Two years ago Josh Archer and Logan Bell couldn’t hold back the tears as they suffered grand-final agony for the second year running.
But on Sunday the Rugby Park curse will end for one of them, while the other will come oh-so-close for a third time.
In 2016, the two co-captained Shirley Boys’ High School to their second straight UC Championship final at Rugby Park, where they came within a point of trumping competition favourites Christchurch Boys’ High School in the 20-21 loss. A year earlier they were part of the team that lost 13-32 to St Bede’s College.
Now they are both in their first full seasons at premier metro level, and will do battle against each other when New Brighton and Lincoln University meet in the Hawkins Trophy final.
Understandably, the agony of 2016 is still a sore spot for the pair due to the nature of the defeat. Bell – a second five-eighths – scored a late try to get his team within a point of CBHS. But the conversion kick that would have given SBHS a 22-21 lead was missed.
“It comes up every so often, it’s still a touchy subject . . . the annoying thing is it’s going to be one of us on the receiving end again,” said Bell.
“It was heart-breaking to go that close. It’s still to this day something we talk about,” said Archer.
Since that day Archer, a hooker, hasn’t strayed far from the nest and has returned to his boyhood club of New Brighton. History suggests the transition to the seaside club is natural. A number of their premier team is made up of SBHS old boys, including Boris van Bruchem and Jordon French, who were both part of the 2016 school final.
“It’s a similar culture to the one we shared during the years at high school. We’re all boys that come from the eastside of Christchurch . . . we share a brotherhood, that’s something I do feel,” said Archer.
However, Bell opted to play his senior rugby at Lincoln University where he is on a scholarship. “It’s always good to play New Brighton because I know I’m seen as the outcast that strayed away to Lincoln,” he said.
In recent years, the two clubs have struck up a strong rivalry that peaked in 2016 when Lincoln University defeated a defiant New Brighton team which played the majority of the match with 14 men after Billy Harmon was red-carded for a tip tackle on Jordie Barrett.