National Top Four runners-up in 2015. Last year they missed out on the Wellington semi-finals. Can Scots College reach the Wellington final this year?
“The last time we played Wellington College we only had three of our regular starting forwards and 19 injured players in our first and second fifteens. We weren’t confident of a win, but our defence stepped up that day,” acclaims Jack Gray when reflecting on the narrow 14-13 win Scots College enjoyed over Wellington College in June.
Gray scored one of the two decisive tries in the narrow triumph and is expecting another tough tussle in the WelTec Premiership semi-final this Saturday.
“Wellington had a chance to win the game when Josh Morgan-Ranui missed a penalty kick about 20-metres out just before fulltime,” Gray continues. “Wellington have good forwards and we expect them to kick a lot and try and get their tall locks Taine Plumtree and Naitoa Ah Kuoi involved. We want to speed up the game and use our backs.”
Scots were National Top Four runners-up in 2015. Gray switched from Hutt Valley High School on scholarship that season and contested the final as a 15-year old.
“That was awesome and unexpected. Connor Garden-Bachop (NZ Barbarians) was injured late in the season and I got to play the HIBS game. I managed to score three tries so they kept picking me. I remember the crowd in the final in Rotorua was nuts. I could hardly hear myself think. I did alright. I scored a try and got bowled over by their winger James Tofa, but did enough to prevent him from scoring,” Gray recalls.
In 2016 Scots was eliminated in the quarter-finals of the WelTec Premiership by Wairarapa College who finished three places below Scots after the round robin. The surprise 3-7 setback has been a major motivator in 2017.
“We’re taking nothing for granted this year. We respect every opponent and didn’t want a repeat of Wairarapa. We had a shocker against Napier Boys, but have been pretty good in every other game,” Gray says.
Scots is unbeaten at home and have managed to score 348 points in nine fixtures. Gray scored two tries in the resounding victory over Rongotai College and bagged a hat-trick against his former school Hutt Valley High.
Scots suffered a setback on Saturday when they were beaten 22-35 by top qualifier St. Pats Silverstream. Gray is taking heart from holding Silverstream to nil in the second-half.
“We had a review on Monday and found we were committing too many numbers to the breakdown. Silverstream has a good offloading game and they managed to outflank us often in the first-half. When we stopped their 10 and 12 from getting the ball we put pressure on them. I believe they are beatable,” Gray states.
Jack’s late father Wayne Gray knew plenty about pressure rugby. The former publican at the Cambridge Hotel represented Wellington and the New Zealand Maori. The builder by trade was also a NZ Maori singles tennis champion and in later years played golf off a single figure handicap.
In the summer Jack Gray is a sprinter. At the North Island championships he was fifth in the 100m and 200m. His best time in the 100m is a sharp 11.55s.
In 2018 Gray hopes to study commerce and finance at Victoria University and will remain eligible for the Hurricanes U18s.