By Will Evans
The Massetti Cup’s top four teams all chalked up Round 10 victories on Saturday, leaving Hornby Panthers and Riccarton Knights with plenty of work to do to force their way into the CRL Bartercard Men’s Premiership playoffs with four weeks of the regular season remaining.
A late surge from Eastern delivered another blow to Hornby’s title defence, with the Eagles overturning an eight-point second-half deficit to win 46-28.
The Panthers took the ascendancy 28-20 with tries either side of halftime, but the third-placed Eagles posted five unanswered tries to run out comfortable winners and mark their Club Day at Wainoni Park in style.
Halswell Hornets, meanwhile, celebrated their Legends Day and the unveiling of new clubrooms with a 36-0 victory over Riccarton Knights, consolidating second place in the process.
Second-rower Josh Everett’s tryscoring spree continued, crossing three times to take his tally to nine in the Hornets’ past three matches. Long-serving centre Ken Tofilau bagged a try in each half.
The comprehensive result left the Knights sitting alongside the Panthers with a 4-6 record.
Northern Bulldogs overcame a slow start against Celebration Lions to build a four-point buffer in fourth spot, prevailing 36-18 at Murphy Park.
The Lions stormed out of the blocks with three tries to lead 14-0 after 17 minutes. But the Bulldogs regrouped to score eight of the last nine tries – including a second-half hat-trick to halfback Taniela Leka.
Massetti Cup frontrunners Linwood Keas made it a perfect 10-from-10 with a 66-0 defeat of Papanui Tigers. Mika Moemalo Ulu cashed in with a five-try haul, while Matthew Molioo and Michael Fili both picked up a double.
The next fortnight shapes as being especially decisive in the race for the finals. The Panthers will expect to take the two points when they host the Lions in Round 11, while the Bulldogs face a tough home assignment against the Hornets. The Panthers and Bulldogs then lock horns in a crunch game at Leslie Park in Round 12.
The Knights will look to stay in the top-four mix as they eye off clashes with the Tigers and Eagles over the next two Saturdays.
Halswell Hornets 36 defeated Riccarton Knights 0
Eastern Eagles 46 defeated Hornby Panthers 28
Linwood Keas 66 defeated Papanui Tigers 0
Northern Bulldogs 36 defeated Celebration Lions 18