St. George (2nd) v Randwick Petersham (4th) @ Hurstville Oval
Team - Gracias Flor, Saini, Powell, Hart (+), Hilder, Standing, Montedoro, Mullins, Singh (c), Boyns, Waugh - 12th Man M.O'Loughlin
Result - St. George 10/74 - 41.1 Overs (N.Singh 4/19-15, Boyns 3/17-12, Waugh, 3/28-10.4 and 0/3-1.4 Overs) Defeated by Randwick Petersham 10/261 - 49.2 Overs (Standing 79, Hart 48, Montedoro 35, Gracias Flor 30, Singh 30)
Fifth Grade arrived for the big dance looking to claim the Premiership after a dominant Semi-Final win at Tunks Park over Gordon. However, standing in our way was the proud St. George Club who finished second during the regular season and have always produced strong and experienced final’s teams. Intriguingly, we never met the Saints during the regular season so we relied on an ex-Saint in Ben Montedoro to do some homework on some of their players. The boys headed into this game unchanged and managed to tick all the boxes in their preparation in yet another wet week in Sydney. On Tuesday night we had a full 2-hour centre wicket hit out at Petersham Oval, before having a full 2-hour session on Thursday at the SCG Indoor Centre as rain flooded Sydney.
The boys arrived on Saturday to be greeted with sunny skies and a typically impressive looking Hurstville Oval where the ground staff had done a great job to get the ground in tip top shape. Many grounds in Sydney would not have coped with the last month of rain, however this ground was cherry ripe for the big one with the wicket looking good, despite the obvious moisture around. The toss was probably always going to be a Clayton toss with Saints keen on posting a total, while we would stick to the formula which worked in the Semi-Final by inserting the opposition and hitting them hard up front with our in-form attack. As it was, the home side won the toss and elected to bat and the scene was set for two days of battle between two proud Clubs.
The game could not have started any better for us with Captain Nigel Singh (4/19-15) taking the wicket, from the very first ball of the match, of the opposition skipper Grealy courtesy of a sharp catch from Saini at second slip. Once again, we got off to a stunning start with the hosts at 4/7 after a remarkable 3/0 start by our other gun opening bowler Sam Boyns (3/17-12). In his last game for the Club, Boyns was a man possessed, dismissing three key Saints batsmen, including veteran Warwick Hayes for a duck. The home side momentarily halted the slide to reach 4/34 before we pounced with another double breakthrough on the stroke of lunch, and we went in to the break in a commanding position at 6/41.
After lunch we never let our foot off the throat, rolling Saints for just 74 in 41.1 overs of suffocating pressure. Youngster Mac Waugh (3/28-10.4) was inserted into the side late in the season and his impact has been immense, as he produced another great spell after lunch to clean up the home side’s lower order. It was fitting that we did a demolition job on them with the ball, as it had been our strength all year. Indeed, looking through our final series games we had taken 30 wickets for 205 runs against the minor premiers and 2nd place teams.
With the bat, we knew we had our job cut out for us with their opening bowlers both being 2nd and 3rd on the leading wickets takers in 5th grade. Saints came out breathing fire with the ball taking a couple of early wickets to have us in trouble at 2/10. However, opener Savio Gracias Flor (34) and the experienced Chris Hart (48) counter attacked in devastating form with a crucial partnership of 63 to take us to within 1 run of the Saints 1st Inning’s score. Gracias Flor hit three 6’s, while Hart hit two, to completely take the wind out of the Dragons’ sails.
When both boys were dismissed after crucial contributions, dynamic young all-rounder Jack Standing (79) came to the crease with veteran Matt Hilder (10). The pair put on 49 to push the lead towards 70 before Hilder was dismissed, with Standing riding his luck a bit early. However, once Standing got his eye in, he went on another blitzkrieg, as only he can, on the biggest stage. Standing whacked an amazing 79 from just 43 balls with seven 6's and five 4’s, completely taking Saints out of the game to the raptures of his team mates on the sideline. Ex-Saint Ben Montedoro (35) was always going to be up for a big game against his old Club, and he continued his fine post-Christmas form with another key contribution. Once both youngsters fell the damage was done, however that didn't stop Singh (30) piling on the pain for Saints as he smashed 30 at better than a run a ball, to give us an imposing score of 261 from just 49 overs. Fittingly it was our highest score of the season, and we ended Day 1 in the near impregnable position of leading by 187 runs. Post the days play, the feeling in the sheds was that of accomplishment but the team was aware that job was 75% done but mindful that we needed to close the game out.
Sunday was upon us and early morning rain delayed the start of the day’s play, with the boys desperate to rip back into Saints’ batting order once again. Only 4 balls were bowled before rain intervened again. After some discussion, Saints decided it was a forgone prospect continuing a game that had been dominated by our boys from start to finish. They graciously decided to call an early finish and the Fifth Grade Premiership Cup was coming home to Coogee!
Records fell at an unbelievable rate over the weekend as our all-conquering Fifth Grade team put the icing on the cake. It was a gleeful Nigel Singh who accepted the David Sherwood Cup at the presentation - the third time in its 16 years the Club has won this competition. And in a fitting tribute to the way Singh had handled his team, as well as playing some brilliant cricket, he was awarded the Player of the Grand Final Medal. His 56 wickets for the season was the best bowling performance in that Grade for the Club since James LeHuray took 66 for the old Randwick Club in 1994-95. Singh was also the Competition's leading wicket-taker – with 24 more than any other bowler.
To sum up, a team full of youth and experience that gelled together brilliantly as the season went on. While veterans Hilder and Singh, enjoyed a few beers in the immediate aftermath, while the younger boys started a game of cricket among themselves!!. Special thanks to all the parents, volunteers, current and past players for coming down to the game. It’s a special occasion when you get to play cricket on a 1st class ground in front of 100+ people.
EDITORS NOTE - BIG THANKYOU FROM RPCC TO EDDIE OTTO AND LYALL GARDNER FOR THEIR ARTICLES THIS SEASON, AND TO PETER BANNIGAN FOR THE BELOW PHOTOS FROM THE GRAND FINAL.
The boys at the presentation - skipper Nigel Singh on far right next to club historian Lyall Gardner
Note - Nigel won the very same 5th Grade Premiers David Sherwood Trophy in his first season of grade grade cricket 20 seasons ago!
Nigel Singh bowling another outswinger...
Mack Waugh and his fluent action - 1 season, 1 premiership - how easy is grade cricket!
Englishman and much beloved club character Sam Boyns
The hard hitting Chris Hart
Savio Gracias Flor - fractured cheekbone 6 weeks ago, premiership winner today.
Jack Standing - very promising all rounder but took the game away from Saints with the bat - 7 sixes!!!!!!
Ben Montedoro - fair to say his post Christmas was better than pre! Just check out mycricket.