Hornby Panthers and Northern Bulldogs overturned halftime deficits to chalk up season-opening wins, while Linwood Keas grafted out a hard-fought derby victory in a thrilling set of CRL Men’s Premiership Round 1 matches.

The Panthers’ 26-20 defeat of Halswell Hornets in the battle of the west featured a monumental comeback, a match-winning hat-trick from a hooker and one of the more dramatic Massetti Cup finishes in recent memory.

The Hornets led 14-0 at halftime of the Halswell Domain showdown through tries to centre Josh Rawiri, winger Ollie Hansen and halfback Ruihi Kawenga.

Hansen completed a double after the break, but the Panthers clawed back with two tries from No.9 Solomon Alaimalo, and four-pointers to winger Seamus Stack and back-rower Zinzan Martin.

With the scores locked 20-all in the dying stages, a Panthers penalty goal attempt swung wide – but the Hornets failed to clean up the loose ball and Alaimalo pounced for an extraordinary winner, his third of the afternoon.

A second-half shutout carried the Bulldogs to a 22-12 home win over Riccarton Knights.

The visitors led 12-6 at the break at Murphy Park after Knights outside backs Rikki Bidois and Lolouta Elia crossed, but three unanswered tries in the second stanza paved the way to a valuable two competition points for the Josh Reuben-coached Bulldogs.

Halfback linchpin Taniela Leka finished with two tries for Northern.

The Keas kicked off their premiership defence with a 24-14 result over eastside neighbours Eastern Eagles at Wainoni Park.

The Eagles led 10-4 following tries to centre Tyrone Stowers and prolific hooker Cyrus Timo-Latu, but the champs took a 16-10 advantage into halftime with Jerome Taefu, centre partner and grand final hero Penitito Ilalio, and late bench inclusion Tanu Suavine dotting down.

Veteran five-eighth Daniel Hartley gave the Keas breathing space by converting his own try in the second half. Eagles halfback Mesiah kept the hosts’ hopes afloat with a four-pointer before a Hartley penalty goal completed the scoring, with the sin-binning of Cameron Tukapua and Timo-Latu stymieing the Eagles’ comeback bid.

Three tries off the bench from evergreen club stalwart Andrew Auimatagi spearheaded defending ISC Canterbury Cup champions Linwood Keas’ 26-16 win over Eastern Eagles in the opening clash of a Wainoni Park double-header.

After requesting to be withdrawn from the premiership for 2023, Papanui Tigers made an early Canterbury Cup statement with a 56-10 defeat of Shirley Hawks at Macfarlane Park.

Meanwhile, the competition’s two out-of-town clubs both carved out convincing Round 1 victories.

Ashburton Barbarians accounted for 2022 grand finalists Hornby Panthers 32-14 at home. Greymouth Greyhounds ran in 11 tries in a 60-0 rout of Burnham Chevaliers at Coronation Park, racing to a 40-0 lead by halftime.



Hornby Panthers 26 (Solomon Alaimalo 3, Seaums Stack, Zinzan Martin tries; Dion Fong-Yip 2, Sincere Harraway goals) defeated Halswell Hornets 20 (Ollie Hansen 2, Josh Rawiri, Ruihi Kawenga tries; Jamie Nuttridge 2 goals) at Halswell Domain

Linwood Keas 24 (Daniel Hartley, Jerome Taefu, Penitito Ilalio, Tanu Suavine tries; Hartley 4 goals) defeated Eastern Eagles 14 (Tyrone Stowers, Cyrus Timo-Latu, Mesiah Asi tries; Jimmy Wihongi goal) at Wainoni Park

Northern Bulldogs 22 (Taniela Leka 2, Riki Koni, Kurt Williams tries; Mitchell Hidson-Connelly 2 goals) defeated Riccarton Knights 12 (Rikki Bidois, Lolouta Elia tries; Mata Halbert-Pere 2 goals) at Murphy Park



Ashburton Barbarians 32 defeated Hornby Panthers 14 at Robilliard Park
Linwood Keas 26 defeated Eastern Eagles 16 at Wainoni Park
Riccarton Knights 24 defeated Northern Bulldogs 6 at Murphy Park
Papanui Tigers 56 defeated Shirley Hawks 10 at Macfarlane Park
Greymouth Greyhounds 60 defeated Burnham Chevaliers 0


Photo Credit: Shaun Asi / Eastern Eagles

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