The Ponsonby Premier side have kept their Gallaher Shield semi-final aspirations alive with a gutsy 26-24 win over University at Western Springs on Saturday afternoon. In what had been billed as the match of the round, the intense encounter was played in testing conditions with drizzly rain falling throughout the 80 minutes.
Ponsonby produced some classic rugby in their come from behind win, and are now placed fourth equal with Eden on the all-important points table. The Premiers result capped off a satisfying afternoon of rugby for the club in the senior grades, with the Premier Development, the Under 20’s and the Under 85kg sides all recording victories.
Waha Waitohi, William Talataina-Mu and Tom Fisi’ihoi all recorded their blazer game on Saturday afternoon, joining the list of remarkable players who have achieved this notable milestone for the club.
The match did not start as Ponsonby would have planned with the visitors racing out to a 21-0 lead from three converted tries in the first 18 minutes.
The first seven pointer was registered in the opening 30 seconds. The University halfback Basil Aholelei gathered the ball from the first ruck and raced 40 metres untouched toward the tryline. A desperate tackle halted him just short of scoring, but the hooker Kurt Eklund was on hand to barge over for the try which was converted by Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald.
Ponsonby appeared to have some early defensive difficulties, allowing the visitors to score their second try just minutes after their first. The number eight Uini Fetalaiga secured a lineout throw and raced 30 metres to the line eluding several would be tacklers. Elkington-MacDonald again converted.
While a 14-0 score line after seven minutes many in the University camp were predicting a cricket score, as promising Ponsonby attacks could not be completed and defensive gaps were evident.
University were quick to capitalise on any Ponsonby deficiencies, and their third try came from a turnover in Ponsonby’s half. Some slick passing from the forwards, then a good run from Blues loose forward Steven Luatua, followed by a clever offload to fullback Sam Lawson who crossed for the try.
The Ponsonby side glanced at the scoreboard and this seemed to provide the necessary impetus to launch a fightback.
Within minutes of the Lawson try, the blue and blacks found themselves just metres from the University line. A successful lineout and a classic drive to the line resulted in Willie Uili barging over, the try being converted by Talataina-Mu.
Ponsonby’s second try of the match was scored from another lineout close to the visitor’s line. A penalty in Ponsonby’s favour was drilled to the corner. The lineout win and a rolling maul saw Marco Fepuleai crash over. The conversion was unsuccessful and Ponsonby were clawing back the deficit, now trailing by 21-12.
Ponsonby had dominated the latter minutes of the first spell and with a few minutes to play they were awarded an attacking scrum 22 metres from the visitor’s line. Daniel Bowden and William Talataina-executed a perfect wrap-around move, which looked to have been halted by the defence, but Bowden threw a deft pop pass to Freedom Vaha’akolo who eluded the defence to race to the line. Talataina-Mu added the extra two points, taking Ponsonby to 21-19 down going to the break.
In the second spell the visitors looked for opportunities to again control of the match, and to increase their lead. However Ponsonby were playing the smarter game given the conditions. University were struggling to control the slippery ball, and were making fundamental errors.
It was in the 61st minute that Ponsonby seized the lead in the match. A magnificent move from 40 metres out saw Pryor Collier slice through a yawning defensive gap, wrong-footing any potential tacklers, and then score underneath the posts. Talataina-Mu added the extra points, seeing him pass 100 points for the season, and Ponsonby now lead by 26-21.
With ten minutes to play an Elkington-MacDonald penalty goal narrowed the deficit to 26-24, and a late rally his side team was not successful, Ponsonby holding on for the victory.
The win keeps Ponsonby’s semi-final hopes alive and claimed five valuable competition points from this game. To secure their place in the semi-finals Ponsonby will need to win against Pakuranga next week, and then Grammar-Tec in the final round the following week. Additionally, other results will need to go their way.
The Premier Development side successfully defeated their University opposites by 13-11, whilst the Ponsonby Under 20’s beat Eden by 21-20, and the Under 85’s won their encounter with Grammar-Tec by 16-12.
Tries: Willie Uili, Marco Fepuleai, Freedom Vah’akolo and P Collier
Conversions: William Talataina-Mu 3
Tries: Uini Fetalaiga, Kurt Eklund and Sam Lawson
Conversions: Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald 3
Penalty: Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald