Ponsonby after that old magic
With only two matches remaining Ponsonby are in danger of missing out on the championship stages of Auckland’s premier rugby competition.
It’s not time to hit the panic button yet, however a slip up against either East Tamaki or College Rifles could see them miss out on a qualifying position from the white pool.
The 34-20 loss against Grammar TEC on May 9 leaves Ponsonby in fourth place – the last qualifying spot.
And Ponsonby assistant coach Mark Hooper is not mincing his words.
‘‘The equation’s easy – win the last two games,’’ he says.
Grammar TEC are looking the team to beat with another convincing victory in the Alan McEvoy rugby premiership.
The Grammar machine kicked into gear with a dominant second half performance to record their victory against Ponsonby.
Grammar remain unmatched at the top of the white pool and the win books them a place in the next round starting at the end of the month, which under the new format takes the top four teams from both the white and blue pools.
Grammar coach Joe Snee is shaking off the favourites tag despite being the only undefeated side this season.
‘‘Definitely not – we haven’t seen half the teams.
‘‘It’s a good start but we’ve got a long way to go yet,’’ Snee says.
Round five’s match got off to a cracking start with an intercept try to Ponsonby’s Ben Meredith within the first few minutes.
The right wing plucked the ball off the Grammar attack and ran 40 metres to score.
Grammar hit back with two tries of their own through an amazing chipand-chase move re-gathered by Ben Lam to score and Taleni Seu dotting down in the corner.
A Murray Williams penalty kept Ponsonby in front 13-12 at the break.
But the second half belonged to the hosts with three tries burying any hope Ponsonby had of leaving Orakei Domain with the points.
Both teams were severely tested by depth, with a number of players out on national duties for their respective under-20s sides.
Ponsonby’s hurt locker is also mounting with more than a dozen players out, including four first-choice locks.
Describing it as a ‘‘ridiculous’’ scenario, Hooper is still looking on the bright side.
‘‘The guys coming in are doing a good job for us.
‘‘We ran out of puff to be honest, but the attitude is good,’’ he says.
Not long ago Ponsonby was the most revered side in the competition, with 10 titles between 2001 and 2011.
Hooper says the legacy is talked about and it’s something that can be a motivator.
‘‘You’ve got to make sure you’re living in the now,’’ he says. International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach was almost insultingly patronising during his whistlestop visit to New Zealand last week.
Bach suggested New Zealand, ‘‘a great sports country’’, should be able to host an Olympic Games and challenged us to mount a bid.
Even New Zealand Olympic Committee president Mike Stanley, seated next to him, was surprised and said he doubted we would want to go down that path.
What would Bach say if he popped into Solomon Islands capital, Honiara? Would he suggest that country, too, could host an Olympics, just to make his hosts feel warm and fuzzy?
When Montreal hosted the 1976 Olympics, the city incurred a debt of NZ$1.6 billion ($12b in today’s terms), finally clearing it only a few years ago.
When Athens hosted the 2004 Olympics, its debt was about $20b.
Rio de Janeiro, next year’s Olympics host, will be seeking $16b from taxpayers to help cover costs.
Bach knows how financially crippling an Olympics can be – security alone for the 2012 London Olympics was $2b. It included 13,000 police, 17,000 members of the armed forces, 10,000 private security staff, and naval and air assets including surfaceto-air missiles.
The idea of New Zealand countenancing all that, even without the massive spending required for stadiums and transport, is preposterous.
It reminds me of Mike Moore as Minister for Sport in the late 1980s forming a task force that included his mate, businessman Bob Jones, to study the feasibility of New Zealand hosting a winter Olympics.
The group concluded the concept was feasible.
Amazed, I asked Jones if he could really imagine New Zealand hosting a winter Olympics.
‘‘We only said it was feasible, not that it would happen,’’ he said.
In the spirit of Bach, Martin Snedden, who headed the 2011 Rugby World Cup organising team, has suggested New Zealand is capable of jointly hosting a Football World Cup.
This idea is mind boggling.
Snedden suggested New Zealand and Australia might co-host, but Australia belongs to a different confederation and is ineligible to host in 2026 or 2030.
But Russia is hosting the 2018 tournament, Qatar the 2022 event.
Mercifully Snedden’s idea won’t need to be discussed seriously for at least another decade.
It will be a long time before New Zealand hosts any major sports event.
The Rugby World Cup will be in Japan in 2019, probably South Africa in 2023 and Europe in 2027. A United StatesCanada bid and one from Australia would have priority over New Zealand, which means we’d be looking at about 2043 at the earliest.
New Zealand would be better targeting the Commonwealth Games, assuming that continues in the long term.
A regional – rather than city – bid would be feasible. Even then, it will be a while away.
The Commonwealth Games will be on the Gold Coast in 2018, and Durban seems a racing certainty to host in 2022.
Grammar TEC’s Ben Lam tries to break the Ponsonby defence.
Ponsonby’s Ryoto Nagamura runs into heavy traffic.