The 2018 season started positively for the Premier side when they successfully claimed the Waka Nathan Challenge Cup last Saturday afternoon, edging a belligerent Eden side in the final by 34-30. Ponsonby’s path to the final saw them trounce Manukau Rovers by 70-14 in the opening round back on the 17th of March, then a week later in the semi-final they overcame University in a thriller by 27-20. Eden were always going to be a tough opponent for Ponsonby, and they had progressed to the Waka Nathan Challenge Cup final with impressive victories over Suburbs and College Rifles.
Played at Fearon Park in Mt Roskill, Eden had first use of a blustery westerly breeze, and for much of the first spell they used it creatively.
But it was the blue and blacks that registered the first match points when Connor Halangahu barged over in the second minute.
Eden responded within minutes with a converted try. An attempted Ponsonby clearing kick from their 22 metre line was charged down by Eden first five eighth Adrian Lole, who successfully pounced on the ball before it drifted over the dead ball line.
Eden further extended their lead to 13-5 with a two penalty goals and with the advantage on the scoreboard and the wind at their back Eden were showing some tremendous determination.
However a miscued pass during an Eden attack saw possession shift Ponsonby’s way, and the result was a gem of a try. The ball bounced off the legs of an Eden tight forward into the arms of the Ponsonby midfielder Sione Fakapelea who placed a well-timed kick ahead for the speedsters to chase. The winger Johnny Cooper displayed some blistering pace to beat the covering defenders to the line for the try, which went unconverted.
Jamie Lane was a dominant figure in the lineouts, and he neatly claimed the restart following the Cooper try. A superb passage of play which extended some 50 metres ensued, including some excellent work by the livewire flanker Aleks Dabek. The entertaining move was finished off by Taina Fox-Matamua who touched down alongside the posts. Cooper added the extra two points, putting Ponsonby back in front on the scoreboard at 17-13.
Shortly before the break Jamie Lane was shown a yellow card, which allowed Eden to capitalise. They crossed in the right-hand corner, which the fullback Max Leaana converted with ease from the sideline.
Early in the second spell Eden further extended their lead to 23-17 with another Leaana penalty.
As the spell progressed Ponsonby started to gain some ascendency over the very physical and resolute Eden side. It was not until the 15th minute of the half that Ponsonby were able to crack the Eden defence with a well worked try from a five metre scrum. Play went wide to the unmarked replacement Noah Mataia who crossed for the five pointer.
Eden held onto their slender 23-22 advantage approaching the ¾ mark in the match, and a missed penalty goal at that time from a handy location was to prove costly.
William Talataina-Mu joined the team from the bench in the final quarter and immediately added some impetus. A superb break freed Patrick Tausie for a well-constructed try, which Cooper converted, giving Ponsonby a 29-23 lead with ten minutes to play.
In the final moments of the match Wiseguy Faiane placed a clever crossfield kick behind the defence for Cooper to run on to. The right winger once again outpaced his opposites, and pounced on the ball in the right-hand corner.
Eden managed to cross for a late converted try, but Ponsonby had successfully done the hard work and secured the 34-30 win in emphatic style.
Ponsonby will now turn their attention to the opening round of the Alan McEvoy Memorial Trophy which commences next Saturday afternoon at Western Springs Stadium. Based on the exciting talent that will be wearing the blue and black hoops in 2018, Ponsonby’s fixture against the first up opponent, Waitakere City, is sure to be an entertaining match.
Tries: Johnny Cooper 2, Connor Halangahu, Taina Fox-Matamua, Noah Mataia and Patrick Tausie
Conversions: Johnny Cooper 2