Through a curious twist of fate St. Andrew's College Second XV beat the Scots College equivalent last year and claimed the Moascar Cup,
Sensibly the trophy was passed onto the First XV who successfully defended it while winning the National co-education Top Four tournament in Rotorua. Sam Gilbert insists the First XV had to "earn the right to touch it."
"When the Second XV was in a position to challenge for the Moascar Cup we did some research to understand the history and rules of the trophy. We learned it was a huge privilege to hold it so when we went to the Top Four we were determined to earn it ourselves," Gilbert says.
St. Andrew's beat Feilding High School 27-18 and Cambridge High School 30-13 to keep it for the summer. This year St. Andrew's have repelled the challenge of Rangiora High School 43-13. This Saturday on Land Rover First XV rugby St. Andrew's host Marlborough Boys' College in what is expected to be a tough defence.
"We have huge respect for Marlborough Boys.' We expect them to have a big forward pack who will look to take us on up front. They also have some threats out wide as they showed when they beat Christchurch Boys' High," Gilbert says.
St. Andrew's have won their first four matches in the UC Championship this year. In pre-season their form was somewhat sluggish, losing both matches at the Presbyterian Quadrangular tournament against St. Kentigern College and Lindisfarne College.
"We have come a long way since quad. We have 14 or 15 new players in the team this year so to face St. Kent's, one of the best teams in the country, in our first real hit out was a tough start. We were pleased with our first twenty minutes. We held them to 19-12 and played some good footy, but I guess errors and nerves really cost us," Gilbert concedes.
In 2015 St. Andrew's won 16 out of 18 matches and reached the semi-finals of the UC Championship for the first time in several seasons, beating traditional rivals Christchurch BHS, St. Bede's College and Christ's College. Controlling nerves was a big part of the teams' success.
"We had a group of senior players like Harrison Allen (NZ Schools) who really stepped up and took a lot of responsibility on and off the field. We won a lot of close games because of that strong leadership group," Gilbert explains.
In 2016 St. Andrew's have a senior leadership group of six players each of whom take responsibility for a particular aspect of the game with the captain having the final say. First-five Gilbert is in charge of attack and goal-kicking. Last season Gilbert played fullback. Which is his preferred position?
"Definitely first-five. I have played first-five for most of my life. The only reason I played fullback last season was because we had a really good first-five and I wanted to get into the team. I like being closer to the attacking line and trying to control the game," he says.
Gilbert scored 144 points last season and has kicked around 80% for the last two years. He kicked a memorable 40m penalty on Land Rover First XV rugby to help St. Andrew's beat Christchurch BHS 25-24.
"I remember being angry with myself for missing a similar kick two minutes earlier. We won another penalty and the captain asked me if I wanted to have a crack. I made some adjustments and kicked the goal. It was pretty noisy when it went over," Gilbert recalls.
Gilbert has made some noise in the summer as a cricketer. He is the captain of the St. Andrew's First XI and has been in the team since Year 10. A batsman who bowls off spin, Gilbert's best innings is 103 for the Canterbury Under-17's and his best bowling performance is 5-8.
He says the highlight of his long tenure in the team was beating Christchurch BHS in last season's one day final. Christchurch had won three National Championships.
When the cricket season resumes St. Andrew's, St. Bede's, Christ's and Christchurch BHS will play for a place at Nationals.
"We have a young team, but it's been a pretty good season. Some of the senior guys will have to step up if we are to advance to Nationals," Gilbert concludes.
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