Last Saturday’s penultimate round of the Alan McEvoy trophy saw a classic game of two halves between Ponsonby and Waitemata. The blue and blacks turned at halftime looking at an 18-0 deficit on the scoreboard, and it required an 80th minute try by them to even the scores.
The two valuable bonus points earned in the 18-18 draw allows Ponsonby to retain their spot at the top of the competition table, maintaining a handy three point buffer over the second placed side, University.
From the start against Waitemata, Ponsonby struggled to get into the game. The west Aucklanders did a good job of disrupting Ponsonby’s gameplan, forcing them into numerous errors.
The first try in the match came from an attempted clearing kick just ten metres from the Ponsonby line. The kick was charged down, the ball rebounding back to the in-goal area. Waitemata flanker Adrian Choat was successful in forcing the ball before it dribbled over the dead ball line.
With the breeze at their back Waitemata kicked cleverly to the corners, Ponsonby regularly having to defend their territory. Penalties started to mount against the blue and blacks, and errors kept occurring.
Waitemata further extended their lead to 10-0, then to 13-0 in the 21st and 27th minutes with penalty goals from the boot of Junior Matautia.
Waitemata kept plugging away as the spell progressed, and Ponsonby were called upon to defend. Despite Ponsonby’s efforts, just short of the break the home side found a gap and their hooker Vaea Vak’atua scored from broken play.
Ponsonby commenced the second half, acutely aware that they had barely fired a shot in the first spell.
In the first ten minutes they started to string some phases together, and eventually they were able to break the defence. A penalty was awarded to Ponsonby close to the Waitemata line. The ball was tapped quickly by William Talataina-Mu and he was dragged down just short. The ball was recycled, play going to the left, and Morrison Siliko snuck through a small gap. The conversion drifted wide.
Into the final quarter Ponsonby trailed by 18-5, but continued to look for ways to penetrate the Waitemata defence.
Talataina-Mu scored in the 65th minute, and his attempted conversion was unsuccessful. However the referee ruled that the Waitemata side charged the conversion attempt early, so Ponsonby were given another chance at the conversion, which fell just short.
The turning point in the match for Ponsonby came in the 69th minute when Morrison Siliko was close to scoring, but was felled in a high tackle. The offending Waitemata player was marched to the bin, and Talataina-Mu goaled the ensuing penalty.
Ponsonby spent the final ten minutes attacking the Waitemata territory, and it wasn’t until the last play of the match that they had an attacking scrum five metres from their hosts goal line. Initially it looked like Ponsonby may attempt a push over try, but the ball went left to Noah Mataia to score in the corner.
Ponsonby ensured that the Anton Begovich Memorial Trophy will reside at Western Springs until next season, at least.
Next week’s final round of the competition has Ponsonby hosting Pakuranga at Western Springs stadium. Pakuranga languish in 7th place on the table, and a spot amongst the Gallaher Shield finalists is now beyond their reach. The two sides last met on the 21st of April at Bell Park, when Ponsonby scored a last minute try to seize victory away from Pakuranga. Ponsonby emerged with a 25-22 win that day, and Pakuranga will most certainly want to avenge that result.
Tries: Morrison Siliko, William Talataina-Mu and Noah Mataia
Penalty: William Talataina-Mu