FLASHBACK FRIDAY: HORNBY AND HALSWELL DUEL IN FOUR STRAIGHT GRAND FINALS
Ahead of Halswell Hornets’ CRL Men’s Premiership Round 1 clash against Hornby Panthers on Saturday, Flashback Friday revisits the period that created one of Canterbury Rugby League’s great club rivalries.
Halswell gained premier status in 1979 and reached its first grand final in its sixth season. The 1984 grand final would be the first of four consecutive deciders Halswell played against Hornby as the clubs ruled the CRL roost through the middle part of the eighties.
Runners-up in 1982 and champions in ’83, Kevin Woodham-coached Hornby topped the table with a 13-3 record in ’84 and reached their third straight grand final, facing off against second-placed Halswell.
Hornby notched back-to-back titles via a 22-12 victory, overwhelming the plucky Halswell defence. It was a mighty effort from Hornby, who had to negotiate the representative commitments of Barry Edkins, Marty Crequer, Robin Alfeld, Ross Taylor, Wayne Wallace and 1984 CRL Sportsman of the Year Adrian Shelford through the season.
The neighbouring clubs again took out the top two spots on the Massetti Cup ladder in 1985 and produced one of the most dramatic grand finals in CRL history.
Edkins levelled up a seesawing decider at 16-all with a penalty goal two minutes from fulltime, but Phil Bancroft snatched Halswell’s maiden championship with an unforgettable 47-metre field goal as the siren sounded. Kevin Williams was Halswell’s coach.
Halswell rallied from a patchy regular season in 1986 – winning only half of their 16 regular-season games – to reach the grand final from fourth. Hornby, who lost just two games under the coaching of Frank Endacott, headed the ladder again and regained CRL supremacy with a convincing 20-5 win in the decider.
Hornby led by just one point at halftime, but a hat-trick to back-rower Graham Larson – just the second player and the first forward to achieve the feat in a grand final – clinched the club’s third title in four years.
But Halswell, after knocking Hornby off top spot in the 1987 regular season, gave its archrivals a harrowing dose of déjà vu in the following season’s grand final.
Bancroft was again the hero, breaking a 14-all deadlock with a field goal from close range four minutes from fulltime in another instant classic.
Phil Prescott-coached Halswell would successfully defend their title in 1988 with a grand final defeat of Marist-Western Suburbs, while Hornby returned to the premiership penthouse in 1990 with a grand final win over Addington under captain-coach Wayne Wallace.
The clubs met in another four grand finals during the 1990s: Hornby went back-to-back with an 18-8 win in the ’91 decider; Halswell turned the tables in ’93 with a tense 8-6 victory; the Panthers got the job done 22-12 in the ’96 grand final; and the Hornets romped to a 30-12 success in ’99.
The new millennium has seen three-more westside derbies on CRL Grand Final Day, with the Panthers prevailing 28-18 in the 2001 decider – with Wallace as coach – and breaking Hornets hearts with consecutive extra-time triumphs in 2012 (19-18) and ’13 (22-20).
1984 CRL GRAND FINAL
Hornby 22 (J Griffiths, S Geddis, G Larson tries; B Edkins 4 goals; Edkins, M Crequer field goals) d Halswell 12 (P Bancroft try; Bancroft 4 goals)
1985 CRL GRAND FINAL
Halswell 17 (M Pitts, A Baugham tries; P Bancroft 4 goals, field goal) d Hornby 16 (B Tuuta, T Burnett, R Alfeld tries; B Edkins 2 goals)
1986 CRL GRAND FINAL
Hornby 20 (G Larson 3, H Tipene tries; B Edkins 2 goals) d Halswell 5 (M Pitts try; J Whittaker field goal)
1987 CRL GRAND FINAL
Halswell 15 (P Bancroft, G Grut tries; Bancroft 3 goals, field goal) d Hornby 14 (M Nixon, I Gear, P Cross tries; G McLauchlan goal)
‘Westside Story’s’ next chapter
The clubs’ first showdown of 2023 will kick off at 2.45pm at Halswell Domain this Saturday – and both sides have plenty to prove after a rollercoaster rivalry in 2022.
The Hornets carved out a 36-24 win at home early in the season and made a pre-finals statement with a 36-12 victory over the Panthers at Leslie Park in the penultimate round.
But the defending champs’ big-game experience proved crucial as they outlasted the second-placed Hornets 16-6 in the preliminary final to storm into the grand final from fourth.
Jed Lawrie’s Panthers, who lost the 2022 decider in a last-minute heart-breaker to the Keas, will be eager to get off on the right foot after an 0-3 start last season. Meanwhile, this is the Hornets’ first competition match under new head coach Ray Hubbard.
In the other season-opening Massetti Cup clashes, Eastern Eagles host premiers Linwood Keas at Wainoni Park and Riccarton Knights head up the motorway to take on Northern Bulldogs at Murphy Park in Kaiapoi.