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The Keas inflicted the Hornby Panthers first defeat of 2021, while the Halswell Hornets and Celebration Lions consolidated spots in the top four during round 12 at the weekend.
Linwood outlasted previously unbeaten Hornby 30-24 at Ngā Puna Wai, holding on after leading 18-8 at halftime. Blockbusting winger Penetito Ilalio scored two tries for the defending champs.
The Keas, who boast a superior for-and-against, and Panthers both sit on 21 competition points, with 10 wins, one draw and a solitary loss to each other. The heavyweights are five points clear of the field, ensuring they will meet again in the major semi-final.
Celebration moved into outright fourth with a comprehensive 52-12 victory over Riccarton at Cuthberts Green.
The Lions built a 14-point halftime advantage against the seventh-placed Knights before racking up a half-century for the second week in a row, following on from a 50-6 thrashing of Papanui Tigers in Round 11.
The Hornets sealed their return to the playoffs via a 30-16 win against Northern Bulldogs in front of the Halswell Domain faithful.
The Bulldogs were ahead 16-10 at the break but the hosts scored three tries to none in the second stanza, taking their 2021 record to seven wins and two draws from 12 games. The Hornets are four points clear of the Lions with the Bulldogs two points further back.
Eastern Eagles kept their playoffs hopes flickering with a 42-10 defeat of Papanui Tigers. The sixth-placed Eagles led the winless Tigers 22-6 at halftime and went on with the job to join the Bulldogs on 10 competition points.
With a sizeable for-and-against deficit to overcome, the Bulldogs and Eagles effectively must win their remaining two games and hope the Lions lose both of theirs if they are to alter the current top-four picture.
BARTERCARD NZ CRL MEN’S PREMIERSHIP ROUND 12
- Linwood Keas 30-24 Hornby Panthers @ Ngā Puna Wai
- Halswell Hornets 30-16 Northern Bulldogs @ Halswell Domain
- Celebration Lions 52-12 Riccarton Knights @ Cuthberts Green
- Eastern Eagles 42-10 Papanui Tigers @ Wainoni Park
ISC SPORT CRL CANTERBURY CUP
- Linwood Keas 14-42 Hornby Panthers @ Ngā Puna Wai
- Halswell Hornets 10-30 Northern Bulldogs @ Halswell Domain
- Marist-Papanui 32-12 Shirley Hawks @ Bishopdale Park
- Burnham Chevaliers 28-30 Woolston Rams @ Coronation Park
- Eastern Eagles 16-22 Ashburton Barbarians @ Wainoni Park