This Saturday’s fifth round of the Alan McEvoy Memorial Trophy sees the Ponsonby Premiers drawn to play Marist on their home ground in Mt Wellington.
With three rounds remaining, including the Marist fixture, Ponsonby sit in third place on the competition table on 13 points, whilst Marist are eighth, and last place on three points. Following the Marist match, Ponsonby will meet Suburbs, then College Rifles.
Ponsonby were understandably stunned following their 32-22 loss to Papatoetoe last weekend, a match in which they conceded five tries and forfeited the Sir Fred Allen Challenge Cup. Ponsonby also bestowed Papatoetoe their first win of the round. Marist on the other hand, are still searching for their first win of this round, and to date have recorded losses to Suburbs, Grammar-Tec and Pakuranga, plus they drew with Waitemata. Ponsonby will not want to be Marist’s first scalp of this round.
Ponsonby and Marist squared off on three occasions in 2015, with the honours going to Ponsonby on all occasions. The opening match, in the qualifying first round, required an injury time penalty goal by Murray Williams to secure the match for Ponsonby by 29-26. The second encounter played at Dunkirk Rd, Ponsonby led by a slender 8-6 at the break, and then adapted well to the underfoot conditions adding 30 unanswered second half points. In the last match, the semi-final of the Jubilee Trophy, Ponsonby found themselves down by 21-7 with 14 minutes to go, and late tries to Willis Hopwood, Vince Aso and Mike Kennedy sealed it for Ponsonby, the latter two featuring some outstanding individual brilliance by the try scorers.
There will be no shortage of motivation for the Ponsonby side going into this match with Marist, as they seek to keep their aspirations alive to be amongst the ‘Top Four’, thereby qualifying for the 2016 Gallaher Shield Semi-Finals. Ponsonby have missed out on qualifying for the Gallaher Shield finals since 2014, and Marist since 2013. Despite Marist’s position on the points table, they are guaranteed to be a formidable opponent, and the blue and blacks will need to be prepared for the physicality and urgency that Marist will bring to the game.
In the Alan McEvoy round the stakes are raising higher each week with precious competition and bonus points up for grabs, with potentially all eight teams having a mathematical chance of qualifying, results dependant .
The starting side for this week’s match includes a few changes from that which had started against Papatoetoe last week. The exciting Freedom Vaha’akolo returns to the side after starring for the Auckland Seven’s team in their tournament in Hokkaido, and in the pack Willie Uili and Jamie Lane return at hooker and lock respectively. And starting at openside flanker is the robust Josh Mikaele who returns to the Premier side after a stint in Italy, and a handful of games in recent weeks for the Ponsonby Premier Reserve side.
The Premiers play Marist on the main ground at the Mt Wellington War Memorial on Dunkirk Rd, Panmure, kicking off at 2.45pm. At stake is the Tom Johns Memorial Cup, which is currently held by Ponsonby. The Ponsonby Premier Reserves play University at Colin Maiden Park on Saturday, kicking off at 12.30pm
1 Alex Matapo; 2 Willie Uili; 3 Marco Fepuleai; 4 Leo Ngahe; 5 Jamie Lane; 6 Anthony Diack; 7 Josh Mikaele; 8 Presley Tufuga; 9 Campbell Woodmass; 10 William Talataina-Mu; 11 Morrison Siliko; 12 Pat Tausie; 13 Pryor Collier; 14 Joseph Beckett; 15 Freedom Vaha’akolo
16 Romero Tagi; 17 Junior Halafuka; 18 Samuel Slade 19. Chanel Vito; 20 Danny Tusitala; 21. Mark Ama; 22 Junior Cagiaceva