Raymond Terrace and Northern Suburbs have booked their spots in the Maitland first-grade grand final with thrilling semi-final wins.
Terrace turned their poor batting form around to post 8/318 against Thornton at Robins Oval and they needed all of them with Thornton skipper Jake Moore scoring 122 as the Thunder fell just 23 runs short of their target.
It was an equally close-run thing at Lorn Park where Norths were two-wicket winners finishing on 8/240 chasing down City United’s first-day total of 236.
Norths skipper Michael Wilson delivered an impressive captain’s knock when needed, making 71 to take his side within sight of victory at 7/220. Teenager Rex Greaves saw them home finishing on 12 not out.
City’s Michael Heinrich gave his team every chance to cause an upset making 61, claiming 4-57 and running out Matt Sugden in an outstanding individual performance.
Heinrich combined with Ryan Merrick (50) for an 89-run eighth wicket stand which rescued City from 7/132 to post a defendable target.
Matthew Latham and Ricky Dent were City’s other main contributors with 24 each.
City started brilliantly in the field, with Tim Baker capturing the prized wicket of Australian under-17 representative Will Fort for six.
But as he has done so often this season Lincoln Mills steadied the ship to make 40 at the top of the order with Luke Stewart making a whirlwind 31 at No.3.
Another of Norths talented teenagers Logan Smith made an important 41 before being dismissed by fellow teen City’s Jock Vivers who finished with 2-24.
At Robins Oval the emotions could not have contrasted more as Thornton fell angonisingly short of reaching the grand final after being last on the ladder after six rounds.
That they were in the battle to the second last over the day and fell just short 23 runs short of a huge target of 318 was in no small part to an incredible captain’s knock of 122 by Jake Moore and an amazing self-belief which transformed their season.
The turning point came the first ball after the final drinks break when Peter Gabriel was bowled by Jacob Page for 22 with the score on 3/214.
Jaymes Thomas followed up immediately dismissing Blake Walmsley caught behind for one but the fight continued.
Chris Archer made 34 not out and continually raised Thornton’s hopes with some big hitting.
However, after the disappointment of bowing out in the semi-finals last year, Lions veteran Nick Savage was determined not to let this chance to make the grand final go begging.
Savage claimed the last three Thornton wickets to finish with 5-71 from 23 overs including the prized wicket of Moore.
It was all over when Brent Dawes and Archer chanced a second run and despite a desperate lunge Dawes was short of his ground. The big bowler lay motionless on the ground for a couple of minutes as Raymond Terrace celebrated victory.
Jaymes Thomas completed a fine game taking 2-45 to go with his 92 with the bat. Raymond Terrace captain Steve Smith also had a welcome return to form making an impressive 88.
The Lions remarkable turn around in the form was emphasised by Thomas and Smith’s innings along accounting for the team’s past two totals being dismissed by City United for 89 with the chance of claiming the minor premiership and for 71 against Northern Suburbs in front of the Raymond Terrace old boys..
In perhaps their best batting performance of the year, Thomas and Smith received good support from several avenues including Jonathon Halloran (52), Harden (34) and Aaron Bills (33 not out).
The top-two teams at the end of the regular season now meet in next weekend’s grand final at Robins Oval on Saturday and Sunday.
Their record is one win each against each other for the season.