He was the leader at the midpoint of the Swindale Shield and talismanic Poneke loose forward Greg Foe is still out in front of this year’s Best & Fairest competition as the championship season gets into full swing over the next few weeks.
At the conclusion of the 13-round Swindale Shield competition, Foe was leading the Billy Wallace Trophy standings on 20 points, with Hutt Old Boys Marist utility back Chase Tiatia and Oriental-Rongotai No. 8 and the competition’s leading try scorer (18 tries) Luca Rees both on 11.
Tiatia’s HOBM teammate and first five-eighth Glen Walters was on 10, with a group of seven players all on 9, including Upper Hutt Rams hooker-No.8 Josh Houston Tupou.
After this past weekend’s opening round set of Jubilee Cup and Hardham Cup matches, Tiatia and Houston-Tupou both collected maximum points to close the gap. Foe is on 20, Tiatia, 14 and Houston-Tupou 12.
Three weeks ago Tiatia returned from a brief spell on the sideline to take the competition by storm, with three consecutive 3 point performances against Johnsonville, Wainuiomata and Tawa respectively.Houston-Tupou collected his first points in a month last Saturday with 3 in a losing cause for the Rams against Johnsonville.
However, Foe’s Poneke and Northern United both have a game in hand over the teams with the nearest chasers so Foe could extend the gap with another blinder in their catch-up match.
Foe has already being awarded 3 points on five separate occasions but his last allocation was being given 2 points back in round 11, so he will be hungry for more.
This coming Weekend, Foe and Poneke play Ories. Foe was Player of the Match when Poneke played Ories in the Swindale Shield at the end of April.
The leading Northern United players in the Best & Fairest standings are first five-eighth Jackson Garden-Bachop, halfback Esi Komaisavai (currently injured) and openside flanker Du’Plessis Kirifi. Komaisavai was given 3 points in their 50-45 round 12 win over Old Boys University and Kirifi likewise in their 64-36 win over Marist St Pat’s to clinch the Swindale Shield.
For the first time in several years, the Best & Fairest competition is including the Hardham Cup players.
Hardham Cup players were traditionally awarded points, and several have won from the Hardham Cup, but the competition’s former custodian the Dominion Post stopped covering the Hardham Cup so it became just a competition for Jubilee Cup players in the second round. This year’s points selectors are the WRRA match officials.
As well as Poneke and Northern United, Old Boys University (Jubilee Cup) and Petone (Hardham Cup) also had last weekend off with their byes. The leading OBU player is prop Jonathan Fuimoano, on 9 points while the leading Petone player is No. 8 Tupou Sopoaga on 7 points.
There is still a lot of rugby to be played and Best & Fairest points are also awarded in the semi-finals and finals to players in those teams that qualify for the knockout rounds.Starting this coming Saturday, Poneke, Northern United, Old Boys University and Petone have up to eight games to play with a maximum of 24 points to be awarded, while the other 10 sides have up to seven games and 21 points on offer.
Injuries and time on the sideline to the current competition frontrunners and a run of hot form by others could thus open the door for leaderboard movement. This has happened before – in 2012 Ardie Savea barely played in the Swindale Shield but the Ories flanker came through to win the trophy with a string of Player of the Match performances in the Jubilee Cup.
Last year’s joint winners Hemi Fermanis (Tawa) and Ben Tupuola are on 8 and 7 points respectively. But both could be too far back, given Fermanis was red carded on Saturday and will have a stand-down and Tupuola has recently been spelled with injury.
In total, 162 players have received points in the first 14 rounds of the 2018 season.
There are 22 players who are on 3 points and have earned their points so far on the back of one Player of the Match performance.
The Billy Wallace Best and Fairest competition has been running continuously in Wellington club rugby since 1966. The first winner was then All Blacks flanker Tom Lister of the now defunct Athletic club. Last year the competition was jointly won by Tawa’s Hemi Fermanis and Wainuiomata’s Ben Tupuola, a previous winner.
Regular updates through to the end of the club rugby season will be forthcoming.