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The Hornby Panthers and Linwood Keas surged further ahead in the Bartercard NZ CRL men’s premiership with big round 9 wins at the weekend, while victories for Eastern Eagles and Celebration Lions have created a fascinating mid-table log-jam with five weeks of the regular season to play.
The undefeated Panthers remain top of the table with 17 points, two clear of the Keas.
The Halswell Hornets sit outright third on 10 points, but the Lions, Eagles and Northern Bulldogs are all just one win behind in equal-fourth position.
The Eagles, who lost their first four games of 2021, chalked up their third straight nail-biting win, holding off the Bulldogs 26-22 at Wainoni Park.
Lock Uale Peneli crossed for a double for the hosts, who led 20-16 at half-time.
The Lions pulled off a similarly close-fought victory to snap a four-game losing streak, upsetting the in-form Hornets 28-22 at Halswell Domain.
Opposing centres Dylan Geddis (Lions) and Jope Finau (Hornets) both scored two tries, while Zion Kamana bagged a brace off the bench for Celebration.
The result was never in doubt at Leslie Park as Hornby Panthers ran in 15 tries to decimate Papanui Tigers 78-16.
Veteran back-rower James Baxendale finished with a hat-trick, while rookie centre Jayton Lawrie, brilliant young fullback Sincere Harraway, winger Eti Collins and interchange Daniel Kilbride all dotted down twice.
The Panthers led 32-12 at half-time.
The Linwood Keas had a fight on their hands against the Riccarton Knights, ahead just 10-6 at the break at Ngā Puna Wai.
But the five-time defending champs clicked into gear in the second stanza, scoring six tries to one and prevailing 40-12.
Winger Joseph Hapi was the main beneficiary of the Keas’ second half attacking rush, finishing the match with five tries.
The Knights are seventh on the ladder but only two points shy of fourth spot.
BARTERCARD NZ CRL MEN’S PREMIERSHIP ROUND 9 RESULTS
- Hornby Panthers 78 (James Baxendale 3, Sincere Harraway 2, Eti Collins 2, Jayton Lawrie 2, Daniel Kilbride 2, Will Tafua, Taula Teaupa, Taualai Taualai, Karika Tuike tries; Caleb Murphy 8, Baxendale goals) defeated Papanui Tigers 16 (Jared Neho, Anaru Donnelly, Tristan Van Onsen tries; Antonio Lemalu 2 goals) at Leslie Park.
- Linwood Keas 40 (Joseph Hapi 5, Zion Vaumitoiuai, George Faaiva, Paul Sauni tries; Leon Jarden 4 goals) defeated Riccarton Knights 12 (Justin Lynch, Reuben Te Amo tries; Matriki Halbert-Pere 2 goals) Ngā Puna Wai.
- Eastern Eagles 26 (Uale Peneli 2, Rezyn Timo-Latu, Tyrone Stowers, Alastair Roberts tries; Daniel Hartley 3 goals) defeated Northern Bulldogs 22 (Josh Rawiri 2, Ben Wickstead, Eachart Ricet tries; Josh Endacott 3 goals) at Wainoni Park.
- Celebration Lions 28 (Dylan Geddis 2, Zion Kamana 2, Tipazo Aukustitino, Jordan Kamana tries; Jordan Wawatai 2 goals) defeated Halswell Hornets (Jope Finau 2, Marley Mackey-Coffin, Josh Everett tries; Jamie Nuttridge 3 goals) at Halswell Domain.
ISC SPORT CRL CANTERBURY CUP PREMIER RESERVES ROUND 9 RESULTS
- Maris-Papanui 62 defeated Eastern Eagles 6.
- Ashburton Barbarians 26 drew with Burnham Chevaliers 26.
- Hornby Panthers 26 defeated Northern Bulldogs 20.
- Shirley Hawks 52 defeated Linwood Keas 16.
- Woolston Rams 22 defeated Halswell Hornets 14.