The Ponsonby Premier Reserves continued their unbeaten run in 2016 with a solid 40-0 beating of Manukau Rovers at the Western Springs Stadium last Saturday afternoon. The win keeps them sitting in top spot on the Premier Reserves Auckland competition. In the past six matches this team has scored a respectable average of 35 points per game, whilst conceding an average of 10.
The curtain-raiser for the main game between the Premier sides from the same clubs, Ponsonby were clinical in the way that they achieved the victory, conscious that they just had to play their natural game, and the win would come.
The achievements of this Premier side have been quite outstanding in recent seasons, with support from several experienced players and a passionate coaching and management team. This side plays a very entertaining brand of rugby, and there always appears to be tremendous enjoyment amongst the team in the way that they perform.
The opening try of Saturday's match came in just the fifth minute of play.
Ponsonby forced a turnover deep inside their own half, and the pacy left winger Douglas Halley displayed his skills on a lengthy dash down the sideline. The ball was spun wide, with forwards and backs combining with precision, and the try eventually came when fullback Joel Joshi-Smith crossed in the right hand corner.
Soon after, Ponsonby were in again.
Manukau Rovers were hot on attack, and with an overlap and the line 40 metres away they were confident. But the visitors were oblivious to the presence of the outstanding Ponsonby flanker Ji Young Lee. The vigilant flanker sensed an opportunity for an intercept, and grabbed it. He set sail into the enemy territory, and waited for his support. After several phases, Chico Huch looked for a way through, but was halted just short. The troops rallied behind Huch and pushed him over the line for the try. Willie Gibbons added the extra two points, and Ponsonby led by 12-0.
Ponsonby were unable to claim the restart cleanly, and Manukau Rovers capitalised. Seizing the loose ball, their forward pack combined in a move that took play to within five metres of the Ponsonby line. The blue and black defence was solid, and the attempted assault was thwarted.
Just shy of the halftime break, Willie Gibbons scored Ponsonby’s third of the afternoon, finishing off an excellent move where the blue and black machine had applied a prolonged period of pressure. Gibbons converted his try, and Ponsonby went to the break ahead at 19-0.
The first 16 minutes of the second spell was plagued with squally showers, so Ponsonby tightened up their game, much to the frustration of the visitors.
A needless high tackle on Ponsonby replacement Cody O’Neil resulted in a Manukau Rovers player being despatched to the bin for ten minutes. Alas, Ponsonby were unable to break the visitor’s line during this period.
It wasn’t until after Manukau Rovers were back to their full complement that Ponsonby broke their defence. After a period of weather inflicted spilled passes and dropped ball, Robert Sanele was able to gain the ball from broken play, and then cantered 35 metres down the right hand touch for the try. The Gibbons conversion stretched the score to 26-0.
Ponsonby’s fifth try of the match came from a five metre scrum. What should have been a standard pushover scrum where the number eight would simply direct play to the line, pick up and score, but no-one told replace halfback Roger Tuamoheloa. The scrum wheeled to the line, and the veteran halfback seized his opportunity and grabbed the ball from the base of the scrum and scored, much to the amusement of his colleagues on the sideline. Gibbons again goaled and Ponsonby were now 33-0 ahead.
The final try of the match was a real gem. Ponsonby executed a classic forward drive that extended some 25 metres. The ball went wide through the backs, and with exactitude Aleni Ropati carved a brilliant line through the defence to score under the posts. Gibbons again converted, sealing the win at 40-0.
The Ponsonby forward pack worked hard for 80 minutes, outclassing their opposites, and then paved the way for the backs to score six excellent tries.
The Ponsonby Premier Reserves play the Otahuhu opposites as the curtain-raiser to the Premiers fixture at Sturges Park at 1.00pm next Saturday afternoon.
Tries: Joel Joshi-Smith, Chico Huch, Willie Gibbons, Robert Sane, Roger Tuamoheloa and Aleni Ropati
Conversions: Willie Gibbons 5