Rugby to heat up as Championship season gets underway

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A re-set for some teams and a weekend off for others, as the second round of Wellington club rugby gets underway with a reduced schedule of matches owing to Queen's Birthday Weekend.

Hutt Old Boys Marist were convincing Swindale Shield winners in the first round, but the slate is wiped clean for the seven Jubilee Cup teams. 

The unbeaten Eagles have the opening weekend Jubilee Cup bye, while there are Championship round matches in Miramar, Tawa and Porirua on Saturday. 

In the Premier 2 Hardham Cup, it is a case of the seven teams re-setting their seasons and starting again for part two of the 2019 season. Kilbirnie, Khandallah and Johnsonville are the three Premier 2 competition venues tomorrow. The Avalon Wolves have the opening round bye.

See below for the six Jubilee and Hardham Cup game previews.

In other competitions, there are no Women's, U85kg or lower grade club rugby on Saturday but there is a full round of Premier Reserve and Colts matches as they also open their second round competitions.

Just like over the first half of the season, the Premier Reserve fixtures mirror those of the Jubilee/Hardham Cup games and are all 1.00pm kick-offs. This means that first round Harper Lock Shield champions Marist St Pats will be contesting the second tier HD Morgan Memorial Trophy. The tier one competition is called the Ed Chaney Cup and first round runners-up Northern United are one of the teams to beat. 

Division One Colts John E Kelly Cup sees first round winners and defending champions Old Boys University Green travelling to the Polo Grounds to play Division 2 winners and newly promoted Oriental-Rongotai.

The other three fixtures see Tawa play Hutt Old Boys Marist at Redwood Park, Paremata-Plimmerton host Petone and Norths and MSP meet at Porirua Park.

The Division 2 Vic Calcinai Memorial Cup Colts competition also gets underway on Saturday.

Stokes Valley host Old Boys University on their Old Timers' Day and 70th anniversary weekend in the penultimate round of the First Grade Thompson Memorial Trophy First Grade competition. 


Jubilee Cup

Tawa v Petone

Venue: Lyndhurst Park
Referee: Vincent Ringrose

Both sides have surged into the Jubilee Cup despite hovering in the regulation zone for part of the season. Hosts Tawa have won three games in a row and scored 148 points. Tawa with 59 tries have scored more tries than any other club in Wellington.

Tawa and Wellington Lions hooker Sitiveni Paongo bagged a hat-trick against Upper Hutt while Romu Senileba out wide continued his hot form in a settling roster.

Petone defied the conditions and Dane Coles to rally from behind and beat Poneke. Tupou Sopoaga with two tries, Jarrod Hirstich and Logan Henry really stepped up when required.

Petone have won their last four games and scored 217 points. In the first round of the Swindale Shield they beat Tawa 41-22 with Willie Fine crossing twice and Piri Paraone, under an injury cloud, scoring 21 points.

This fixture is the Te Upoko radio commentary match.


Oriental-Rongotai v Wainuiomata

Venue: Polo Ground
Referee: Richard Gordon

Wainuiomata have struck a purple patch in the last month winning four on the trot, including a 29-0 blanking of Ories in Round 8.

By contrast the Magpies scrambled into the Jubilee Cup with a bonus point against MSP. Ories with three consecutive losses fell from second to seventh.

Wainuiomata will be without both TJ Va’a and Peter Umaga-Jensen again. Wing Saita Tuaoi is a growing threat though, scoring two tries against Wellington while the forward pack is established with prop Anthony Mamea and lock Bevan Clark having especially strong seasons.

Ories have welcomed back Tuakana Metuarau and Alex Ropeti which will provide confidence to a side that appears to have lost its mojo.

Ories lineout was a disaster the last time they played Wainuiomata so that will be an urgent area of address, but Ories have actually scored more tries 46-39 than Wainuiomata this season.


Northern United v Poneke

Venue: Jerry Collins Stadium
Referee: Daniel Mangin

Norths and Poneke didn’t meet in the first round, but played a Jubilee Cup thriller last year with Norths narrowly winning 27-23.

Poneke lacked killer instinct in that affair and should have put Petone away with the second-half wind on Saturday.

Norths have conceded 88 points in their last two games so who will win?

Norths are a high scoring team having crossed for 58 tries compared with Poneke’s 44, but the ‘street kids’ have a better defensive record.

Watch for Norths No.8 Luca Rees who has scored 16 tries in 2019. He’ll mark Poneke captain Greg Foe while Hurricane Jackson Garden-Bachop lining up against Alex Morrissey at first five-eighth will be intriguing.

Cole Stewart is approaching a century of games for Poneke while Norths lock Quaid Martin-laumatia is a player set to grow in stature in the set pieces and around the field.

The two teams play for the Cyril Collett Memorial Shield, as this is their first meeting of the year. Poneke are the holders.

It is Old Timers' Day for Northern United tomorrow and this match will be commentated live on Radio Sport, with Gordon Noble-Campbell and John Morrison.


Hardham Cup

Old Boys University v Wellington

Venue: Nairnville Park
Referee: Steve Newson

Shockingly, the twice reigning Jubilee Cup champions are in the Hardham Cup, but Old Boys University hit the second division putting a century on Paremata-Plimmerton. No.8 Teariki Ben-Nicholas scored four tries and diminutive fullback Sam Reid three tries. Talisman tighthead prop Jonathan Fuimaono will also run out for his 150th match in OBU colours tomorrow.

Wellington were defeated by Wainuiomata last week on their Old Timers’ Day and were similarly competitive in the Swindale Shield meeting against the students.

Can the Axemen push the students again?

With exceptional lock James Poloniati and experienced fly-half Hilton Mexted back, Wellington have bolstered their stocks.


Marist St Pats v Paremata-Plimmerton

Venue: Evans Bay Park
Referee: Andrew Lawler

MSP left their run too late, consigned to the Hardham Cup for the first time since 1974.

Worryingly for Paremata-Plimmerton though, the scarlet contenders are in excellent form having beaten Norths 48-31 and Ories 22-15 in the last fortnight. They will be favoured to retain the Bill Brien Challenge Cup that they won off Ories.

MSP lost four games by less than a converted try in the first round, but appear to have developed a killer instinct. In Round 8 they beat Paremata-Plimmerton 63-7.

Paremata-Plimmerton were pumped 106-7 by Old Boys University in the last round. A more stoic performance is what Paremata-Plimmerton will be seeking, with three players on their bench on debut tomorrow.

Watch for MSP No.8 James Tuia who scored two tries against Ories and who produced a smashing display against Norths


Johnsonville v Upper Hutt Rams

Venue: Helson Park
Referee: Ben Van Berkel

Last Saturday Johnsonville only lost 17-21 to Avalon with centre Tawera Rameka-Styles managing two tries.

For the Upper Hutt Rams, Daniel Schrijvers continues to flourish and promising prop Luke Chisholm enjoyed a successful debut against a formidable Tawa pack. Look out for young loose forward Josh Southall for the Rams.

Upper Hutt have scored double the number of tries than Johnsonville, but the Hawks recent improvements provides hope of a duck breaking Saturday.