For match details visit Games & Results across the top of this page (teams will be published on Friday morning).
Poneke v Petone
Another chapter will be written in one of Wellington club rugby's longest standing rivalries in Saturday's Jubilee Cup semi-final at Kilbirnie Park between top qualifier and Andy Leslie Trophy winner Poneke and fourth placed Petone.
Poneke's 21-14 win over Hutt Old Boys Marist†in last week's seventh round saw Poneke grab the top qualifier's position for the semi-finals for the second consecutive year. Last year Poneke became the first top qualifier in at least several years to lose their home playoff clash when they were knocked over by Norths, so won't want to suffer the same fate twice in a row. Petone, who defeated Upper Hutt 32-17 in last week's last round to deny defending champions Marist St. Pat's a shot at winning a third consecutive title, will be just as eager to carry the day in their 125th anniversary season.
Last time these sides met in a Jubilee Cup playoff match in 2005 Petone won with the last play of the game off a tighthead scrum and don't be surprised if this semi-final is just as close. Petone can also take heart from their two wins already this year over Poneke in their Swindale Shield and Jubilee Cup round-robin matches. In the first round, on Petone's 125th anniversary weekend, Petone scored a late match winner to win 28-21 and in their later round one Jubilee Cup clash the Villagers prevailed 25-21 to inflict Poneke's only loss of the last seven weeks of Jubilee Cup play. Since that day Poneke has won six in a row.†
Both teams are missing players to representative duties, with Petone having lost hooker and skipper Eugene Smith to the Hawke's Bay Magpies and Neemia Tialata, Hayden Cripps and Adrian Barone are in the Vodafone Wellington Lions squad. Poneke had five of its own in the Lions' 22 that beat Tasman on Sunday: Dane Coles, Daniel Ramsay, Ruki Tipuna, Charlie Ngatai and rookie prop Reg Goodes.
Both are no strangers to semi-finals rugby. But for Petone to progress to next week's final they must turn around a poor semi-final record in recent years that has seen them reach the top four stage in each of the past six years - but only progress to the final once (in 2005). A loss to Poneke this weekend would be their fifth consecutive Jubilee Cup semi-final defeat.
Poneke have now been semi-finalists seven years out of the previous eight and finalists on four of these occasions. They contested five of seven finals at Westpac Stadium between 2000 and 2006, but only won one of these (in 2003). 2006 was also the last time they made the final, missing out on the top four in 2007 and were then beaten semi-finalists in 2008 and 2009.
†Northern United v Hutt Old Boys Marist
A confident Hutt Old Boys Marist side will travel to Porirua Park for their semi-final against Northern United, despite dropping their final round-robin game of the year to Poneke last Saturday. The last time Hutt Old Boys Marist ventured to Porirua Park to play a semi-final they came away with a win. That was in 2007 and was also the last time the Hutt contenders reached the Jubilee Cup semi-finals. After overcoming Norths 15-5 they famously went on to defeat Marist St. Pat's in the final with a rousing 18-10 victory.
The last time the Eagles went to Porirua Park was four weeks ago and they earned a fighting 23-23 draw. In the first round Swindale Shield at the end of May they also met Norths at Porirua Park, and while losing 29-46 in a 10-try top-of-the-table spectacle, they were right in it up until the last several minutes when Norths scored two late tries to take victory.
Third placed qualifiers HOBM meet the second placed Norths team who will likely be weakened by the probable selection of a core bunch of their available players in the Vodafone Wellington Lions this weekend, as well as the possible absence of their points scoring machine James So'oialo who has been sidelined with a knee injury. But with the leftover personnel at their disposal and the positive style of rugby they play they are still a major threat. They have averaged six tries and 42 points per game in 2010. With the sounds of Pacifica blearing out of the PA system, their home record against all-comers of 42 wins or draws from† their last 46 home matches confirms their favouritism in this semi-final.
Norths also haven't lost to HOBM in six matches dating back to that 2007 playoff loss. They are playing in their eighth consecutive Jubilee Cup semi-final and if they win they will reach their sixth final since their first in 2004.
While Norths cruised through to win this year's Swindale Shield unbeaten, the Eagles won six and lost five to finish sixth. In the Jubilee Cup they won four, lost two and drew one for their third placed finish, the same position they finished when they won the title in 2007. They will bring a well-organised set-piece and structured forwards game to this playoff and several experienced players who were involved in their campaign three years ago, such as halfback and skipper Nick Risdon, recently un-retired lock Steven Bradshaw, try-scoring prop Simon Malaeulu and veteran forward Polonga Pedro.
For match details visit Games & Results across the top of this page (teams will be published on Friday morning)
Wests Roosters v Avalon
The Wests Roosters will go into this week's Hardham Cup semi-final against Avalon at Ian Galloway as firm favourites to progress to the final for the second consecutive year. It's been a season of two halves for the Wests Roosters who last won a club rugby title in 2003 when they beat Tawa 31-15 in the Hardham Cup final. They played poorly and finished eleventh in the Swindale Shield before dominating the 2010 Hardham Cup round-robin, qualifying top with a six-point buffer to second placed Wainuiomata.
Injuries and poor form ruined the Roosters' first round Swindale Shield season and as such they were destined for the Hardham Cup with some weeks to spare. But they found their pluck towards the end of the round and since then haven't looked back. Their run of good form started with a 35-36 defeat to OBU in the penultimate week of the first round and since then have now won eight on the trot and scored 222 points and conceded just 94 along the way.
In contrast, Avalon were just struggling for survival and were seemingly down and out a month ago when they had yet to register a victory from their first four matches. At the forefront of their supporters' minds at that point was mere survival and semi-finals hopes came a distant second. They then grabbed their first win in round five with an 18-17 victory over Hutt Old Boys Marist B. This was followed by the big one in round six when they knocked off Johnsonville 10-3 and suddenly had a decent sniff of both winning promotion to next year's Swindale Shield and reaching the playoffs. In the last round Avalon beat MSP B 36-17 and Johnsonville lost and the stars aligned in Avalon's favour.
The Roosters were the last side that Avalon lost to, 5-22 in the rain in round four at Fraser Park. In the just completed round-robin Wests scored 193 points and conceded 77 and Avalon scored 126 and conceded 135. However statistics don't matter much at playoff time and with much less to lose Avalon could be a dangerous foe for the Roosters. †
Wainuiomata v Tawa
The boys in green and black can largely put the disappointment of not making the Jubilee Cup behind them if they win this Saturday's home Hardham Cup semi-final at William Jones Park. Their hardy supporters will be hoping they can overcome their mercurial Tawa visitors and progress to the final at Westpac Stadium that they last reached two years ago. Earlier this season they appeared heading for the top eight for the first time since their Premier promotion in 2007, only to stumble in the concluding Swindale rounds and seal their fate amongst the bottom four teams.
After bursting forth from the Harper Lock Shield on to the Hardham Cup scene and making the final against Upper Hutt in 2006, Wainuiomata went one better in 2007 and won the title. They also reached the final in 2008 for the third year in succession. Though they missed out on the final last season they still made the top four, making this year their fifth consecutive Hardham Cup semi-finals appointment.
Their opponents in this encounter Tawa have had a similarly up and down 2010 and will be just as desperate to clinch victory and progress to the final to defend the crown they last won when they were in the Hardham Cup in 2008 - beating Wainuiomata 33-20 in the final. After making the Jubilee Cup round in 2009, Tawa's form in this year's Swindale Shield came in fits and starts and their first round record of three wins, seven losses and a draw for tenth place was an underwhelming one for a team that is capable of beating anyone on their day.
In the two previous clashes in 2010 between these sides, both at Lyndhurst Park, Tawa won the first at the very start of the season 29-23 and Wainuiomata won 20-18 four weeks ago. The last time they met at William Jones Park, in the 2009 Swindale Shield, it was a 20-20 draw.†
Senior 1 and Senior 2
With two weeks to go before the semi-finals in the Senior 1 Ed Chaney Cup and the Senior 2 HD Morgan Memorial Trophy, it's do or die this weekend for several teams.
At the top of the Senior 1 table, frontrunners Ories and OBU can probably secure home semi-finals this weekend if they win their games. On form OBU has an easier challenge against seventh placed Rimutaka, while leaders Ories face fifth placed Stokes Valley who will still be semi-finals contention should they win this game at home at Delaney Park.
In the match of the round, third placed Tawa and Poneke meet at Kilbirnie Park at 12.45pm in the curtain raiser on the ground to the Jubilee Cup semi-final. At stake is a probable Senior 1 semi-final berth with a week to spare or a likely last round fighting it out with midtable contenders Stokes Valley, Paremata-Plimmerton, Rimutaka and at a pinch Petone.
In other games this weekend, sixth placed Paremata-Plimmerton can reasonably hope to advance their position heading into the last week if they defeat bottom placed and winless Norths in a derby match at Ngatitoa Domain and Petone's slim playoff hopes rest on them dispatching ninth placed Avalon.
In a top of the table Senior 2 encounter, leaders Upper Hutt could seal the top qualifier's berth with a week to spare if they handsomely defeat second placed Hutt Old Boys Marist at Maidstone Park.
Heading into this round, HOBM holds a four-point lead to HOBM, with Wellington and MSP both just a point further back.
MSP can join Upper Hutt at the top if they overrun shut out bottom placed and winless Paremata-Plimmerton and HOBM shuts out Upper Hutt. Wellington face a much tougher assignment away to fifth placed Old Boys-University who can climb up into a playoff position and thus force a likely four-way battle for three semi-final berths in next week's last round.
In the other two Senior 2 games this weekend between the bottom four contenders, the Wests Roosters play Petone and Poneke meet Wainuiomata.