Petone, Lower Hutt and Tawa are the three venues for tomorrow’s fifth round Jubilee Cup matches, that could see the semi-finalists starting to take shape.
Leaders Wainuiomata (on 13 points) have their bye tomorrow, meaning they will be leapfrogged by either Hutt Old Boys Marist (11) or Northern United (10) who play each other or by Tawa (10) who host Poneke (5).
The third match is a likely virtual knockout fixture, with the winner between Petone (6) and Poneke (5).
In the Hardham Cup, Old Boys University (14) return from their bye to host neighbours Johnsonville (2) at Nairnville Park, while the feature match of the Premier 2 round is at Evans Bay Park between Marist St Pats (10) and frontrunners Wellington (15) where the winner will likely secure a home semi-final.
This week’s radio commentary game comes from the Petone Rec between Petone and Ories on Te Upoko at 1161AM.
A look at each of the Jubilee Cup and Hardham Cup games is below.
Petone v Oriental-Rongotai
Venue: Petone Rec
Referee: Jamie Fairmaid
Both clubs revived their seasons last week with impressive wins against previously unbeaten opposition.
Ories battled past Tawa 32-27 with wing Reuben Va’a celebrating a hat-trick. Petone snapped the seven-game win streak of Wainuiomata, 33-22. Willie Fine crossed twice and Tupou Sopoaga found himself on the scoresheet again.
Who will continue their new-found momentum?
Ories will look to first-five Trent Renata to continue his assured form while the return of blindside Luke Taualupe made a big difference, while tighthead prop and assistant coach Whetu Henry plays his first match of the year.
Locks Tuakana Metuarau (Ories) and Eduan Struwig (Petone) shape as key figures in lineouts that have often struggled this season.
Sam Blackburn has played himself into the Villagers starting XV following a series of strong displays off the bench.
HOBM v Northern United
Venue: Hutt Rec
Referee: Daniel Mangin
HOBM have bounced back from their Tawa defeat with two strong victories; the latest a 44-26 slaying of Poneke. Brandyn Laursen scored 21 points as the Eagles soared to the top of the most tries scored in the Jubilee Cup list.
Norths are 2-1 and return fresh from a bye. The last time they played the Eagles they suffered a 40-5 loss, but that match was irrelevant as both sides Jubilee Cup status was confirmed.
Norths have plenty of threats to concern the Eagles, including Hurricanes first five-eighth Jackson Garden-Bachop, second five-eighth Kienan Higgins and fullback Johnny Teleaga running off his shoulder.
HOBM have jumped out of the blocks in their past two starts and have an organized and beefy pack, which is settled from last week. Their big change or this game is Connor Collins making his Premier debut at halfback. Norths will have to be precise and aggressive to avoid a repeat of their Swindale Shield hiding.
Tawa v Poneke
Venue: Lyndhurst Park
Referee: Nick Hogan
Last week Tawa suffered their first defeat in five matches, but gained two bonus points in a narrow loss to Ories.
Tawa lacked precision at key moments, but the form of lock Tito Ioane and No. 8 Folau Vea is strongly encouraging.
Poneke were well beaten by Hutt and need a win to keep their faint top four chances alive. The likes of Galu Taufale and captain Greg Foe will be at their very best, but will that be enough to stop a Tawa side that’s not far from their best?
Marist St Pats v Wellington
Venue: Evans Bay Park
Referee: Jordan Price
Wellington have won three in a row after thumping Johnsonville 53-15. Ollie Marshall scored 23 points to boost his Hardham Cup tally to 71.
The Axemen stunned MSP 13-10 in the Swindale Shield. Can they repeat that success?
It’s hard to see after MSP overpowered Upper Hutt 59-20. Willie Schutz scored 19 points and Faresa Tasele four tries.
However Wellington are growing in confidence and the likes of loose forwards James Poloniati and James Gard’ner are a genuine threat to their MSP counterparts, who have welcomed back Naitoa Ah Kuoi and Pago Haini in recent weeks.
Old Boys University v Johnsonville
Venue: Nairnville Park
Referee: Steve Newson
OBU had the bye in Round Four and will be refreshed while Johnsonville were well beaten by the Axemen.
Tawera Rameka-Styles has been one of the better Hawks this season.
Teariki Ben-Nicholas will be looking to continue his top form. He could threaten the starting No.8 jersey in the Lions this year. OBU will be defending the Bill Brien Challenge Trophy.
Upper Hutt Rams v Avalon
Venue: Maoribank Park
Referee: Jack Sargentina
The Upper Hutt Rams and the Avalon Wolves are likely to be jousting for the fourth and last semi-final berth which makes this fixture vital.
The Rams were thumped 59-20 last week by Marist St Pat’s. Todd Svenson did score two tries, a beacon of light on a miserable afternoon for the Rams.
The Wolves were held to a 25-25 draw to Paremata-Plimmerton despite outscoring the hosts four tries to three.
Ale Peni will have to be tightly marked by the Rams. The big second-five scored two tries last week.
Avalon have greater size upfront, but Upper Hutt more pace out wide. This will be tight.
The two teams contest the inter trophy Harper Vine Shield.