The battle for second spot will go down to the wire and fourth position is still up for grabs after a high-scoring penultimate round of Canterbury Rugby League’s Massetti Cup.

Hornby Panthers entered Round 13 in second, ahead of Northern Bulldogs by a mere six for-and-against points. But the Bulldogs’ 64-24 thrashing of Papanui – with the Panthers accounting for Aranui 38-14 – saw the high-flying clubs swap places on the ladder.

The Bulldogs romped to a 40-0 halftime lead at Murphy Park to set up the highest individual team score of the season. Charismatic front-rower Chris Bamford scored four of their 12 tries, taking his 2018 tally to an extraordinary 16 in 13 games.

Winger Tony Loffhagen bagged a double for Northern, while five-eighth Izic Placid racked up 20 points from a try and eight goals.

But there was a hint of a missed opportunity for the Bulldogs after both teams scored 24 points in the second stanza – John Tafua and Kitiona Pati both scoring twice for the Tigers – when the Kaiapoi-based club could have taken a points differential stranglehold on second spot.

A hat-trick to bulldozing winger Charlie Charlie and a brace to centre Willie Tafua underpinned the Panthers’ win over the fifth-placed Eagles, who held the home side to a 16-8 halftime scoreline at Leslie Park.

The result ended the plucky Eagles’ slim hopes of snatching fourth spot. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs and Panthers will have their calculators at the ready as second spot – and two bites at the grand final cherry – comes down to the for-and-against equation.

Northern boast a points differential of +133, while Hornby are sitting on +123.

Round 13 proved an unfortunate one for the fourth-placed Halswell Hornets, who were crushed 62-6 at home by undefeated ladder leaders Linwood Keas.

The defending champs led 20-6 at halftime and piled on 42 unanswered points after the break, with Alani Kakoi scoring two of their 11 tries and Daniel Hartley tallying 22 points from a try and nine goals.

The landslide at Halswell Domain left the finals door ajar for Celebration Lions after their gripping 16-14 win over bottom-placed Riccarton Knights at Crosbie Park.

The Lions were 12-4 in front at the break and hung on for the victory despite having veteran forward Johnathan Lima ordered off.

Celebration remain two points adrift of Halswell but with a superior for-and-against. If the Lions can jag a win over the on-fire Bulldogs at Cuthberts Green next Saturday and the Hornets lose their daunting final-round assignment against the Panthers at Leslie Park, the Lions will leapfrog the Hornets into fourth.

Photo Credit: Jo Tomlinson

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