Auckland's Gallaher Shield final lives up to expectation
by Huw Turner
July 31, 2000

The final of the Gallaher Shield competition, New Zealand's premier club rugby competition, lived up to expectations on Saturday, as Otahuhu and Ponsonby both fought for the coveted title and to take the shield home.

In the end, determination and gritty defence from Otahuhu won through. Beating Ponsonby by 24 points to 13, the young team became Gallaher Shield champions for the first time since 1982.

"Both teams played very competitively right through the game," said Bruce Robertson, ARFU Rugby Manager. "Although Otahuhu had the points on the board, Ponsonby was always only one try away from being right back in the game and they fought hard to achieve that.

"In the end, Otahuhu's defence was excellent and in the last ten minutes they dominated the play to seal the championship. It was a great moment for the Otahuhu community and we were delighted to see so many supporters there cheering on the team."

Auckland Rugby Chief Executive, Geoff Hipkins, said one of the highlights of the afternoon was the number of people who came to enjoy the spectacle.With free entry to the game, close to ten thousand fans turned up to watch the event, vocal and very visible in their team colours. They created a festive atmosphere that was a suitable finishing touch to a strong competition.

"The supporters really made the day with their enthusiasm and sense of fun, and I'm sure the players felt that there were more than just 15 men on the field determined to win," he said.

"The people who came along proved that some people's perception of a dying rugby community in Auckland is not based on reality. It was a great family occasion."

Tries for Otahuhu were scored by lock Bradley Mika during the first half and second-five Robert Laban in the last ten minutes of the game. Tupe Fanolua kicking three penalties and a conversion, while a trademark drop goal came from fullback Orene Ai'i.

For Ponsonby, Brett Williams, substituted on the wing, took the ball over the line in the last minutes while fullback Gavin Williams was on kicking duty with a conversion and two penalties.

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