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The Hornby Panthers wrapped up the Massetti Cup with a massive pre-finals statement, while the Northern Bulldogs edged Celebration Lions for fourth spot in a thrilling finish to the 2021 Bartercard NZ CRL Men’s Premiership regular season.
The Panthers carved out an eye-watering 64-12 demolition of third-placed Halswell Hornets on the eve of the playoffs, sealing their position two points clear at the top of the table.
Second-rower Devaun Thompson grabbed a four-try haul, while Champ Betham notched a double from the bench and James Baxendale slotted 10 conversions. Young skipper Sincere Harraway – back at halfback after spending much of the season in the No.1 jersey – was once again among the try-scorers.
Coming just a week after a rousing win over Linwood, it was a brutal reality check for Halswell – particularly after earning a draw against Hornby during the first round.
The Hornets will dust themselves off for a sudden-death semi-final in fortnight’s time against the Bulldogs, who squeezed into fourth with a 46-10 thrashing of Papanui Tigers.
Last year’s runners-up put themselves in the box-seat for a finals berth with a clutch win over the Lions in Round 13 and went on with the job by running in 10 tries against the winless Tigers at Papanui Domain. Northern winger Ben Wicksteed finished with a hat-trick.
Celebration’s season of considerable progress ended in heartbreak, denied a return to the playoffs by a 20-4 loss to Linwood at Cuthberts Green. A win would have secured fourth spot for the Lions.
The crunch game was delicately poised at 8-4 at halftime, but the Keas posted three unanswered tries in the second stanza. On a tough day for the goalkickers – a theme of Round 14, Baxendale’s sharpshooting aside – none of the match’s six tries were converted.
Eastern Eagles held onto sixth spot with a convincing 42-12 win over seventh-placed Riccarton Knights at Wainoni Park. The match was in the balance at the break, before the Eagles piled on the only four tries of the second half.
Familiar foes Hornby and Linwood will square off on 31 July for the first spot in the Grand Final, with the loser to face the winner of the Halswell-Northern clash in the preliminary final.
BARTERCARD NZ CRL MEN’S PREMIERSHIP RD 14
- Hornby Panthers 64 (Devaun Thompson 4, Champ Betham 2, Will Tafua, Charlie Charlie, Sincere Harraway, Keletisia Tongotongo, Corey Lawrie tries; James Baxendale 10 goals) defeated Halswell Hornets 12 (David Watts 2, Marley Mackie-Coffin tries) at Leslie Park
- Eastern Eagles 42 (Pio Ioane, Kolone Faalilo, Henare Nukunuku, Cyrus Timo-Latu, Uale Peneli, Rezyn Timo-Latu, Mau Antonio, Jacob Tauamiti tries; Ioane 3, Nukunuku 2 goals) defeated Riccarton Knights 12 (Sean Spooner, Jahrome Clarke tries; Matariki Halbert-Pere 2 goals) at Wainoni Park
- Northern Bulldogs 46 (Ben Wicksteed 3, Nick Wain, Matt Clough, Josh Rawiri, Josh Endacott, Manu Tipelu, Ethan Plaskett, Zach Riley tries; Endacott 2, Tipelu goals) defeated Papanui Tigers 12 (Jacob Metuatini, Sua Aiiloilo tries; Hayden Tweedie goal) at Papanui Domain
- Linwood Keas 20 (Jesse Rangihuna, Uili Uili, Rangi Thompson, Joseph Hapi, Danny Latu tries) defeated Celebration Lions 4 (Jordan Kamana try) at Cuthberts Green
ISC SPORT CRL CANTERBURY CUP
- Hornby Panthers 22-26 Halswell Hornets @ Leslie Park
- Marist Saints-Papanui 38-16 Northern Bulldogs @ Papanui Domain
- Shirley Hawks 42-24 Linwood Keas @ Linwood Keas
- Ashburton Barbarians 16-20 Burnham Chevaliers @ Robilliard Park
- Eastern Eagles 14-32 Woolston Rams @ Wainoni Park