Poneke claim glory in Hardham Cup
Poneke halfback Edwin Ainley has scored all of his team's points during a 19-9 win over Northern United in today's Hardham Cup final at the Hutt Recreation Ground.
Ainley put on a brilliant individual peformance to score the only try of the match, convert it, then add four penalties to guide his side to Wellington's second division premier title for the second time in three years.
It was a deserved win for the Shane McClure-coached Poneke side who were rewarded for a more composed performance than their opponents.
Outside Ainley, first five eighth Pakai Turia showed his maturity with a mature display. He kicked the ball well out of hand and generally took sound options.
Openside Greg Foe and captain and blindside Galu Taufale were the pick of a pack that attacked the breakdown effectively, while Ben Huntly defended soundly in the midfield.
Norths had some strong performers including openside Fala Tuala who gained numerous turnovers and veteran prop Henry Smith in the pack, and light-footed wing Aukuso Tuitama and strong-running wing Perry Hayman in the backs.
But they will rue a flawed game plan as they constantly tried to run the ball out of their own territory, even when they had the use of a decent breeze in the second half.
Those tactics gifted Poneke soft points as referee Vincent Ringrose penalised Norths in kickable positions.
Norths took an early 3-0 lead through the boot of centre Jackson Garden-Bachop, but after prop Judd Baker had helped rumble Poneke into the 22 after 15 minutes, Ainley seized the moment.
Instead of taking the easy points, the halfback took the quick tap, dummied and scooted over for the try and a 7-3 lead.
Ainley and Garden Bachop traded penalties before and after halftime and it was anyone's match with 20 minutes to play at 16-9.
Needing a converted try to draw level, Norths injected Rob Aloe into the playmaking role, but he continued the ball in hand tactics.
With 12 minutes to play Ainley knocked over his fourth and final penalty leaving Norths to desperately chase the game.
No 8 Anthony Masina lost the ball over the line as Norths laid seige to the Poneke try line but they could finish off the opportunities.
That frustration boiled over on the stroke of full time as Hayman was sinbinned for a punch.
Poneke 19 (Edwin Ainley try, con, 4 pens)
Northern United 9 (Jackson Garden-Bachop 3 pens). HT: 10-6.