With a place in the Murray Valley Cricket Association Grand Final on the line as well bragging rights, favourite Barooga countered a resilient Cobram batting display to take the honours in the battle of the bridge.
Entering the highly anticipated contest, the league’s top side was expected to romp to victory but Cobram had other ideas and it was far from a stroll in the park for Barooga.
A gallant Cobram batting display led by young opener Manny Artavilla (56) provided a strong foundation for his side despite losing the early wickets of Sam Kinson and James Daniel.
Ash Saunders (23) and Adam de Cicco (26) provided solid support in the middle order but unfortunately for Cobram they could not turn their promising starts into a big knock.
Remarkably for Barooga, only three players got out of single figures in their batting line-up, but it proved to be enough as three batsmen did the damage.
As wickets fell around them, Sam Leigh (51), Kale Watkins (79) and Riyaad Henry (50) batted their side to a winning position, with Barooga able to seal the win with three wickets and eight overs to spare.
Barooga coach Sam Leigh said the partnership of Watkins and Henry proved decisive in the contest.
‘‘Batting was pretty tough early on. We lost two early wickets but there were some nice partnerships formed. Kale and Riyaad steadied the ship and took it away from Cobram after tea,’’ Leigh said.
Leigh praised the individual performances of Watkins and bowler Joel Cahir who claimed figures of 5-43 from 14.2 overs.
‘‘Kale’s performance was awesome. He won it off his own bat. Joel has proved a great asset for us. He’s a great bowler and he took some big wickets in the game like he has done before.’’
Lachlan Hyde was brilliant in a losing battle for Cobram, taking 4-25 from 10.2 overs.
Barooga has comfortably handled Deniliquin twice this season and should take plenty of confidence heading into the final.
Leigh said although it would head in as favourite, Barooga would not underestimate Deniliquin.
‘‘We are confident because we have beaten them earlier in the season, but it will be a tough game like always because they have some very good players.’’
In the other semi-final battle, Deniliquin Rhinos sensationally knocked off Nathalia in a gripping Murray Valley Cricket Association semi-final to book a spot in the premier division flag decider at the weekend.
Nathalia, along with great rival Barooga, seemed to have established itself as one of the MVCA’s front-runners, but could not earn a spot in the decider as the Rhinos produced quality with bat and ball.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, the Rhinos seemed to have blown their opportunity by slipping to 3-32, with Ash Quinn and Luke Carter sharing the scalps.
However, Boddie Arthur (60) and Andrew Hogan (78) teamed for an extremely significant partnership, adding 106 together to move the side to 4-138, before Deni skipper Brad Todd added 30 to take the side past 200.
Nathalia had been a dynamic bowling line-up all season, but could not get through Deni’s solid middle-order, and it left the Purples with a difficult chase of 229 for a spot in the decider.
They found starts from multiple bats, but only Carter went on for a big score with 47. He had help from Tom Nihill (28), Brayden Summerville (27) and Scott Morris (24), but the Purples lost 6-20 to slide from a commanding position at 3-143 to 9-163, with their season all but over.
Brodie Ross tried to drag Nathalia across the line with 27, but he was eventually caught off the bowling of Todd to give the Rhinos victory.
Evan Pocock was crucial taking 3-31 and picked up important middle-order wickets, as were Todd (2-34) and Anthony Bradley (2-69).