Ponsonby successfully pipped Pakuranga on Saturday afternoon by 22-15 as the two quality sides battled it out over the 80 minutes. Not only did Ponsonby pick up four competition points, but they also won the Sir Fred Allen Challenge Cup, which Pakuranga had held since April 2015.
Both sides had to contend with a stiff breeze, which Pakuranga used effectively in the first spell, but in the second half Ponsonby were masterful with their use of it, pinning Pakuranga in their half for most of the 40.
Pakuranga had a chance to open the scoring early on when the blue and blacks were penalised for holding on to the ball. Pakuranga 1st 5/8 Wiseguy Faiane attempted a shot at goal from 51 metres out, but the kick drifted wide.
Despite the brisk breeze, much of the first quarter in the match saw the possession shared. On several occasions Ponsonby broke out of their territory and looked exciting in their onslaught on the opposition half, but the promising moves would be thwarted by spilled passes, or the ball would be kicked away when retention may have been a better option.
Ponsonby were first on the scoreboard in the 21st minute when William Talataina-Mu goaled a handy penalty.
A few moments later, Keenan Masina broke out of the Ponsonby half on an outstanding run, but was unaware of the unmarked support outside him. Play went to ground, and the ball squirted out the back of the forming ruck. Before Campbell Woodmass could clear, his Pakuranga opposite nabbed the ball and passed to the right winger, Harry Lyford, who scampered away some 50 metres for a try in the right hand corner. Faiane goaled from wide out, putting his side in front by 7-3.
From the kick off the Pakuranga forwards streamed back onto attack, play then went to Lino Tiatia on the left wing, who raced away to the score in the corner. The conversion from Faiane was pulled to the left of the posts, and Pakuranga were now ahead by 12-3.
A few moments on, and Ponsonby were given a chance to score points, courtesy of a penalty 30 metres away from the Pakuranga line. William Talataina-Mu drilled the ball toward the corner, but alas the kick was overcooked, and went dead in goal. Wiseguy Faiane then placed a drop out, the ball falling into Ponsonby territory. Play then went left to Freedom Vaka’akola, who showed his exciting skills and pace, eluding numerous would-be defenders, on an electrifying 55 metre run to the line. The conversion drifted away, and Ponsonby were a little closer on the scoreboard at 12-8.
Pakuranga were not done with scoring for the half and after claiming the restart, they set up camp in Ponsonby territory. Just short of the halftime whistle Faiane goaled a penalty to take the teams to the break with the home-side ahead by 15-8.
Ponsonby started the second spell strongly, and with the wind at their back, they looked to keep Pakuranga pinned deep in their territory.
Just one minute into the spell, Ponsonby were awarded a scrum 25 metres away from the Pakuranga line. The home-side expected the blue blacks to spin the ball to the open-side, but were surprised when play was directed to Freedom Vaha’akolo on the left wing. Vaha’akolo eluded a couple of tacklers, and then dotted down in the corner, scoring his second of the afternoon. The conversion fell away, and Ponsonby now trailed by 15-13.
Talataina-Mu continued to punish Pakuranga by driving them deep into their half with some clever kicks. Pakuranga struggled to get out of their half, through handling errors and misguided kicks, which gave Ponsonby great field position.
A Talataina-Mu penalty goal put his side in front in the 58th minute, and then another in the 62nd minute extended the lead to 19-15.
In the final quarter of the match Ponsonby went to the bench to add some needed impetus, and with ten minutes to run two of the replacements combined to seriously test the Pakuranga defence. Joseph Beckett displayed his blistering pace down the left wing, and with support from Pat Tausie play went close. But with the line open, the move fell down just short when the final pass was not taken cleanly.
In the 73rd minute Talataina-Mu added a fourth penalty, stretching the lead to 22-15.
Pakuranga were not out, and with time running out they looked to place some pressure on the blue and blacks. They could sense a chance for an unlikely draw and threw caution to the wind with a quick lineout then spinning it wide. The backs easily made it into the Ponsonby half, and then Pakuranga found themselves with a penalty. Kicking to touch and then winning the lineout, but Ponsonby were up to the defensive challenge. With only seconds left on the clock Ponsonby skilfully won the turnover and thumped it into touch, putting the lid on a satisfying victory.
In Saturday’s curtainraiser at Bell Park, the Ponsonby Premier Reserves maintained their unbeaten season, defeating their opposites by 26-15. Playing into the wind in the first spell, they trailed by 12-6 at the break, with Robert Sanele goaling two penalties in the spell. The second half produced a try to Phil Viane, and then they hit the lead on the scoreboard in the 64th minute when Simon Gabion-Sheehan crashed over. A Willie Gibbons penalty goal allowed a bit of breathing space, and a late try to Mark Ama sealed the win.
With only two rounds to play, Ponsonby now head back home to host Manukau Rovers, who ended up being Ponsonby’s bogey team in 2015. The two sides met in round robin play that season, and Manukau Rovers took the points from both encounters. In the first match in April at Williams Park, Ponsonby went down by 18-16, then in June at Western Springs Ponsonby were edged by 35-32.
Last Saturday Manukau Rovers, in what was a tough encounter, were edged by Eden by 36-31, after the scores were locked at 10-all at the halftime break.
Tries: Freedom Vaha’akola 2
Penalties: William Talataina-Mu 4
Tries: Harry Lyford and Lino Tiatia
Conversion: Wiseguy Faaine
Penalty: Wiseguy Faiane
Ponsonby Premier Reserves: 26
Tries: Phil Viane, Simon Gabion-Sheehan and Mark Ama
Penalties: Robert Sanele 2, Willie Gibbons
Conversion: Willie Gibbons