The Ponsonby Premiers opened their 2016 season in the Alan McEvoy Memorial Championship last Saturday afternoon going down by 26-13 to College Rifles, in what was a very physical encounter. Ponsonby led by 13-10 at halftime.
Played at Western Springs Stadium, both sides scored two tries, the difference being the boot of College Rifles’ Broc Hooper, who contributed 16 points from the boot.
The blue and blacks sustained injuries to three key backs in the first half, the resulting reshuffle of personnel impacting Ponsonby’s defensive effort.
Ponsonby last played College Rifles in May 2015, in a Gallaher Shield group qualifying match. On that occasion Ponsonby outmuscled their opponents by 49-26, but this year the outcome was very different. In the second half, Ponsonby found the visitors game extremely aggressive, particularly at set piece.
Ponsonby started the match brimming with confidence after their exceptional 64-14 win over University in a pre-season fixture last week, whilst College Rifles were buoyant following their 25-19 success in the Pollard Cup final against Papatoetoe.
In his first start for Ponsonby, Jordan Trainor goaled a penalty from a handy position in just the fifth minute, a lead that Ponsonby maintained for the first quarter of the game.
College Rifles’ kicker, Broc Hooper missed two penalty shots at goal, not striking the ball cleanly.
At the halfway point in the first spell, Ponsonby unleashed a classic backline move, and from 25 metres out key breaks by Pryor Collier and Jordan Trainor resulted in Joe Beckett racing over in the left hand corner. The conversion attempt by Charlie Hubert drifted away.
The Beckett try came at a price, with both Junior Cagiaceva and Trainor leaving the field with injuries, the latter being felled in a rather nasty tackle.
Almost straight away, Rifles responded with a superb try. Some solid running by centre Loketi Manu, with good support from Russell Dobbie, and halfback Harry Hanham crossed the line out wide. First five eighth Broc Hooper landed the conversion to bring the visitors close at 8-7.
With the half drawing to a close, Hooper gave his side the lead in the match, goaling a long range penalty.
From the ensuing restart, College Rifles looked to run the ball back into Ponsonby’s territory, but a stray pass was intercepted by Pryor Collier who showed some blistering pace on a 40 metre dash to the line. The Hubert conversion was unsuccessful, and Ponsonby went to the halftime break at 13-10 ahead.
With injuries taking its toll on Ponsonby, their second half effort became rather disjointed. Broc Hooper goaled two further penalties for the visitors, extending their lead to 16-13, before the y exploited Ponsonby’s defence. A solid break by midfielder Kaituu Kaufana, with good support from flanker Jeremy Innes and the left winger Loma Iloahefaiva, saw the right winger Sai Vatubua cross in the corner. Hooper converted, stretching the lead for his side to 23-13.
Ponsonby attempted a late rally, to try and salvage what would have been a valuable bonus point, but the efforts were in vain, and a further Broc Hooper penalty saw the visitors lead extend to 26-13.
The result saw the Camradery Cup in its inaugural match heading to Haast St in Remuera for the season.
Ponsonby will now look to next week’s fixture against Te Papapa Onehunga, due to be played at Ferguson Park. Te Papapa-Onehunga were made to work hard for their 15-14 victory last week over Eden.
In the curtainraiser between the two Premier Reserve sides, Ponsonby were too clinical for their opposites winning by 27-10 after leading by 22-3 at halftime.
College Rifles: 26
Tries: Harry Hanham, Sai Vatubua
Con: Broc Hooper 2
Pen: Broc Hooper 4
Tries: Pryor Collier, Joe Beckett
Pen: Jordan Trainor
Ponsonby Premier Reserves: 27
Tries: Joe Buchanan, Josh McCombie, Lolo Saulaia and Willie Uili
Conversion: Jordan Poi 2
Penalty: Jordan Po