Campbelltown-Camden has risen from last position on the table at the end of last season to finish the 2017-18 McDonald’s NSW Premier Cricket campaign Minor Premiers after a tense final round on Saturday where many former and current Blues featured prominently.
Campbelltown-Camden secured top spot despite a loss at home to Sydney University. The Ghosts posted just the one win in the 2016-17 season as opposed to the nine which confirmed its minor premierships.
Following his retirement from professional cricket, Ed Cowan was in blistering touch for Sydney University in their eight-wicket victory over the Ghosts. He peeled off 75 not out from 41 balls.
Blues fast bowler Charlie Stobo claimed 4-38 for Gordon in its seven-wicket win over Blacktown, and Blues and Hawkesbury all-rounder Arjun Nair continued his good form with bat in hand making 56 for his club in their 90-run win over Western Suburbs.
A defiant and entertaining 60 from 30 balls to Australian Under 19 World Cup wicketkeeper batsman Baxter Holt was a highlight for Eastern Suburbs in an otherwise disappointing 194-run loss to Bankstown.
It was an unbelievable Saturday, where each of the three teams occupying first to third heading into Round 15, all lost their last matches.
The bonus point win to Sydney University over Campbelltown-Camden guaranteed the students third place, while Parramatta finished where it began the round in second place, despite a comprehensive 129-run defeat to Randwick Petersham.
A number of other results also had a significant bearing on the final make-up of the top six.
Manly-Warringah claimed the prestigious Club Championship title for the third time in 10 years. A seven-wicket win over Mosman in First Grade greatly helped that cause.
The minor premiership also earns the Ghosts a vital second chance in the finals series and a home final next Saturday.
The other two teams to have home ground advantage include Parramatta and Sydney University.
Campbelltown-Camden host Sydney at Raby Oval No. 1 in the first of the qualifying finals next Saturday. A resurgent Gordon are away to Parramatta, and Sutherland travel to University Oval to play Sydney University.
Cowan was sublime for Sydney University in an emphatic win over the eventual minor premiers. His second half-century of the season for the students included eight fours and five sixes.
The former Australian Test opener hit the winning runs with one of those sixes in the 20th over. The students finished 2/161 in pursuit of 156 for victory.
Opener Hayden Kerr was also impressive for the victors. He made 53 from 32 balls in an innings which included three fours and four sixes.
On an otherwise exciting day for the club, it was a disappointing result for Campbelltown-Camden as it was restricted to 8/155 by some excellent bowling.
Kerr (2-21), captain Liam Robertson (2-21) and Lawrence Neil-Smith (2-23) were all miserly for Sydney University with ball in hand.
Campbelltown-Camden Jarrad Burke (30) top scored in the losing side and claimed 1-36.
Four wickets to Stobo helped Gordon into fifth place on the table, as it comfortably accounted for Blacktown at Chatswood Oval.
The home side dismissed the visitors for 114 in under 34 overs. Scott O’Brien (3-37) and Matt Junk (2-26) provided Stobo with tremendous support in the Gordon attack. Elliott Richtor (1-6) collected the remaining wicket.
Valuable contributions from Tym Crawford (41) and captain Steve Colley (33 not out) cruised Gordon past the required target.
Bankstown narrowly missed a place in the finals, despite an emphatic victory over a very strong Eastern Suburbs outfit, due to a slightly inferior quotient to Gordon and Sydney.
It was a marvellous victory for the Bulldogs considering the strength of the Eastern Suburbs team, which included Blues captain Peter Nevill (4) and three other NSW players.
Nic Maddinson (26) was one of those players, and the early wickets of the left-hander and Nevill, put Bankstown in a commanding position which it never relinquished.
Fast bowler Nathan McAndrew (3-38) picked up both scalps and led the Bankstown attack with authority during the successful defence of 5/331. The haul took him to the exceptional milestone of 202 career wickets at 22.98.
It was an outstanding all-round performance by McAndrew, who also scored 59 from 57 balls at the top of the order.
Jake Cormack (69), captain and wicketkeeper Michael Stretton (66 not out) and Chris Ridley (50) all produced excellent innings for Bankstown to set an imposing total for the Dolphins to chase.
Ian Moran (2-55) returned best figures for Eastern Suburbs. Blues paceman Harry Conway claimed 1-52 and off-spinner Will Somerville (0-59) went wicketless.
Eastern Suburbs were at one stage 5/75 and never recovered from the loss of Nevill and Maddinson early.
Despite some resistance from Holt in the middle stages, the Eastern Suburbs innings fell away towards the end. It lost its last four wickets for three runs to be bowled out for 137.
It was a bittersweet victory for the 2016-17 finalists as they missed out on quotient in seventh place.
Sydney qualified for the finals in sixth place after an agonizing six run loss to Sutherland at Drummoyne Oval. The defeat dropped the Tigers from third to sixth.
The bowling of Tom Pinson was a vital factor in the win for the visitors. He collected 5-46 and prevented Sydney from developing any significant lower-order partnerships the Tigers required to get them over the line in the second innings.
The wickets of Anthony Mosca (52) and Suffan Hassan (46) were key to the Sutherland win.
Recent Sheffield Shield debutant and Blues rookie, Daniel Fallins (2-21) snared the crucial scalp of Mosca, while some good fielding by Australian Under 19 World Cup all-rounder Austin Waugh (1-50), brought the Hassan innings to an end. Jamie Brown also picked up 1-45 from 10 overs for Sutherland.
The visitors batted first and were dismissed for 217 in the 49th over. Alex Glendenning (4-31) was the best of the Sydney attack and well supported by Ryan Felsch (2-34) and by Nic Bills (2-47).
Peter Saroukos (44) and wicketkeeper Jarryd Biviano (35) were the best of the batsmen for Sutherland.
Parramatta suffered a shock defeat to Randwick Petersham, who needed a win to keep its finals hopes alive, and achieved that goal by dismissing their hosts for only 101 in defence of 5/230.
Blues seamer Sean Abbott (32) top-scored for Parramatta in a disappointing chase for the home side. Greg West (5-33) was superb for the visitors. It was his first five wicket haul for the season.
Alex Kemp (83 not out) was the stand out batsman for Randwick Petersham. His 134-run partnership with Soumil Chhibber (58) would prove pivotal.
Parramatta fast bowler Ben Martin added another four wickets to his tally for the season. He collected 4-50 from 10 overs and now has 38 scalps at 24.9 for the season.
Randwick Petersham finished the season in ninth after wins to several teams ahead of them on the ladder heading into Round 15.
Manly-Warringah were in a similar position to Randwick Petersham after it defeated Mosman by seven wickets at Manly Oval.
The win left Manly in eighth place one point behind Gordon, Sydney and Bankstown. It was a tight tussle for the remaining spots in the top six with all but seven points separating first and ninth.
The hosts comfortably chased down 188 for victory courtesy of 72 from 43 balls to opener James Crosthwaite and handy contributions by brother Adam (48) and teenager Oliver Davies (44 not out).
The early wicket of Blues opening batsman Daniel Hughes (4) was central to the victory. Michael Visser (3-27) picked up the wickets of both Mosman openers including Hughes. Joel Foster also claimed (3-42) for Manly.
Hearne backed up his maiden century in First Grade with another half-century. His 51 from 65 balls and a solid knock from Patrick Pisel (48) gave the visitors some hope, but it was to no avail.
In the Hawkesbury win over Fairfield-Liverpool, all-rounder Josh Clarke claimed the unusual record of becoming the only player in the history of McDonald’s NSW Premier Cricket to start the season with an innings of 99 and finish the season making the same score.
He joins the former state player Wayne Seabrook as the only other player to have experienced the misfortune twice in one season.
Nair coupled his half-century with 2-17 from eight overs and Blues rookie fast bowler Liam Hatcher collected 3-37 in the beaten side.
St George all-rounder Nick Stapleton (112 not out) scored his second century of his First Grade career in a four-wicket win over Western Suburbs.
In the process, Stapleton became the only player to achieve the double of 500 runs and 40 wickets this season, and is the first player since Patrick Jackson in 2013-14 to complete the double of 600 runs and 40 wickets. He finished the season with 673 runs and his 2-31 in the first innings against Wests took him to 41 wickets.
His innings was vitally important in a tight encounter at Pratten Park with no other batsman exceeding 25. Wicketkeeper-batsman Jonathan Rose (25) was second top score.
Blues players Kurtis Patterson (16) and captain Trent Copeland (5) were both dismissed cheaply.
In other results, UNSW 224 (DG Dawson 82 not out, MA Atallah 57, B Williams 2-29, MJ Castle 2-39) went down to Penrith 8/248 (B Williams 74 not out, R Hackney 67, HC McLean 2-43, DO White 2-52), and North Sydney 224 (J Aitken 90, A Oberai 38, LJ Ford 3-20, RR Pawson 3-57) lost to Northern District 8/311 (AG Harriott 120, JA Colley 66, R Aitken 3-45) by 67 runs.