Ponsonby maintained their unbeaten record yesterday with a comeback 18-17 victory over previously unbeaten Waitemata, who let a golden opportunity slip by to record a rare win against the Ponies.
The first half began with strong defence and both teams making errors. However, the boys from out west, buoyed by impressive home support, scored three tries in 15 minutes and seemed to be on target.
Waitemata first-five Dusan Haaraia, fullback Tila Toailoa and second-five Saua Alainuuese all scored tries for the home side before the halftime whistle.
But Waitemata were guilty of sitting back on their lead and had also missed too many shots at goal to put the game out of reach. This cost them when the Ponies bucked.
Former Takapuna wing Steve Skinnon was at the heart of the comeback with his bustling runs. The forwards opened the scoring for Ponsonby with a disciplined, controlled drive from a lineout. Centre Mark Lawson crossed the line soon after and it was suddenly 17-12 with 10 minutes left on the clock.
With five minutes to go flanker Tevita Finau drove over from another lineout to level the scores. Dead-eye kicker Brett Williams made no mistake with the conversion and Waitemata coach Lindsay Ellery could be excused an inappropriate adjective or two when the ref blew full time.
University got their season back on track with an impressive 24-0 victory over East Tamaki. This was achieved despite the presence of former All Black Pita Alatini and Manu Samoa player Tupo Faamasino for the losers.
East Tamaki made too many ball handling errors and their indiscipline led to a huge penalty count against them.
Marist managed to outmuscle Pakuranga 20-6 and will be pleased with their second placing on the points table, despite some recent disappointing performances.
Grammar/Carlton beat Otahuhu 20-13. Another close contest showed how competitive the championship is this year, with Otahuhu near the bottom of the table.
Waitakere recorded the only hiding with a 71-3 dispatching of a disappointing Papatoetoe.
Burly prop Joe Afoa emerged as an unlikely hero when Northcote yesterday pipped Marist to make the final next weekend of the crossover round in the North Harbour premier rugby competition.
Northcote finished unbeaten in their section when Afoa, running like a three-quarter, hurtled down the right flank and tossed a perfect pass infield for fullback Justin Beatty to score under the posts to give the side a 13-10 win.
Northcote will meet the winner of the other section, Massey, which yesterday completed an unbeaten record with a 41-3 win over Kumeu. Centre Jagger Too scored three tries and young wing Ken Pisi scored two.
The big upset yesterday came when East Coast Bays, who have struggled in recent seasons, overcame a halftime deficit to beat last year's champions, Takapuna, 30-22.
Helensville were comfortable 27-3 winners over Mahurangi and North Shore ruined Lance Fitzpatrick's 200 premier club games for Silverdale with a 42-15 win.
Silverdale missed promising loose forward Robbie Calhoun, who was out with concussion, and were outplayed by a Shore side well led in the forwards by Rore Brown and with a big asset at centre in the goalkicking of Hayden Abercrombie.