With several fresh faces making their debuts, the Hutt Old Boys Marist Eagles are confident of a strong showing in Auckland this weekend at the annual New Zealand Marist Federation’s Spillane Cup tournament.
The Auckland Marist club is hosting the 87th Spillane tournament, with HOBM and the hosts joining leading clubs from Hawke’s Bay, Canterbury, North Harbour, Taranaki, Waikato and Counties Manukau.
There are five trophies being contested this year, the Spillane Cup (Division 1), Ham Cumming Cup (Division 2), Moran Cup (Colts), Liston Cup (President's) and Women's.
Hawke’s Bay’s Napier Old Boys Marist are the defending Spillane champions, having beaten Wellington’s Marist St Pat’s in last year’s final and then returning home to sweep all before them in Hawke’s Bay club rugby. MSP are sitting this Spillane tournament out, heading over the hill to play Masterton Marist in their final pre-season encounter before their season opener on 17 March against Tawa.
Kent Harris is back coaching the Hutt Old Boys Marist Premiers this year, along with Dan ‘Bus’ Vulu,. This is Harris’ third year at the Eagles, having started with the Premier Reserves in 2016. He has coached the successful Wellington U16s representative side for the past four years.
Harris said the Eagles will be blooding some new players this weekend.
“We have a group of new players in our Spillane squad, including several Colts players in our forward pack alone,” Harris explained. “There are a lot of guys in our squad for Auckland who are under 21 and we have a group of school leavers as well.”
“Including our captain for the season, Sheridan Rangihuna, there are a number of guys not playing for us at Spillane, so there will be plenty of experience coming back for round one of the Swindale Shield.”
Other players not donning the Eagles jersey this weekend include Lise Soloa, Brandyn Laursen, Francis Tunuvasa, Saia Fonoti, Dan Corderoy, Junior Foaitua, veteran loosehead prop Simon Malaeulu and Ben Power who is playing for the Hurricanes Development side. Similarly, James O’Reilly and Chase Tiatia are still with the Hurricanes.
Glen Walters and David Filipo will be leading the team on the field this weekend.
Club Rugby intends publishing an in-depth 2018 Gains and Losses list in a few days, but losses this season for the Eagles include such players as Joe ‘Apikotoa (Hawke’s Bay), Aleki Vuki (Hawke’s Bay), Lui Luamanu (Hawke’s Bay-Upper Hutt Rams), George Amosa (Family), Ope Peleseuma (France), Tomasi Alosio (Samoa Sevens), Izzy Foa'i (OBU), and LA Moemoi (Ories). Double centurion halfback Nick Risdon has finally hung up his boots.
A trio of Upper Hutt Rams joining the Eagles in 2018, with Jayden Treviranus, Vince Sosefo and Jack Talapa (the latter two returning) making the trip down the river to the Hutt Rec this year. School-leavers entering Eagles HQ this year include Freddie Sunia, Nic ‘Apikotoa and Teagan Harawira (St Pat's Silverstream) and Matiu Samuels and Willie Rua (Rongotai).
The Eagles return to their nest early next week to prepare for the opening round of the Swindale Shield against the Upper Hutt Rams at Awakairangi Park.
Harris agreed that the reduction from eight to seven teams qualifying for the Jubilee Cup places more importance on early season form – but pointed out the Eagles made a slow start last season.
“We lost our first two games last year [23-33 to the Rams and 26-31 to Wainuiomata] but we went on to qualify for the Jubilee Cup in third place and make the final. Ideally, you want to be in winning form early, but you have still got to win most of your games overall.”
As has been the case in recent years, with the Hutt Rec out of action until mid-April, the Eagles play all their early matches away from home. Their first home game is in round six against Paremata-Plimmerton. The famous McBain Shield clash against Petone is the week before.
At the Spillane tournament this weekend, HOBM’s first match is against Christchurch’s Marist Albion on Friday night. Marist Albion finished near the bottom of the Christchurch Metro competition last year. Defending champions NOBM and Auckland Marist meet in the other semi-final.
The Eagles have a terrific recent record at this tournament, winning a five-peat of titles between 2010-2014.
Forwards: Brett Manaia, Rei Manaia, Anthony Pesamino, Ben Butler, Nic Apikotoa, Freddie Sunia, David Fillipo, Tuniva Meafou-Taula, Jordan Gillies, Tasi Fidow, Vincent Sosefo, Teagan Harawira, Willie Rua, Sala Soloa
Backs: Taylor Edwards, Matiu Samuels, Glen Walters, Jayden Treviranus, Jerome Harimate, Jack Talapa, Fereti Soloa, Michael Martin, Anthony Utanga, Tajun Crossland-Misa, Patricio Taufua
The Spillane Cup was donated in 1926 by the late Mr. C. I. Spillane and from 1926-1929 and was contested annually between Wanganui and Wellington. In 1930 Hamilton issued a challenge to then holders Wellington and the Spillane tournament was started - Wellington beating Hamilton 29-21. Auckland entered in 1931, Napier in 1932 and Gisborne in 1933. In 1935, eight teams entered and the following year it was split into two sections, the first section of four playing for the Spillane Cup and the second section for the Brennan Cup. The Moran and Ham Cumming Cups were subsequently instituted. The Spillane tournament was originally played over the long Easter Weekend.
2008: Hutt Old Boys Marist
2009: Marist St Pat’s
2010: Hutt Old Boys Marist
2011: Hutt Old Boys Marist
2012: Hutt Old Boys Marist
2013: Hutt Old Boys Marist
2014: Hutt Old Boys Marist
2015: Auckland Marist
2016: Marist St Pat’s
2017: Napier Old Boys Marist
Friday 9 March:
Spillane Cup (Division 1):
Auckland Marist v Napier Old Boys Marist – 6.30pm
Hutt Old Boys Marist v Marist Albion Rugby Club – 6.30pm
Saturday 10 March:
Presidents Tournament 9am to 12noon
U85kg Game Auckland Marist v Massey Rugby Club U85kg- 12noon
Women: Auckland Marist Women v Ardmore Marist-1.45pm
Moran Cup Colts: Auckland Marist Colts v North Harbour Marist Colts
Ham Cumming Cup (Division 2):
Hamilton Marist v North Harbour Marist - 1.45pm
Hastings Rugby and Sports v Tukapa - 3.15pm
Sunday 11 March
Ham Cumming 3rd vs 4th-9am
Ham Cumming Final- 10.30am
Spillane Cup 3rd vs 4th- 10.30am
Spillane Cup Final- 12noon