Raiders win but eyes on Ponsonby side

The South Pacific Raiders took the honours in the first game of the Otago Rugby League season, beating University 30-12.

But all eyes were on the other raiders — the ones from Auckland.

The Ponsonby Ponies made their debut on Saturday, flying down to join the Dunedin competition following something of a political stoush in the big smoke.

Predictably, the Aucklanders looked very decent, beating the Kia Toa Tigers 40-10 and Otago University 30-6 at the Kensington Oval.

Classy Ponies centre Mike Williams had the performance of the day, scoring four tries in the win over Kia Toa.

In the only all-local game played, University led 12-10 at halftime before conceding 20 unanswered points to South Pacific in the second half.

Jayden Hollander and Tyson Ball scored tries for the students, before Saimone Samate-Palu (two), Mika Mafi, Oscar Schmidt and Allan Gillies cut loose for the Raiders.

"It was a classic first game of the season, with both teams making plenty of errors, as the continuity of play wasn’t there," South Pacific coach David Reedy said.

Samate-Palu made several tackle busts, Mika Mafi had some strong carries and worked hard on defence, while Oscar Schmidt and Keegan Christian-Gross had their moments in their first appearance in the 13-man code.

University coach Ray Fitiao was encouraged by some of University’s play over its two games.

"We had good go-forward and looked dangerous on attack.

"We were solid on defence with good contact and control of the ruck," Fitiao said.

"Unfortunately, we couldn’t sustain it for long enough periods and struggled at times with the power, speed and width of the opposition’s game."

Matt Nicholson played well in both games for the students, who also had several players on debut, while Jayden Hollander played with his usual skill and passion.

It was Matt Burgess’ last game for the University club as he heads to a new position at the Taranaki Rugby Union.

Kia Toa had to default to South Pacific as it had players away on rugby union duty.

The Waitaki Warriors had two byes and will have their opening games of the season this weekend.


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