MASSETTI CUP RIVALS AIM TO WEAVE SOME MAGIC AT NGĀ PUNA WAI
Ngā Puna Wai, the home of Canterbury Rugby League since 2019, celebrates another milestone on Saturday in the form of the inaugural Massetti Cup Magic Round.
All three CRL Men’s Premiership Round 12 matches will be staged at Ngā Puna Wai tomorrow afternoon in a massive festival of local footy: Northern Bulldogs and Linwood Keas get things underway at 1pm, while the Eastern Eagles v Hornby Panthers and Riccarton Knights v Halswell Hornets fixtures kick off at 2.45pm.
The ISC Canterbury Cup, Division One and Presidents competitions have a bye weekend, giving the entire Canterbury Rugby League community the opportunity to get down to Ngā Puna Wai and support what shapes as truly special occasion for our game.
Ngā Puna Wai has been the scene of many memorable occasions in its four and a half seasons as Canterbury Rugby League’s headquarters: the 2019 opening day featuring Canterbury Bulls’ clash with the Warriors’ NSW Cup team; four CRL Grand Final Days, including some of the greatest Men’s and Women’s Premiership deciders of the modern era; the Bulls’ representative showdowns with NSW Country and Toa Samoa; Canterbury’s men’s and women’s teams’ matches in the NZRL National Premiership; and myriad South Island Scorpions and Canterbury age-group successes, and youth night competition finals.
Friday Night Footy at Ngā Puna Wai has also been a key innovation of the 2023 Massetti Cup – the fourth and final instalment is scheduled for June 30, with Linwood Keas and Halswell Hornets squaring off in a crucial encounter.
Magic Round comes at a pivotal juncture of the CRL Men’s Premiership campaign, the 12th of 15 regular-season rounds.
Defending champs the Keas and 2021 champs the Panthers are locked in a fascinating battle for the Massetti Cup as the premiership’s round-robin winners. The archrivals head into the weekend with identical 9-2 records and look almost certain to lock horns in the opening weekend of the finals in August.
The 6-5 Hornets are in outright third, one win clear of the fourth-placed Eagles. More competitive than their record might suggest, the 3-8 Knights will not have given up hope of making a late charge to snare a spot in the playoffs.
Likewise, despite going winless since Round 1, the Bulldogs are still a chance of finishing the regular season with a flourish and avoiding the August 5 promotion/relegation clash with an invitational team from the ISC Canterbury Cup.
Hornby is on a sizzling four-match winning streak but will be under no illusions about the threat Eastern presents: the Panthers held on for a 26-22 win at Wainoni Park in Round 2 but were rolled 30-28 in a Leslie Park thriller in Round 7.
Similarly, Halswell will be ignoring ladder positions and competition points when it takes on Riccarton. The Hornets carved out a 44-14 win at home in Round 2, but the Knights were gallant in an 18-12 loss at Crosbie Park in the clubs’ Round 7 encounter.
Northern will be aiming to pull off the upset of the year against Linwood, with the Bulldogs going down to the Keas at Linwood Park (30-6) and Murphy Park (44-10) convincingly already this season.
It’s also heating up in the race for two of the premiership’s individual awards, the A G Bailey Cup for most tries and the Turner & Le Brun Cup for most goals.
Hornby winger Seamus Stack was an early front-runner in the tryscoring stakes and has added two hat-tricks in the past four rounds to sit on an equal competition-high 12 touchdowns. Stack’s treble last week saw him rejoin Linwood flyer Michael Fili, who had gone to the lead by scoring in six consecutive games before his streak ended in Round 11.
Eastern Eagles’ Kolone Faalilo is hot on the pair’s heels with 11 tries after following up three doubles in the space of five games with a stunning five-try haul in a losing effort in Round 9. The Eagles’ Cyrus Timo-Latu and the Keas’ Jerome Taefu are next on the leaderboard with eight tries apiece.
Meanwhile, Linwood veteran Daniel Hartley (40) is narrowly in front of Hornby’s Caleb Murphy (38) in the goalkicking standings, with last year’s winner, Jamie Nuttridge (27), sitting third.
Get behind all the Massetti Cup teams in a historic Magic Round at Ngā Puna Wai this Saturday afternoon – and head down to the home of Canterbury Rugby League for CRL Women’s Premiership double-header on Sunday, with Sydenham Swans and Woolston Rams kicking off at 1pm and Eastern Eagles taking on Burnham Chevaliers at 2.35pm.