In last Saturday’s penultimate round of the Alan McEvoy Memorial Shield competition the Ponsonby Premiers grabbed a solid 37-19 win over Pakuranga, keeping their Gallaher Shield semi-final hopes very much alive. The five competition points earned from this fixture has Ponsonby placed fifth, on equal points with College Rifles and Eden. A win next week over Grammar-Tec and the result from at least one of the other competition matches next week should see Ponsonby be amongst the top four qualifiers and then advance to the Gallaher Shield semi-finals.
Coming into this match Pakuranga had recorded one solitary win from their previous five matches, and were out of Gallaher Shield play-off contention, but were always going to be hungry for a victory in this game.
The blue and blacks crossed for four tries against Pakuranga, including one scored by William Talataina-Mu, who added 17 points from the boot for a personal tally of 22 points and now leads the season’s top point’s scorers in the Auckland competition
Ponsonby started strongly in this must win match, looking very composed and focused on the job at hand. Pakuranga on the other hand looked were struggling to win their own lineouts, twice in the first five minutes opting to throw long, which on both occasions were gratefully nabbed by Waha Waitohi.
It was on the second of these occasions that Ponsonby were able to prosper. Waitohi made some good ground from the Pakuranga error, and then some excellent support from Matai Fakautoki saw a ruck form 30 metres from the visitor’s line. From the base of the ruck Campbell Woodmass scooted down the left hand touch, passing to Presley Tufuga who ran untouched to the line, scoring in his 40th and Blazer game. Talataina-Mu added the extra two points.
Soon after, Talataina-Mu goaled a handy penalty giving Ponsonby a handy 10-0 lead after as many minutes.
From the restart Pakuranga endeavoured to get into the game, only to concede a turnover to Ponsonby. The ball ended up in the hands of Freedom Vaha’akolo, who displayed some superb pace on a lengthy run down the right hand flank, eluding several would be tacklers. It appeared that Vaha’akolo may go all the way to the line, but a desperate covering tackle saw him bustled into touch at the visitors 22 metre mark. Pakuranga opted to throw long to the lineout, and once again it was gratefully accepted by Waitohi who charged toward the line, only to be dragged down short. From the ruck, Talataina-Mu sliced through the gap to score beneath the posts, which he duly converted.
Pakuranga were able to get into the game midway through the half with a converted try.
A high tackle by the visitors had them penalised close to their own posts, which Talataina-Mu goaled with ease.
Ponsonby went to the break with a commanding 20-7 lead.
The first 18 minutes of the second spell was a tight tussle, with both sides unable to gain any significant advantage. A slippery surface ensured that ball handling became an issue.
Pakuranga were first to add points in the second spell, with an unconverted try.
With a lead of 20-12 and only having scored two tries, Ponsonby’s task of finishing strongly with a bonus point win from four tries became a little tougher when Tom Fisi’ihoi was shown a yellow card.
Being a man down on the field saw Ponsonby tighten their game, and within minutes they were on attack very close to the visitor’s line. Replacement prop Phil Viane barged over from close range, and again Talataina-Mu converted.
Pakuranga responded a few minutes later with a seven pointer.
With seven minutes to play Talataina-Mu goaled his third penalty of the match, extending Ponsonby’s lead to a seemingly unassailable 30-19.
Then with two minutes left on the clock Ponsonby put the icing on the cake with a gem of a try. From inside the Ponsonby half a move was initiated by Pryor Collier, who wrong-footed the defence on a deceptive run which went one way then another. Play then went wide to Vaha’akolo who ran round his opposite and an excellent run by the right winger he then drew the final defender before passing infield to the supporting Keenan Masina to score beneath the posts.
Attention now swings to next week’s away match against Grammar-Tec, and whilst they are out of Gallaher Shield play-off contention, they will be a tough opposition. Ponsonby join University, College Rifles and Eden who are all vying for three spots in the semi-finals. Grammar-Tec have recorded only two wins from six outings in this round, and last week were on the receiving end of a 43-12 hiding by Eden. As an old foe of Ponsonby’s , Grammar-Tec will be eager to halt the blue and blacks progress to the finals.
In the curtain-raiser on Saturday between the Ponsonby and Pakuranga Development teams, a last gasp try by halfback Roger Tuamoheloa secured the win for Ponsonby by 23-22.
Tries: Presley Tufuga, William Talataina-Mu, Keenan Masina and Phil Viane
Conversions: William Talataina-Mu 4
Penalties: William Talataina-Mu 3
Tries: S Afoa, M East, T Latu
Conversions: S Vaevae 2