Some scintillating second half rugby from the Ponsonby Premiers against Suburbs on Saturday produced a much needed 32-18 win, assuring the blue and blacks a spot in the Gallaher Shield playoffs.
Ponsonby trailed the visitors by 18-16 going into the final quarter of the match, and two tries and two penalties in the space of 17 minutes not only sealed the victory for the blue and blacks, but saw them earn a valuable bonus point, helping in their quest for a semi-final at Western Springs.
In the Suburbs encounter, the pre-match preparations did not go as they should have, with sensational wing Joe Beckett sustaining an injury in the warm-ups, ruling him out of the starting XV.
However Ponsonby enjoyed an ideal start in the match. The initial kick off by Ponsonby was knocked on by a Suburbs player, and then played by another in an offside position. Referee Kyle Harris had no alternative but to award a penalty, which William Talataina-Mu goaled and Ponsonby had a 3-0 lead in the first minute.
The Ponsonby advantage on the scoreboard was short-lived as the dangerous running Suburbs backs were able to carve through the midfield, eluding intending tacklers. The move was finished off in the left hand corner by the winger Jona Sawailau. Carl Perry was unable to convert the try, but Suburbs had a 5-3 lead.
Perry did however goal a penalty soon after, extending the Suburbs lead to 8-3.
With momentum going their way Suburbs were throwing everything at Ponsonby, and they were finding gaps in the midfield and were gaining ground with ease. The hard running centre Varasiko Duisokosoko running 60 metres before being brought down by some outstanding defence by Freedom Vaha’akolo.
At the halfway point in the first spell Ponsonby had taken control of the game and spent a sustained period on attack. After some solid work by Presley Tufuga, and then several phases of play they set up camp just ten metres from the Suburbs line. A perfectly judged crossfield kick by William Talataina-Mu fell into the arms of Morrison Siliko who scored out wide. The conversion fell short but the scores were now level at 8-8.
Just moments later Suburbs infringed and Talataina-Mu attempted a long range penalty, the ball drifting away. Then two minutes on, Suburbs again infringed in almost the same field position, and this time Talataina-Mu did succeed with the penalty goal.
Suburbs yet again used their pacy outside backs to exploit the Ponsonby defence and from a line out deep inside their own half the ball went wide to the right winger, Bruno Tuivai, who combined with the fullback Pisi Leilua on a lengthy move, eventually freeing halfback Rameka Paraki who cantered to the line, scoring under the posts. Perry converted and Suburbs took a 15-11 lead into the half time break.
Ponsonby turned into the wind after the break but in the opening minutes they showed some renewed intensity.
However Suburbs were the first on the board in the second spell, Perry goaling another penalty to extend the lead for his side to 18-11.
Ponsonby regrouped and started to apply pressure to Suburbs and dominate proceedings. A penalty in their favour was drilled to the touch by Talataina-Mu, the ensuing lineout forming just outside the Suburbs 22 metre line. The ball was tapped down, and replacement prop Alex Matapo set off on a big run that saw play go agonisingly close to the line. Some great work by Presley Tufuga paved the way for the inspirational captain Willie Uili to barge over. The conversion was charged down, and Ponsonby now trailed by 18-16.
The blue and blacks continued to dominate play, and successfully denied Suburbs any possession.
With 17 minutes of the match remaining a Talataina-Mu penalty goal gave the lead to Ponsonby at 19-18.
Then two minutes later it was a piece of Talataina-Mu brilliance that saw Ponsonby go further ahead. The classy first five-eight initiated a move out of his side’s half, carving a magnificent gap up field wrong-footing the intending tacklers, then a sweet offload to Danny Tusitala out on the right wing, who then sped to the line for a splendid five pointer. The conversion fell short, but Ponsonby now had a 24-18 lead.
Inside the final ten minutes Talataina-Mu goaled his fourth penalty of the match, giving Ponsonby a 27-18 advantage.
Aware that Suburbs had to score twice to take the game added extra confidence to the Ponsonby performance. They continued to dominate play and territory, forcing Suburbs into costly errors.
With five minutes to play Pat Tausie displayed some exceptional pace as he raced to the tryline, scoring Ponsonby’s fourth and bonus point try. The jubilation amongst the Ponsonby side was extraordinary and confirmed the tremendous character that exists in this side.
The win over Suburbs propels Ponsonby into second place on the competition table on 20 points, five points behind College Rifles, who the blue and blacks tackle next Saturday afternoon on the ‘carpet’ in Remuera. Rifles will be confident after taking the scalp of Marist last Saturday by 34-14, and knowing that they have already beaten Ponsonby this season.
Next Saturday afternoon is the final round of the Alan McEvoy Memorial Trophy competition, and in a top of the table clash this promises to be a very exciting encounter.
Tries: Morrison Siliko, Willie Uili, Danny Tusitala and Patrick Tausie
Penalty: William Talataina-Mu 4
Tries: Jona Siwilau and Rameka Paraki,
Penalty: Carl Perry 2
Conversion: Carl Perry