The halfway mark of the Swindale Shield is this weekend and remarkably four teams are tied on 24 points, with reigning Jubilee Cup champions Norths enjoying a four-game win streak, but residing five points adrift of semi-final contention. The remainder of the field has work to do in order to position themselves for an assault on championship glory.
The round starts tonight with Avalon hosting Marist St Pats at Fraser Park at 7:30pm. In 2018 the Wolves stunned MSP 27-17, so the scarlets will be weary of a repeat against an Avalon side who have been competitive in recent weeks, losing three games on the trot by less than 10 points.
MSP rallied from behind to end Old Boys University’s unbeaten run and will fancy their prospects of a big win. With a 5-1 record they have outscored Avalon 27 tries to 12 and won the last meeting 74-7. Poata Tuisamoa has been in damaging form for Avalon while MSP have included two debutants on the bench as well as two-decade veteran Fa’atonu Fili.
OBU and Tawa both lost their faultless records last weekend, with Tawa being held scoreless for the first time in a decade. Expect a torrid forward scrap between two of the best young packs in the competition. The potential midfield clash between Ty Poe and Tom Maiava will be fascinating. OBU won the last meeting 31-12 and Tawa before that 42-38.
It is Old Timers’ Day at Petone and after a stirring McBain Shield triumph Oriental Rongotai will present a tricky challenge. The Magpies beat Wainuiomata 46-19 last week to snap a three-game skid. Ten points outside the top four, Ories need a win to gain some ground. Hurricanes prop Alex Fidow is a welcome inclusion for them tomorrow, while lock and captain Tuakana Metarau will play his 100th Premier game. Petone scored three tries from rolling mauls against Hutt Old Boys Marist and are growing one of the best benches in the competition. Petone have won four games in a row, three by less than 10 points.
Johnsonville celebrate their Old Timers’ Day at Helston Park and after a heart-breaking loss on a penalty try to Paremata-Plimmerton will be looking to challenge a struggling Wellington side who blew a large lead to draw with Upper Hutt. Young Jayden Kini marking the evergreen Roy Kinikinilau will be worth watching in the midfield. Johnsonville might have an edge at set-piece, but the Axemen loose forwards appear quicker too and stronger over the ball.
Typically, Paremata-Plimmerton would have little chance of defeating Hutt Old Boys Marist, but with two wins in a row there is a glimmer of hope against an Eagles side that needs to arrest a three-game slide. The Pare-Plim pack scored a legendary penalty try to foil the Hawks while Justin Wilson is kicking the leather off the ball. Ben Power and Tomasi Alosio were in slashing from in the McBain. Second five Brandyn Laursen plays his 100th game for the Eagles, while Hurricane Chase Tiatia has been named at fullback. HOBM can’t give Pare-Plim a sniff otherwise this must be a tougher fixture than expected.
Northern United and Wainuiomata is a replay of the 2019 Jubilee Cup final and with both sides outside the top four, the heat will be intense in this fixture. A solitary Kienan Higgins try gave Norths a 5-0 win over Tawa. With four wins in a row, Norths are obviously rising in stature, but they still have not really clicked. Wainuiomata are missing gun first-five Reuben Love and have injuries up front. Never discount Wainuiomata when their backs are against the wall, but Norths will be looking to make a statement and could be inside the four with a win in this game. This game is for the Alf Keating Memorial Trophy. Esi Komaisavai comes off the bench for Norths to raise 50 Premier caps.
The Upper Hutt Rams host Poneke at Maidstone Park with the visitors looking to string together consecutive wins for the first time this season. Poneke overcame Avalon 27-18 last week in a solid performance. This match features a duel between Greg Foe and Murphy Taramai, arguably the two best loose forwards in the competition. Brothers Scott and Josh Svenson are playing some great footy for the Rams. With a win, Poneke could close to within a single victory of the top four.
Northern United survived a scare against Tawa last Saturday before winning 24-23 and registering their sixth straight win in the Premier Reserve Harper Lock Shield competition.
Top meets bottom when they host Wainuiomata in the early game at Jerry Collins Stadium, so will be favoured to make it seven straight tomorrow.
In the chasing pack, second placed Marist St Pats will likewise look to consolidate their position when they play 11th placed Avalon at Fraser Park (a day game tomorrow).
Below them, Ories head six teams all bunched together between 17 and 23 points. Tomorrow’s other games between these sides see Ories (on 23 points) travel to play Petone (18) and Tawa (19) host OBU (18).
Other matches are between Paremata-Plimmerton (9) and HOBM (21), Stokes Valley (10) and Poneke (22) and between lower ranked sides Johnsonville (6) and Petone White (5).
It’s Gala Day in the Premier Women’s competition tomorrow, with all four scheduled Rebecca Liua’ana matches taking place on Fraser Park at the same time from 11.30am.
With just three rounds to play in the competition, Ories (on 25 points) and Norths (23) are out in front and appear destined to meet in a virtual final in the last round.
It would seem that Petone (20) are the only side that can stop this happening, making their match against Norths on Fraser Park 2 the feature fixture of the round. The Ponies are coming off a 44-26 win over Marist St Pats, while Norths will be coming in fresh after winning by default over Poneke.
Over on Fraser 3, Ories might be favoured to extend their winning record over Paremata-Plimmerton (9 points). Ories defeated Avalon 114-0 last week, whilst Paremata-Plimmerton had their bye.
The other two Women’s games see Avalon (8) and HOBM (14) play on Fraser 1 and MSP (12) and Old Boys University (12) play on the Fraser Park Artificial, for the inaugural Jensen Family Cup interclub trophy. Poneke (-7) has the bye.
The Colts Paris Memorial Trophy is also heating up, with a logjam of contenders at or near the top of the standings heading into Saturday’s sixth round set of matches.
Heading into the weekend, which kicks off tonight at Alex Moore Park in Johnsonville where the home side hosts Petone, the Norths White (second team) leads the standings.
Norths White beat the Upper Hutt Rams 41-10 in a round one catch-up match on Tuesday night, their fourth straight win following their 0-79 slaying at the hands of OBU Green in their competition opener.
The feature match tomorrow in the Colts grade is that between HOBM Green and OBU Green at the Hutt Rec, a replay of last year’s final. HOBM and OBU Green both have three wins and a draw (both against Norths Blue) after five matches.
Fourth placed Norths Blue have tomorrow’s bye, meaning fifth placed Tawa should leapfrog them into a top four position if they account for Wellington at Redwood Park.
Leaders Norths White travel to Nairnville Park to tackle sixth placed OBU Black, while the Rams and Poneke will both be looking to climb into the top half of the table when they meet at Maoribank Park.
Tonight’s Colts match kicks off at 7.30pm, while all tomorrow’s games get underway at 1.00pm.
In the sixth round of the U85kg JC Bowl, the unbeaten Upper Hutt Rams will be pressing to maintain their grip on the table tiller against the Wellington Axemen at Maidstone 1 at 1.00pm.
The Rams are coming off a 53-19 win over the OBU Scallywags, while the Axemen beat Poneke 38-17 last week, so this could be a close game.
Defending champions Avalon should get back into the winners’ circle by beating the HOBM Howlers at Fraser Park at 2.45pm,
Eastbourne have climbed into second with their 29-25 win last Saturday against Wests, and they are at home in a seaside clash against MSP at 2.45pm.
The Scallywags play Wests at Nairnville Park at 2.45pm in the other game, while Poneke has the bye.
The Reserve Grade Mike Copeland Cup sees the Ories and Upper Hutt Rams J8s both on a tear and on maximum 25 competition points.
Ories host third placed Paremata-Plimmerton (with four wins) in this week’s feature match at the Polo Ground, whilst the UHR J8s are through the cutting at Kilbirnie to play the Poneke Ruffnuts who are fourth (also with four wins).
The UHR Thirsty Rams are alone in fifth place with three wins and they play minnows the OBU Teddy Bears at Kelburn Park.
In other Reserve Grade matches tomorrow, the UHR Pirates play the OBU Righteous Pack at Maoribank 2, the Wests Mixed Veges and the OBU Pink Ginners play at Ian Galloway 1 and the Axemen and the MSP Internationals meeting at Hataitai Park. The OBU 69ers have the bye. All Reserve Grade games kick off at 2.45pm.