The UC Championship final is the showpiece event in Crusaders First XV rugby. Here is the history of the final.
2001: Christchurch BHS: 29 v Christ’s College: 3
The first final was played at Jade Stadium. Christchurch led by 12-3 at halftime and completely dominated the match to win by 29-3. Tries were scored by George Naoupu (2), Kele Leatua, Andrew Olorenshaw and Tonga Mounga. The Christchurch Boys’ High School Magazine reported: “Seldom do things come together in a team sport like rugby as it did during this final.” Naoupu and Olorenshaw went onto play for Canterbury. Goal-kicker, Neil Broom, who added three conversions and a penalty, played cricket for New Zealand. Christchurch beat Christ’s three times in 2001.
2002 Christchurch BHS: 28 v Nelson College: 15
Played August 17th at Rugby Park. A dominant first half saw Christchurch lead 23-5 at halftime, scoring 16 points in the first 13 minutes. Nelson rallied in the second-half with two tries, but poor goal-kicking and errors ensured that Nelson was always chasing a superior Boys’ High outfit. Matt Holloway and Michael Saunders scored two tries each with Steven Brett (A Future NZ Maori Representative) kicking two penalties and a conversion. Sam Giddens(2) and Jayden Thompson scored Nelson’s tries. Andrew Olorenshaw was named Man of the Match for Christchurch who beat Nelson three times in 2002.
2003: Christchurch BHS 24 v Shirley BHS – 23
August 16, 2003 is a day that spectators at Rugby Park will never forget, a classic final! The first half was a low scoring affair with a Steven Brett converted try separating the two schools.The second-half was a thriller. Mitchell Alcock scored a try to extend Christchurch’s advantage to 12-3, before Shirley powered ahead 16-12.A memorable try by rampaging Number 8 Setaimata Sa and a drop goal by Cory Simpson were among the highlights of the Shirley rally. Christchurch was a champion team though and tires to Kieran Black and fifth former Tim Bateman put Christchurch back in front 24-16. Robbie Flynn scored a converted try on fulltime for Shirley. Kris McNicholl scored ten points for Shirley, gallant losers by a point.
2004: Christchurch BHS: 43 v Nelson College: 16
Christchurch, on the receiving end of a heavy penalty count, struggled in the early stages of the first-half. It took a series of powerful runs by Kieran Black and Mason Pomare to get the scoreboard moving, Christchurch led 19-11 at the break. In the second half, Christchurch was rampant and cruised to their 4th Press Cup title in a row, finishing with seven tries overall. Hoani Matenga (2), Reuben Fitzgerald (2), Kieran Black, Tim Bateman and Chris Small scored tries for the winners. Christchurch was unbeaten in 19 games and shared the National Top Four tittle with Wesley College in 2004.
2005: Christchurch BHS: 51 v Nelson College: 17
The 2005 final was played at Jade Stadium on August 20. Nelson started strongly but was denied by the Christchurch defence. Future All Black Colin Slade opened the scoring with a penalty and that seemed to settle Christchurch, who scored 32 points in a dazzling first-half to decide the contest; Christchurch winning by a record score. The winner’s tries were scored by Tim Jones (2), Matt Todd, Michael Coom, Ryan McLeod, Andrew Horrell and Colin Slade, who added four conversions and two penalties. Mason Pomare was invited to kick a conversion, and it brought up the half century. Nelson’s two tries were scored by James Marshall and Tyler McKinnion-Stevenson. Christchurch went 24-0 in 2005, successfully defending their National Top Four title.
2006: Christchurch BHS: 28 v Marlborough Boys’ College: 10
Christchurch travelled to Blenheim to tackle Marlborough Boys’ College who had upset the National Champions, 16-12 in the round-robin. A car buzzing around the Christchurch hotel playing loud music at 3am in the morning was not ideal preparation for the match. Christchurch started strongly however and led 18-3 at the interval. Strong defence Marlborough’s opportunities to score and a powerful wind helped Christchurch gain an advantage in the battle for territory. In the second half, Marlborough fought back and scored the first try. However, the result was settled midway through the second half when Matt Latham scored a 60-meter stunner which saw the ball being handled by most of the backs. Other Christchurch tries on the day went to Brendon MacFarlane (2), Marshall Suckling and Mark Jackman. Tyler Bleyendaal had a rare off day, contributing just a single penalty.Later Christchurch won their third National title in a row, going 22-1 for the season!
2007: Nelson College: 31 v St Bede’s College: 26
Played in Nelson, in front of an estimated crowd of 3000 spectators, Nelson surged to a 21-5 lead after just 15 minutes; Ricky Kennett, Sam Westerna and Mitchell Thwaties scored tries, all converted by James Lash. St Bede’s surged back to tie the game, 21-21 with 22 minutes left. St Bede’s tries were scored by Jason Morgan, Hamish Catherwood and Alex Ryan. Lash kicked a penalty to edge Nelson ahead before replacement winger Kim Bateman went over for the try that sealed Nelson victory. Nelson won 19 of 22 games in 2007, making the National Top Four for the only time in the school’s history.
2008: St Bede’s College: 34 v Marlborough BC: 14
Played at Rugby Park in Christchurch, Marlborough started strongly and led 9-0 via three Tyrone Elkington penalties. However St Bede’s with tries from James Schrader (2), Hamish Catherwood, Josh Navidi and Hiro Ono won easily in the end, despite holding just a one point halftime advantage. St Bede’s won their first Press Cup undefeated and won a record 28 games during the 2008 season, reaching the National Top Four for the first time since 1984.
2009: St Bede’s College: 32 v Nelson College: 6
The final was played at Rugby Park in Christchurch. St Bede’s won a comprehensive victory by 32-6 scoring five unanswered tries. Tyson Kamo collected two, Michael Stewart and Logan Taylor scored one each with Taylor adding three conversions and two penalties. St Bede’s won 18 games in a row on course to the National Top Four Final which they lost to Hamilton Boys’ High School, 0-17.
2010: St Bede’s College: 27 v Christchurch Boys’ High School: 12
The game burst into life during the second-half. An error ridden first spell saw St Bede’s, enjoy a narrow 3-0 advantage at the break. In the last 35 minutes five tries were scored as both sides played some expansive rugby. St Bede’s, who scored a record 826 points during the season, scored three times as they won a third Press Cup in a row. Tyron Davies and Zac Lilley scored tries while Zac Southen was a colossal figure, contributing a try, three conversions and two penalties. For Christchurch, Joe Taylor scored two tries and Martin Swart kicked a conversion.
2011: St Bede’s College: 30 v Nelson College: 12
St Bede’s College bullied their way to a fourth title by beating Nelson College 30-12. The larger St Bede’s forwards recycled the ball quickly, allowing their dangerous backs quick, go-forward ball. Jesse Bryant (2), Moses Faletolu and Misimoa Lamositele scored tries with Hagen Schulte kicking two conversions and two penalties. For Nelson College, openside Steve Soper was impressive and bullocking prop Connor McKinnin-Stevenson’s runs were well worth watching. Soper and Latham Jones scored tries for Nelson. St Bede’s went onto to make the National Top Four for a fourth time. They finished third equal.
2012 Christchurch BHS: 27 v St Bede’s College: 8
Christchurch Boys’ High School became Press Cup champions for the first time since 2006 Boys’ High dominated early territory and possession. They were on the board early via a Fletcher Smith penalty. St Bede’s eventually managed to build some phases and after Boys’ High infringed at a ruck, right under their posts, St Bede’s first five Tim Cossens had the scores level after ten minutes. Second five Anton Lienert-Brown was impressive, regularly breaking the first tackler. To St Bede’s credit their defence held strong until late in the first half.
From a rolling maul Boys’ High worked their way towards the try line which led to hard working lock Angus Cameron falling over the line to have his side heading into the break with a 10-3 advantage.St Bede’s came out firing early in the second half with Captain Misi Lamositele getting his side on the front foot with a great run up the middle of the field. A few phases later Number 8 Sione Lavemai worked his way over and at 10-8 it was now game on.
However reckless kicking and consistent mistakes from St Bede’s gave Boys’ High possession and they made the most of it when it was on offer. Fletcher Smith showed great speed from a scrum to score his side’s second try to make it 17-8, before a penalty extended the lead to 20-8.
Lienert-Brown showed his class near fulltime again when he broke a series of weak tackles to runaway 70 meters and score a stunning try, 27-8 the final score. St Bede’s only lost to Boys’ High in 2012. Christchurch went onto to lose the mainland final to Otago Boys’ High School.
2013: Marlborough BC: 15 v Nelson College: 11
The Press Cup came to Marlborough. After being beaten in the 2006 and 2008 finals, the Marlborough Boys’ College first XV made no mistake at Lansdowne Park in Blenheim downing Nelson College 15-11 in an enthralling final.
This battle wasn’t for the fainthearted. MBC, facing a howling southerly and driving rain in the first spell, kept the ball in hand, driving forward through their “big boppers” skipper Atu Moli, fellow prop Bevan Moody and number eight Sokepe Lopeti. When the ball was turned over Nelson, mainly through skipper Mitchell Hunt and halfback Reece Fuller, kicked long and tried to force a mistake.
After 12 minutes their tactics paid dividends when second five eighth Finn Hart-Strawbridge landed a penalty from a handy position.
But the home side responded immediately, setting up a series of pick and goes close to the Nelson line. Initially repelled, their patience was rewarded on the 26 minute mark when MBC first five TC Campbell sold a dummy and sprinted 20m on the angle for the first try which Mitchell Smith converted to the delight of a very vocal crowd of around 2000. Nelson replied with a second penalty to Hart-Strawbridge from the restart and the sides went the break with MBC ahead 7-6.
A Smith penalty from 27m in front after five minutes stretched MBC’s lead to four before Moli, my man of the match, capped a period of concerted pressure on the Nelson line with an unstoppable drive from two metres. The conversion was missed but MBC led 15-6 and had one hand on the trophy.
But Nelson were not done for. Through hard working front rowers Miro Mitchell and Brendan Asamua-Goodman they took the fight to the home side, mounting wave after wave of attack. Urged on by the crowd, MBC defended superbly, twice forcing knock-ons on the line. But eventually the pressure told when Fuller scored with 1 minute 50 seconds remaining. Nelson’s conversion was charged down, but the margin was back to four and the game was back on.
MBC made an error from the kickoff, a scrum on halfway offering Nelson a last roll of the dice. They attacked strongly, but a turnover saw their hopes shattered, MBC halfback Curtis Petersen-Line gleefully booting into the terraces. Perhaps fittingly, given the upheaval in the Press Cup pecking order, a earthquake aftershock rolled through the park as referee Dave Woodhouse signalled full time.
2014: Christchurch BHS: 27 v Nelson College: 13
Christchurch won all 16 games and scored 106 tries on their way to yet another title. Christchurch burst to a 19-3 lead, blindside Jacob Vincent was responsible for two tries. Nelson rallied and reduced the deficit to six. The outstanding Turoa Stephens was rewarded for his efforts with a try. Christchurch sealed the game when captain Sean Forster crashed over from a powerful rolling maul. Second-five Alex Nankivell was named Man of the Match. Christchurch won 18 out of 21 games during the season and attended the National Top Four for the sixth time.
2015: St. Bede’s College: 32 v Shirley BHS: 13
In a mostly tight tussle, there was no fairytale finish for Shirley Boys’ who were seeking their first ever Crusaders region 1st XV championship. Instead it was a polished St Bede’s, once again laying claim as the best school-boy rugby team in the Crusaders region.
In the first half both sides were finding their feet in front of a packed out Rugby Park, and along with some equally inconsistent goal kicking neither side could stretch any sort of lead. Going into the second half with a narrow 10-8 advantage, St Bede’s seemed to have their tails up.
But it was not until first five eighths Tiare Day-Jones stabbed through a perfectly weighted grubber kick for impressive fullback Zach McKay to latch onto and run under the posts that the game started to blow open. Shirley Boys’ didn’t take long to hit back though with standout prop Brody McAlister snaring his second for the match with a determined pick and go. With St Bede’s up 17-13, they went on a winning run with 15 unanswered points including McKay grabbing his second try.
2016: Christchurch BHS: 21 v Shirley BHS: 20
Shirley Boys’ High School returned to the final, but failed to break their title drought at a packed and sun drenched Rugby Park. Each side scored three tries, but goal kicking accuracy was the telling difference with Shirley missing a handy penalty shot with less than five minutes left.
Shirley second-five Logan Bell, celebrating his 50th match for the First XV, and Christchurch wing Atu Manu crossed the chalk twice for Christchurch BHS.
2017: Christchurch BHS: 18 v Timaru BHS: 10
Midway through the first half, Christchurch’s Tahu Kaa-Goodwillie scored after a chip from Rico Syme bounced awkwardly for fullback Hayden McNulty and the second five was on hand to collect the bonus, with Syme converting.
TBHS then closed the gap to 7-3 with a McNulty penalty.
With five minutes left in the first-half Syme put in another clever kick and it again bounced away from the defender and wing Jack Harris snapped it up to make it 12-3 at the break.
Syme extended the lead early in the second-half with a penalty that bounced off the upright but then missed another opportunity to extend the lead.
TBHS burst back into the game when open side Melvin Pauni drove over from a lineout and McNulty added the conversion to close the gap to 15-10.
A minute earlier CBHS replacement prop Murphy Kupe had been yellow carded when he deliberately interfered with the ball as a quick tap was being taken.
With 10 minutes left, the left footed Syme gave his side some breathing space when he landed a penalty to get the advantage out to eight points.
It was a tough final with the Timaru forwards really taking it to Boys’ High, but the defending champions proving their resolve.
2018: Christchurch BHS: 18 v Christ’s College: 18
The first drawn final was an epic tussle influenced significantly by the wind. Christ’s enjoyed its strength in the first-half and after two minutes second-five Shin Miyake kicked a 47-metre penalty to put Christ’s on the board. He followed that success with a penalty from halfway to double the score after a quarter of an hour.
Christchurch attacked sporadically and Cullen Moody missed a penalty out in front before Christ’s broke through and scored a try through George Coull, converted by Miyake to make it 13-0. Moody kicked a penalty just before halftime and Christchurch turned ten points down.
Christ’s attacked early in the second-half with no reward. Christchurch rallied and Corban Harding scored after 46 minutes to make it 13-8, Christ’s Coull played a blinder and in the 51st minute secured his second try in the corner to stretch Christ’s advantage 18-8. Miyake’s conversion started wide right and then came back with the wind and hit the post!
Christchurch regrouped and a try to Thomas Shmack, unconverted by Moody, set up a tight finish at 18-13. Sam Darry was captain of Christ’s on the day. The talented, lock has since played Super Rugby for the Blues. His memory of the final minutes, are vivid.
“Play went back and forward for about ten minutes before Boys’ High broke through and Ryan Barnes scored out wide in the 67th minute. Thankfully Cullen’s kick sprayed left and he missed again to make it 18-18 with three to go. We kicked off and regained the ball through Amlaoibh Porter. We rumbled up field through forward runners. This was a deliberate plan to reduce risk of error and negate the wind. We got to the 22 before passing it back to Kurtis Weeks who tried a drop goal from 22 out in front. Unfortunately, the wind caught the ball and it fell short. Christchurch regained possession and got a penalty. We were offside. They kicked it out to end the game and win because they scored more tries. I’m really proud of the way the boys played that day. It was an epic match.”
2019: Nelson College: 35 v Christchurch BHS: 31
Nelson won their first title since 2007 overhauling a halftime deficit to topple Christchurch BHS on a muddy home field. Nelson scored 24 consecutive points in the second half, with captain Anton Segner highlighting his enormous potential by scoring two tries in a man of the match performance. The openside flanker has since played for the champion Taman NPC team.
Christchurch made the perfect start by going 18 phases from the kick off before scoring through prop Sam Frame.
The play was initiated by impressive second-five Keegan McGregor who had a hand in three of his team's tries, including one he scored himself from an inception inside the first 10 seconds of the second half.
Nelson caught fire with a passionate and precise forward display.
Niko Barton finished with 15 points for Nelson, nailing six of his seven attempts at goal. That contribution proved valuable as Christchurch outscored Nelson five tries to four. Connor Johnston and Daniel Rogers also crossed the stripe for the victors.
2020: St Andrew’s College: 35 v Christchurch BHS: 26
St Andrew’s College won their first title but initially that appeared unlikely. Campbell Burnes reported:
After early tries to hooker Charlie Baker and centre and co-captain Callum Simpson, it appeared that Christchurch’s big match experience – 14 finals in 20 years – was going to again tell. The breeze was also in its favour.
But STAC’s comeback emanated from a bustling try to centre Isi Saumake, the first of a brace to the hard to stop No 13. The STAC pack, led by lock Jamie Carr, son of the late All Blacks logistics manager Kevin ‘Chalky’ Carr, rolled its sleeves up and brought total commitment to its endeavors, offering no respite to its more highly touted counterparts.
STAC fullback Jack Forrest showed a good step to edge his side in front five minutes into the second stanza. Christchurch clawed its way back onto the final, and was at 26-28 when STAC sub Conor Newton raced 55m to score between the uprights after a ruck turnover to cement the win.
STAC’s bench offered full impact and there were emotional scenes at fulltime as the STAC supporters were in full voice during their haka.
2021: Nelson College: 22 v Christ's College: 20
Down by 12 points at halftime, Nelson still trailed by three with five minutes left. They won a penalty midway in Christ's half and opted to kick for touch. The gamble paid off with winger Timoci Sauira going over in the corner after sustained forward pressure, to give Nelson its first lead.
The home team had started brightly in the spring sunshine before a Covid-limited crowd with the Sauira brothers fullback Nic and Timoci breaking the line repeatedly.
But the Christ’s defence held and on their first raid into the Nelson 22 they made it count with a try to right winger Sam Idiens.
It was Idiens popping up on the other flank who sparked the Christchurch visitor’s second try, with an inside ball for Jack Belcher to score.
Cooper Grant got Nelson on the board just before halftime, but Nic Shearer, whose booming boot gave Christ’s a wealth of excellent field position, slotted a penalty just before half-time to make it 15-3 at the break.
In an earlier annual Quadrangular tournament final Nelson had recovered a 20-3 halftime deficit to topple Christ’s.
Nelson has big, busy and disciplined forwards and a wealth of possession eventually saw brave Christ’s crack. Tries to formidable flanker Netani Baleisomodomo and Jayden Waharoa brought Nelson close before the late winning blow. Nelson captain and centre Ollie Inch observed.
“Christ’s are a quality side, well-drilled with lots of passion for their school. We came out of the gates slowly which wasn’t the plan but we knew after Quad we could do it. We had to put our heads down, increase our intensity and get our forward game going.
“As captain I try to stay positive. We have a mantra in our team: Next job. You can’t get your tails between your legs. Things happen quickly so staying positive and accepting the odd mistake will happen is vital.”
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