Last Saturday afternoon the Ponsonby Premiers journeyed to Colin Maiden Park in Glen Innes to tackle the current Gallaher Shield holders, University, in the fourth round of the 2018 club competition.
In what would always be a titanic tussle Ponsonby were on the end of a lopsided 2-1 penalty count, but were more convincing than the scoreline may suggest, running out the winners by 28-25. This was a match where Ponsonby made a clear statement about their intentions this season and so many players stood up and showed their class in this extremely exciting team. Ponsonby’s squad this week featured a couple of changes from the previous round. Inspirational loose forward, and former University player, Taina Fox-Matamua returned from injury to start, whilst Patrick Tausie had his first start of the season in the midfield.
Against University every man in the jerseys numbered from one to 22 played their part in a commanding performance. On attack Ponsonby were electrifying, and on defence they tackled as though it were the end of year grand finale. The commitment in this fixture can be highlighted by the tremendous resilience displayed by seasoned campaigner Willie Uili, who suffered a nasty injury to his nose early on. After stemming the flow of claret and some running repairs, Uili returned to the field and carried on, only to succumb to the blood bin once again. This time some more permanent repairs were introduced in the form of some heavy black tape, leaving Uili resembling someone donning a mask. He played a huge part in the match, leading from the front and guiding his young peers to their domination at set piece and the lineouts.
University were brimming with confidence coming into the game, but an error right from the kick off saw Ponsonby on the board in the first minute with a penalty from Wiseguy Faiane.
The next ten minutes belonged to the hosts. A series of penalties in their favour were used for territory, and they then set up camp in the Ponsonby 22. The students eventually crashed over in the 11th minute, the try remaining unconverted.
The blue and blacks scored their first of four tries in the match in the 28th minute, and it was a long range effort, plus a delight for the spectators. University conceded possession deep inside the Ponsonby 22 area, and rather than kick for touch they opted to run. Play went wide to Freedom Vaha’akolo on the right wing, who set off on an exhilarating run down the touchline, stepping his marker and the opposition fullback with ease. Once inside University territory, he changed angle and headed infield, staying away from the defenders on his 70 metre dash.
A few minutes later another scintillating move was to prove fruitful. Ponsonby nabbed a University lineout 10 metres on their side of halfway. Play went left then right across the field, and after some clever interchanging between the backs it was Jordan Trainor displaying some blistering pace as he sped to the line.
The last few minutes of the spell included some contentious calls, as well as a yellow card to William Talataina-Mu. Additionally an attempted University penalty goal from a handy position in front of the posts failed, a miss that was to prove costly.
They did however succeed with a penalty goal a couple of minutes into the second half, taking the score to 13-8 in Ponsonby’s favour.
Through the period that Ponsonby were reduced to 14 men on the field they attempted some adventurous attacking play. During a backline move Trainor looked to kick to the corner, only to see the ball charged by a University man. As luck would have it the ball rebounded into the arms of Patrick Tausie, much to the surprise of the opposition. Tausie made a clean break through the midfield and offloaded to Trainor to race and score beneath the posts. Faiane added the additional two points.
In the 58th minute University were on attack deep inside Ponsonby territory, and whilst under penalty advantage they were able to sneak through to score beneath the posts.
With the scoreline a little close for Ponsonby’s liking they looked for ways to extend their lead. Grabbing a turnover just metres from their own goal line, they initiated a counter attack. After some excellent work from Trainor, play went right to Vaha’akolo who again stepped the defence on a 65 metre sprint to the line, finishing the move with a classic dive.
Faiane further extended the Ponsonby lead at 28-15 with a 40 metre penalty goal in the 67th minute.
University added two late tries, but Ponsonby held on to win by 28-25.
Past the halfway point of the round Ponsonby sits in second place on 19 points from four wins, with just one of the recognised heavyweights of the competition to play. They will now focus on their next assignment which is a visit to East Tamaki on their home ground in Otara. East Tamaki are yet to register their first victory of this round, having lost four from four, most recently being defeated by Waitakere City by 12-3. Whilst Ponsonby are likely to be too slick for them, East Tamaki tend to offer plenty of resistance when on their home ground. To date East Tamaki has conceded 159 points from four games, being on the end of beatings by Pakuranga, University, Eden and Waitakere City. Ponsonby and East Tamaki last met in May 2017 at Western Springs, the blue and blacks the victors on that day by 67-21.
Tries: Freedom Vaha’akolo 2, Jordan Trainor 2
Con: Wiseguy Faiane
Pen: Wiseguy Faiane 2
1 Conner Halangahu; 2 Willie Uili; 3 Herman Huch; 4 Motieva Ngauomo; 5 McCarthy Cocker-Filikitonga; 6 Nepia Fox-Matamua; 7 Aleks Dabek; 8 Taina Fox-Matamua; 9 Tatsuya Hamano; 20 Wiseguy Faiane; 11 Morrison Siliko; 12 William Talataina-Mu; 13 Patrick Tausie; 14 Freedom Vaha’akolo; 15 Jordan Trainor; 16 Steven Savali; 17 Brice Schilling; 18 Samuel Slade; 19 Matt Foote; 10 Campbell Woodmass; 21 Aleni Ropati; 22 Cole Garrick;