Above: Petone's Piri Paraone showing good late season form, see below for more.
Looking at some of the news in briefs, milestones, happenings, statistics, and observations from the weekend of rugby just gone and what’s coming up this week.
And that is the end of the local fifteens season in Wellington, but it’s not all over completely.
The Wellington Lions play two, hopefully, three, more matches. They host the Northland Taniwha this Thursday at Westpac Stadium in their final round-robin encounter and then host a Championship division semi-final as the already guaranteed top qualifier.
Who the fourth-placed qualifier that they will host next weekend is yet to be determined. As it stands, a quick glance at the Championship points table is:
Bay of Plenty 23
Manawatu 22 (game in hand)
Hawke’s Bay 6
The race is on amongst the four teams chasing three spots, and neither will want to meet Wellington in the semi-finals!
Matches to come for these teams are:
The Wellington Pride have one more away match to come in the Farah Palmer Cup when they take on a resurgent Canterbury this coming Saturday in their regular season-ender. They can still make the semi-finals, but would need other cards to fall in their favour.
To do so the Pride (on17 points) will need a minimum of two competition points out of the Canterbury game, and hope that Counties Manukau (leaders on 27) does a number on Manawatu (18) so the Pride can leapfrog the Cyclones into fourth. The other factor is Waikato (15), who could beat Auckland and both Wellington and Manawatu could both lose/draw and Waikato make the top four. In that scenario, either Manawatu or Wellington would be relegated to tier two for 2018!
The Wellington Development side will hope to finish their short campaign off with a win over Auckland B at Colin Maiden Park in the eastern suburbs.
The Wellington side has so far lost to Tasman B (28-29) and Canterbury B (24-37)
Auckland goes into this game as this year’s Northern Region Bs tournament champions, with wins over Northland (20-19), Waikato (41-27), North Harbour (26-15) and two Counties Manukau sides (29-28 and 35-19). They lost to a stacked Taranaki (35-37) side in their last outing a fortnight ago, with former Poneke lock/flanker Presley Tufaga getting on the scoreboard.
With the 15s season winding up, the sevens season is getting underway.
The WRFU has reverted back to a three-tournament series for the American Ambassador’s men’s sevens from a single tournament, based on points accumulated at each tournament deciding a series winner. This starts this coming Saturday at Lyndhurst Park.
The three American Ambassador’s tournaments are:
The women’s tournament will be one tournament, alongside the men at Ngati Toa Domain on 4 November. The Colts sevens tournament has been discontinued.
Other tournament dates coming up at a glance are:
Would Southland make the semi-finals of the Jubilee Cup?
Could there be NPC-Heartland Championship promotion-relegation in the future? A combined North Otago-South Canterbury side or the Wanganui Butcher Boys with a few imports to strengthen them could have a crack.
North Harbour has done well picking up Shaun Treeby for this year’s NPC competition.
How well is Thomas Umaga-Jensen going? Shades of Charlie Ngatai several years ago. Will be good in the future seeing Thomas link up with his brother Peter (currently injured) and hopefully with TJ Va’a if the latter makes a comeback (currently injured).
Mason Lawrence has come out of his one-year Premier club rugby coaching retirement. The former MSP Premier Reserves and Johnsonville and (most recently) Oriental-Rongotai Premier coach will link up with Roy Kinikinilau at Poneke in 2018.
A shout out to the three photographers on hand all afternoon at Porirua Park on Saturday. It was drizzling or raining heavily the entire time and there was a good hour’s gap between the two matches. But Dave Brownlie, Andy McArthur and Masanori Udagawa were all there in trying conditions for the snappers documenting the games.
Wellington Development first five-eighth Piri Paraone continues to impress. His footwork and speed off the mark led to one try himself and another for his Petone teammate Lester Maulolo on Saturday. He was almost in for another solo try but was called back for obstruction. We can’t embed video into our stories here (hopefully soon) so check out the clips starting at 1:19min and 2:57min here
In random trivia, Paraone’s Wellington Development coach Riki Flutey scored two of nine tries and was the Player of the Match in the Wellington Lions’ 65-12 win over the Northland Taniwha at Westpac Stadium in 2004.
Who is a Manawatu Turbos supporter this week?
Tawa’s James So’oialo kicked five penalties and all the points in Horowhenua-Kapiti’s 15-8 win over Wanganui in the Heartland Championship on Saturday. Piri Weepu scored a try in his Wairarapa-Bush team’s 20-29 loss to South Canterbury.
The Tongan Schools side mad an impression many on their recent tour. Although they lost two of their three games (19-33 loss to the NZ Barbarians, 26-24 win over Wellington U18, and 24-28 loss to NZ Maori U18) they competed well and their supporters were entertaining. Recently minted All Black Vaea Fifita was at Porirua Park on Friday helping them out.
The New Zealand Maori U18 team, featuring a few Wellington players, also had a fruitful week. Check out the video they made at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgg0mYbdSa0
Upper Hutt Rams fullback Jason Woodward scored a clutch try in his Gloucester side’s 29-24 win over the Northampton Saints on Sunday (NZT). Woodward Woodward soared high to collect a Willi Heinz kick and power over the line. From there, Gloucester added two more tries to take the match out of the Saints reach.
Petone’s Nick Grigg continues to play well for the Glasgow Warriors. Glasgow, coached by former Upper Hutt Rams midfielder Dave Rennie, beat recently axed Super Rugby side the Cheetahs 29-26 in Bloemfontein on Friday night to record their sixth win of the Pro 14 season. Grigg played centre in the win and recent Hurricane Callum Gibbins played openside flanker and scored two tries.
Northern United’s Alapati Leiua scored one try and set up another in Bristol’s English Championship 47-26 win over London Scottish on Sunday (NZT). This was Bristol’s fifth straight bonus point win.
Reported in the weekend that Samoa’s Test players will be paid just just £650 each from next month’s £10million Test against England at Twickenham, while England stars, in stark contrast, will pocket £22,000 each. Read more here
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