After the coldest week of the year so far, the local rugby dial is set to crank up a notch tomorrow with the start of the second round competitions for the Premier Jubilee and Hardham Cups and the Les Mills Colts John E Kelly and Vic Calcinai Memorial Cups.
Northern United were convincing Swindale Shield winners last weekend, but the slate is wiped clean for them and the seven Jubilee Cup teams. Norths host Poneke, while Oriental-Rongotai host Marist St Pat’s and Tawa welcome Hutt Old Boys Marist. Old Boys University have the bye.
In the Hardham Cup, there are matches between Avalon and Wellington, the Upper Hutt Rams and Johnsonville and Paremata-Plimmerton and Waiuiomata. Petone have the bye.
It is the final round of the women’s competition, with Northern United already confirmed winners and set to be presented with the silverware, while the two divisions for the second round will also be decided.
Oriental-Rongotai v Marist St Pat’s
Venue: Polo Ground
Referee: Richard Gordon
Ories shocked MSP a fortnight ago at Evans Bay Park as their late Swindale Shield resurgence earned a place in the Jubilee Cup for the 11th season in a row.
Ories have won four of their past five and boats a backline that's found its groove. Malo Tuitama and Malachai Unasa are running hot in the midfield while No.8 Luca Rees is the top try scorer in Wellington with 17, including four last Saturday against Johnsonville.
MSP are heading in the opposition direction having dropped of three of their last four games. However openside James Tuia scored a second-half hat-trick in a lost cause against Norths and if the likes of Nick Harrsion and James Zino return, MSP have a more steely appearance about them.
Both sides scored a combined 120 tries between them in the Swindale Shield. Expect a torrid forward struggle to eventually open up.
Tawa v HOBM
Venue: Lyndhurst Park
Referee: Nick Hogan
Tawa have won four games in a row and scored 207 points. Hutt have won three on the trot and edged Tawa 30-28 in their last meeting. Both sides are genuine Jubilee Cup contenders with strengthening the rosters after major injury setbacks.
Ryan Preston scored four tries on the wing for Tawa last Saturday and the likes of PJ Iosefo and Pepesana Patafilo are equally threatening. Tawa's forwards are settled and aggressive.
Hutt's backline look far better with tomorrow’s fullback Chase Tiatia and left wing Albert Polu added while towards have scored nearly half of the Eagles 67 tries – although Lise Soloa is getting married tomorrow and himself, David Filipo and Tasi Fidow are involved with that.
The Bill Brien Challenge Cup is on the line in this game as well.
Northern United v Poneke
Venue: Jerry Collins Stadium
Referee: Vincent Ringrose
Norths won their first Swindale Shield since 2011 with a memorable demolition of MSP. Norths have scored 71 points in the first half of their last two games meaning Poneke have to suppress the fast start to stand any chance of a win at the JC.
Poenke have tough tackling loose forwards which will help, but Norths have threats everywhere having scored 75 tries.
Watching Greg Foe and Du'Plessis Kirifi in the same place will be enthralling. Both flankers are likely to appear for the Wellington Lions while Jackson Garden-Bachop and Pakai Turia run a tight ship from first-five.
Avalon v Wellington
Venue: Fraser Park
Referee: Steve Newson
Both sides won four games in the Swindale Shield with Wellington rallying from behind to beat Avalon 28-19 on ANZAC day.
It's been a good fortnight for the Axeman with standouts Ollie Sapsford and Alex Dalzell selected for the Wellington XV and away wins against Upper Hutt and Wainuiomata -although Dalzell and lock Simon Shearer are both missing from their line-up for this one.
Sefo Aumua recently celebrated 50 games for the Wolves who will look to use their larger pack to try and bully Wellington.
Avalon has scored 39 tries in 2018, Wellington 37. Avalon wing Chris Aumua has proven to be an especially accomplished finisher in his rookie season.
Upper Hutt Rams v Johnsonville
Venue: Maidstone Park
Referee: Jordan Price
Johnsonville failed to score a win in the Swindale Shield, but their best chance of a win came against Upper Hutt, blowing a 17-0 lead.
Upper Hutt scored 53 tries and Johnsonville have leaked 518 points suggesting a high scoring affair is likely.
Tyler Tane is in strong form for the Rams while Tui Yandall, Api Naikatini and Kane Thompson have been regulars for the visitors.
Paremata-Plimmerton v Wainuiomata
Venue: Ngatitoa Domain
Referee: Daniel Mangin
Paremata-Plimmerton haven't had Richard Judd in recent weeks and their form has dipped. The Hurricanes fringe halfback featured in all three wins. However the forwards look solid with Taisson Lealaisalanoa named in the Wellington Lions training squad.
Wainuiomata's last win was in Round 7 of the Swindale 41-27 against Paremata-Plimmerton.
Wainuiomata wing Nash Fiso-Vaelei cracked the Lions wider squad and Peter Umaga-Jensen starts at centre tomorrow but the green and blacks are struggling with forward injuries. Andrew Mamea is a durable prop.
Women’s, Colts and other grades
Northern United won the first round Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy with a week to spare last Saturday, and tomorrow they travel over the Haywards to the Hutt Recreation Ground to play Hutt Old Boys Marist and be awarded the title after the match.
Ories will finish second no matter what, with nearest challenger Petone having the bye, and they play Avalon.
Old Boys University will need a bonus point win against Paremata-Plimmerton and for Marist St Pat’s to get nothing out of their match against neighbours Poneke to leapfrog them into fifth to contest the Division 1 in the second round. Petone have the bye.
The opening round of the John E Kelly Cup Colts Division 1 second round championship sees first round Division 2 winners and promoted side Paremata-Plimmerton host first round Division 1 winners Marist St Pat’s at Ngatitoa Domain.
In the three other matches, the Upper Hutt Rams Colts play host to OBU Green at Maoribank Park, as do Tawa for HOBM Green and Norths for Petone. The division 2 competition kicks off tonight at Te Whaea between OBU Black and Johnsonville. Relegated side Oriental-Rongotai host Wainuiomata on Saturday.
Leaders the Avalon Wolves can make it seven straight bonus point wins when they host lower ranked MSP Red in the eighth round of the U85kg Restricted Paul Potiki Shield competition. Second placed Paraparaumu play fourth placed Tawa and third placed Upper Hutt Rams meet mid-table Wests Roosters away.
The Upper Hutt Rams Thirsty Rams are unbeaten after three rounds for the re-set Reserve Grade JDR Cup and the OBU Pink Ginners have yet to taste defeat after four rounds of the Reserve Grade Mike Copeland Trophy. The Thirsty Rams assault the Upper Hutt Rams Pirates, while the Pink Ginners play Paremata-Plimmerton in their respective matches tomorrow.