There’s a fortnight left in the Swindale Shield and last Saturday saw some seismic movement in the table with six clubs still in contention for the Jubilee Cup semi-finals and Marist St Pats replacing former leaders Old Boys University at the top of the pile. Petone have dropped to fourth and with Norths in round 13 could cruelly miss the semi-finals altogether despite being inside the four for all-but-one week of the season.
Twenty seven players will be playing for the Wellington Lions squad tomorrow, testing depth and experience in some teams and possibly having a bearing on the remainder of the competition.
MSP slayed Paremata-Plimmerton 75-0 on Saturday scoring a try after 21 seconds and never looking back. Andrew Wells and Isaia Petelo return to the starting side after each scoring three tries last week, as MSP also top the season try-scoring tally with 71. Johnsonville won for the first time in 29 games with a 38-12 win over Avalon, but despite the milestone success it is hard to see the Reds not maintaining pole position and wrapping up first-round honours the following week against Wellington.
Norths have won nine in a row and were convincing victors last week over Ories, with both Garden-Bachop brothers scoring cracking tries. Avalon will not be looking forward to the visit of the reigning Jubilee Cup champions who have scored 463 points in 11 games. The Wolves have conceded 524 points.
Wainuiomata has won three of their last four matches against Old Boys University who with Callum Harkin, Taine Plumtree, James Poloniati, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Wes Goosen and Caleb Delany, plus Shamus Hurley-Langton tomorrow, all selected in the Lions, OBU will lose real strength in the coming weeks. Dale Sabbagh returns from injury and recent Ories players Malo Manuao and Alex Ropeti team up in the midfield. Experience comes off the bench in former All Black Jason Eaton and former Lion Finbarr Kerr-Newell. The green and blacks with six wins can’t make the semi-finals, but would love nothing more than to knock over the students again. Watch for the return of flanker Sam Smith for Wainuiomata.
A late try to Wellington Lions halfback Connor Collins helped the Eagles defeat Old Boys University 21-17 and kept their semi-finals prospects alive. At home, the Eagles should be too strong at home for Poneke who accounted for Wellington 38-7, but will be fired up for second-five Ben Huntley’s 200th. Watch for Poneke openside Hauwai McGahan after his brace against Wellington last week.
The Axemen have been blunt recently, going 239 minutes without a try. This Saturday they host Ories. Ories were hearty against Norths without ever seriously threatening. Wellington’s line-up tomorrow sees a couple of notable positional changes in the backs to try and add the spark they need, with Isaac Bracewell playing first five and Matt Goosen dropping back to fullback.
Tawa is seriously threatening a point outside the top four and with lowly Upper Hutt Rams and Paremata-Plimmerton to finish. Tawa’s 31-26 victory over Petone was huge hanging on after leading 25-11 at halftime. Halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara and pivot Trent Renata and left wing Pepesana Patafilo all line up in Levin tomorrow, but the Lyndhurst contenders should still have ample guns to throw at the Rams.
Petone appear to be on the wane, narrowly dropping their last two matches. Paremata-Plimmerton simply must be dispatched with a bonus point and given they’ve leaked 165 points in two games should be.
Petone have several frontline players out tomorrow, to Lions duty or sidelined through injury. Logan Henry is the starting first five tomorrow, with Jarrod Adams and Willie Tufui forming the midfield and Willie Fine at fullback. If fit, flanker and captain Jacob Gooch will be playing his 100th game for the Villagers tomorrow.
The Premier Reserve Harper Lock Shield table is similar to the Swindale Shield, in that most of the semi-finals spots are still vacant with two rounds to play. It is hard to see leaders and unbeaten Norths not cementing the top qualifier’s position with a week to spare. They play Avalon, who like their Premier counterparts, are languishing near the foot of the table.
MSP are odds-on to seal the second play-off place for the upcoming Ed Chaney Cup semi-finals after beating the Johnsonville Cripples by default.
The table heats up below Norths and MSP, with five teams separated by as many points heading into the final fortnight.
Petone are third and could advance their cause with a bonus point win over Paremata-Plimmerton – but they will need to as they play Norths next week.
Poneke currently occupy fourth and can seal their destiny by beating the sixth placed HOBM Eagles in the early game at the Hutt Rec tomorrow and then Wainuiomata in the last round.
Fifth placed OBU will need to beat Wainuiomata this week, before needing to beat Ories in round 13 to sneak into the four.
Seventh placed Tawa can also still sneak into the four if results go their way, but first must beat Stokes Valley tomorrow in the early game at Lyndhurst Park.
Ories are eighth and still mathematically alive to make the top four semi-finals but will need to beat Petone White tomorrow on the Petone Rec 2 and also rely on at least two other results going their way to take their challenge into next weekend.
All Harper Lock Shield matches tomorrow kick off at 12.45pm.
There are still two rounds to play in the Paris Memorial Colts competition before the John E Kelly Cup semi-finals (1-4 ranked teams) and Vic Calcinai Memorial Cup semi-finals (5-8 ranked teams).
OBU Green are out in front on 38 points and have already booked their playoff berth but can go one better and cement a home semi-final tomorrow by beating lower ranked Poneke at home at Ian Galloway Park.
Behind OBU, there are five teams chasing three John E Kelly Memorial Cup playoff places.
Norths Blue on 31 points head the chasing pack, and they play OBU Black who are not one of these teams at Jerry Collins Stadium tomorrow.
Petone Blue are third on 27 points and they host the Norths White team on 26 points in a crunch fixture at the Petone Rec.
Of the two teams on 26 points, HOBM Green has the bye tomorrow and Tawa plays Vic Calcinai contenders the Upper Hutt Rams.
Lower placed Johnsonville has the second bye.
The two U85kg top four Paul Potiki Shield semi-finals see top qualifier the Upper Hutt Rams hosting Avalon at Maidstone Park and second placed Eastbourne and third placed the OBU Scallywags meeting at H.W Shortt Park.
The U85kg Division 2 Tony O’Brien Shield semi-finals see Wellington and the Wests Roosters play at Hataitai Park and MSP and Poneke playing on the St Pat’s Artificial.
Wellington v Wests Roosters kick off at 12:45pm, with all other U85kg playoffs kicking off at 2.45pm.
There are three weekends left of the Reserve Grade competition and Ories’ 15-12 win over the Upper Hutt Rams J8s last Saturday went a long way to deciding the winner.
The UH Rams J8s must pick up the pieces from their defeat last week and head to Ngati Toa Domain at 2.45pm to play the Paremata-Plimmerton Punters in a battle between second and third.
Fourth meets fifth with the Poneke Ruffnuts and the UH Rams Thirstys colliding on Kilbirnie Park at 3.00pm.
Elsewhere, the MSP Internationals play the OBU Teddy Bears on Kilbirnie 1 at 12.45pm, the OBU Pink Ginners and 69ers play tonight at Boyd Wilson, the UH Pirates and Wellington meet on Maidstone Park at 12.45pm and the OBU Righteous Pack and Wests Mixed Veges are at Ian Galloway at 3.00pm.