The Ponsonby Premiers have booked themselves a spot in next weeks Gallaher Shield final where they will square off against the 2017 champions, University.
In last Saturday’s semi-final Ponsonby put in a huge defensive effort and masterly attacking effort to overcome Eden by 24-7.
Next Saturday’s participation in the Gallaher Shield final is the first for Ponsonby since they last won the prestigious trophy in 2011 when they edged Grammar-Carlton by 20-19. To date in 2018 this Ponsonby side have won the Waka Nathan Challenge Cup and the Alan McEvoy Memorial Shield, and adding the Gallaher Shield would complete what has been an impressive season.
Against Eden, Jamie Lane was handed the honour of leading the team onto Western Springs Stadium in what was his 40th and Blazer game. Lane was to be an imposing figure in this match, and his onfield energy and his lineout domination is testament to his commitment and passion for the game.
Both sides displayed plenty of early vitality, but the tension was evident. Eden were buoyed by a huge band of loyal supporters, who were to be in strong voice for much of the match.
Ponsonby were first on the board with a John Cooper penalty goal in the 10th minute.
Eden then spent the next several minutes attacking Ponsonby, which saw them take play from deep inside their own territory close to the Ponsonby line. Ponsonby defended phase after phase, but in the end were powerless to prevent Paulo Sasulu from crashing over. The conversion attempt by Jacob Umaga hit the upright and fortuitously bounced over.
With a 7-3 lead Eden’s game lifted and they applied a lot of pressure to Ponsonby, but the blue and blacks were up to the challenge, spearheaded by a massive defensive effort by their captain Aleks Dabek.
Eventually Ponsonby had a chance to turn the tides. An Eden clearing kick failed to find touch, and was taken by Morrison Siliko some 15 metres on the Ponsonby side of halfway. Siliko combined with Freedom Vaha’akalo in a move that split the Eden defence, and with some excellent support from Steven Savali and Wilson Lavelua, this move extended toward the Eden 22 metre mark. Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa was on hand to collect the final pass, and scored beneath the posts completing the lengthy move and what was a magnificent try. Cooper added the conversion, giving the lead back to Ponsonby at 10-7.
In the last ten minutes of the half the pendulum swung back the way of Eden when Herman Huch was sinbinned for a professional foul. However Eden were unable to penetrate the Ponsonby defence during the period that they had a one man advantage, including not succeeding with a 40 metre penalty goal attempt from in front.
Herman Huch rejoined the side just as halftime was called, and despite them leading on the scoreboard, Ponsonby were aware Eden had dominated proceedings for much of that spell. The game was definitely in the balance, with both sides aware that they had 40 minutes remaining to finish strongly, or their season would be over.
However for Eden their match was to change inside the opening ten minutes of the second spell. In the 47th minute a superb William Talataina-Mu break, plus good support from Campbell Woodmass put Ponsonby onto attack. Once inside the Eden 22 the promising move was halted illegally. The Eden infringement incurred a penalty, and the offending player marched to the sinbin for ten minutes. Ponsonby took a quick tap penalty, and Taina Fox-Matamua barged over. The Cooper conversion was unsuccessful, but Ponsonby had a solid 15-7 advantage.
In the final quarter John Cooper goaled three penalty goals, two from 40 metres, and one from 35 metres out, the combined nine points extending Ponsonby to their 24-7 final score.
Tries: Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa and Taina Fox-Matamua
Conversion: John Cooper
Penalties: John Cooper 4