It's the business end of the season. The time when teams decide their fate .... or book their March holidays. Round 11 saw the Saints take on last seasons Club Champions, the Panthers from Penrith in a two day match in all grades. Aside from that, the PG's had their final round against Gordon and after qualifying in 2nd position, our Green Shield Under 16's played in a QF, also against Penrith.
Batting first at Howell Oval, First Grade found themselves in all sorts at 2-28 before Chris MacDougal and Mitchell Edwards got together for a century stand with both young guns peeling off crucial half centuries. Once again wickets fell cheaply and the Saints looked destined for another poor score however Darius Visser and Matt Lacey bought back some respectability helping to get the Saint to 226 with Lacey ending up with a valuable 32 not out. Penrith faced out the remainder of days play with Matt Lacey picking up an important wicket.
Early on Day 2 Penrith got off to a healthy start before losing their first wicket of the day with the score on 55. This brought about a dramatic collapse with man of the moment, Matt Lacey doing most of the damage with his quality leggies. At lunch the Panthers found themselves at 7-90 with Trent Copeland returning to the side and picking up 2 wickets. It took just 15 mins after lunch for the Saints to seal an emphatic victory with Penrith all out for just 106. Player of the Match, Matt Lacey finished with 4-22 whilst Nathan Ellis returned figures of 3-36. The Saints batted again for 21 overs to finish the game at 2-57. After a very slow start to the season the First Grade boys have now returned a respectable 4 wins from their last 6 outings.
Second Grade were at Hurstville and couldn't have started better when Trent Smith picked up a wicket off the first ball of the game. Aside from a solid 77 from the Panthers No.3 the Penrith batters were unable to build any decent partnerships with 69 the biggest stand. The spin of Aaron Royall (4-64 from 21) did the majority of the damage as Penrith were eventually all out for 226, ironically the same score as the Saints boys in First Grade. Unfortunately a dubious decision saw Vergopoulos fall before the end of the days play for 26.
The Saints boys also failed to put together any decent partnerships on day 2 despite a well compiled 53 from Luke Bartier. This saw the Saints all out for a disappointing 209 meaning the slide down the competition ladder gets all the more slippery.
Third Grade needed a win and it looked as if they may do it tough as a steady flow of wickets saw them all out for 175 which would have been far worse if not for the fighting efforts of Michael Turnbull with 63 from No.3 and Matthew Iemma on debut in 3's with 35 and Caleb Bartier with 22 batting at No's 7 and 8 respectably.
Experienced young Saint, Andrew Walsh tore through the Penrith batting order finishing with 5-39 (off 19) to see Penrith all out for 121. Nathan Anderson continued his return to form after missing the start of the season with injury with handy figures of 3-20 whilst Benji Hoppitt was tidy with 3 snares and a stumping.
It was business as usual for the likes of Michael Kennedy, Steve Wark and Gav Dennett on Day one when they combined to see Penrith dismissed for just 154 from 52.4 overs. Dennett picked himself a "Michelle" with 5 fa 66 whilst young Kennedy had 2-19 and the reliable Wark finished with 3-44 off 24 overs. The Saints finished the day on top with Hayes and Konstas combining for a decent partnership without the loss of a wicket.
They continued on their way on day two before Konstas fell for 30 with the score on 69. When Hayes fell for 43 with the score at 3-99 the game was by no means in the bag with a further 3 wickets falling before the Penrith total was passed. They were eventually dismissed for 163 with Jackson Shaw adding 30 to the score.
Some Paul Witherly and Joshua Moors magic in 5th Grade saw Penrith dismissed for 118. Witherly finished with the figures of 5-47 off 21 overs whilst Moors ended with the figures of 4-25 off 9.3. Some decent starts saw the Saints finish day 1 at 3-92.
On Day 2 they easily accounted for the remaining 26 runs to take first innings points declaring at 200 and putting Penrith in for a shot at an outright. It wasn't to be but a few more Penrith averages were damaged as they finished at 6-131 off 51 overs.
Final Round PG's Vs Gordon - Sunday 22nd
The Saints appeared to have a Qualifying Finals berth already in the bag but a win in this game could be the key to getting a top 4 position and a home QF. Batting first the Saints toiled hard to finish with 7-208 at the completion of the 50 overs. The backbone of the innings was Luke Bartier with 71 from 92 balls whilst Darius Visser chipped in with a valuable 32 off 65. A superb cameo from Ben Panayotopoulos with 33 not out from just 26 balls helped complete what would be a winning target.
Gordon looked to get themselves in a decent position at one stage 2-90 and then 3-172 before they imploded with the next 7 wickets falling for just 16 runs to be all out for 188. The damage was well and truly done by Caleb Bartier who finished with the astonishing figures of 6-25 off 8.3 overs whilst the in form Ryan Peacock helped with 2 early wickets. Initially it looked as though the lads finished in 5th behind arch rivals Sutherland but after an adjustment it was realised that the Saints had indeed earned a home game in the Qualifying Final to be played on the 19th of February.
Green Shield Qualifying Final Vs Penrith - Sunday 22nd
The Green Shield unit had built nicely after a slow, rain affected start to their campaign. They finished strongly to earn a home Qualifying Final in 2nd position. Playing at Harold Fraser Oval they boys got off to a solid batting start with an opening partnership of 34 followed by a 36 run partnership to leave the home team looking comfortable at 2-70. Unfortunately things went pear shaped as wickets began to tumble at pace and before they new it, the Saints were 9-105. Michael Kennedy and Rory Russo showed great character and heart to try and resurrect the innings. They managed to add 42 runs to the score to see the innings end after 47 overs on 147 with both players adding 20 courageous runs each at the bottom of the order. Would it be enough?
The young Saints got off to a cracking start through the in form Vasi MacMillan and Liam Thompson with Penrith slumping to 2-8 and then 4-35 before a couple of fighting partnerships saw the Panthers claw their way slowly to 7-130 and it was on for a classic grandstand finish. The sizable crowd created a pressure packed atmosphere and it was on for a nail bitinging finish. A couple of crucial wickets plus a couple missed run outs saw the game come down to the final over where the Penrith side prevailed with just two balls to play. What a finish and what talent to come through in the next few years. Well done to coaches Andrew Walsh and Dave Williams, the full squad, parents and all those involved for an intriguing Green Shield campaign.