STRATFORD’S victory over Longford has kept the race for the right to host Sale-Maffra cricket semi-finals alive.
While Collegians has secured the minor premiership, five teams can still claim second spot on the ladder heading into the final round for the home-andaway season.
Longford had the chance to cement its hold on second spot on Saturday, but is less than six points ahead of third-placed Sale, which defeated Boisdale-Briagolong at the weekend.
This sets up an exciting final round, with Stratford, now in fourth place, hosting Sale. If Longford loses to Collegians, the Swans can move into second spot with a win, while the Redbacks need an outright victory to claim a home semi-final.
Bundalaguah and Rosedale-Kilmany, in fifth and sixth respectively, are within 0.03 of a point outside the top four, but could also move into the top two with an outright win this round.
Maffra is six points outside the top four, meaning the Eagles will need to win this round and hope other results go their way to claim a finals berth.
STRATFORD fell two wickets short of claiming an outright victory over Longford.
Beginning the day at 4-33, the Redbacks passed Longford’s total of 138 with five wickets in hand.
Lewis Bolton and captain Jack Rietschel took the visitors within 25 runs of the Lizards with their 85-run partnership, which ended when Bolton was bowled by Andrew Tyson for 48.
Rietschel and Dylan Bolton saw the Redbacks to victory before the former was bowled by David Atkinson for 72.
Eyeing an outright result, the runs kept flowing for Stratford, with Dylan Bolton scoring 20, and Simon Williams and Chris Aurisch unbeaten on 26 and 38 respectively before the innings was declared at 7-231.
Connor and Keenan Hughes, and Atkinson each claimed three wickets for the Lizards.
With 37 overs remaining, the Lizards lost regular wickets in their second innings, but avoided an outright loss, finishing on 8-82.
Tyson was the rock of the innings, scoring 27, while Atkinson contributed 13.
Lachie Dowd, Dylan Bolton and Rietschel each claimed two wickets for Stratford.
SALE overcame a determined Boisdale-Briagolong.
In reply to the Saints’ 117, the Swans resumed play on 4-49, but lost skipper Steve Parry for 41 with the score on 88, one of four wickets for Louis Howard.
Nathan Massey, 23 not out, and Ben Jones, 38, ensured victory for the Swans, who declared on 7-156.
The Saints dug deep in their second innings to avoid an outright loss, reaching 4-93 when the captains agreed to end the match. Captain Liam Hurst scored 31 not out Alex Mason 29.
BEN Saxon scored an unbeaten 118 for Bundalaguah, which had already secured first innings points against Rosedale-Kilmany.
The home side began day two a run ahead of the Warriors, and were keen to push for outright points to move into the top four.
Saxon and James Matthews put on 67 runs for the sixth wicket before Matthew was caught off Jack Robinson’s bowling for 47.
Saxon pushed the score along until the innings was declared closed on 7-231. Robinson finished with 4-53 for RK.
The Warriors batted better a second time, scoring 2-74 from 23 overs, with Tim Sullivan making 29 and Tim Dessent 17 at the top of the order. Jake Wynd claimed two wickets for the Bulls.
The win moved the Bulls passed RK on the ladder into fifth place, with the Warriors falling out of the top four down to sixth.
COLLEGIANS’ victory over Maffra ensured it can’t lose top spot.
Beginning the day 48 runs in front, Collegians declared on 9-240. Matt Foster scored 69, Jayden Allison 28 and Mark Nicholls 24.
Nathan Magnuson took 3-36 for the visitors.
Batting a second time, and trailing by 139 runs, Maffra scored 8-188 from 49 overs.
Lee Hopkins fell four runs short of a century when caught behind off Isaac Love’s bowling. Daniel Bedggood scored 26.
Love and Adam Phillips claimed two wickets each for College.