Last Saturday afternoon’s seventh and final match of the first round of club rugby had Ponsonby drawn to face Marist on their home turf in Panmure. The blue and blacks faced a very belligerent Marist side, and despite being outscored by three tries to two, Ponsonby triumphed by 23-21 after leading by 6-0 at the break. The victory sees the Tom Johns Memorial Cup return to the Western Springs clubrooms until next season at least.
In the perfect autumn weather conditions the match did not always run as Ponsonby would have planned, with Marist producing one of their best performances of the season to date. Having missed out on a place in the Alan McEvoy Trophy and Gallaher Shield play-off, Marist were tenacious in their approach to the contest. Nonetheless Ponsonby remained resolute for the full eighty minutes, producing a superb defensive effort.
Ponsonby started strongly, and their early momentum should have yielded a seven point return.
A blundered drop out by Marist from their 22 metre line was gratefully accepted by Ponsonby, and a clever passage of play by William Talataina-Mu paved the way for Keenan Masina to slice through a small gap toward the line, however a shoulder charge on Masina by a Marist opponent halted the move just short of the line. The Marist offender earned himself a ten minute spell on the sideline for his indiscretion and Talataina-Mu goaled the subsequent penalty.
During the spell that Ponsonby had a one man on field advantage they were unable to increase their score, however five minutes short of the halftime break Talataina-Mu added his second penalty, seeing the blue and blacks go to the break with a narrow 6-0 advantage. Despite what the scoreboard read, Ponsonby had been clinical in the half, and had the match firmly in their grasp.
Marist took their opportunities straight from the start of the second spell, spending the first five minutes on attack. Their pressure paid off and a converted try resulted, giving them a 7-6 lead.
The converted try added confidence to the Marist performance.
As the second spell progressed one started to feel that the game for Ponsonby could be taking a nasty turn. The bounce of the ball, the 50/50 passes, and the penalty count were beginning to sway the way of Marist, and the home crowd were sensing an upset win.
To turn the tide, Ponsonby needed something special.
From deep inside the Ponsonby half, the exciting Jordan Trainor initiated an exhilarating move, and with some skilful involvement from Talataina-Mu and Pryor Collier, the replacement flanker Antoine Pallatte completed the lengthy move, scoring in the left hand corner. Talataina-Mu skilfully landed a magnificent goal from the sideline, seeing the lead going back the way of Ponsonby by 13-7.
Talataina-Mu then further extended Ponsonby’s lead to 16-7 with his third penalty of the match.
In the 67th minute of play some blistering pace from Presley Tufuga initiated a sweeping move, resulting in Ponsonby's second try. What followed was a period of sustained pressure and some wonderful support play, a deft pick up from the ground and a thirty metre dash by Pryor Collier saw him sprint between several defenders and score beneath the posts. The successful conversion extended the Ponsonby score to 23-7.
In the final 13 minutes, the momentum of match changed. Marist added their second try in the 70th minute, the conversion drawing them to within striking distance.
With five minutes remaining on the clock Ponsonby needed to remain composed, and to defend as they had done in the previous 75 minutes. Alas a marginal tackle by replacement back Matai Fakautoki resulted in him being despatched to the sideline for the remainder of the match. Almost straight away Marist added their third seven pointer, taking the score to 23-21.
Ponsonby stoutly defended their territory until the final whistle, capping off what was a nail-biting last four minutes.
Ponsonby now progress to the Alan McEvoy Memorial Trophy round, which commences next Saturday. The blue and blacks will be joined in the competition by University, Pakuranga, College Rifles, Grammar-Tec, Eden, Manukau Rovers and Suburbs. The draw for this round is being compiled, and will see a round robin competition run from the 3rd of June until the 15th of July, the top four sides on the table then progressing to the Gallaher Shield semi-finals and final.
Three other Ponsonby sides were in action against Marist last Saturday afternoon. The Premier Development sides squared off in the curtain-raiser at Dunkirk Rd, with the Ponsonby side taking the honours by 34-25. The Ponsonby Under 85kg Hustlers were victorious in their match with Marist by 28-10, whilst the Under 20’s were defeated by their Marist opposites 28-8. Meanwhile the Ponsonby Women’s Premiers edged past East Coast Bays by 17-16, and the First Grade Emerging Players were narrowly beaten by Pakuranga by 18-17.
Tries: Pryor Collier and Antoine Pallette
Conversions: William Talataina-Mu 2
Penalties: William Talataina-Mu 3
Tries: S Rayasi, E Muliufi 2
Conversions: J Saena 3
Ponsonby Premier Development: 34 Marist: 25
Ponsonby Under 20: 8 Marist 28
Ponsonby First Grade EP’s: 17 Pakuranga 18
Under 85 Hustlers: 28 Marist: 10
Women’s Premier: 17ECB: 16