Linwood Keas sit alone at the top of the table while there’s a five-way tie for fourth spot after three rounds of Canterbury Rugby League’s Massetti Cup men’s premiership.

Hornby Panthers made it two in a row with a gutsy come-from-behind win at Murphy Park, edging out a gallant Northern Bulldogs side 20-16. The Panthers lost Tyrone Arona and Rulon Nutira in the warm-up, which meant two players who had just completed a Canterbury Cup game were called up to the bench.

Front-row juggernaut Chris Bamford put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard first with his fifth try of the season. The hosts took a 12-0 lead as Chase Kereama-Williams finished off a spectacular long-range movement that featured a centring kick from winger Leon Jarden.

The injury-ravaged Panthers hit back with two brilliant tries from kicks before halftime, however, and their size advantage in the outside-backs told in the second stanza. Charlie Charlie scored his second and Tauvale Tauvale steamed in for an equally barnstorming four-pointer, with James Baxendale landing two booming sideline conversion for a crucial eight-point buffer.

Izic Placid added a late try for the Bulldogs.

Hornby coach Jed Lawrie praised his side’s composure in fighting back from an early double-digit deficit.

“We were playing good footy early, we probably just overplayed a bit. Once we found our rhythm and structure we were pretty good,” Lawrie said post-match.

“We were a bit wobbly with the ball but it’s probably going to take a bit of time and having that sort of build-up (with late injury withdrawals) is not the best.”

Bamford was ruing a missed opportunity for the previously unbeaten Bulldogs to make a big statement against one of the Massetti Cup’s benchmark teams, but he was nevertheless pleased with his team’s effort.

“We were definitely up for the challenge. We had Vinnie (Paul) missing today, but Hornby had injuries too,” Bamford said.

“Mistakes got us today – I don’t think Hornby was the better side, I thought we let ourselves down in the second half.”

Northern fullback Nick Wain had a blinder in beaten side, while Tauvale and Will Tafua were superb in the centres for Hornby, and young Panthers playmaker Benji Heather looks to be a star of the future.

Halswell Hornets put a dampener on Papanui Tigers’ Club Day with a 40-30 victory at Papanui Domain.

The Hornets, who came into Round 3 winless, trailed 18-10 at halftime but piled on five tries after the break to run down a Tigers side struggling under the weight of injuries.

Keenan Williams scored two tries for Halswell, while experienced playmaker Sean Scott racked up 16 points.

Celebration Lions also chalked up their first win of 2018, grinding out a 24-12 away win over Aranui Eagles.

The sides were locked 6-all at the end of a tense first half, but the unerring boot of Jake Vincent proved crucial – the Lions halfback converted all three of his side’s tries and slotted three penalty goals to keep the Eagles at arm’s length at Wainoni Park.

A second-half blitz saw Linwood Keas remain the only unbeaten team in the premiership after three rounds, scoring 26 unanswered points after the break to run out 44-10 winners over the visiting Riccarton Knights.

Erwin Sauni bagged a hat-trick and Toi Sepuloni crossed for a double in the nine-tries-to-two blowout, which could have been worse for the Knights if the Keas’ goalkickers’ radars had been on target – they managed just three conversions.

On a positive note for Riccarton, stalwarts Justin Lynch and Shane Tamatea maintained their remarkable tryscoring form, each notching their third tries of 2018.

Veteran forward Iuma Muliatalo came off the bench to make his 150th appearance for the Keas.


CRL MASSETTI CUP LADDER: Linwood 6, Northern 4, Hornby 4, Aranui 2, Celebration 2, Halswell 2, Papanui 2, Riccarton 2.



Hornby Panthers 20 (Charlie Charlie 2, Amanaki Saumaki, Tauvale Tauvale tries; James Baxendale 2 goals) d Northern Bulldogs 16 (Chris Bamford, Chase Kereama-Williams, Izic Placid tries; Leon Jarden 2 goals) at Murphy Park. Halftime: Northern 12-8.

Halswell Hornets 40 (Keenan Williams 2, Willie Davis, Todd Mitchell, Sean Scott, Nick Evans, Nathan Chai tries; Scott 6 goals) d Papanui Tigers 30 (P Vaifale, Apelu Tanielu, Cyrus Timo-Latu, Sean Young, Kitiona Pati tries; Tufuga Sa 5 goals) at Papanui Domain. Halftime: Papanui 18-10.

Celebration Lions 24 (Jack Mundy, Jazz Pouwhare, Posetone Manu tries; Jake Vincent 6 goals) d Aranui Eagles 12 (Lio Faalilo, Sai Saukura tries; Junior Peneli 2 goals) at Wainoni Park. Halftime: 6-all.

Linwood Keas 44 (Erwin Sauni 3, Toi Sepuloni 2, Ben Ilalio, Mikaele Pilimai, Danny Latu, Paul Sauni tries; Sepuloni 2, Burton goals) d Riccarton Knights 10 (Justin Lynch, Shane Tamatea tries; Tele Elia goal) at Linwood Park. Halftime: Linwood 18-10.

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