On this day two years ago Reece Plumtree and his family moved back to New Zealand after periods in South Africa and Ireland. Life could hardly be better. Dad John Plumtree has just helped the Hurricanes win their maiden Super Rugby title while Reece and his younger brother Taine Plumtree (Wellington U16’s) will line-up for Wellington College in Sunday’s WelTec Premiership final against St. Pats Town at Jerry Collins Stadium.
Wellington have qualified for the decider as the top ranked team. They beat defending champions Town 20-16 in the round robin, but finishing top dog in the regular season has been a poisoned chalice in the capital. The last six sides to have won the round robin have lost the final.
“It will be a tough game. I expect Town to throw new things at us. The last time we played they couldn’t break us until right at the end. Our defence will be important,” Reece says.
Last year Wellington College could hardly buy a win. They lost to St. Pats Silverstream, Scots College (twice), St. Pats Town, Christchurch BHS, Wairarapa College and surrendered the quadrangular title for the first time in 13 years to Nelson College.
Wellington began 2016 in ropey fashion, thumped by Hastings BHS, Gisborne BHS and Palmerston North BHS. The win against Town was vitally important and commenced a run of seven consecutive victories.
“The Town game and the earlier win against Napier Boys’ in the Tranzit Coachlines festival were really important. It showed us we could have a decent team,” Reece reveals.
Reece scored 15 points in the Town triumph and 16 points in the 21-19 Napier victory. In both games he scored long range individual tries. Better was to come against St. Pats Silverstream where he bagged a double and 19 points in a 29-26 win on Land Rover First XV rugby.
“We played pretty average in that game. Twice we were down by 11 points, but when their centre went off they kind of fell apart and we came back strongly to win,” Reece remembers.
Reece believes Wellington’s best performance of the season was the 26-10 win against Christchurch BHS. Reece scored a key try before halftime and things in that game really clicked.
“This year’s team is not split like the 2015 team. There was a bit of a schism between the senior players and the rookies last year. This season everybody gets along and the senior players have learned to be more inclusive. Younger guys like Ish Perkins, Josh Morgan-Ranui and Taine have really stepped up,” Reece explains.
Reece easily switches between fullback and centre, but is happier in the latter position.
“I like centre because you get more chances to tackle and more support when defending. I like the challenge of setting up my outsides and have enjoyed playing alongside Stone Warren-Robertson. He has been real solid,” Reece says.
At the annual Quadrangular tournament in July, Wellington’s resolve was broken for the first time. They were tipped over by hosts Christ’s College in the final. A controversial try ruling went against Wellington and the defence wilted in the last few minutes.
“That was really disappointing. We didn’t get the rub of the green at all and they broke us. Ngani Punivai (Christ’s centre) is pretty sharp, but we should have won that game,” Reece insists.
Reece played for the Hurricanes U18’s who beat the Crusaders equivalent 64-20 in the term two holidays. He has scored 160 points for Wellington College this season (14 tries, 30 conversions, 10 penalties). Reece says he misses the mates he made at Kearsney College in Durban, but believes New Zealand rugby is far more innovative and challenging. “All they do is run it straight,” Reece laughs.
In 2017 Reece intends to play for Old Boys University and study industrial design (“architecture without the Maths” he laughs) at Victoria University.
Note: Kearsney College founded in 1921 is a strong private rugby school in Natal. Their most famous recent rugby alumni are English international Brad Barritt and twins Jean and Daniel du Preez.
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