Last Saturday’s second match of the Alan McEvoy Memorial Shield for Ponsonby saw them journey to Bell Park to tackle a belligerent Pakuranga side.
This contest went right down to the wire and featured a nail-biting final few minutes for both sides, but it was Ponsonby who dramatically snatched the win by 25-22 after trailing by 22-6 at the break.
A trip to Bell Park for a Ponsonby player and fan in recent seasons has not always been a pleasurable occurrence, but to experience such an emphatic come from behind victory is something that will be savoured for a long time.
The Ponsonby coaching team made a handful of additions to the starting XV plus some positional changes, from that which had been successful against Waitakere City the previous week. Into the side came Conner Halangahu and Presley Tufuga, joining the forward pack, while Cole Garrick was named to start on the right wing. Once again, the energetic loose forward Aleks Dabek captained the side.
Spirits were high in the Pakuranga camp after seeing the two Premier Development sides compete in the curtain-raiser, which Pakuranga took by 50-17. Many felt that this may be the precursor of things to come.
Pakuranga had first use of a strong breeze, and they used it creatively.
Both sides had opportunities to register points in the opening 15 minutes, but errors were made at crucial times. Ponsonby were guilty of lineout throws not being straight, whilst Pakuranga blew a golden chance when a would be try scorer lost the ball from his clutches as he was able to dot down.
It was Ponsonby who were first on the board with a Wiseguy Faiane penalty goal from a handy position.
Pakuranga were the first to score a try, which came midway through the half when centre George Emosi, in his blazer game, strolled through some mediocre Ponsonby defence to score beneath the posts. Hawaii Ahokovi added the extra two points.
Buoyed by plenty of sideline encouragement, Pakuranga looked to be unstoppable. No sooner had they scored their first try, but they were determined to capitalise on their go forward momentum. They set sail down the right hand touch, and again exploited some deficiencies in the Ponsonby defensive pattern. The fullback Sam Shearer dotting down midway between the posts and the corner flag. The conversion in this instance drifted wide of the upright.
Behind by 12-3 on the scoreboard, Ponsonby were not helping themselves. In their haste to record more points they were conceding turnovers at crucial times, especially at lineout time, the breeze causing havoc during the lineout throw.
A few minutes short of the break Pakuranga crossed for their third try of the match, which was duly converted.
Faiane added a second penalty goal before the halftime whistle, but as the half was about to close, Ponsonby infringed and Pakuranga goaled from a handy position. At halftime Pakuranga had what seemed to be a commanding 22-6 lead.
Straight away from the second half restart Ponsonby infringed. Instead of accepting the three points on offer, Pakuranga chanced their arm and initiated an onslaught on the Ponsonby line. This attack lasted just over two minutes, and the blue and blacks emerged with their line intact.
Through the third quarter of the match, with the wind at their backs, Ponsonby tried valiantly to penetrate the Pakuranga defence, but their attempts were fruitless. The turning point in the match came in the 59th minute of the game, when Ponsonby were hot on attack and just metres from the Pakuranga line their left winger decided to disrupt the movement with an attempted intercept of a pass. Referee Angus Mabey deemed this to be a professional foul, and the winger earned himself ten minutes in the sinbin.
The ensuing penalty was drilled to touch, just five metres from the Pakuranga line. From the lineout, the forwards rallied round Willie Uili and he crashed over. Faiane could not add the extra two points, but Ponsonby were now in a position to strike.
Five minutes later Ponsonby looked hot to score again. From an attacking scrum a few metres from the Pakuranga line they constructed a superb move that saw replacement midfielder Sione Fakapelea carve through the defence and score beneath the posts, complete with a spectacular dive. Faiane converted, and Ponsonby were now just a few points behind at 22-18.
The last seven minutes of this match featured a tense spell that tested the nerves of the Ponsonby management and fans alike. This period of play saw Ponsonby set up camp deep in the Pakuranga half. The blue and blacks were masterful in the manner that they maintained possession. They dominated every facet of play for the dying moments of the match. They spent several minutes agonisingly close to the Pakuranga line, and attempted the ‘pick and go’ method on countless occasions, but the home side were equalled to the task. One side would inevitably crack. With time in the match virtually up, Ponsonby looked to be over the line, but Angus Mabey blew his whistle ruling a penalty in Pakuranga’s favour. Pakuranga were jubilant. They believed that they had the victory. But time was not up. From their line they cleared to touch and formed the lineout just shy of the 22 metre mark in their territory. But, they failed to win their throw to the lineout. Jamie Lane went high, stealing their feed. The ball went wide, and with a clever move by William Talataina-Mu, Ponsonby were in space and Freedom Vaha’akolo sailed through a gap to the line. An eerie silence reigned across the ground. The sizeable crowd had been very vocal for the previous 79 minutes, but they were stunned.
Faiane converted the Vaha’akolo try, and Ponsonby had a 25-22 advantage.
All eyes were on the referee, expecting fulltime to be called.
But there was time to run. Pakuranga launched a last gasp effort on Ponsonby, but it was in vain.
Ponsonby had pulled off a Houdini act, and had the last say in the titanic tussle.
They will now turn their attention to next week’s third round match against Marist at Western Springs Stadium. Marist started the competition in style with a nine try, 56-10 flogging of Otahuhu, but last week in the second round were brought back to earth when they went down to Eden by 47-15. Ponsonby played Marist on one occasion in 2017, with Ponsonby emerging from a tough encounter at Dunkirk Road by 23-21.
Tries: Willie Uili, Sione Fakapelea and Freedom Vaha’akolo
Conversions: Wiseguy Faiane 2
Penalties: Wiseguy Faiane 2
1 Conner Halangahu; 2 Steven Savali; 3 Herman Huch; 4 Jamie Lane; 5 Motieva Ngauamo;
6 Matt Foote; 7 Aleks Dabek; 8 Presley Tufuga; 9 Morrison Siliko; 10 Wiseguy Faiane;
11 Noah Mataia; 12 William Talataina-Mu; 13 Tili Puloka; 14 Cole Garrick; 15 Freedom Vaha’akola;
16 Willie Uili; 17 Brice Schilling; 18 Wilson Lavelua; 19 Tipolo Jr Faalogo;
20 McCarthy Cocker-Filikitonga; 21 Tatsuya Hamano; 22 Sione Fakapelea;