A NATHAN Biddle hat-trick helped Turanga Panthers book a place in the top-four playoffs of the Gisborne Cosmopolitan Club rugby league competition
Biddle’s three tries came in a crucial 44-10 win against Te Urewera Raiders on Sunday.
The Panthers wing scored his team’s first, third and eighth tries in their catch-up game and second match of the weekend at Awapuni Sports Stadium, after the Panthers lost 52-24 to Seeka Falcons on Saturday.
Tapuae Taniwha ended Waengapu Stallions’ chances of making the top four, beating them 58-36 at Awapuni on Saturday.
Repongaere Eels started the weekend two points ahead of the Panthers and one ahead of the Stallions but lost two points for not giving 24 hours’ notice of defaulting their game against Eastland Engineering Paikea Whalers, scheduled for Saturday.
The Panthers took full advantage of their double header to claim the fourth and final spot in the semifinals.
Raiders prop Tipu Tipuna opened the scoring on Sunday before Biddle scored the first of his three tries.
Panthers halfback Jake Fox increased the lead with a try, followed by tries to Biddle and second-rower Ulai Oti.
Fox kicked two conversions for a 20-6 lead at halftime.
Panthers centre Dave Neho extended the gap after the restart with the first of his two tries. Fox then crossed the tryline and converted for a 30-6 lead.
Neho capped an outstanding game with another try, Fox adding the two points to make it 36-6.
The Raiders hit back with an unconverted try to winger Ray Tipu, before Biddle completed his hat-trick and Panthers fullback Tim Morris added another try.
■ Tapuae fullback Rob Waikawa scored four tries and kicked a conversion in his side’s 58-36 win against the Stallions on Saturday. However, the 22-point margin was not a true reflection of the closeness of the match.
The Stallions led 20-16 at the end of a hard-fought first 40 minutes. Third-placed Tapuae came out firing for the last 40 minutes to claim victory.
Tapuae standoff Tione Hubbard celebrated his comeback from injury by scoring two tries and landing four conversions.
■ Also on Saturday, the Falcons and the Panthers produced a high-scoring match with the Falcons eventually taking the two points.
Falcons player Tony Campbell grabbed a hat-trick, while Kody Walker scored two tries.
Marquinn Samuels had a good day with the boot, kicking eight conversions from nine attempts.
Panthers stand-off Nico Poi was also on form, landing four from four.
Te Urewera Raiders beat Eastern Knights 36-14, Raiders fullback Louie Mitchell scoring two tries and kicking four conversions.
The playoffs start on Saturday, with Paikea playing the Falcons and Tapuae taking on the Panthers. The winner of the Paikea-Falcons match goes through to the final with the losers playing the winners of the Tapuae-Panthers match.