The Alan McEvoy Memorial Shield was awarded to the Ponsonby Premiers last Saturday after finishing as the top placed team in the competition at the end of the regular season.
Despite losing to Pakuranga on Saturday afternoon by 27-24, the two bonus points collected by Ponsonby in that match ensured them that they would be the top qualifying side, plus it entitled them to a home ground semi-final match in the pending Gallaher Shield round against Eden next Saturday.
To date in the 2018 season Ponsonby have locked the Waka Nathan Challenge Cup and the Alan McEvoy Memorial Shield away in their Western Springs clubrooms, and they will want the Gallaher Shield to complete the trifecta. However, their preparations have not been as they would have liked with the last three matches of the round producing two losses and a draw.
Going into the match against Pakuranga, Ponsonby needed a win, or at least to secure a bonus point to earn a home semi-final, or two bonus points to achieve the home semi-final and win the Alan McEvoy Memorial Shield. From the kick off the blue and blacks struggled to find some rhythm early on, and as they tried to settle into the task at hand, they started to make errors and concede penalties.
Pakuranga were first on the board in the 6th minute with a handy penalty being goaled by Obey Samate.
Ponsonby had an opportunity to equalise on the scoreboard after a superb lengthy John Cooper run took them toward the visitors 22, where Pakuranga subsequently infringed. A penalty in front of the posts was awarded, and rather than take the three points on offer, Ponsonby opted for a kick to touch. From the ensuing lineout Ponsonby went close to the Pakuranga line, only to concede a penalty. The relieving penalty by Pakuranga did not find touch, and Ponsonby launched another assault on the visitor’s territory. But as the ball was moved between the Ponsonby backs, a wayward pass was intercepted by the Pakuranga lock John Akau’oka-laula who galloped 60 metres untouched to score. Samate added the extra two points, extending Pakuranga’s lead to 10-0.
At the midway point in the spell Pakuranga fed a lineout some 15 metres on their side of halfway. Steven Savali intercepted the Pakuranga throw, and he set off through a yawning gap toward the goal line. The Ponsonby hooker was dragged down short, and an attacking scrum resulted. Play initially went right, then back left to Noah Mataia on the left wing, who dived in at the corner. William Talataina-Mu converted magnificently from the touchline.
From the restart Pakuranga gained significant territory and found themselves close to the Ponsonby line, only to concede a turnover. Ponsonby were awarded a scrum 5 metres from their line, and then a free kick went in their favour. Rather than kick for touch, or kick the ball into open space, Ponsonby opted for a scrum just metres from their own line. The inevitable then happened. Pakuranga applied pressure to the Ponsonby scrum, earning them a penalty, which was duly goaled with ease by Samate.
For much of the half the bounce of the ball, and the 50/50 calls were not going Ponsonby’s way, and accordingly the blue and blacks found themselves on the backfoot.
A minute before the halftime break Ponsonby fed a lineout on the Pakuranga 22 metre mark, the ball being dragged down by Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa. Play initially went left, then back right where Riedlinger-Kapa was waiting out wide, and he crossed in the corner.
Ponsonby turned at halftime trailing by 13-12 and with two tries in the bank they went straight to work in attempt to double that try tally.
Alas they found themselves on the backfoot in the opening minutes of the second spell. From what seemed to be a promising attack, Talataina-Mu attempted a chip kick in behind the Pakuranga defence, only to have the ball intercepted by Hawaii Ahokavi who raced 40 metres to the line. He then converted his try, extending the Pakuranga lead to 20-12.
It wasn’t until the 11th minute of the half that Ponsonby were able to successfully string some promising phases together which paid dividends, and a sweeping move which started in their own half was finished by John Cooper in the right-hand corner.
Five minutes later Ponsonby again applied pressure, and it paid off. A lineout inside the Pakuranga 22 was won cleanly, and some good work by Steven Savali, saw play move toward the line. The forward pack laid the platform for the backs to use. A deft pass from Talataina-Mu freed Patrick Tausie into space, scoring Ponsonby’s fourth, and bonus point try. Cooper converted, seeing Ponsonby take the lead for the first time in the match at 24-20.
In the final quarter Pakuranga exploited the Ponsonby defence once again and scored alongside the posts. The successful conversion gave the lead back to the visitors at 27-24.
In the last 15 minutes of the encounter Ponsonby tried to break the Pakuranga defence to snare victory, but their efforts were in vain.
Ponsonby will turn their attention to next week’s semi-final with Eden, conscious of the results in the past couple of weeks. They will be hoping that squad members with niggling injuries are passed fit to play, to ensure that they are at full strength for what is a sudden death encounter.
Tries: Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa, Noah Mataia, Patrick Tausie and John Cooper
Conversions: William Talataina-Mu, John Cooper