It might be midwinter in Wellington but the Jubilee and Hardham Cups are set to heat up further this weekend as the 16 teams battle for all-important competition points at the start of the second round.
The worst conditions of the year last week created some of the most absorbing rugby of the season to date, the hardy spectators ringing the sidelines of all the Jubilee and Hardham Cup grounds witness to a series of hard-fought matches in trying conditions.
The Jubilee Cup is all about momentum. If a team can win its early matches, then it's just a short sprint to the championship end of the season.
History overwhelmingly favours teams that start well in the second round.
Considering recent patterns, in each of the past 14 Jubilee Cups between 1998-2011, the eventual champion (or in 2008 each of the co-champions) won their first round match. So statistically at least, this year's Jubilee Cup champions will either be defending champions Ories, MSP or Tawa who all won their second round openers last week.
Additionally, In the previous 11 straight Jubilee Cups between 2001-2011, no team has lost both its first two matches and gone on to reach the final.
This all means that last week's three opening round losing sides - Wainuiomata, Hutt Old Boys Marist and Tawa, and Upper Hutt and Northern United who drew their opening round match - will need to break the decade and a half long pattern of not winning in the first week of the second round to go on and win the Jubilee Cup.
Of the three first round losers, Wainuiomata hosts Tawa at William Jones Park and Hutt Old Boys Marist and Petone clash at the Hutt Recreation Ground. Both these games have the potential to be epics.
With big packs and abrasive, direct styles, Wainuiomata and Tawa could lock horns in a potentially explosive encounter. Wainuiomata narrowly lost to Ories 6-11 at home last week and will want to win at William Jones Park in the second of four home matches for them in the second round. Tawa are coming off an impressive 37-3 home win over Petone, their fourth win in the past five games. Including a 43-13 win over Petone three weeks earlier, Tawa have scored 182 points from their past five matches. Wainuiomata, however, won their round five Swindale Shield clash 31-23.
Hutt Old Boys Marist, who are coming off an 11-28 loss to MSP, will be hoping for a repeat of their Anzac Day McBain Shield 43-21 win over the Villagers. HOBM were too slick for Petone that day, running in six tries to two with left wing Leka Tupuola scoring a hat-trick. A desperate Petone and wet conditions should combine to make this return match much closer.
This week's other two Jubilee Cup matches see last week's winners and defending champions Ories host Upper Hutt at the Polo Ground and Norths entertain MSP at Porirua Park. While Ories and MSP are after their second wins, Upper Hutt and Norths are eager to open their accounts after drawing their first round match 10-10.
For inspiration, MSP can look no further than their last meeting in round three of the Swindale Shield when they ousted Norths 35-27 at Porirua Park - their first win there in six attempts. MSP dominated Norths up front in this match, pulling clear from a halftime deadlock to win well.
Last week a committed Ories scored the game's only try and led 11-3 at halftime and then held on in the second spell to beat Wainuiomata. Their supporters will be hoping for more of the same in their first game at home against an organised Upper Hutt who welcomed back first five-eighth Ben Aoina from injury but lost fullback Jason Woodward as a late scratching against Norths.
It was Woodward's boot that gave Upper Hutt their 25-23 win at the death when Upper Hutt met Wainuiomata at Maidstone Park back in week two, converting the winning try after Wainuiomata had made all the early running, scored two unanswered tries and led 17-3 at halftime. Similarly, Ories edged out Upper Hutt 22-17 when they met at the Polo Ground in round five - so expect this encounter between Upper Hutt and Ories to be just as close.
First-up wins in the Hardham Cup for Rimutaka and Johnsonville have already added an edge to the Premier 2 competition.With Rimutaka, Johnsonville, the Wests Roosters, Old Boys University and Poneke competing for four spots in next year's Swindale Shield, every win and every bonus point becomes important.
Like the Jubilee Cup, it's imperative to get off to a good start as playing catch-up rugby at the business end of the season can often prove too tough.
As part of this week's second round matches, a desperate Wests Roosters travel to William Jones Park to play the home side Wainuiomata B at 1.15pm. Wests lost to big guns OBU 29-0in their opener last week and Wainuiomata B went down to Hardham Cup favourites Poneke 45-0. The Roosters will be expected to win, but if they don't they could find themselves in trouble, pending other results.
In two other key Hardham Cup matches, at opposite ends of the region, Poneke hosts Johnsonville at Kilbirnie Park and Rimutaka hosts OBU at Maoribank Park. Both these matches are at 3.00pm.
After convincing first wins, Poneke and OBU will be both be picked by many to win their second games, but their respective opposition will be eyeing up their second straight victories, which would really add some extra intensity to the Hardham Cup. Even bonus points in close losses could prove decisive in the wash-up. When OBU and Rimutaka met in the first round at Nairnville Park the students prevailed 37-0.
In the round's other match, Northern United B and MSP B will both be eager to bounce back from first round losses when they meet at Porrirua Park at 1.15pm.
In other competitions, first round bonus point winners Avalon host predicted title contenders OBU in the Senior 1 Ed Chaney Cup at Fraser Park at 3.00pm.
Defending Senior 1 champions Petone, Poneke and Wellington will each be hoping for second successive wins. Petone plays HOBM at the Hutt Rec at 1.15pm, Poneke hosts Tawa at Kilbirnie Park and Wellington hosts Paremata-Plimmerton at Hataitai Park at 3.00pm.
In the other match of round, Ories and Upper Hutt are playing for their first wins at the Polo Ground at 1.15pm.In the feature clash of the Senior 2 HD Morgan Memorial competition, first round bonus point winners HOBM host Petone at the Hutt Rec at 1.15pm.
OBU will be gunning for maximum points for the second successive week against Poneke at Kilbirnie Park at 1.15pm, Ories host first round winners Stokes Valley at the Polo Ground at 1.15pm, Norths host MSP on the top field at Porirua Park at 1.15pm and the Avalon and Wests second XVs square off at Fraser Park at 1.15pm.
In the Victoria Tavern Premier Women's competition, Norths can make it five from five when they host Eketahuna at Porirua Park, Wainuiomata can consolidate second place if they beat OBU at the Hawkins Basin Reserve and Stokes Valley will be searching for their first win of the second round against Ories at Delaney Park. All Women's games are at 11.30am.
In college Premier First XV action, Scots College could book their semi-final place with two rounds after this to spare if they beat HIBS at home with a four-try bonus point and Wellington College beats also St. Bernards College in town.
St Pat's Town will move into semi-final contention if they defeat Aotea College in the other game on Saturday at Evans Bay Park. St Pat's Silverstream defeated Rongotai College 27-0 in the wet in the fifth round's opening match on Wednesday.