After the disappointing loss to Eden in the previous round the Ponsonby Premiers bounced back in style registering a classic display against College Rifles on Saturday, winning by 40-20.
Much of the fixture was vintage Ponsonby rugby. Passion and commitment manufactured exceptional skills and six wonderful tries. Whilst every man in the match day squad of 22 contributed to this tremendous result, the captain Waharai Waitohi was inspirational on attack and outstanding on defence. Additionally William Talataina-Mu was masterful at first five eighth, having a hand in several of Ponsonby’s tries, contributing 15 points to the scoreline from five conversions and a try.
This result also saw the Sam Lawrence trophy presented to Ponsonby’s Waharai Waitohi, the trophy being introduced last year for fixtures between these two sides.
In the Alan McEvoy Memorial Trophy round every competition point counts, and the five points earned in this contest were extremely valuable, lifting Ponsonby to fourth place on the table of eight teams.
The match did not commence as Ponsonby would have planned. The College Rifles kick off looked to be bouncing into touch, however the ball landed just shy of the touchline and bounced back in field in favour of College Rifles. After a minute on attack with several exchanges, and before the first stoppage in play the visitors recorded the opening try, scored by the winger Lolohea Loco, which was duly converted by Broc Hooper.
From the ensuing restart Ponsonby went onto the attack, and after 12 well-constructed phases the left winger Tili Puloka crossed the line. Talataina-Mu converted, levelling the scores at 7-7.
College Rifles then dominated proceedings for a lengthy period, but Ponsonby were up to the task and gallantly defended their territory. But the visitors eventually found an opportunity to break through and the winger Loco again crossed the line. The conversion in this instance drifted wide.
The restart by Ponsonby was not controlled by College Rifles, and the blue and blacks snared the loose ball. An outstanding run by Presley Tufuga and then some great supporting play by Phil Viane and Willie Uili took play within metres of the visitor’s line. Danny Tusitala went right from the maul and a very deft pass from Talataina-Mu allowed Keenan Masina to cross for the five pointer. The successful conversion saw the lead go to Ponsonby for the first time in the match.
College Rifles then hit straight back, their elusive runners momentarily catching the Ponsonby defence off guard, and they notched up their third try of the match, the number eight Sione Talitui scoring. The conversion was unsuccessful, but the visitors had the lead back at 17-14.
The Ponsonby pack raced back to halfway indicating their intent to recapture the lead in the game. The restart was knocked on by the visitors and the ball was now back in Ponsonby’s hands. Some good work by Pryor Collier, Tufuga and Waitohi resulted in play going inside the visitors 22. A magnificent cut out pass from Talataina-Mu to Freedom Vaha’akolo saw the right winger cross for his ninth try of the season. The conversion allowed Ponsonby to once again have the lead at 21-17.
College Rifles successfully claimed the restart, only to concede a turnover to Ponsonby. Tusitala then initiated a promising counterattack. Play went right to Talataina-Mu and what evolved was a sensational 60 metre move, which was finished by Tusitala. The conversion fell away, and Ponsonby went to the break at 26-17 ahead, and looked confident going into the remaining 40 minutes.
College Rifles struck first in the second spell, Broc Hooper goaling a penalty. The scoreboard now read 26-20 in Ponsonby’s favour, the visitors sensing an opportunity to regain the lead. But this was to be the end of their scoring in the match.
Ponsonby’s fifth try was a real gem. A sweeping move involving most of the team was finished by the skipper Waitohi. Talataina-Mu added the extra two points, taking the score out to 33-20.
It was Talataina-Mu who had the final say in the match, with a chip kick and regather for the try. His conversion put the icing on the cake.
The curtain came down on what had been, in the most, a scintillating and entertaining 80 minutes of rugby.
Next Saturday’s third match in this round has Ponsonby drawn to play the competition leaders Suburbs on their home ground at Shadbolt Park. Suburbs have two wins from two outings in this competition, the most recent being a 24-19 victory over Pakuranga in the last round.
Ponsonby’s last meeting with Suburbs was on the 1st of April this year in the Waka Nathan Challenge Cup final, Suburbs winning that day by 31-15. Ponsonby’s last venture to Shadbolt Park was on the 23rd of July 2016, being the Gallaher Shield semi-final. The result that day went the way of Suburbs by 18-7, ending Ponsonby’s hopes of progressing to the Gallaher Shield final, the final which Suburbs went on to win the following week. Suburbs have always been a traditional adversary of Ponsonby, and they will be aware of the dangerous attacking ball carriers within the Suburbs ranks, and how vital it will be to collect the maximum competition points.
Despite the outstanding Premier result, the outcome of the Premier Development sides who played the curtainraiser at Western Springs on Saturday did not go in Ponsonby’s favour. The blue and blacks led by 23-19 with time virtually up on the clock, but a last gasp converted try by College Rifles saw the visitors win by 26-23. The Under 85’s were too strong for their Eden opposites, Ponsonby winning by 28-0, whilst the First Grade Emerging Players pipped Manukau by 20-10.
PONSONBY PREMIERS: 40
Tries: Waha Waitohi, Danny Tusitala, William Talataina-Mu, Tili Puloka, Keenan Masina and Freedom Vaha’akolo
Conversions: William Talataina-M 5
College Rifles: 20
Tries: Lolohea Loco 2, Sione Talitui tries,
Conversion: Broc Hooper
Penalty: Broc Hooper
Halftime: 26 - 17