The Ponsonby Premier Reserves capped off a remarkable season on Saturday, defeating Waitemata by 15-12 and winning their competition, and the George Nicholson Trophy.
The Premier Reserves have gone through the 2016 season undefeated, and in the 15 competition matches they have amassed an impressive 524 points, whilst conceding 171, equating to a very respectable average scoreline of 34-11.
Ponsonby last won this silverware in 2014, and bounced back in style this year after falling short in the cup final in 2015.
The championship title was a fitting reward for this side which has played some entertaining and enterprising rugby this year, and the unity that is evident in this squad transformed into the results on the field. The squad and management have epitomised the importance of the blue and black jersey, and the passion of Ponsonby Rugby.
Whilst Saturday’s scoreline does not suggest a dominant Ponsonby performance, they were aware that Waitemata would play a spirited and physical match. The blue and blacks spent much of the game weathering the Waitemata storm that ravaged the Western Springs Stadium, but defended gallantly.
Ponsonby’s start was not ideal, conceding a penalty right from the Waitemata kick off. Despite the attempted penalty goal being only 20 metres from the posts, the kick fell away.
Waitemata spent the first 15 minutes of the match applying pressure to Ponsonby, and accordingly the small errors came. The tenacity and patience of Ponsonby paid off, and eventually they were able to capitalise on an error by the visitors. After several phases where play swept from the halfway mark, Ben Bacon charged over for the first try of the match. The conversion by Willie Gibbons was successful.
From the restart, a Waitemata player was penalised for interfering with a Ponsonby man whilst he was in the air, which resulted in the offender being despatched to the sinbin for ten minutes.
Waitemata successfully maintained their composure for much of the spell that they were reduced to 14 men. Just prior to the westerners being restored to their full complement Ponsonby were awarded a penalty just inside the visitors half. The kick was drilled toward the corner, and following a lineout win, the Ponsonby forwards drove to the line, Steven Savali being awarded with the try. The conversion drifted away, and Ponsonby now led by 12-0.
Waitemata goaled a penalty right on the stroke of halftime, Ponsonby leading by 12-3 going to the break.
The second half was a very intense affair as Waitemata sought a comeback, and Ponsonby looked to force the visitors into making errors.
Waitemata added three penalty goals in the spell, the third coming in the 73rd minute of the match, locking the scores at 12-12.
With three minutes to play Ponsonby were awarded a penalty 40 metres away from the Waitemata line, and despite the swirling breeze captain Ben Bacon pointed toward the posts. Robert Sanele strolled up to take the kick, acutely aware of the pressure that was on him. He coolly slotted the long range goal, amidst tremendous jubilation from his team-mates.
Ponsonby played out the remaining moments of the match, starving the visitors of their desired possession.
The curtain now comes down on another successful and memorable season for this remarkable side.
Tries: Ben Bacon and Steven Savali
Conversion: Willie Gibbons
Penalty: Robert Sanele