After their disappointing loss at the hands of Suburbs in the previous round, the Ponsonby Premiers side prevailed on a muddy Williams Park to edge Manukau Rovers by 23-18 in the fourth round of the Alan McEvoy competition on Saturday afternoon.
Far from desirable underfoot conditions and a very slippery ball ensured the match would not be a free flowing affair, but the blue and blacks displayed a massive defensive effort and exceptional handling skills against a physical Manukau Rovers team. Going into this round Manukau Rovers were winless after three matches and languishing at the bottom of the competition table, so desperate to turn the tables.
Due to player unavailability in the Ponsonby ranks a number of forced personnel changes were necessary for this fixture. In what was his first start for the side in several seasons Daniel Bowden was handed the number ten jersey, and his experience was a telling factor in the conditions. Other changes included Shigeru Kohiyama starting at halfback, and Ben Meredith being called up from the Premier Development side to start on the left wing.
Playing ‘uphill’ in the first spell, Ponsonby began the game on the back foot, having to withstand several threatening attacks from the home side. Whilst they were able to keep their line intact, they did concede a penalty close to the line, which was duly goaled by Calvary Fonoti, the home side going 3-0 up after as many minutes.
Ponsonby responded with a promising attack, only to turn over possession just ten metres from the Manukau Rovers line. The home side then launched a successful counter attack which featured a 70 metre dash down the left hand touch by the elusive running Melani Nanai. Ponsonby were unable to halt this movement, and 90 metres later the try was scored by the hard running number eight Siosuia Kaifa.
With momentum on their side Manukau Rover continued their assault on the Ponsonby territory and it wasn’t long before the blue and blacks were forced to defend a lineout close to their line. From this lineout the prop William Fonua charged over in the right hand corner. Despite the conversion failing, Manukau Rovers had notched up a handy 13-0 lead after just 16 minutes play.
The match was 20 minutes old before Ponsonby were able to secure some good possession, courtesy of their first penalty of the match. Bowden kicked the ball to the corner, and after several minutes on attack Freedom Vaha’akolo crossed for his tenth try of the season.
The Jordan Trainor conversion attempt was unsuccessful, but he did goal two penalties before the halftime break, Ponsonby trailing by 13-11 at the turn around.
Early in the second spell Ponsonby forced the home side close to their own line. An attempted clearing kick by Fonoti was charged down and Junior Halafuka pounced on the ball, scoring Ponsonby’s second of the match.
Ponsonby maintained their lead for several minutes, but were unable to prevent the Manukau Rovers number eight Kaifa charging over from a handy scrum.
Manukau Rovers led on the scoreboard by 18-16, but this was to be short-lived. Ponsonby had several attempts at the home side line, and their persistence paid off with Sam Ulufonua charging over. Trainor landed the extra points, giving the lead back to the blue and blacks by 23-18.
Despite a late rally by the home team, Ponsonby defended stoutly and held the 23-18 scoreline until the final whistle.
Ponsonby sit in fifth place on the competition table, and the pressure stays on them with another tough encounter looming next Saturday, this time a home fixture against University. To secure a place in the all-important top four finalists of the round, this match is another must win for Ponsonby. University successfully disposed of Pakuranga last week by 31-12, moving to second place on the table. They will want to maintain their spot amongst the top four, so will be keen to secure the competition points from the Ponsonby match.
Tries: Junior Halafuka, S Ulufonua and Freedom Vaha’akolo
Conversion : Jordan Trainor
Penalty: Jordan Trainor 2
Tries: S Kaifa 2, W Fonua
Penalty: C Fonoti
1. Junior Halafuka; 2. Willie Uili; 3. Marco Fepuleai; 4. Sam Ulufonua; 5. Jamie Lane;
6. Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa; 7. Waharai Waitohi; 8. Presley Tufuga; 9. Shigeru Kohiyama;
10. Daniel Bowden; 11. Ben Meredith; 12. Tilitili Puloka; 13. Keenan Masina; 14. Freedom Vaha’akolo
15. Jordan Trainor; 16. Charles Napa’a; 17. Phil Viane; 18. Robert Cobb; 19. Thomas Fisiihoi;
20. Aleks Dabek; 21. Campbell Woodmass; 22. Patrick Tausie