The Canterbury Rugby League men’s premiership top-four finalists are locked in after a frantic final round of the 2018 Massetti Cup.

Despite a 36-20 loss to Hornby Panthers at Leslie Park, Halswell Hornets retained fourth spot – and the club’s first finals appearance since winning the 2014 title – thanks to Northern Bulldogs’ 30-10 defeat of Celebration Lions.

Those results also saw Northern clinch an all-important top-two berth ahead of Hornby. The clubs entered Round 14 locked on 20 competition points, with the Bulldogs holding a 10-point for-and-against advantage.

At halftime the Panthers had edged ahead on the live ladder, racing to a 32-4 lead at the break while the Bulldogs were 18-4 in front. But the Panthers were outscored by the Hornets in the second half and the Bulldogs went on with the job against the Lions, pitching the Bulldogs into a major semi showdown against table-topping Linwood Keas in a fortnight’s time.

The third-placed Panthers will again square off against the Hornets in the elimination semi on August 11.

Northern prop Chris Bamford dotted down for another two tries at the Lions’ expense, lifting his season tally to an astonishing 18 touchdowns in 14 games. The Lions would have snatched fourth off the Hornets with a win but instead slipped to a sixth-place finish.

Winger Pesini Tavake and centre Tyrone Arona both finished with doubles as Hornby piled on seven tries against Halswell. Tauvale Tauvale, Papa Mutu and Nick Stewart were the Panthers’ other try-scorers, while star five-eighth Sean Scott, wingers Nick Evans and Dylan Gittings, and interchange Alex Levien crossed for the Hornets.

Bottom-placed Riccarton Knights’ bid for a third win fell just short at Wainoni Park, going down 36-30 to Aranui Eagles after leading 12-10 at halftime.

Winger Alistair Roberts and prop Luisasa Ah Tong both notched doubles for the Eagles, while front-row stalwart Shane Tamatea crossed for two of the Knights’ five tries. The Eagles’ victory saw them leapfrog the Lions into fifth – just one point shy of the Hornets.

The Keas, who had already wrapped up top spot, completed a perfect 14-0 regular season after injury-stricken Papanui Tigers defaulted their Round 14 fixture. The Tigers finished in seventh spot but hope to regroup and compete in the Gore Cup in coming weeks.

Photo Credit: Jo Tomlinson

Share this