This weekends preview includes:
*A preview of the Jubilee Cup fixtures, Hardham Cup fixtures and other grades
Preview Saturday 29th June
Jubilee Cup Preview
It’s a crucial afternoon for several teams in Wellington club rugby tomorrow, not least Rimutaka (above) who will be hunting their first win of the season against Old Boys University B.
The second round of the regular Wellington club rugby season reaches its halfway point this Saturday and fans will get a clearer picture of the likely semi-final contenders after the conclusion of Jubilee and Hardham Cup matches.
Last week saw all teams tough it out in grim conditions. In the Jubilee Cup, just one team, Marist St Pat’s,won with a four-try bonus point and all games were tight.
As a result, four of the eight Jubilee Cup contenders are bunched together on the points table behind unbeaten frontrunners Hutt Old Boys Marist. Ories, also unbeaten, Old Boys University and Tawa are all primed to strike.
There’s then a four-point gap between these four teams and the bottom four; MSP, Poneke, Wainuiomata and Poneke, with the latter three in this group winless and needing to win on Saturday.
Of all 40 Jubilee Cup semi-finalists in the past 10 seasons between 2003-2012, just two of them have made the playoffs after winning just one of their opening four Jubilee Cup round-robin games.
These two teams were Poneke in 2005, who lost three of their four opening Jubilee Cup games, and Petone in 2010, who won their first match but lost their next three before winning three in a row and qualifying fourth.
In the Hardham Cup, the situation is also dire for current Premier side Rimutaka and hopefuls Avalon, both winless after three rounds, while the winner of the top-of-the-table Northern United - Upper Hutt clash could qualify for the semi-finals with three weeks to spare. The third unbeaten side, the Wellington Axemen, will also be almost certain to qualify for the semi’s and with it regain their Premier status if they beat Avalon.
In round four Jubilee Cup matches, this rift between the current top Jubilee Cup sides and the chasers could further open up this weekend and it could be all over for more than one team.
The Petone - Wainuiomata encounter at the Petone Rec could be a last throw of the dice for both protagonists. While defeat for the loser will likely be terminal, a bonus point win for the winner could propel that side back into the mix, pending other results.Wainuiomata won their first round clash for the Darren Larsen Cup 36-29.
Similarly, Poneke realistically need to earn their opening win of the second round and beat Tawa at Lyndhurst Park. They beat them 9-8 in the Swindale Shield, but this could be a tough task against Tawa who are strong at home and smarting after losing 13-18 to Ories on Poneke’s home ground at Kilbirnie Park last Saturday.
At the other end of the table, Hutt Old Boys Marist can make it four from four if they beat Old Boys University at the Hutt Rec.For the neutral fan, this is probably the game of the round, between two sides playing positive, attractive rugby, and who are both highly motivated to do well this year.
For the home side the HOBM Eagles, a loss to the Billy Goats won’t be catastrophic to their playoff hopes, but it will make their run seem that much tougher. After this they host Ories, play Poneke away and then play Tawa away. OBU will welcome their return to the top-notch surface of the Hutt Rec after beating Wainuiomata there last week 26-8, and they too will remain in the top four should they lose. But with home games to come against Tawa (next week) and Ories they will become nervous if they walk away empty handed.
OBU won their first round encounter for the Wood Cup 39-21 at Nairnville Park, and encounters between these two teams are often close and high scoring. The same will be said about MSP should they lose to unbeaten Ories at Evans Bay Park in this weekend’s eastern suburbs battle.
Should they win, MSP will be right back in the mix, and could be as high as third equal if OBU were to lose to HOBM and Tawa miss out to Poneke. Equally, defending champions MSP could find themselves on the precipice if they lose to Ories in this re-match of last year’s final.
For Ories, like HOBM, a fourth straight win could all but propel them into the semi-finals with three weeks to spare. It’s also a homecoming of sorts for a few of their players, not least first five-eighth Fa’atonuFili who played for MSP for over a decade and knows Evans Bay Park better than most MSP players.
Their first round clash at the Polo Ground was tight, with Orieskicking a late dropped goal to win 21-18. The potter wasn’t Fili, but his replacement Oliver Best. This corresponding match last year ended in a 9-9 draw.
Hardham Cup Preview
In the Hardham Cup, Northern United and Upper Hutt slug it out at Porirua Park in the battle of the big guns.
The winner will more than likely qualify for the semi-finals with three weeks to spare and should go on and qualify in pole position, while the loser will live to fight another day. Norths and Upper Hutt are clearly the two best teams in this year’s Hardham Cup so this clash looms as a likely dress rehearsal for the final.
Norths beat Upper Hutt 29-13 when they met for the Terry Farrow Memorial Cup in the first round.There’s much to play for in the other three Hardham Cup matches this Saturday.
A return to the Premier level for the Wellington Axemen is imminent. If they beat Avalon in their match at Hataitai Park they should achieve their goal, while for winless Avalon this is probably their last throw of the dice as far as their re-promotion expectations go.
Avalon could still make the semi-finals by following the route of their 2010 side. In 2010 Avalon were winless after the first four weeks before winning their last three matches, against HOBM B (18-17), Johnsonville (10-3) and MSP B (36-17). Sneaking into fourth, they then upset Wests 12-11 in the semi-final and made the final.
Rimutaka would also need to follow a similar script if they lose their fourth consecutive match of the Hardham Cup round this weekend against OBU B at home at Maoribank Park.
Rimutaka will surely have to beat OBU B this week though ahead of matches to come against Johnsonville, Avalon and Wests. OBU B are a handy side, having beaten Johnsonville 25-11 a fortnight ago.
Johnsonville could also be left following a similar pathif they don’t register their second win of the Hardham Cup against the Wests Roosters at Helston Park. It’s a big fortnight for Johnsonville, who realistically must beat the Roosters this week and then Rimutaka the next, to entertain chances of making the top four. They play Upper Hutt and then Norths in their last two matches.
The Wests Roosters have also only won one match from their last three and will desperately want victory over Johnsonville to consolidate their place in the semi-final positions. Roosters fans have seen their team embroiled in several Hardham Cup promotion-relegation scraps in recent seasons and would prefer their team kept out of it this time around.
Women’s and Other grades
It’s the fourth round of nine in the 10-team Senior 1 Ed Chaney Cup this weekend and, as usual in this grade, it’s starting to get extremely tight already.
Every side has suffered at least one defeat in the first three rounds and the leading seven teams are separated by just four competition points.
In 1.15 pm Senior 1 matches this weekend that are curtain-raisers to Jubilee Cup games, Hutt Old Boys Marist (two wins from three) host Paremata-Plimmerton (two wins) at the Hutt Recreation Ground, Ories (two wins) visit MSP (one win) at Evans Bay Park, Tawa (two wins) play Upper Hutt (one win) at Lyndhurst Park and Petone (two wins) play Wainuiomata (one win) at the Petone Recreation Ground. In the Hardham Cup curtain-raiser at Porirua Park, Norths (winless) play Poneke (two wins).
Other club rugby grades in Wellington resume as normal this Saturday, after mass cancellations last week deferred all round three fixtures to a later date.Premier women’s round four action at 11.30 am sees Ories host Old Boys-University at the Polo Ground, Norths entertain MSP-Poneke at Porirua Park and Wainuiomata and Avalon square off at Mary Crowther Park.
Top plays bottom in fourth round HD Morgan Memorial Senior 2 matches, with Avalon (two wins from three) and MSP (winless) meeting at Kilbirnie Park.The second team to start the second round with two wins, the Wests Roosters, play Johnsonville (one win from two) in the Hardham Cup curtain-raiser at Helston Park.
OBU (one win) and Norths (one win) meet on the top field at Porirua Park at 1.15 pm, Stokes Valley (one win) and Wainuiomata (one win) play in the 3.00 pm game at Delaney Park and Petone (winless) hosts Poneke (one win) at the Petone Rec 2 at 1.15 pm.
In Division 1 U85kg Paul Potiki Shield matches on Saturday, Eastbourne and the Tawa Titans play at H.W Shortt Park at 3.00 pm and the MSP Blues and Wellington meet on the St Pat’s Town artificial at 3.00 pm. The MSP Reds have the bye and the fixture between the OBU Onslow Bunnies and the OBU Onslow Spartans has been postponed.
Round two Senior 3 Johnsonville Centennium Cup games on Saturday see first round JDR Cup winners Petone up against mid-table finishers Rimutaka at the Petone Rec 3 at 12.00 pm and second placed finishers the HOBM Barbarians playing winless Tawa at Redwood Park at 3.00 pm. Other matches are between the Upper Hutt Kings and MSP at Maidstone artificial at 12.00 pm and Ories and the HOBM Originals at the Polo Ground at 3.00 pm. The Wellington Axemen have the bye.
Premier 1 First XV round six matches on Saturday see Wellington College host Scots College, St Pat’s Silverstream hosting HIBS, Naenae College welcoming Rongotai College and Porirua College and St Pat’s Town in action. All college games kick-off at 2.30 pm.