On a day of wet and wild weather around the region, Wellington Premier club rugby heated up, with a series of tight results.
Warm summer weather for the opening fortnight of the season gave way to a stiff southerly, which served to steady the resolve of several teams in need of spirited performances.
The Wellington Axemen, Tawa, Hutt Old Boys Marist, Wainuiomata, Paremata-Plimmerton and Poneke were teams that came out on top, while Petone and Norths drew their match.
Two key results were at the Polo Ground, where Tawa earned their first win of the season in beating Oriental-Rongotai 22-19, and at Hataitai Park, where Wellington defeated Marist St Pats 13-10.
Both these matches were willing and torrid encounters, with the Wellington Axemen leading 7-5 at halftime after playing into the wind in the first spell and extending their lead in the second half with two penalties. A brave defensive effort throughout and a steadying performance by Hurricanes halfback Richard Judd were keys to victory against Marist St Pats, who had won by almost 70 points the week before over Johnsonville.
Having lost their first two matches, Tawaneeded to beat Oriental-Rongotai. With the wind, Tawa sailed to a 12-0 lead with tries to left wing Faraimo Nofoaiga and loose forward Folau, extending this to 19-0 at the halftime interval when lock Jack Sturmey crossed the try line.
Ories had the wind in the second half, but it took 20 minutes for centre Malachai Unasa to score for them to cut the deficit to 19-7. The Magpies rallied from there, but Tawa had enough points in the bank to hold on and win.
At the top end of the table, the Hutt Old Boys Marist Eagles and Poneke are unbeaten having won their third straight matches.
The HOBM Eagles inflicted a second successive defeat on Old Boys University,in a 38-17 win at Nairnville Park. Tries to left wing Salesi Rayasi and centre Jordan Glen Bradbrook put HOBM ahead, but OBU came back to make it 14-14 and then led 17-14 at halftime.
It was a similar halftime score in this corresponding fixture last year, but this time roles were reversed as HOBM laid on a dominant second half. Fereti Soloa scored the first of two tries to put them ahead 24-17 and they were able to finish strongly to win the Wood Cup from OBU.
At Kilbirnie Park, Poneke sealed their third win in a row and the Alby Makeham Shield against the Upper Hutt Rams, by coming back in the second half with the wind in their favour after the Rams had established a 12-5 lead at the break. Poneke led 20-15 late and secured a four-try bonus point at the end when No. 8 James Mose scored again. Poneke won 27-15.
At the Petone Recreation Ground, Northern United and Petone drew 19-19.
The two teams shaded each other throughout, Petone taking a 8-7 lead but Norths coming back with prolific try-scorer Luca Rees scoring one of his two tries to make it 14-13. Rees’ second try put Norths ahead 19-16, but a penalty a couple of minutes before fulltime to halfback Logan Henry made it a stalemate. Norths retained the Murray Henderson Trophy.
At Helston Park Paremata-Plimmerton edged Johnsonville 23-20. Pare-Plim took a narrow 9-8 win into halftime through the boot of Hayden Saunders, before the lead swapped hands during the second half. Johnsonville took the initiative through a try to winger Tawera Rameka-Styles, before Stu Simonsen responded for the visitors. Hemi Remuera, then took the lead back for the hosts before Pare-Plim used a dominant scrum to give No.8 Peni Taupau a pushover try.
At Fraser Park, visitors Wainuiomatamarred Avalon’s40th anniversary celebrations with the biggest win of the day in the Swindale Shield – winning 33-3.
Wainuiomata took advantage of a dominant scrum and an error-ridden Wolves side to score five tries. All five tries were scored from first or second phase off attacking scrums. Playing into the wind and rain that picked up just as the game got underway, Wainuiomata set the tone by scoring through No. 8 Ben Tupuola from the set-piece.
A long-range penalty to lock and captain Daniel Smith was to be the extent of Avalon’s scoring.
Wainuiomata veteran halfback Uale Mai scored on halftime to make it 12-3, and the green and blacks scored three more tries in the second half to seal victory.
In the Harper Lock Shield Premier Reserve competition, MSP and Tawa’s second XVs both made it three bonus point wins from three. MSP beat Wellington 57-5 and Tawa defeated Ories 37-17.
Elsewhere, the Upper Hutt Rams beat Poneke 29-20, Johnsonville beat Paremata-Plimmerton 26-5, Norths defeated Petone 39-5, OBU comfortably beat HOBM’s second team, 64-12 and the Wainuiomata came back to score two late tries to defeat Avalon 22-19.
Perennial Colts powerhouse Old Boys University Green got their Paris Memorial Trophy campaign off to a winning start with a 27-0 win over Hutt OId Boys Green.
In the remaining games, Norths saw off neighbours Tawa 41-17, MSP made no race of things against Pare-Plim 51-6, while Petone edged the Upper Hutt Rams 31-27 in a tight match at Maoribank Park, scoring the winning try in the dying minutes.
In the JRD Cup clashes, the Avalon Colts beat the Wainuiomata Colts 43-24 in front of the new Ricoh Sports Centre at Fraser Park. Poneke accounted for Johnsonville 56-10 and Ories beat the Axemen 68-0 in the other opening weekend match.
There were three defaults and one wide margin of victory in the first round of the U85kg JC Bowl competition.
The MSP Blues beat the OBU Spartans outfit by default, the HOBM Howlers beat the Johnsonville Terrahawks by default and the Wellington Light Axemen beat Petone by default. Paraparaumu beat the Wests Roosters 88-3.
The First Grade and Reserve Grade competitions had their opening weekend of grading games, and Presidents rugby also started up.
Last but not least, the 2019 Women’s competition kicked off with the second annual Gala Day at Ngati Toa Domain.
There were three opening weekend Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy matches played concurrently, with the fourth scheduled fixture between Poneke and Hutt Old Boys Marist called off owing to Poneke defaulting.
Defending first and second round champions Northern United were the most emphatic winners in dry, windy conditions. Their forwards went to work and they beat Marist St Pats 66-0.
On the adjacent field, Petone pushed Oriental-Rongotai for long periods but Ories came out 46-24 winners.
For Ories, left wing Ayesha Leti-L’iga scored five tries and No. 8 Joanah Ngan-Woo two, while Petone’s tries were evenly split between four different scorers.
On the main ground in front of the clubrooms, Paremata-Plimmerton started the season with a convincing 38-12 win over Old Boys University. Pare-Plim laid the groundwork in the first half playing into the wind and then sailed home in the second 40 minutes.
For Pare-Plim, fullback Kayla Hauparoa Rei and first five-eighth Lesina Obeda each scored two tries.