Above: Luca Rees celebrates his match-winning try last Saturday for Ories against the Avalon Wolves. PHOTO: David Brownlie Photos
It wasn’t pretty but it was effective says Oriental-Rongotai No. 8 Luca Rees of his side’s important 26-19 win over the Avalon Wolves at home at the Polo Ground last Saturday.
Rees scored two second half tries, including the match-winners just a couple of minutes from fulltime as his team came back from a 12-20 deficit to win the match, which could prove vital over the coming few weeks as the scramble for ‘top 7’ places ramps up.
“That was a tough game and a pretty ugly win but as long as we came out with the W that is the result we needed,” Rees says.
Ories were trailing 3-0 throughout most of the first half, and also lost captain and lock Tuakana Metuarau to injury in the 35th minute. Right on halftime a 90 second passage of phase play close to the line went rewarded and Ories went into the break leading 5-3.
“We needed that boost leading into the second half. That game was a bit more up-front than other teams we have had so far this season, so we just had to take the full brunt of it and then build up some pressure ourselves,” he says.
The win was Ories’ second in four matches to start the season, and now they turn their attention to face defending champions Old Boys University at Nairnville Park on Saturday.
OBU have won three from four and will be tough to beat at home. This match is also for the Bill Brien Challenge Cup, which OBU will be putting on the line after defending it against the Upper Hutt Rams last Saturday in a 52-31 win.
In 2016, OBU won both games 25-24, Ories prevailed 32-11 in the Swindale Shield last year, while their return Jubilee Cup contest in 2017 was a thriller with OBU eventually prevailing 39-26.
Rees, who made his Premier debut for Ories towards the end of the Swindale Shield last year following a few years overseas, played in the Jubilee Cup defeat.
“I played in the Jubilee Cup game last year, it was quite tight throughout the match but they pulled away from us near the end.”
Fresh from tussling with Avalon loosies Sefo Aumua and Daniel Sione-Leota, his battle with OBU’s back rowers such as Sam Coventry, who scored two tries as well last Saturday, and Teariki Ben Nicholas, could be a key are in this game.
Rees has returned to Wellington club rugby after a few years away, most recently living in Brisbane.
A former Rongotai College First XV player, he moved to Norths in his first year out of school in 2011 where his uncle Frank Rees was the Premier Head Coach and then moved to Petone the following year when Frank transferred there.
At Rongotai College he played alongside Ardie Savea. “Starting in my year 12 and his year 11 we played together.”
Rees played in the midfield that year with another Ories player, Jarrod Henry. The following year Rees moved to the loose forwards, where he has been playing for the most part ever since.
He then moved to Norths from Rongotai. “It was quite a buzz to join that environment straight out of school. I played in that 2011 Jubilee Cup final off the bench for Norths when we lost to Ories. The boys that played in that match like Whetu Henry, Ambrose Curtis and Sean Hay still give me a bit of stick for that!” Ories won 40-18 -their first standalone Championship win since 1910.
He moved to Petone in 2012 with his uncle but also because he was working in Seaview at the time. “Petone is an awesome club with a rich history, and I got to play alongside Mateaki Kafatolu – he’s the man.”
He returned to Norths in 2013 before heading overseas.
“I initially moved to Scotland to play at a club there, through Norths coach Richard Higgins, but that didn’t work out so I went to Sussex and played the rest of the season there for a club called Crowborough.
Next was a move to a warmer climate, to Brisbane, where he played for Souths. He played some Queensland Premier rugby, but for the most part, work took precedence.
Like Ories, Souths play in a black and white strip and are known as the Magpies. Was that what drew Rees to Ories upon his return last year?
“My partner is Rachel Nonu so that is the reason I went to Ories.” At the end of 2016 they spent a month in France with Ma’a Nonu, where he remains living and playing in Toulon.
His first game back in Wellington club rugby last year was also against Northern United, Ories losing 19-23.
During the week Rees works as a stock manager for clothing retailer Seed Heritage at Queensgate.
Old Boys University v Oriental-Rongotai, Swindale Shield Round 5 this Saturday at 2.45pm at Nairnville Park.