On July 23, 2016, Waverley Harvesting Border and Byford's Readimix Taihape played out one of the best grand finals seen since the Tasman Tanning Premier's showcase game has been moved to Cooks Gardens.
Underdogs after being mauled 53-8 only a couple of weeks before in their previous round-robin meeting, Taihape came within the width of the lower left-hand goal post to claiming their first top grade club championship since the pre-amalgamation Huia club were victorious in the early 1980's, as Border clung on 17-16 for their first title since the mid-1990's.
"There's probably not a week that goes passed in my life that I don't think about that [missed] kick, but it's not about me now," said Taihape coach Tom Wells, who was first-five that day.
Indeed, there's been a lot of water under the bridge since then – Border being denied in the previous two years of playoffs by McCarthy's Transport Ruapehu, while Taihape dropped out and slipped back into away semifinal appearances, while this year both teams made their way to Cooks Gardens through 2019's new format of a Top 6 grade for Division 1 in the second round.
But the more things change leading into Saturday's championship game, the more things stay the same.
It's the eastern edge of the WRFU catchment versus the western edge, sheep farmers vs dairy farmers, and allegedly the 'all locals' vs 'the imports', although on that last point anyone scouring the two likely lineups can clearly see such a claim is an imperfect narrative.
Having upset Ruapehu 22-16 in Ohakune to end the home team's quest for just the third union-wide championship three-peat in WRFU history, Taihape have proven to be road warriors this season and are comfortable with the underdog tag again as they travel 80 minutes to Whanganui, compared to Border's 35.
"Not sure I'd call them a country team anymore," Wells said in a little dig at his opposition.
With strong home town backing, goodwill blessings from their fellow Northern subunion clubs, and a supporters theme song which borrows the tune of She'll be coming round the Mountain , Wells wants to reward his community, especially those who have had tough times this year, with a rugby championship.
"I've played for a lot of clubs, around the world, and nothing means more for me than Taihape.
"We go in as underdogs and fight to the death, that's for sure."
The coach was a little surprised, and pleased, to see his squad came through Saturday's physical semifinal with no major injury concerns, perhaps another blessing the mud gave them, and even though this weekend's weather is said to be just overcast with light winds, Wells is still backing his side without the equaliser of the wet.
"It would take a loss of a limb to miss this game.
"Dry track, wet track, we played in both recently.
"Our set piece has been pretty strong all year. Our lineout against what has been the premier lineout [Ruapehu] hit its straps on Saturday."
Key to that was yet another solid performance by captain and flanker Matt Brown, very underrated when the talking heads get together to discuss the region's top forwards, but always the man at the breakdown and able to steal lineout ball.
"Even though he's not one of those Steelform Wanganui players, I'd pick him first," said Wells.
"He's a good bugger and won't let you down."
If the game proves as tight as that 2016 matchup, then the goal kickers must deliver – Dane Whale was in the right frame of mind against Ruapehu, and will need more of the same against the swirling breeze at Cooks Gardens.
Hooker Dylan Gallien and prop Wiremu Cottrell have been outstanding for Taihape this year, while centre/winger Jaye Flaws is a big match player and fullback Tyler Rogers-Holden, facing his old club, has the vision to spark anything from the back.
After their tense but ultimately no-nonsense 19-3 win over semifinal rookies Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau last weekend, Border's Tuesday session was "freshening up the body and getting a bit of clarity", for coach Ross Williams.
"It's only natural when you want something, [that] there's nerves across the board.
"But you have to instil confidence in everybody - to have a crack.
"There's two teams who want to use the ball, so if conditions suit...."
And just like 2016, Williams is not putting too much stock in Border's 43-10 win in their most recent regular season match over Taihape.
"We certainly aren't thinking about two weeks ago. No way.
"That [2016 game] just goes to show you. Finals are different."
Border are on a five-game winning streak heading into the playoff game - their three losses coming in the first round and then the opening game of Division 1 when injury and other commitments kept away a number of their stars.
But having come back into alignment since June 22, the week after the Wanganui representative trial game, Border have the most well-balanced outfit again with a solid forward pack, speed in the backline and vision from their playmakers.
While Ruapehu have missed out on the three-peat, Border's season acquisition Craig Clare will be trying to reach the milestone personally.
Halfback and captain Lindsay Horrocks has been having a banner season, while with a Wanganui No7 jumper waiting for him with open arms, expect flanker Angus Middleton to be at his scourging and spoiling best.
Border have the luxury of plenty of backup if their lead goalkicker is having an off-day, with Clare and Nick Harding used to the big match occasion, and even promising attacking midfielder Te Kepa Grindlay has a decent boot.
"You can plan, as much as you like, but you've got to evolve on the run," said Williams.
One possible chink in the armour is the lineout, as this has been the debut season at hooker for former career loose forward Kieran Hussey.
Border also modified another former Wanganui loose forward in Renato Tikoisolomone into a prop for this campaign, so Border must prove secure in their sideline set piece, especially given Taihape's propensity for steals from the likes of Brown and Peter-Travis Hay Horton.
"We're working pretty hard – we worked hard on that [lineout] on Tuesday, and we're working even more tonight [Thursday]," said Williams.
"You often take set piece for granted, until it goes backwards."
Club finals day will start with the Division 2 final between Settler's Honey Ngamatapouri and Black Bull Liquor Pirates at 12.45pm, followed by the Division 1 final at 2.30pm.