The Avalon Wolves and the Wellington Axemen emerged as champions from the two U85kg Division Wellington club rugby finals this weekend in tight finals played under sunny skies with little wind.
Avalon beat Horowhenua-Kapiti visitors Paraparaumu 24-11 in the final of the Division 1 Paul Potiki Memorial Shield on the Fraser Park Artificial, while Wellington overcame Eastbourne 18-17 in the final of the Division 2 Tony O’Brien Shield at home at Hataitai Park.
The Division 1 final was a tense and testing affair with just three tries scored and two of them coming in the final several minutes of play.
Visiting Paraparaumu halfback Dylan Duffy scored the only try of the first half when he took a quick tap penalty from his team’s best attacking chance of the match thus far several minutes before the interval and darted through to score. This made it 6-5 to Avalon, following two penalties to their wing Brett Hodgetts.
Avalon extended their lead to 9-5 with Hodgetts’ third penalty, but Paraparaumu fullback Connor Williams kicked a penalty in reply on halftime and it was 9-8 to Avalon at the turnaround
The second half was more of the same, as neither side could break through and the final remained on tenterhooks. Hodgetts kicked his fourth straight penalty midway through the half to put Avalon ahead 12-8, but Williams answered straight away to advance the score to 12-11 in Avalon’s favour with about 10 minutes to play.
Finally, the Wolves put themselves in prime attacking position through a penalty and lineout in the far corner. They held possession for nearly two minutes in a series of thrusts at the line and finally came up with a try to put them ahead 17-11.
This gave them breathing space, but Paraparaumu were still in the game and went searching for a spark to put themselves over the chalk. But with a couple of minutes to play, Avalon sealed the game with a 40 metre runaway intercept try and they could start celebrating.
For Avalon, Hodgetts and Jason Harris were their try-scorers, while goal-kicker Hodgetts finished with 19 points.
In the Division 2 final, both Wellington and Eastbourne scored two tries each, but it was an extra penalty goal that proved the difference for the home team to win the spoils.
Elsewhere in club rugby on Saturday, the Johnsonville Cripples beat the Poneke Rats 48-28 to qualify top next week’s Reserve Grade Division 1 John Davies Cup semi-finals.
Johnsonville will host the Upper Hutt Rams Pirates, who had their bye this weekend, while the Poneke Ruffnuts will welcome third placed the Petone Brotherhood on to Kilbirnie Park after the Ruffnuts beat Tawa and the Brotherhood won by default against Stokes Valley.
The Division 2 Alan Seerup Cup has another two weeks to run before the semi-finals. The Upper Hutt Rams J8s are already assured of qualifying top and they beat the OBU Righteous Brothers 49-17 this weekend.
The Paremata-Plimmerton Punters will host the second semi-final, and they beat the Wests Roosters Mixed Veges by default. The MSP Internationals beat the OBU 69ers 31-0 and the OBU Pink Ginners prevailed over the Upper Hutt Rams Thirsty Rams 51-26 in the other match. Some four teams are in the mix for the final two semi-final places in next week’s final round.