Saturday’s top of the table clash produced the right result for the Ponsonby Premiers against incumbent competition leaders Eden, in the second to last match of the qualifying round of the Alan McEvoy Memorial Shield. Both Ponsonby and Eden had qualified for the next round, so at stake for Ponsonby was the opportunity to leapfrog Eden and claim the top spot heading to the final round. The two sides had successfully won five from five in this competition, Eden claiming the distinction of earning a bonus point in each match.
The four try bonus point 27-5 win sees Ponsonby with six victories in this round, and the outlook for the next round looks extremely positive. Despite the 2-1 penalty count against them, Ponsonby were able to dominate against Eden in most facets of play for two thirds of the match.
The Ponsonby coaching team had the luxury of fielding their strongest available XV for this fixture after several players were unavailable and rested in last week’s match against East Tamaki. Of significance was the appearance of sevens star Rocky Khan in the number ten jersey, who donned the blue and black at this level for the first time since 2014. Khan had 58 previous appearances for Ponsonby at this level and his experience was invaluable in this encounter.
Freedom Vaha’akolo had the honour of leading the team onto the stadium in what was in 40th and blazer game. Sadly his appearance was cut short with an injury forcing him from the field early on.
Eden found themselves with a handful of early penalty goals which allowed them to attack at will. They attacked for much of the first ten minutes and looked to flourish once inside the Ponsonby 22. Alas they conceded a turnover, and the blue and blacks launched a counter attack. Tatsuya Hamano raced away from broken play 20 metres from his own line, the passing to William Talataina-Mu who placed a well timed wipers kick away from the Eden defenders, the ball dribbling out 15 metres inside the Eden half. Ponsonby stole the Eden lineout, and a superb Talataina-Mu break then freed Rocky Khan to sprint to the line and dot down under the bar. Jordan Trainor added the extra two points giving his side a handy 7-0 lead.
With the ball in hand Ponsonby looked dangerous, and extremely entertaining, both backs and forwards producing some silky skills.
Taina Fox-Matamua displayed some gritty determination when he scored Ponsonby’s second try. Ponsonby had spent several minutes on attack deep inside the Eden half. Fox-Matamua had a wee bit of room to move along the left hand touch, and with a couple of defenders in tow he charged to the line.
Ponsonby scored their third try just short of the halftime whistle, with Fox-Matamua a dominant figure in the 50 metre move. He made significant territory, throwing a dummy pass as he drew the final two defenders, then offloading to Morrison Siliko who ran unmarked to the line. Trainor converted, stretching the lead to 19-0, which Ponsonby took to the break.
Nine minutes into the second spell Trainor added a penalty goal from 50 metres out, giving Ponsonby a commanding 22-0 lead.
Just moments later Eden went onto attack, but their move fell down inside the Ponsonby 22 when they watched their hard work come undone as a key pass was intercepted. Khan latched onto a misdirected pass and with the goal line and a lot of daylight some 80 metres away, he unleashed his sublime sevens skills. He raced toward the Eden 22, but was ankle tapped from behind. As he fell toward the ground he offloaded to Siliko, who was in support, for the final 20 metres to the line. Trainor could not convert, but Ponsonby had advanced to 27-0.
As the 60 minute mark in the match approached, changes were made from the bench to Ponsonby’s on field XV, and unfortunately momentum seemed to go begging.
Eden crossed for their only try, and solitary score, of the match in the 64th minute, but it was too little, too late for them. Ponsonby had done the damage and had shut them out of the match.
Next week is the last match in this round robin competition and Ponsonby journey south to face Otahuhu who have not enjoyed a wonderful season to date. They have registered just one win from their six matches in this round, and whilst they will offer plenty of resistance against Ponsonby, the blue and blacks have already qualified for the next round, but will want to progress with their unbeaten record intact.
Tries: Morrison Siliko 2, Rocky Khan and Taina Fox-Matamua
Conversions: Jordan Trainor 2
Penalty: Jordan Trainor
1 Herman Huch; 2 Steven Savali; 3 Connor Halangahu; 4 Moteiva Ngauamo; 5 Jamie Lane;
6 Nepia Fox-Matamua; 7 Aleks Dabek; 8 Taina Fox-Matamua; 9 Tatsuya Hamano;
10 Rocky Khanl 12 William Talataina-Mu; 11 Morrison Siliko; 13 Patrick Tausie; 14 Freedom
Vaha’akolo; 15 Jordan Trainor; 16 Matangireia Yates-Francis; 17 Brice Schilling; 18 Phil Viane;
19 McCarthy Cocker-Filikitonga; 20 Waharai Waitohi: 21 Campbell Woodmass; 22 Tilitili Puloka