The Run Home: Where Your Club Stands
With just three rounds of the 2017 Massetti Cup remaining, the race for the minor premiership, the wooden spoon and the top four remains wide open.
We’ve broken down exactly what each team needs to do to achieve the best possible result after 14 torrid weeks of the regular season.
Linwood Keas – 1st (20 pts): 10 wins, 1 loss; +143
The defending champs are on track to take out top spot and mount a bid to become the first club since the 2009-10 Hornby Panthers to go back-to-back. Since their heavy defeat to the Panthers in Round 1, the Keas have pieced together a 10-match winning streak – including a hard-fought 14-8 win over Hornby and twice holding Papanui to nil. They need to keep winning to finish the regular season atop the ladder with the Panthers hot on their heels, but their last three games are all against teams in the bottom half.
Remaining games: R12 v Hornets @ Linwood Park; R13 v Eagles @ QEII Park; R14 v Bulldogs @ Linwood Park.
Hornby Panthers – 2nd (18 pts): 9 wins, 2 losses; +239
The Panthers set themselves up with a blistering start to the year, winning their first four games by margins of 24 points or more. A last-gasp upset loss to Celebration and a six-point defeat to Linwood in the space of three games knocked Jed Lawrie’s side off the top of the table, but they have virtually sealed a top-two finish by piecing together another four-match winning streak heading into Round 12. Hornby is still a chance of taking out the minor premiership thanks to their outstanding points differential; if the Keas drop a game and the Panthers win all three of theirs, the heavyweights will swap places. The Panthers have a tough run in with showdowns against the Lions and Tigers in the last two rounds, but it’s hard to back against a team that is averaging 35 points a game.
Remaining games: R12 v Knights @ Branston Park; R13 v Lions @ Branston Park; R14 v Tigers @ Papanui Domain.
Papanui Tigers – 3rd (14 pts): 7 wins, 4 losses; +25
Considering they had no home ground for the first eight rounds of the competition, the Tigers did a tremendous job cementing a place in the top four, winning four of their first five games on the road. A decent for-and-against means Papanui only needs to win two of their remaining games to guarantee a finals berth, while they could land in second if Hornby loses its last three matches. Worryingly for the Tigers ahead of the playoffs, they’ve lost all four games against their fellow top-four teams since a big opening-week win over Celebration: they’ve been held scoreless twice by the Keas, and closed out May with back-to-back defeats to the Panthers and Lions.
Remaining games: R12 v Eagles @ Papanui Domain; R13 v Bulldogs @ Papanui Domain; R14 @ Panthers @ Papanui Domain.
Celebration Lions – 4th (14 pts): 7 wins, 4 losses; -26
The surprise packet of 2017, Celebration has got the wobbles over the last month but remains in the box-seat to claim a long-awaited finals berth. After a big loss to the Tigers in Round 1, the Lions went on a six-match winning streak that included Tama Walker’s unforgettable long-range field goal to sink the Panthers 21-20 and a 24-22 revenge win over the Tigers. But twin losses to the Keas in the space of a week (after Round 2 was postponed to Queen’s Birthday weekend) and then an upset at the hands of the last-placed Eagles in Round 11 has stunted their momentum. When they’ve lost, it’s generally been by a big margin, while six of their seven wins came by six points or less – consequently their for-and-against isn’t too flash. That means this weekend’s showdown with the Bulldogs is crucial to their playoffs chances; a daunting rematch with the Panthers looms large in Round 13 before a final-round assignment against the plucky Knights.
Remaining games: R12 v Bulldogs @ Cuthberts Green; R13 v Panthers @ Branston Park; R14 v Knights @ Cuthberts Green.
Northern Bulldogs – 5th (10 pts): 5 wins, 6 losses; -19
The Bulldogs have kept their finals flame flickering courtesy of a mid-season resurgence, recovering from a 1-5 start to win four straight. A 44-18 win over the Knights in Round 10 provided a welcome for-and-against boost (seven of their first nine games were decided by 10 points or less), but their winning streak came to an end via a 22-10 loss to the Panthers last weekend. The Bulldogs need to make up four points on the Lions or Tigers – their opponents in the next two rounds before finishing the season with an away clash against the Keas, all three games away from their Murphy Park base. But where there’s life, there’s hope, and a victory over Celebration would certainly crank up the intensity in the scramble for playoff spots.
Remaining games: R12 v Lions @ Cuthberts Green; R13 v Tigers @ Papanui Domain; R14 v Keas @ Linwood Park.
Riccarton Knights – 6th (4 pts): 2 wins, 9 losses; -100
Riccarton will look back on 2017 and wonder what might have been, losing four games by eight points or less to put paid to the club’s run of three straight seasons in the finals. The Knights didn’t get off the mark until a Round 6 win over the Hornets, but their form has been solid since – thumping the Eagles, pushing the Tigers all the way twice and going down just 24-16 to a Keas side on a nine-match winning streak. Their performance against the defending premiers was an outstanding bounce-back from a disappointing 44-18 loss to the Bulldogs in Round 10, and a comparatively strong for-and-against has them well-positioned to avoid the wooden spoon despite a tough run home.
Remaining games: R12 v Panthers @ Branston Park; R13 v Hornets @ Crosbie Park; R14 v Lions @ Cuthberts Green.
Halswell Hornets – 7th (4 pts): 2 wins, 9 losses; -126
After opening their campaign in promising style with a win over the Bulldogs in Round 1, the Hornets have been unable to muster any momentum. They’ve lost nine of their last 10, with a 30-point win over the Eagles their only success during that time – though a two-point loss to the Keas in Round 5 represented arguably their best performance of 2017. Defence has been a bugbear, holding their opponents to less than 20 points just once this season. The Hornets’ wooden spoon fate is in their own hands: they play fellow last-place contenders the Knights and Eagles in the last two rounds after this weekend’s return clash against the Keas. Halswell finished bottom in 2016 and will be desperate to offload the dreaded spoon.
Remaining games: R12 v Keas @ Linwood Park; R13 v Knights @ Crosbie Park; R14 v Eagles @ Halswell Domain.
Aranui Eagles – 8th (4 pts): 2 wins, 9 losses; -136
Aranui is looking to finish a difficult season with a flourish, running into form at precisely the right time to attempt to climb off the bottom rung of the ladder. The Eagles began 2017 with a Round 1 upset of the Knights before losing nine in a row – including four games in which they leaked 40-plus points. But the Eagles rose to the occasion on their club day in Round 11, edging out the third-placed Lions 26-24 at QEII Park in a season highlight. With two heavyweight assignments coming up in the next fortnight, the wooden spoon battle may hinge on the Eagles’ final-round encounter with the Hornets.
Remaining games: R12 v Tigers @ Papanui Domain; R13 v Keas @ QEII Park; R14 v Hornets @ Halswell Domain.