The Ponsonby Premiers produced a mammoth effort on Saturday afternoon to overcome Grammar-Tec by 40-33. Played in superb overhead and underfoot conditions at Orakei Domain, the match was nothing short of an entertaining spectacle. Ponsonby outscored their hosts by six tries to three, with Pryor Collier recording a hat-trick.
Ponsonby handed Grammar-Tec their first loss since June 2015, and It was an extremely satisfying victory for Ponsonby and their supporters given that victory over Grammar had eluded them on several occasions since 2011.
Grammar-Tecwere fastest out of the blocks and their enterprising play was rewarded in the sixth minute when lock Setafano Funaki crashed over the line taking several Ponsonby defenders with him. Michigan Lam converted, and the home side had an early 7-0 lead.
The blue and blacks didn’t wait long to respond. The ensuing restart by William Talataina-Mu was not claimed by Grammar-Tec, and spying a golden opportunity to capitalise, Anthony Diack was on hand to gather the bouncing ball some 15 metres inside the opposition half, and with a gap opening like the Red Sea, Diack sprinted to the line untouched, much to the bemusement of some stunned defence. The successful conversion drew Ponsonby level at 7-7.
Grammar-Tec again snatched the lead on the scoreboard with a try eight minutes later, awarded to flanker Robert Harris, which Lam converted.
At the halfway point in the half, Ponsonby found themselves with a lineout five metres from the hosts goal-line. Jamie Lane went high, winning possession, and the ball went to Talataina-Mu at first receiver, who sold a clever dummy, and then produced a deft pop pass to Pryor Collier, scoring the first of his three tries. The successful conversion again locked the scores.
Just shy of halftime the spectators were treated to some creative and sublime skills that would be the envy of many midfield backs. An attack by Ponsonby from inside their territory created a big overlap. The ball was fed to hooker Willie Uili, who found himself in space and with a lot of daylight ahead. Uili ran like an outside back unleashing some superb pace, then surveying his options as the defenders started to close in. Realising that his supporting players were now marked Uili placed an ingenious grubber kick ahead, and before the ball bounced over the dead ball line, it was nabbed by Collier, scoring his second try of the afternoon. The conversion drifted away, but Ponsonby had a handy 19-14 lead going to the halftime break.
Early in the second half Ponsonby were awarded a penalty, which was drilled to the corner by Talataina-Mu. Grammar-Tec stole the lineout, and after a period of aerial ping pong, Danny Tusitala initiated an attack on the opposition. Running wide across the field, Tusitala had good support from Talataina-Mu, then to Collier, and his blistering pace and silky skills were too much for the opposites as he raced 40 metres to the line. The successful conversion extended Ponsonby’s lead to 26-14.
Michigan Lam added a penalty goal, bringing his side back to 26-17 down.
Following the restart, Grammar-Tec then exploited the Ponsonby defence, which paid dividends. From deep inside their territory, the backs raced away, and a possible forward pass to the dangerous running Kitione Taimani, who split the Ponsonby defence apart, and then sped away to score beneath the posts. After the successful conversion, and Ponsonby’s healthy lead had been reduced to 26-24.
A penalty attempt at goal from Talataina-Mu would have given his side some breathing space, but the kick drifted away.
Lam, however, was having a successful afternoon with the boot, and in quick succession added a drop goal, then a penalty goal, giving his side a 30-26 advantage on the scoreboard.
The Ponsonby side kept their heads high, and continued to plug away at the opposition territory, thriving on small errors that were starting to creep into Grammar-Tec’s game. After a period of sustained pressure, Ponsonby scored their fifth try of the match, Danny Tusitala crossing in the corner. A magnificent sideline conversion from Talataina-Mu, put the lead back the way of Ponsonby.
Into the final ten minutes of the game, and Grammar-Tec goaled another penalty, again locking the scores, now at 33-33.
The Gallaher Shield champions were not about to surrender the game, and attempted several times to break the Ponsonby defence. Invariably they would let themselves down by turning over possession just metres away from the Ponsonby line.
With two minutes to run, it started to look like Grammar-Tec may steal the game, but Ponsonbywere not going to settle for a draw. Snatching the ball just metres out from their line, and what followed was a flowing 90 metre move – in which several players handled in the build-up – then by a 40 metre sprint to the line by replacement winger Joe Beckett. The conversion put the lid on a wonderful Ponsonby performance. The jubilation from the side and supporters alike was very evident after what was a definitive Ponsonby team performance.
Ponsonby now sit in third place on the competition table, and will now prepare for an encounter with the fourth placed side, Pakuranga, being played at Bell Park next Saturday afternoon. Pakuranga will be hurting after their 31-all draw with Eden in the previous round, so will be wanting to cement their place amongst the all-important top four qualifiers.
Meanwhile in the curtain raiser the Premier Reserves were ruthless in the 57-15 demolition of the Grammar-Tec opposites, having led by 19-5 at the break. Ponsonby scored nine tries, including one which featured a spectacular 25 metre run by prop Phil Viane.
Tries: Pryor Collier 3, Danny Tusitala, Anthony Diack and Joe Beckett
Conversions: William Talataina-Mu 5
Grammar TEC 33
Tries: Setafano Funaki, Kitione Taimani, Robert Harris
Conversions: Michigan Lam 3
Penalty: Michigan Lam, Corey Niwa
Drop goal: Michigan La
Ponsonby Premier Reserves 57
Tries: Herman Huch, Ben Bacon, Aleni Ropati, Simon Gibion-Sheehan, Ji Yung-Lee, Jazz Samuela, Phil Viane, Willie Gibbons and Andy Varoy
Conversions: Robert Sanele 3, Willie Gibbons 3