Above: Both St Pat's Town and Palmerston North Boys' High School are hoping to finish the Tranzit Coachlines First XV series off well this Saturday. Photo by Dave Lintott Photography.
UPDATE Friday: The First XV games tomorrow have been transferred from Porirua Park to Fraser Park.
Games and times now at:
Wellington’s four leading First XVs are hoping to finish this year’s Tranzit Coachlines pre-season festival on a high when the third and final round is contested in the capital this Saturday.
Wellington teams have a combined record of one win from eight matches after the opening two weekends in Masterton and Napier.
The sole win by a Wellington side was by Wellington College, 19-13 over Gisborne Boys' High School at Memorial Park.
Wellington will play Palmerston North Boys' High School in a curtain raiser to the Hurricanes v Cheetahs Super Rugby match at Westpac Stadium. The fixture will be televised by Land Rover First XV rugby as it was in 2014 when Palmerston North won narrowly by 29-25. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was a guest commentator.
Palmerston North have beaten St. Pats Town 22-18 and Wairarapa College 44-3 in the opening rounds. First-Five Stewart Cruden, the younger brother of All Black Aaron Cruden, scored two tries in the former match while Sam Stewart bagged a double against Wairarapa.
Palmerston North lost captain and flanker Tyler Laubscher against Wairarapa with a dislocated shoulder, but should be encouraged by the form of No.8 Michael Halatuituia and midfield back James Stratton.
Wellington would have been buoyed by their first win over Gisborne since 2013, but were held scoreless for the first time since 2014 by Napier Boys' High School last Saturday.
Wellington will rely on NZ Barbarians lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi and gritty openside Fergus Murray (twice a gold medallist at the Maadi Cup) to pave the way up front. In the backs Oliver Paotonu is finding his feet at first-five, but will be hoping to avoid the season ending injury he suffered in the corresponding fixture in 2016.
The remaining three matches are being played at Porirua Park. Rongotai College will have their work cut out for them when they tussle with Hastings Boys' High School on Jerry Collins Stadium at 11.30am.
Hastings overcame St. Pats Town by 106-7 last weekend and boast the in-form team in the country having won 25 of their last 26 matches, including all seven this year.
Wing Kini Naholo has scored 19 tries in 2017 and has captured national headlines with his spectacular play. Naholo will be marked by Jason Tuitama (Malo's younger brother) in an interesting dual, but only a miracle will prevent a big score in this contest. Hastings has threats in every position and Rongotai have lost twice to Napier 22-8 and Gisborne 34-7.
Up on Field Two at 11:30am, Gisborne tussles with Wairarapa College. This should result in a win for Gisborne who aren't a vintage group this season, but are considerably bigger than Wairarapa. Austin Brown is a classy outside back and Quade Tapsell is a worthy leader of the proud Poverty Bay school. Mobile forward Tua Levi and centre Joe Gordon are worth a look for Wairarapa.
The 1pm game on the JCS features a smarting St Pat’s Town determined to respond positively to their historic hiding, against a tough Napier Boys' High School outfit. Napier have only dropped two out of eight games in 2017. The battle of the No.8's, Keelan Whitman (Town) and Lolani Faleiva (Napier), will be fascinating. If Napier can weather the early, expected onslaught from Town they should be too strong.
Wellington’s WelTec Premiership starts next weekend, following the final round of grading (see below), while the Super 8 competition starts on Saturday June 10.
With St Pat’s Silverstream and Scots College booking their places back in the WelTec Premiership with resounding wins last weekend, focus turns to who the other four teams that will be offered places to join them and the four teams playing in the Tranzit event in this years expanded 10-team competition will be.
Bishop Viard College and St Bernard’s College will be looking to rebound from those defeats and make their return to the Premiership for 2017 with their matches on Saturday. Viard – who beat Paraparaumu first-up before losing to Silverstream – are away to Hutt Valley HS, who have put themselves into position with wins over Aotea and Naenae. St Bernards will host Porirua College who have so far accounted for Mana and HIBS, while Bernard’s beat Tawa two weeks ago then lost to Scots last weekend.
Kapiti College will be looking to make history and play in the Premiership for the first time when they take on Aotea College up the coast, while the fourth clash is at Wainuiomata HS with 2015 Premiership school Tawa College the visitors; however Wainuiomata’s default to Scots in the first weekend of these matches may put their place in doubt if they were to win.
All four matches kick off at 2.30pm.
As well as these games, there are others that will determine the make-up of the Premier 2 and 3 divisions; and yet more across the other boys grades; bar the Under 80kg grade that starts its competition proper this weekend.