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Club Rugby: Ponsonby bag early season silverware

By Sam Warlow

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Ponsonby have secured their first trophy of the season, defeating Eden 34-30 in the Waka Nathan Challenge Cup final.

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Auckland’s hotly contested pre-season tournament concluded in thrilling fashion at Mt. Roskill’s Fearon Park, with both teams trading early points and Ponsonby coming from behind in the final quarter to steal victory.

Ponsonby opened the scoring through hooker Steven Savali, who charged over shortly after a lineout drive from Eden’s five-metre line. Wiseguy Faiane was unable to add the extras, which allowed Eden to claim the lead after an impressive charge down and follow-up for a converted try from young Eden first-five eighth Adrian Lole.

Eden later went down to fourteen men after losing blindside flanker Stuart Ta’avao, who was shown a yellow card after taking exception to referee Richard Loten’s call.

A staunch goal-line stand in Ta’avao’s absence sparked an Eden counter-attack and led to Ponsonby receiving a yellow card of their own after an armless tackle.

This set up a 45-metre shot at goal for Eden fullback Max Leaana, who used the tailwind to calmly send the ball through the posts.

Most of Ponsonby’s attack spawned from Eden errors, as five-eighth Faiane scooped up a loose ball and put a kick in for winger Johnny Cooper who crossed for the Ponies’ second try and weak defence inside the 22 gave captain and number eight Taina Fox-Matamua their third.

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Eden’s forward pack, led by captain Blake Hill, manhandled Ponsonby at scrum time and from the driving maul, the latter culminating in busy prop Franck Friconnet dotting down to give his side the lead heading into half time.

Eden extended their lead shortly after the break through another Leaana penalty. The fullback finished the game with six goals from his seven attempts.

The final twenty belonged to Ponsonby as they crossed for two more tries and opened the gap to as much as eleven points. Johnny Cooper picked up his double after hauling in another beautiful Faiane cross field kick for his side’s fifth try.

Eden scored a consolation try as time expired to finish the game with a four-point deficit.

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Both teams will open their regular season next weekend.

Eden are set to take on defending champion University, while Ponsonby will host Waitakere City.

PONSONBY 34 EDEN 30
HT 17-20

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