Peter Umaga-Jensen is one half of the most talked about twins in New Zealand age group rugby. So what's it like not playing with his brother Thomas in 2016?
"It's sad and weird, but I guess it was going to happen eventually," Peter admits.
Both boys were courted by ever major union in the country: Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago. Thomas has ventured south to Dunedin and Peter has stayed in Wellington. After only five rounds of Swindale Shield Premier club rugby, Peter has already earned two man of the match awards for his club Wainuiomata.
"I was always going to go to Wainui if I stayed in Wellington. I was born there and it's my home. The season has been going good so far, though we always make slow starts. We were down 22-0 on Saturday and won, but we can't keep doing that," Peter says.
Scots College is about as far from Wainuiomata as it gets. Scots is a prestigious private school in Strathmore with a decile ten rating. Wainuiomata has one high school with a decile three rating. Up until a few years ago Scots only enjoyed a modest rugby reputation, but extensive recruitment, professional standard coaching and a remarkable Wainuiomata connection has seen the school transform into a National powerhouse.
"In 2010 Scots beat Wellington College for the first time 19-17. That was a big deal and there were a couple of Wainui boys who played in that game. It was obvious Scots was on the up. In 2011 Earl Va'a (Wellington Lions Head Coach) became the school’scoach and he had connections to Wainui. Thomas and I were offered scholarships and that's how I ended up at Scots," Peter explains.
Elias Vole (Melbourne Storm), Henry Stowers (Wellington Lions), TJ Va'a (New Zealand under-20) and Jordon Glenn-Bradbrook (Wellington under-19) were other Wainuiomata talents that were lured to Scots.
From the ages of 11 to 15 the twins were league players. Peter was tempted by offers to the Panthers and Warriors NRL franchises.
"I really enjoyed league. I was mainly a centre, but I played every position in the backline. My favourite game was when Wainui High School beat St. Pats Silverstream in the Jonny Lomax Cup final. I got man of the match," Peter enthuses.
Peter wasn't so positive about his debut for the Scots First XV in 2013. "I did nothing and we lost to New Plymouth," he laments. In fact Peter only played five games that season.
In 2014 the twins both played multiple positions and were human wrecking balls as Scots shared the National Top Four title - the best ever result by a Wellington school. However the season wasn't always smooth sailing. Scots lost their first game to Sacred Heart College (0-43) and were tipped over by St. Pats Silverstream (26-28) in the Wellington round-robin. When did things really click for Scots?
"I don't think it was until the Wellington semi-final against St. Pats Town. It was real wet that day, but everything went right and we won 36-12," Peter recalls.
The final against St. Pats Silverstream was the first major decider Scots had contested and understandably they started in an apprehensive fashion. Peter laughs when recalling the dismay of Earl Va'a at halftime.
"He told us that was the worst half of the season. He asked us 'what are we doing,'"
Early in the second-half Scots roared ahead 18-3. Peter scored a try, but Silverstream rallied to leave the scores tied at 18-apeice. On fulltime Scots won a penalty on the Silverstream 22. Peter captures the drama.
"I was on the right side of the field waiting for the ball from the next ruck. I didn't even know how much time was left. TJ (Va'a) was the only player who knew if he missed, Scots lost because Silverstream finished ahead of us in the round-robin."
At the National Top Four, Peter had an imposing assignment marking the eventual NZ Schools captain Rieko Ioane in the semi-final. It was a miss-match. Scots smashed Auckland Grammar School 39-22, but Peter is humble about his contribution.
"I didn't do a lot to be honest. Rieko rocked my head back in an early tackle. I think he is an awesome player."
Scots made an awesome start to the final. They raced ahead 19-0.
"I couldn't believe it, none of us could. It was the last thing we expected to happen," Peter says.
Hamilton charged-back and the game finished 26-all. Peter scored a try and Thomas was named man of the match. Unsurprisingly both boys were selected for the New Zealand Schools.' The team was accidently leaked and publicly announced before the twins had confirmed their availability. Why did they withdraw?
"Making NZ Schools' as a Year 12 wasn't something I thought about. I still had another year to go and I didn't expect to make the team. I got a text saying I was in the team. I was very proud, but I wanted to stay focussed on my studies. I didn't go to Scots just to play rugby. I don't like it when people accuse me of that. I talked to my parents, the headmaster and some close mates and we all agreed that I needed to concrete on my studies," Peter insists.
Thomas won the senior oratory prize with a speech about why he was proud to be from Wainuiomata. Peter talked about the opportunities and privileges that arise from playing sport. Peter passed four subjects in Level 3 NCEA, Drama, Art History, Physical Education and Geography. In between trainings he works as a chef at the Rydges Hotel.
In 2015, Peter would learn a lot about leadership. He was appointed skipper of the Scots First XV.
"I loved it, but it was challenging. I am real quiet and I didn't like telling the players off. I felt sad when I did, but when they did things right it was real cool."
Peter concedes Thomas was the hardest player to manage.
"We would always argue about things, but that is brotherly love. When we were younger our backyard games would always end up in fights and Thomas would win," Peter says.
"One day I was riding my bike and Thomas pushed me off. The handle bars smashed into my leg and I had a massive bruise for weeks. I cried and Thomas picked me up and we walked home together."
Scots returned to the National Top Four final in 2015. They won 20 out of 24 games and scored 155 tries in another stellar season. Though they fell short of beating Rotorua in the decider Peter joined TJ Faiane (St. Kentigern College 2012-13) as the only player to score a try in consecutive finals.
Peter was annoyed about the negative publicity Rotorua's win attracted following a player eligibility crisis.
"They were a good side who deserved to beat us. I actually messaged some of their players saying I support them. We did well in the game, it was a good game and it was fair."
Fittingly the twins ended their time at Scots by playing 48 games each and scoring 32 tries. Both toured Australia with the New Zealand Schools', but Peter's tour wasn't very enjoyable.
"I was warming up for the Aussie test and I felt a pain in my back. It was a hematoma and I couldn't play. I was gutted."
In May Peter will return to Australia with the New Zealand Under-20's for two warm up tests ahead of the IRB World Championships in June. Peter is still unsure what his best position is.
"I am still trying to figure that out. I like centre and fullback, but wings pretty much do the same thing as a fullback now."
It should be noted the twins father Tony played everywhere from lock to wing for Wainuiomata. Former All Black Captain and uncle Tana Umaga was also pretty versatile.
"Tana is an inspiration. Away from rugby he is a real proud family man who doesn't talk a lot about rugby. He has always told us to be who we want to be," Peter concludes.
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