The Ponsonby Premier side had one of their strongest assignments of the year when they faced Suburbs last Saturday afternoon. It was evident that Suburbs were desperate for the win to keep their play off hopes alive, but Ponsonby held on for a 20-16 victory. Suburbs did enough to disrupt the Ponsonby game plan, and those on hand witnessed a huge defensive effort by the blue and blacks rather than the expansive game which had been displayed in the previous weeks.
Ponsonby were called upon to absorb a lot of pressure from Suburbs right from the start, and a series of penalties against them did not help. As the penalties mounted, referee Geoff Willmott issued a warning to Ponsonby that evasive action would result if these indiscretions continued, and true to his word, in the 13th minute the lock Moteiva Ngauamo was shown a yellow card.
Ponsonby successfully defended their line and kept the scoreboard in tact for nine of the minutes that Ngauamo was in the bin, but just as he was about to return, Carl Perry goaled a handy penalty for Suburbs.
The match was 23 minutes old before Ponsonby were able to enter the visitor’s territory, and it was at this stage that William Talataina-Mu goaled a penalty for Ponsonby.
Having points on the board seemed to kick start Ponsonby into action, and they started to apply pressure to Suburbs. Their first try eventually came in the 34th minute when Taina Fox-Matamua crashed over from a scrum a few metres out.
From the Suburbs restart, Campbell Woodmass angled a perfect kick back into the visitors half. A Suburbs man accepted the kick, but could not prevent the ball from bouncing from his arms and into touch. Ponsonby then executed a quick throw in, with Aleks Dabek setting up Tilitili Puloka for a 30 metre sprint to the line.
Ponsonby turned at 13-3 ahead, acutely aware that the latter period of the first spell belonged to them, but they needed more points to keep Suburbs at bay.
The opening minutes of the second spell belonged to Suburbs, and they effectively dominated proceedings. A clever move saw them score in the right hand corner in the 45th minute, the try not being converted.
Ponsonby were again called upon to make a large number of tackles, and proficiently shut down wave after wave of Suburbs attacks.
In the 55th minute Ponsonby skilfully effected a set move which saw play move wide through the backs, and Freedom Vaha’akalo score in the right hand corner.
Soon after, Perry goaled again for Suburbs, the scoreboard showing 20-11 in Ponsonby’s favour.
With three tries in the bag, Ponsonby were eager to score again, and secure a valuable bonus point. They launched an assault on Suburbs from 50 metres out, and with a lot of space ahead and no defenders, signs looked good. However, a wayward pass was intercepted by Suburbs speedster Bruno Tuivai, who raced to the line. The conversion fell short, and Ponsonby had a slender 20-16 lead.
In the last 15 minutes Suburbs threw everything at Ponsonby, and the blue and blacks tackled their hearts out. Two penalty goal attempts by Ponsonby in this period would have relieved some pressure, but these attempts were unsuccessful.
Ponsonby held on for the win, and will acknowledge that Suburbs gave them one of their toughest tests of the competition. The win sees Ponsonby retain their spot at the top of the competition table and have won every match to date in 2018. With three matches remaining in the round they will be keen to continue their winning ways to strengthen their chances of a place in, and home ground advantage in the imminent semi-finals.
Next week Ponsonby travel up the road to Gribblehurst Park to tackle Eden, who have rediscovered the impressive form that saw them dominate the competition earlier in the 2018 season.