2.30pm, Petone Rec #1
It all comes down to this. After 20 games across the Swindale Shield and Jubilee Cup campaigns, Old Boys University and Northern United will face off on Saturday afternoon for the right to be named 2018 Jubilee Cup champions.
For OBU, that is a title that they have been somewhat familiar with in recent years. In 2015 the Billy Goats won the club’s first Jubilee since 1966 and last year made it two titles in three years with their 32-19 win over Hutt Old Boys Marist.
Norths, on the other hand, haven’t hoisted the cup since their glory days of 2010 where their premier side featured names such as TJ Perenara and Buxton Popoali’i.
Needless to say, neither club will be short of motivation come Saturday afternoon. As if the stakes aren’t already high enough when contesting for Wellington club rugby’s most prestigious prize, OBU will also have a chip on their shoulder in that Norths are the only team in the competition to beat them twice this year.
The first time out was a barn-burner, in which Norths held on to win 50-45 despite a late comeback from the Billy Goats. The more recent meeting, played just two weeks ago, was quite the opposite, as Norths won 13-10 at a damp Nairnville Park. Conditions may well be similar on Saturday at Petone Rec after seeing what happened to the same ground in last year’s final, so expect a similar slow, forwards-dominated match up.
The forward packs stack up with a fair few similarities, in that both sides have strong ball-runners in jerseys 1-8 and have forwards who are well-skilled at contesting the breakdown, namely Du Plessis Kirifi for Norths and Daven Candy for OBU. However, the set piece might prove to me the most crucial part of the forwards’ duties on Saturday if the Petone pitch fails to hold up.
In the backs, the two young halfbacks, Esi Komaisavai for Norths and Matt Fowler for OBU, will be made to work hard whatever the conditions and will provide an entertaining match-up with both not being afraid to run the ball and provide supporting options. Moving out to the wings, there will also be several sets of eyes focussed on the experienced Te Wehi Wright, who’s been outstanding late in the season, and Norths’ left wing Likisone Siliga. Siliga has scored five tries in the Jubilee Cup and is a powerful ball-runner – one to keep an eye out for should he get involved. The same could be said for OBU’s other wing Tai Neli. The rookie from Scots College has arguably the best feet in the competition and is a real joy to watch navigate in tight spaces and in open pastures.
12pm, Petone Rec #2
12pm will see kick-off in the Izzy Ford Trophy final, in which Old Boys University will be taking on Hutt Old Boys Marist as comfortably the two best sides in the competition meet. The Impalas finished top of the bunch on 26 points, though HOBM were right on their tails with 25 points and come off a big 65-14 win over Poneke last week as they rounded out their regular season.
With that said, it was a similar scoreline which saw the Impalas defeat HOBM just two weeks ago, running rampant to win 59-10 at Te Whaea. Second five-eighth Larissa Lima was the star of the show on that day, totalling 25 points with three tries and five conversions, though Lima and the rest of the team won’t be at all complacent going into this week’s clash given the result against HOBM earlier in the season.
When the sides met in round seven of the Rebecca Liua’ana Trophy, a 12-12 draw was played out at Nairnville Park, while in the second round HOBM prevailed 34 -20, both of these results will offer the Impalas a reminder of how tough Saturday’s match could be.
Lima is an obvious one to watch out for in the backline for OBU, as is Sherri Taurima, with the two of them combining for 15 tries in the second round alone.
12.30pm, Petone Rec #4
OBU warmed up for the John E Kelly Memorial Cup final in brilliant fashion last week, defeating top qualifiers Norths 48-17 in the semi-final to book a spot at Petone Rec on Saturday. It was a sound season for the Colts Green team, winning 12 of their 14 games, while conceding just 178 points in that window.
As is the case for the women, it’s Hutt Old Boys Marist who the colts will be taking on – a team they have already beaten twice this season, though it’s safe to say that counts for little when heading into a final. First up was a 38-14 win in the opening round, before again beating HOBM 19-10 just over a month ago.
OBU will be keen to add to their proud colts history which includes four titles in the last six years, though HOBM will be more than keen to play the role of the party pooper and have done so in the past, winning the 2015 colts competition.
The Jubilee Cup. It’s the pinnacle of Wellington club rugby and brings rugby fans around the city together every year when the final is contested and this year will be no different when Old Boys University look to defend their crown against Northern United.
It’s been eight years since Norths last hoisted the Cup, though OBU have been fortunate enough to take sips from the Jubilee in two of the past three years. We take a trip down memory lane to relive those famous victories and briefly look into this Saturday’s match-up.
Joe Hill was the man that stole the show back in 2015, scoring two tries on his way to winning Jim Brown Memorial Plate honours for being man-of-the-match, but that’s not to say it was an easy watch for fans of the green, yellow and white. At one stage OBU led 25-6 after a scrum pushover try, before tries to three MSP forwards and and OBU’s fourth try had the score at 30-27 in the Goats’ favour with minutes to go. Though, in the pouring rain at Porirua Park, the Billy Goats dug their heels in to hold on for a famous victory and the club’s first title since the Wellington Old Boys and Victoria University clubs amalgamated 24 years earlier.
Last year’s final took a bit of a different course, with OBU winning with a bit more room to breathe, though the start of the match was similar. The Goats scored two quick tries, one each to Teegan Minkley and Daven Candy, to establish a 10-0 lead. Before long, the Goats had the score out to 24-7 but HOBM bounced back to bring the score within five points. But that was all that the Goats would budge as they clinically closed out the game as 32-19 victors and Jubilee Cup champions for the second time in three years.
Despite being just a year on, a number of changes have been made to OBU’s 2017 Jubilee Cup-winning team. One notable absence is second five-eighth Regan Verney – last year’s Jim Brown Memorial Plate winner – who this year relocated to join the Chiefs. In fact, much of OBU’s backline will be different this year, with Dale Sabbagh and Te Wehi Wright looking like the only two players who will tie up their laces for consecutive Jubilee finals in a starting jumper. The starting forward pack, however, sees a fair bit of familiarity with all three loose forwards from 2017, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Daven Candy and Will Mangos, possibly starting again on Saturday, as well as Agustin Escalona and Jonathan Fuimaono in the tight.
Also like last year, Petone Rec is the venue for this year’s final. And, fingers crossed for OBU, the 2017 result will also repeat itself on Saturday afternoon.