Coming into the final day of the NSW Country Championships, three of the four sides competing in Orange still had a very realistic shot of setting up a date with Newcastle in next month's grand final.
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Western - having lost its opening game to the Central Coast - had the longest odds of topping the group, needing a bonus point victory and some help to go through. As for Riverina - who came into Sunday's clash against Western undefeated - the equation was simple; win and go through.
But a dominant display by Western's Matthew Everett (113) and captain Marty Jeffrey (118), who combined for a 176-run second wicket partnership, made that thought of going three for three a very difficult one.
"The most disappointing thing today was we fielded the house down on Saturday and then dropped about seven or eight catches that cost us dearly today," Riverina coach Trent Ball said after the game.
"Our fielding, which was as good as its been, today unfortunately let us down. It's cost us going through."
Indeed it did cost the visiting side, as Western's score of 294 from their 50 overs was too much to chase down, as Riverina finished the day 9-234 off 41.2 overs when the game at Wade Park was called off early due to a sudden downpour of rain.
Orange City spinner and first time Western representative, Lachlan Skelly, took four wickets during Sunday's match and said he enjoyed his experience in the new colours.
"It was fun. It's a good group of boys and we had a bit of fun off the field as well. We bonded together really well and overall it was a really fun trip," he said.
"Matty did Matty things and Marty helped him out there and batted unreal. It set the platform for us bowlers at the end. An overall good performance from the side."
With Riverina needing to go at six-an-over for victory, the batters were always going to try and take on Western's spin-heavy line-up. This included Skelly, who went for double-digits in his first over, while also bagging the wicket of Ash Borella for 53.
"The mindset is just keep attacking," he said.
"We had enough runs on the board there today for me to be able to throwing them up and eventually one was going to go to hand. Just keep flighting it up and let them make the mistake."
But with Western failing to bag a bonus point victory, while also holding a sub-par net run rate, it left the door open for Central Coast to sneak into the grand final...an opportunity they did not waste.
Taking on the winless ACT at Riawena Oval, Central Coast obliterated their opposition, finishing as 174-run victors. Jake Hardy was the star for the Central Coast, batting all 50 overs and finishing 122 not out. Not to be outdone, Conner Haddow finished with figures of 7-24. This performance meant Central Coast topped the group and will take on Newcastle on December 11 at Glen Innes' Wilson Park.
"We probably weren't switched on enough on Friday night and that cost us," Skelly said of their loss to the Central Coast.
"We came together really well the next few days. Friday hurt us and we definitely had the side to go all the way, but that's cricket."
The feeling was the same for Riverina's coach.
"I think we let ourselves down. If we'd got the job done today it wouldn't have mattered (what Central Coast did)," Ball added.
"We had five boys who were under 23 and a couple of real country boys, so it's been a good trip. The team found out that you have to play at that level for three days straight. Some took their opportunities and some didn't, but to get two wins was unreal."
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