The preparations are complete for the eight teams to take the field for the 2018 Wellington club rugby finals at the Petone Recreation Ground tomorrow.
See below for game previews of the Jubilee Cup, Hardham Cup and Women’s finals.
The first of the Colts finals is between Old Boys University and Hutt Old Boys Marist who will play for the John E Kelly Cup Les Mills Colts Division 1.
Old Boys University have won the two meetings between these sides already this year, winning 38-14 and 19-10. OBU were convincing 48-17 semi-final winners over Norths, while HOBM edged past MSP 22-20 with a death-knock penalty. Both sides will look to their strong set-pieces to provide the keys to victory in this final.
The Division 2 Vic Calcinai Memorial Cup Colts final is between two eastern suburbs clubs, Oriental-Rongotai and Poneke. Ories, who started the season in Division 1, were top qualifiers and beat OBU Black 35-28 last Saturday. Poneke have spent the season in Division 2 and beat Wainuiomata 43-18 to book their place. Ories won 28-20 when they met in the round-robin.
The Division 2 HD Morgan Memorial final between Petone and Johnsonville is the first of the Premier Reserve finals on the number 3 field. Petone have lost just one game this round - but that was to Johnsonville a fortnight ago. Petone ran away with their semi-final to win 44-17 over Wainuiomata, while Johnsonville beat the Upper Hutt Rams 24-7.
Following that is the Division 1 Ed Chaney Cup final between Oriental-Rongotai and Marist St Pats. Top qualifiers Ories pipped Poneke 13-6 in their semi-final, after qualifying seventh from the first round Harper Lock Shield competition. MSP won the first round and have lost just two games all season, so are looking for the Harper Lock-Ed Chaney double. They beat Norths 32-14 last Saturday.
Elsewhere, the Avalon Wolves host the Upper Hutt Rams at Fraser Park 3 at 1.00pm in a top-of-the-table last round Paul Potiki Shield U85kg match. Both teams are already assured of hosting home semi-finals but whoever wins will finish top.
The Johnsonville Cripples host the Poneke Ruffnuts at Helston Park at 2.30pm in the final of the Reserve Grade Division 1.
The Reserve Grade Division 1 competition has another two weeks of round-robin rugby to play while the semi-finals of the First Grade Johnsonville Centiennum Cup have been deferred to next week.
2018 Jubilee Cup final
Venue: Petone Rec 1
Referee: Richard Gordon
The ideal final features the Swindale Shield and Andy Leslie Trophy winners against the reigning Jubilee Cup champions. It’s first against second.
Norths have beaten OBU twice this season - 50-45 in the Swindale Shield and 13-10 in the Jubilee Cup, proving they can win both a high scoring shootout and a tight arm wrestle.
Norths accounted for Hutt Old Boys Marist 41-26 in the semi-finals. Young wing Junior Time-Taotua was outstanding scoring two tires as the hosts punished the Eagles often from broken play.
OBU were impressive in defeating Ories (34-19) for the third time this season. OBU scored six tries and at one stage led by 34-7.
Norths have won 15 out of their last 16 games and are welcoming back Hurricanes first-five Jackson Garden-Bachop to their line-up, who has been instrumental in setting their backs alight when he has played for them this season.
Norths have made a habit of starting quickly in 2018 and OBU will have to prevent that in order to win. In both games, OBU was left chasing large deficits.
There are many key matchups, but the tussle between openside flankers Daven Candy and Du’Plessis Kirifi will go a long way towards deciding this encounter. As will the general breakdown contest.
Candy has had an injury-disrupted year, but scored two tries in the 2017 final and was back to his best against Ories. Kirifi has scored seven tries this year and finished third in the Best & Fairest standings.
Other highlights will include the lineouts involving veterans Chris Middleton and Agustin Escalona and on the wing can Tai Neli (7 tries this season) contain the blockbusting Liki Siliga whose scored a try in five of his last six games?
Norths last played the final at Petone in 2011 and were beaten 40-18 by Ories. Norths won the Jubilee Cup in 2004, 2006, 2008 (shared with MSP) and 2010.
OBU won the 2015 and 2017 finals having previously failed to capture glory for 50 years.
Richard Gordon will officiate his fourth consecutive final.
2018 Hardham Cup final
Venue: Petone Rec 4
Kick-off: 2.00pm Referee: Daniel Mangin
The top qualifiers meet in the Hardham Cup final.
Petone missed the Jubilee Cup by losing their last three games without a bonus point, passed into seventh place by Ories.
Wainuiomata lost seven games in the Swindale Shield by less than 10 points.
Wainuiomata are unbeaten in the Hardham Cup, held to a draw by Upper Hutt, while Petone was beaten 29-15 in their last meeting against Wainuiomata. In that game Peter Umaga-Jensen, who starts on the wing in the final, scored a try.
Wainuiomata beat Johnsonville 27-19 in the semi-finals while Petone required extra time to foil the Upper Hutt Rams 32-24.
On paper Petone appear to be the stronger roster with James Blackwell and Tupou Sopoaga in the forwards having played NPC rugby while prop Kaliopasi Uluilakepa was a New Zealand Under-20’s selection this year. A significant late withdrawal for them is Mateaki Kafatolu, who has been ruled out with illness. Loosehead prop Marcus Roil will captain the side.
Petone have scored 98 tries this season, only Jubilee Cup finalists Norths have more.
Wainuiomata have been Jubilee Cup semi-finalists three times in the past eight years. They won the Hardham Cup in 2007 and 2010. They bring plenty of finals experience to the fixture. Openside Matt Jacobs is the leading points scorer in the Hardham Cup with 48 points while captain Greg Lealofi and prop Anthony Mamea are key players. Henry Smith starts at hooker. He was the last Norths captain to lift the Jubilee Cup in 2010.
and Marvin Karawana offer plenty of thrust, and with Mike Lealava’a and Umaga-Jensen on the wings they should have the strike power to sore tries out wide.
Petone last won the Hardham Cup in 1993.
2018 Women’s Division 1 final
Oriental-Rongotai v Northern United Venue Petone Rec 1
Referee: Scott Maclean
This final for the inaugural Tia Paasi Memorial Cup after the former Wellington Pride player who tragically passed away earlier this year could genuinely go either way.
The two sides have split their meetings this year, with Norths winning 34-22 in the first round and 43-36 in the second.
Their first meeting at Jerry Collins Stadium in May saw Norths prevail 6 tries to 4 and retain the Challenge Cup, which they held on throughout the remainder of the season.
Their most recent meeting played under bright sunshine at the Polo Ground saw Ories leap to a big lead early in the second spell, but Norths never gave in and they came roaring back in the final 10 minutes.
Ories go into this decider as defending champions, having beaten Old Boys University 63-8 last year. OBU had shocked Norths the week before in the semi-finals, while Ories were beaten finalists the previous year to Wainuiomata and Norths had beaten Ories 24-22 in the final in 2015, which was the former’s most recent appearance in the women’s decider.
Both cantered to semi-finals wins last weekend, Norths beating last year’s Division 2 champions Petone 48-5 and Ories accounting for Paremata-Plimmerton 106-0.
Both sides this year are packed with Wellington Pride players and up and comers pushing for representative places. Key players in the forwards to look out for include Ories captain and flanker Joanah Ngan-Woo and the Taumoli sisters for Ories – Barbra, Fuamai and Janet – and prop Dora Laupola and lock and captain Sanita Levave for Norths. The Collins sisters for Norths, Brenda and Helen, bring plenty of experience, as doeswhile schoolgirls Julie Tusa and Dhys Falefaga are always dangerous.
For Ories, left wing Ayesah Leti-l’iga is a try-scoring phenomenon, having scored a remarkable 41 tries in 12 matches this season and five in last week’s semi-final. Bernadette Roberston is also another player they will look to get the ball out to often. First five-eighth Lizzie Goulden lines up for her club for this final before she heads to the UK next week.
As well as the 2018 Women’s finals being dedicated in the name of former women’s club stalwart and Wellington Pride and Black Ferns prop Tia Passi, Ories will also be playing for their side’s foundation player and 2014 winning squad member Rosalina Taituave,who passed away from cancer in October last year.
The Division 2 Women’s final for the inaugural Izzy Ford Cup pits Old Boys University and Hutt Old Boys Marist against each other. Both these teams qualified for the final a fortnight ago after a match that the OBU Impalas beat HOBM 59-10 at Te Whaea.
Both are coming off wins last weekend, OBU beating Avalon 34-12 and HOBM defeating 65-14. Both have won five from six second round matches, HOBM’s loss being to OBU (above) and OBU’s defeat being to HOBM 34-20 in the first of their two clashes. In the first round these two teams drew 12-12 at a muddy Nairnville Park.
Kick-off in the Division 2 decider is at Petone Rec 2 at 12.00pm and the referee is Monique Dalley.