Ponsonby edge Gallaher rematch

Auckland

Ponsonby maintained their edge over Waitakere City - but only just - in another close and exciting clash when last year's Gallaher Shield finalists met for the first time this season.

Playing on Waitakere City's home ground at Waitakere Stadium, Ponsonby were always in front, finally winning 23-17. But that didn't tell the full story of this match.

Down 13-7 at halftime, Waitakere City fought tenaciously throughout the second half and, with just five minutes to go, had closed to within two points at 16-14. Then, against the run of play, Ponsonby broke out of their own half, and wingers David Smith and Leo Taliu combined for Taliu to score the try that sealed the match.

With time up, Waitakere City were awarded a penalty in front of Ponsonby's posts and captain for the day, Joe Tekori, elected to kick for goal which earned Waitakere City a deserved bonus point. That was smart thinking, for even a converted try at that late stage would not have been quite enough to win the match.

In last season's thrilling Gallaher Shield final, Ponsonby scraped home by two points. By beating Waitakere City again yesterday, Ponsonby lifted the Fred Allen Challenge Cup which had been in Waitakare's safe keeping since the end of last season.

Ponsonby are now the outright leaders on the premier one points table, one clear of the only other unbeaten team, Grammar Carlton, who beat Marist 20-3 on Thursday night. Otahuhu moved into equal third place with Waitakere City on the points table after beating the struggling East Tamaki 33-11.

University, 27-20 winners over Pakuranga yesterday, are equal fifth with Te Papapa Onehunga, who scored five tries in a comfortable 32-9 win over Roskill Districts.

Suburbs and Waitemata have predictably cleared out from the opposition in the premier two competition. After being relegated from premier one last season, the two West Auckland clubs are on target to make it back into premier one by mid-season. Yesterday Suburbs beat Papatoetoe 34-12, while Waitemata outclassed Mt Wellington 29-9.

Counties Manukau

Patumahoe transformed into a different side from that which lost to Waiuku last week when they beat Ardmore Marist 35-5.

Their forward pack completely dominated, with prop Poaloi Taula and No 8 Jeff Maka standing out.

Three tries in the first half helped them to a 22-0 lead at halftime. The forward dominance was never more evident than the tighthead pushover try scored by flanker Haani Halaeua just before the break.

Poor discipline dominated the first 25 minutes of the second half when three players (Patumahoe two, Ardmore Marist one) were sent to the sin bin. With subsequent use of substitutes by both coaches, the game lost its structure, however Patumahoe still scored tries to prop Paul Batters and centre A.J. Poa.

Ardmore Marist scored a consolation try to hard-working halfback Kaino Kaino but seemed to struggle for rhythm for most of the game.

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