The Premiers were keen to grab the Eden trifecta on Saturday afternoon and record their third victory of the season over their geographical neighbours. But their plans were thwarted by a well composed display by Eden, which saw Ponsonby downed by 33-31, ending their 14 match winning streak in 2018.
However, Ponsonby did secure two very valuable bonus points from the match which sees them retain their top spot on the competition table on 21 points. With just two rounds to go Ponsonby will be very keen to maintain their advantage in this round as they progress toward the semi-finals.
The match on Saturday featured two significant achievements form the blue and blacks. Standout performer this season Connor Halangahu, notched up his 40th, and Blazer game. Secondly, fullback Jordan Trainor scored 11 points in the match, giving him a total of 101 points in the season to date.
Eden’s performance featured some extremely precise goal kicking by first five eighth Jacob Umaga, who successfully kicked four penalty goals in the match, the first coming in just the second minute of the game.
The first try of the match was scored by Eden’s halfback, Desma Liaina, who stepped away from several tackles on his run to the line in the 10th minute. Liaina, a former Counties-Manukau halfback, was elusive from the base of the scrum, and was a handful for Ponsonby for the duration of the game.
Soon after the Eden try, Trainor put Ponsonby on the board with a handy penalty goal.
However, Eden responded almost straight away with a penalty goal, restoring their 10 point advantage on the scoreboard.
As the half progressed, Ponsonby were forced to absorb a lot of pressure from Eden. But an outstanding passage of play by the Ponsonby pack saw play go back deep inside the Eden territory, and then be awarded an attacking scrum just 22 metres from the Eden line. From the scrum base, the Ponsonby halfback, Rilloy Suesue, with the ball in hand dart and dive between the defence and score alongside the posts. Trainor added the extra two points.
From the restart, Ponsonby launched an assault on the Eden territory which saw Trainor make some good ground, then offload to Morrison Siliko on the left wing. Siliko raced down the left flank, eluding the opposition, and then completed the 60 metre move in the left hand corner. Trainor’s conversion attempt drifted away, but Ponsonby had the lead in the match for the first time at 15-13.
But the lead was short-lived, Umaga putting Eden back in front with another penalty goal.
Many of the Eden players were still returning to their respective on-field positions when Taina Fox-Matamua claimed the restart. The Ponsonby number 8 set off on an outstanding run which saw him gain 70 metres, and then be dragged down just metres short of the goal line. A ruck formed, and Fox-Matamua picked up the ball and crashed over. The conversion fell away, but Ponsonby had the lead once again, this time at 20-16.
Eden had the last say in the half, with another Umaga penalty goal, the sides going to the break with Ponsonby maintaining a slender 20-19 lead.
Ponsonby were first on the board in the second spell in the 52nd minute, with a Trainor penalty goal.
Ponsonby’s narrow lead of 23-19 was short-lived, with Eden responding with their second try of the match in the 56th minute, the try being scored close to the sticks, and converted accordingly.
As the match moved into final quarter, the advantage was looking very much in Eden’s favour. This looked more-so when Liaina scored a soft try, and his second of the match. The extra two points extended Eden’s lead to 33-23.
Despite what the scoreboard read, Ponsonby battled away and showed plenty of determination in their fightback.
Trainor added his third penalty goal in the 68th minute, taking the scoreboard to within seven points of their hosts.
With four minutes to run Patrick Tausie finished off a slick backline move, but the conversion attempt was unsuccessful.
A late rally by Ponsonby was fruitless, and they will acknowledge that Eden deserved the win.
With the Eden match now behind them Ponsonby can regroup and set their sights on next weeks encounter with Waitemata, scheduled to be played on their home ground in Henderson. Waitemata are not completely out of play off contention, and are never an easy prospect on their pitch. At stake will be the Anton Begovich memorial trophy, which is currently in residence at Western Springs stadium since June 2016 when Ponsonby defeated Waitemata by 41-23.
Tries: Rilloy Suesue, Morrison Siliko, Taina Fox-Matamua and Patrick Tausie
Conversions: Jordan Trainor
Penalties: Jordan Trainor 3