Northern Bulldogs desperate to earn second chance against in-form Hornby Panthers

BROTHERS IN ARMS: Chris and Jason Bamford, double trouble for the Northern Bulldogs. when they play the Hornby Panthers in a must-win semi-final on Saturday.

The Hornby Panthers and Northern Bulldogs head into their do-or-die rugby league semi-final on Saturday at opposite ends of the momentum spectrum.

The Panthers finished third on the competition ladder and won their sudden-death semi-final 50-6 against the Halswell Hornets.

The second-placed Bulldogs lost their chance to automatically qualify for the final when they were beaten 48-10 by minor premiers the Linwood Keas.

The Panthers and Bulldogs were only separated by points differential on the table, and each have a win against the other this season.

The Bulldogs outlasted the Panthers 24-20 in their round 10 encounter on June 23, while the Panthers triumphed 20-16 in round three on April 21.

Bulldogs player/coach Chris Bamford said his team had to forget about the heavy defeat to Linwood and look to make the most of their second life at home at Murphy Park.

“That’s not the way we want to end things with the Keas this year, but we have to put in a better performance this week to try to redeem ourselves in the grand-final,” Bamford said.

The veteran forward says his team has a superior forward pack and that will play a big part in earning the win.

“This match is a contrast of style,” he said. “I believe we have the better forward pack, and if we can win the battle up the middle of the park, then we should be all good,” he said.

“A lot of that comes down to me. I’ve come back to play with my brother and help lead the team and that starts with my play.”

“They (Panthers) are a team that likes to throw the ball around, so we will have to improve our defence after last week.”

The Panthers certainly showed how good they can be on attack, running in nine tries against Halswell.

Panthers coach Jed Lawrie said this was their second consecutive week with a full strength team and it showed on the scoreboard.

“I feel we took 90 per cent of our scoring chances. We do like to throw the ball around and Halswell struggled to contain us.”

Lawrie acknowledged the Bulldogs’ powerful forwards but said with veterans like Canterbury Bulls captain James Baxendale, former Bulls captain Jonny Limmer and experienced prop Rulon Nutira, he believed his team could match them.

Riccarton Knights kept their hopes alive of replicating Halswell’s feat last year of winning the Gore Cup from last place. They dispatched the Papanui Tigers 36-16, and will now play Celebration on Saturday for a spot in the Gore Cup final.

Aranui Eagles moved into the final with a resounding 42-22 win over Celebration Lions after leading 22-10 at half-time.

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