defending Colts champions Old Boys University Green hosts Hutt Old Boys Marist Green at Ian Galloway Park and last year’s first round Colts winners Marist St Pats play newly promoted Paremata-Plimmerton in two feature Division 1 Colts games.
The U85kg JC Bowl and Colts Division 2 competitions are also underway from tomorrow, as are the First Grade/Reserve Grade team in grading games and Presidents in their non-competition matches.
On the radio this week, Gordon Noble-Campbell and Andy Leslie are commentating at the Petone Rec for Te Upoko.
Wellington v Marist St Pats
Venue: Hataitai Park
Referee: Colin Te Pohe
MSP secured their first win of the season last weekend, beating Johnsonville 71-5. Willie Schultz scored 26 points and Ricky Manulaiatea and Iosefo Aukusitino each crossed for a double. Their backs this week are strengthened further by the inclusion of Billy Proctor, while James Proctor and Jack Taulapapa start in the halves.
Wellington secured a four try bonus point against Upper Hutt and were competitive for long periods but leaking 73 points in two games is a concern as they play at home for the first time this year. Eremia Tapsall scored two tries off the bench and starts at first five-eighth for this, outside Hurricanes halfback Richard Judd who has transferred from Paremata-Plimmerton.
MSP won the corresponding fixture in 2018.
Petone v Northern United
Venue: Petone Rec
Referee: Nick Hogan
Norths have started the season in hot form, accounting for Old Boys University last Saturday, after overpowering Johnsonville in the first round.
Esi Komaisavai snatched an intercept close to fulltime to settle a thrilling Jubilee Cup final replay. Komaisavai has been playing in the ten jersey and has formed a good partnership with Campbell Woodmass.
Petone stumbled to a 13-18 loss to Wainuiomata at William Jones Park, but have the experience and quality in the backrow to unsettle Norths. Petone will need to produce greater consistency though to topple the reigning Swindale Shield champions.
Openside Jacob Gooch has made a strong return to the Villagers, while the two Jarrods – blindside Hrstich and second five-eighth Adams – are the team’s two co-captains tomorrow.
This match is for the Murray Henderson Trophy, and the Willie Collins Medal is awarded for the Player of the Match. This was won by Norths lock Quaid Martin-Laumatia for the first time in 2017 and by Norths flanker Peter Pili in their late 22-20 win in this match last year.
Johnsonville v Paremata-Plimmerton
Venue: Helston Park
Referee: Ryan McLean
Johnsonville have not won a game this season but will be hopeful of toppling Paremata-Plimmerton who are also winless to date in 2019.
Johnsonville have conceded 147 points in two games and will look to show more organisation on defence.
Paremata-Plimmerton put up a brave fight against Poneke with Stu Simonsen starting for the first time after swapping from OBU. Lock Taisson Lealaisalanoa is a talent with growing promise.
Both clubs shared a win each in this fixture last year.
The referee for this match is Ryan McLean, who played more than 200 matches for Paremata-Plimmerton’s top team.
Avalon Wolves v Wainuiomata
Venue: Fraser Park
Referee: Ben van Berkel
Avalon won the Swindale Shield meeting, 33-32 in 2018 and a similar tight scoreline appears likely on the form exhibited this year.
This is Avalon’s 40th anniversary match on their Old Timers’ Day and is for the Anthony Waldrom Trophy. It is also being played on grass on the old No. 3 ground at Fraser Park.
Avalon won in the first round but were made to pay for a sluggish start against Ories, though their second half fightback was encouraging.
No. 8 Sefo Auma is in strong form while young first five-eighth Tajun Crosland-Misa is growing in stature.
Wainuiomata scored a vital win against Petone last week, with Saita Tuaoi and Teru Time scoring tries. Time has played at least three different positions in the past two seasons, muscling over from lock after playing No.8 last week and second-five most of his career. Two other key players for Wainuiomata tomorrow are No. 8 Ben Tupuola and fullback Peter Umaga-Jensen.
Oriental-Rongotai v Tawa
Venue: Polo Ground
Referee: Daniel Mangin
Ories are top of the table and can thank a fast start against Avalon last week for that feat. Centre Malachai Unasa scored two tries and Malo Manuao, who has transferred from OBU, looked assured at first-five.
Ories forwards have a settled appearance, while Tawa who welcomed back veterans Tony and James Coburn and Peniasi Tokakece last week and the start again here.
If Tawa don’t come out on top, they will be in a real pickle at 0-3, so they will be up for the challenge this weekend.
Expect a torrid contest.
Poneke v Upper Hutt Rams
Venue: Kilbirnie Park
Referee: Richard Gordon
Two years ago, the Upper Hutt Rams beat Poneke by more than 70 points in the Hardham Cup, but the street kids are resurgent and have won in both starts this year. Michael Sage and Nick Robertson each dotted down twice in a hard-earned victory against a determined Paremata-Plimmerton. Upper Hutt beat Wellington 46-26 last weekend with a flurry of points in the last quarter.
Poneke will back themselves to out hustle the Rams in the set-piece, while Levi Harmon returns to their line-up at centre after a year away. Upper Hutt can score points and have hugely experienced first five-eighth Ben Aoina in the reserves, although neither of the Schrijvers brothers who are in Hong Kong, but can they match Poneke in the grind?
This is for the Alby Makeham Shield.
Old Boys University v Hutt Old Boys Marist
Venue: Nairnville Park
Referee: Vincent Ringrose
OBU have won the last five games against the Eagles, and in their Jubilee Cup clash at this same venue last year, halfback turned current assistant coach Tomasi Palu scored four tries in an amazing 48-16 win.
OBU will be stung by their narrow loss to Norths. Shamus Langton is making a strong impression at openside, but there has been a lot of movement in the defending champions roster. First five-eighth Stewart Gray is set to make his debut for the Goats in this game, replacing Dale Sabbagh.
By contrast, Hutt are relatively settled, though they were forced to work extremely hard to foil Tawa. They welcome back James O’Reilly at hooker and Salesi Rayasi on the left wing, with both players sure to give OBU headaches.
HOBM need to get the Billy Goat monkey off their backs. Although, this game could be won up front, with both packs bringing workmanlike qualities to this one, which is also for the Wood Cup interclub Trophy.