The Ponsonby Premiers flexed their muscle and displayed some outstanding athleticism on Saturday afternoon over Otahuhu at Western Springs Stadium, producing a ten try, 68-10 rout.
The match featured several young and extremely exciting stars, including first five eighth Stephen Perofeta and fullback Jordan Trainor, who had both been released from the Blues squad for club rugby duties. Perofeta ran in three tries, whilst Trainor also joined the try scoring sheet. Of the ten tries recorded, nine were converted by William Talataina-Mu, who looked very accomplished in the second five eighth position.
The Premiers started this match after a satisfying eight try, 56-0, demolition of Waitakere City in the previous round. Otahuhu on the other hand had recorded their first win of the competition in that round, a solid 16-12 victory over East Tamaki.
With the superb overhead and underfoot conditions, the match was always going to be conducive for an open running and entertaining spectacle.
Right from the start Ponsonby showed a willingness to run, and the first try of the match came in the opening few minutes. A penalty awarded to the blue and blacks five metres from the visitors line was turned over, and then cleared by Otahuhu, however the kick failed to find touch. The kick was cleanly claimed by Jordan Trainor who wrong-footed the defenders, taking play back inside the 22 metre area before linking with Freedom Vaka’akolo who raced down the right hand touch for the try in the corner. Talataina-Mu added a magnificent conversion from wide out.
Ponsonby’s enthusiasm to run continued, and gaps were evident in the Otahuhu defensive line. The second try of the match bore many similarities to the first. A miscued Otahuhu clearing kick was again claimed by Trainor, who changed direction and after gaining some good ground produced a superb offload to Vaha’akolo, who went agonisingly close to scoring in the corner. The Otahuhu defenders halted the move before the ball could be grounded, but not before a neat pop pass to Waha Waitohi who crossed the line. The conversion from wide-out again was struck sweetly, and Ponsonby had a 14-0 lead after only ten minutes play.
From this point Otahuhu tightened their game and the very apparent defensive gaps in the opening stages of the match started disappearing.
The next 20 minutes became a constricted tussle, with Otahuhu thwarting any attempt for Ponsonby to gain any ascendancy, in addition to forcing the blue and blacks into fundamental errors.
However persistence paid off, and Ponsonby recorded their third try of the game, Keenan Masina crossing the line in what was a superb move. An Otahuhu touchfinder was quickly thrown in by Vaha’akolo to Trainor, who linked with Pryor Collier, and with the defence napping Masina was able to race to the line. The conversion sailed away, but Ponies had a handy 19-0 lead.
Soon after Otahuhu chanced their arm, and in a spirited move they were able to place some heavy demands on the Ponsonby defence. A desperate tackle by Danny Tusitala on an Otahuhu player was accidentally high, and Tusitala found himself going to the sideline for ten minutes. The resulting penalty was goaled by the visitors, giving them their first three points of the match.
With one man short on the field, Ponsonby successfully defended their line for the remainder of the half, going to the break at 19-3 ahead.
Ponsonby’s first score of the second spell resulted from a scrum penalty some 12 metres from the Otahuhu line, Trainor waltzing through a yawning gap for the try.
In the 57th minute of the game Ponsonby again prospered from a scrum penalty close to the visitor’s line. Taina Fox-Matamua picked up the ball from the scrum base, linking with Danny Tusitala, and then Perofeta, who stretched out for the five pointer. The successful conversion extended the Ponsonby lead to 33-3.
Soon after Ponsonby launched a long range attack on the visitors territory, and some great work by Vaha’akolo took play inside Otahuhu’s 22. What had been a promising move stopped close to the line, and from an ensuing 5 metre scrum the very promising Matamua-Fox barged over.
Another sweeping move from Ponsonby, starting from deep inside their own half, resulted in a superb try by Vaha’akolo.
Perofeta scored Ponsonby’s eighth try of the match, and his second, in the 69th minute. A magnificent Trainor break commencing starting inside the Ponsonby 22, and tremendous support from Waitohi, freed Perofeta who raced the remaining 25 metres to the line.
Pryor Collier joined the list of try scorers, after a nifty chip kick from the base of a ruck by replacement halfback Shigeru Kohiyama, the ball gathered neatly by Collier, who beat two would-be defenders, then running away for the try.
Perofeta scored Ponsonby’s final try of the match, the first five eighth capping off a splendid debut performance.
With time up on the clock, Ponsonby looked to score one final try, but a spilt pass inside Otahuhu’s 22, was scooped up by the visitors and an 80 metre move was finished off by replacement Mikaele Kapeli.
Whilst eight of Ponsonby’s tries were scored by the backs, the forward pack produced a mammoth effort, with some outstanding work at scrum and lineout time, and at the breakdown, in addition to the big men being called upon to make numerous tackles on the physical Otahuhu opposites.
This win sees Ponsonby shift to third place on the competition table, and with two matches remaining they will be focused on achieving maximum points in those games to maintain their place amongst the top four qualifiers who progress to the Alan McEvoy Trophy round. Next week Ponsonby face East Tamaki at Western Springs, and then an away match with Marist in the final round on the 27th of May. East Tamaki pushed competition leaders Pakuranga last week, going down by 32-20, whilst Marist secured their first win of the round, defeating Waitakere City by 30-16.
The two other fixtures between Ponsonby and Otahuhu on Saturday at Western Springs both produced victories, the Premier Reserves winning by 27-3, and the Under 20’s thrashing their opposites by 53-5.
Ponsonby Premiers: 68
Tries: Stephen Perofeta 3, Freedom Vaha’akolo 2, Waharai Waitohi, Keenan Masina, Jordon Trainor, Taina Fox-Matamua and Pryor Collier
Conversions: William Talataina-Mu 9
Otahuhu Premiers: 10
Try: M Kapeli
Conversion: T Tavae
Penalty: T Tavae