Rugby: Ponies off to a winning start with Cup

By Campbell Burnes

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Ponsonby have claimed the first major club rugby silverware of the 2014 season with a solid 15-10 win over University in Saturday's final of the Waka Nathan Challenge Cup at Varsity's home turf of Colin Maiden Park.

Ponies were the better side but the normally reliable goalkicker, No 10 Michael Stanley, could not convert several early penalty goal attempts, while Varsity halfback Sam Marshall opened the scoring with a penalty of his own.

Ponies fullback Danny Tusitala almost crossed after a chip and chase but the visitors finally scored from a turnover after wing Aleni Ropati fed replacement Alex Matapo.

Stanley waltzed over off a scrum, shrugging off some weak University defence, to seal the match for Ponsonby.

Pat Tuidraki's try at the death after some decent passing off phase play by Varsity was pure consolation.

Ponsonby openside flanker Blake Gibson impressed, as did University left-wing Lachlan Cooper, who nearly scored in the corner in the first half.

There were no fewer than three former All Black loose forwards on hand: Sir John Graham, himself a Gallaher Shield winner with University in the 1950s, Steve Surridge, wearing his New Zealand Universities selector's hat, and Waka Nathan himself, who presented the trophy that carries his name to winning captain Gafatasi Sua.

There was a good, appreciative crowd to see a loose but open game of rugby in very warm conditions, which saw the players throw up plenty of dust when hitting the deck, and with club cricket on the outer oval as the backdrop.

Papatoetoe, coached again by former Manu Samoa loose forward Luke Mealamu, defeated Manukau Rovers 33-22 to take the Pollard Cup, the second tier Auckland pre-season competition.

The competition proper for the Alan McEvoy Memorial Trophy kicks off this Saturday.

- NZ Herald

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