The fourth-placed Halswell Hornets extended their Massetti Cup lead over the chasing pack after a thrilling 28-all draw with Celebration Lions at Cuthberts Green.

The Lions, who had won just two of their opening nine games, led 12-10 at halftime and were on course for an upset of the in-form Hornets.

But the hosts had to settle for a share of the spoils in a nail-biter. Centre David Reed scored two tries for Celebration.

It was the first draw of the Massetti Cup season, and in a remarkable coincidence the clubs also could not be split in the Canterbury Cup clash, finishing 30-all.

Hornby Panthers held onto second spot on the ladder after surviving a searing comeback from Papanui Tigers at Papanui Domain.

The Panthers powered to a 28-0 lead but the Tigers pegged a couple of tries back before halftime. The home side dominated the second half but ultimately came up just short, the Panthers hanging on for an important 36-30 victory.

Papa Mutu crossed for two tries for Hornby, while Kitiona Pati notched a brace for Papanui.

Northern Bulldogs joined the Panthers on an 8-2 record with a resounding 40-14 win over last-placed Riccarton Knights.

Celebrating their Club Day at Murphy Park, the Bulldogs raced out to a 22-4 lead by halftime and cruised to their fourth straight victory.

Vinnie Paul and Izic Placid bagged two tries apiece, while veteran playmaker Placid added six goals for a 20-point haul. Front-row stalwart Chris Bamford’s incredible tryscoring form continued with his 10th try of the 2018 season.

The Bulldogs are just two for-and-against points shy of the Panthers in what is shaping as a titanic struggle for second spot over the last month of the regular season.

Linwood Keas’ unbeaten run rolled on with a 36-10 ‘Battle of the Birds’/‘Battle of the East’ defeat of Aranui Eagles, who were also marking their 2018 Club Day at Wainoni Park.

The Keas led 16-6 at halftime and piled on four tries after the break to improve their points difference to an imposing +210. Ben Wilkie De Grut marked his call-up to the top grade with two tries and man-of-the-match honours.

This Saturday sees the postponed Round 8 of the Massetti Cup played, headlined by a blockbuster between 2016-17 grand final combatants Linwood and Hornby at Linwood Park.

Elsewhere, Celebration host Papanui, Halswell will look to cement fourth spot when they play Riccarton at home, and Northern aim to make it five straight when they travel to Wainoni Park to take on Aranui.

Photo Credit: Jo Tomlinson

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