Top three teams City United, Northern Suburbs and Thornton have created a two-game buffer over the chasing pack after important wins in round seven of Maitland first grade cricket on the weekend.
in the other game Eastern Suburbs moved off the bottom of the table with a last-ball victory over arch rivals Western Suburbs for their second win against the Plovers this season.
City United maintained top spot with a dominant 125-run win against Raymond Terrace at Robins Oval.
Thornton recorded perhaps their most emphatic win of the season with a seven-wicket victory over Kurri Weston with seven and a half overs to spare at Kurri Central and Northern Suburbs did what was required to get the points in their four-wicket win against Tenambit Morpeth.
At King Edward Park, the Griffins won the thriller of the round with spinner Jack Bennett claiming a wicket with the last ball to deny Wests by three runs.
After hitting a six with the second last delivery, Luke Kealy needed a four off the last ball to give the Plovers the win but Bennett won the duel.
It was a man-of-the match performance by Bennett who made 60 off 93 balls at the top of the innings and bowled out 10 overs straight at the end claiming two wickets in the process.
Lachy Wishart was next best with the bat making 41, Ben Towns made 35 and Josh Hicks marked his return with 31 off 23 balls. Nick Yates chimed in with an important 22 off as Easts were all out for 223 in the 48th over.
Mitchell Fisher was the best with the ball taking 3-46.
Thornton dominate Kurri Weston
Thornton have set up a top-three clash against City United in the final round before the Christmas break following a comprehensive seven-wicket win against Kurri Weston at Kurri Central.
Kurri Weston won the toss and elected to bat and it looked like they were in for a big day with openers Josh Tuckwell (24) and Danial Foster (22) racing into their 20s at better than a run-a-ball.
Elliott Thompson ended Tuckwell's onslaught with the score on 36 when he had him caught behind by Jono Gabriel who had replaced regular keeper Pommy Gabriel who missed the game with an injured hand.
Brent Dawes sent Foster's wickets tumbling with the score on 46 and Thornton were able to take control of proceedings putting the brake on the Warriors' run-rate and taking regular wickets.
Liam Dalibozek was the last man out after making a 53 off 74 balls to give Kurri Weston a total of 185 to defend.
The Thunder's bowlers shared the wickets with Chris Archer collecting 3-19 off 7.2 overs and Dawes (2-42 off 10) and Nicholas Bourke (2-12 off six) picking up a brace each.
Jono Gabriel continued his great form with the bat making a quick-fire 65 off 83 balls before he was caught with the score on 114.
Opening partner Jake Moore kept the innings ticking over and finished unbeaten on 64.
When Jamie Krake was out for one, skipper Matt Gabriel took the opportunity to promote 14-year-old Riley Petrie above himself in the batting line-up.
The youngster didn't disappoint weathering a testing spell from the Kurri Weston bowlers and looking comfortable in making 14 before he was caught and bowled by Nick Neild.
Matt Gabriel ensured proceedings finished early with three fours in his 14 not out as the Thunder completed their chase on 3/187 off 42.3 overs.
City United display depth in emphatic win
City United displayed their depth with Karl Bowd and Sam Jordan leading the way in their side's 125-run win against Raymond Terrace at Robins Oval.
Despite missing Josh Trappel and rare failures by Andrew Vickery (1) and Matt Trappel (0), City were still able to compile an impressive 8/253.
Bowd cemented his place at the top of the innings with 72 off just 91 balls and promoted to No.3 Jordan showed his all-round talents with a solid 52 in an anchor role.
After successive five-wicket hauls in the previous two rounds, Todd Francis reminded all just how he is with the bat smashing 47 off 35 balls including four fours and two sixes.
Lachlan Page (2-55 off 10) and Matt Holstein (2-25 off seven) picked up two wickets each for Terrace.
City put the pressure on early with a tight opening spell by Tim Baker and Tim Burton paying dividends later in the innings as the Terrace batsmen struggled to get the ball away.
Baker finished with 2-28, but Nick Bower finished with the bowling honours taking 4-46 off his 10 as Terrace were dismissed for 128 in the 35th over.
Page finished unbeaten on 24 and skipper Steve Smith and Joe Harden both made 23.
Norths keep on winning
Northern Suburbs collected their fifth win from seven games with a four-wicket victory over Tenambit Morpeth Bulls at Lorn Park on Saturday.
After a quality performance ended in a final-ball loss to Thornton last week, Norths did enough to get the points against the young Bulls posting 6/165 off chasing Tenambit Morpeth's total of 164..
"We were pretty disappointing in the field in particular. We dropped several catches and made things difficult for ourselves," Norths skipper Lincoln Mills said.
"We did enough and got the points which in the end is the most important thing at this stage of the season.
"If we get the win in next weekend's two-dayer if gives us real momentum going into the new year.
"To sit where we are on the ladder given we probably haven't gone near our best since we beat City is a real positive for us."
Daniel Collison made 62 to be the mainstay of Tenambit Morpeth's innings, with four other batsman reaching double figures but unable to reach the 20s.
Denzel O'Brien got Norths off to great start dismissing openers Tallon Gear and Kerryn Ball in a fine opening spell to finish with 2-17 off four.
Mills took 2-29 of nine overs and Sean Gibson took 2-12 of 8.2 overs to also pick up a brace.
Mike Wilson and Mills gave Norths yet another 50-plus opening stand before Wilson was out for 24 with the score on 61.
Mills top scored with 54 as Norths struggled to score during an excellent spell of bowling by Shane Wind who finished with the incredible figures of 3-13, with six maidens including two wicket-maidens.
Ben Sugden scored an important 18 and Ben Clouten was unbeaten on 17 to ensure victory for the homeside.
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