PJF slip on banana skin
By Niel Kenny
Still top of the league but with no room for error!
The game against Wellingtonians was always going to be a potential banana skin, and so it proved. PJF lost the game in the first 10 minutes and could not claw back the deficit. Wellingtonians started the game with possession and PJF didn't see the ball until they were two scores down. Wellingtonians great strength was there ability to retain possession at the contact and to recycle the ball. This allowed Wellingtonians to sustain periods of pressure which inevitably resulted in a score. Their first try coming off a sustained period of pressure on PJF's line picking and going and hitting the gain line low and at pace and if brought down short the ball was presented well for Wellingtonians to continue to press. Within five minutes PJF's line had been crossed and PJF were already 7 points off the pace. From the kick off the ball bounced short of the 10m line and PJF stood off hoping the ball would cross the line to prevent a scrummage back on the half way. Wellingtonians seized on the hesitation and before the ball had travelled the required 10m opted to accept the kick by collecting the ball and surging forward. A fundamental error by PJF for which they would pay dearly. The charging Wellingtonian player was eventually brought to ground just outside of PJFs 22m. The ball was well recycled and from this base Wellingtonians launched a series of attacks which saw them go over and run in under the posts. PJF had started cold and looked shell shocked. Heads were scratched and answers sought. Eventually PJF won some possession and started to exert some pressure of their own. The pack, solid in the set scrums were winning good first phase ball and PJF drove into the Wellingtonians 22m only to be turned over at the last or commit a handling error. The game was going to be a frustrating one for PJF. It wasn't until 30 minutes into the game that PJF managed to create a real opportunity and Chase Thompson charged over in the corner. The difficult kick was missed, but at least PJF were on the score board. Wellingtonians came back at PJF recycling the ball well and working their way into PJF's 22m and again finding their way through the PJF defence ran in under the posts for their third try and a 21-5 lead.
From the restart PJF drove into the Wellingtonians 22m and won a line out 10m from the Wellingtonian line. From the resulting maul the forwards, initially held rolled off and surged towards the line with Joe Dwyer grounding before it was pushed back onto the pitch side of the line by the defence. The referee could not award the try as he hadn't seen the grounding and a 5m scrum was all that was awarded and after a turn over Wellingtonians managed to kick the ball dead for half time.
The second half started with PJF still 16 points off the pace. After several frustrating attacks where PJF got themselves into a strong position in the Wellingtonians' 22m only to be turned over as the ball carrier was isolated and stripped or conceding a penalty for holding onto the ball. Eventually from a ruck a few meters out the balls was sent wide for Chase Thompson to go over and run in under the posts. Pierce Fernando kick the conversion. PJF continued to press and Wellingtonians with two players in the sin bin conceded a scrum 5m out for Finlay Hawes to pick up at number eight and drive over for the try. The kick narrowly missed just ducking under the crossbar.
Time was running out for PJF who had matched their opponents on try count but were still 4 points short. With the game entering the last six minutes Wellingtonians won a penalty on the edge of PJF's 22m and elected to kick which they successfully converted to go 24-17 up. From the restart PJF had one final opportunity to attack from deep but a player got isolated and stripped and Wellingtonians managed to run down the clock and kill off the game.
The difference between the sides? The first 10 minutes where PJF failed to show up and the ability of Wellingtonians to retain their possession and sustain their pressure on PJF's line whereas PJF created several opportunities only to surrender possession cheaply by being stripped in the tackle once isolated or conceding a penalty.
PJF still top the table but they now have no cushion between themselves and the chasing pack of teams. Unless PJF learn the lessons of this defeat there may be a few more banana skins before the end of the season.