By TONY WHITE
TRIUMPHANT Westlawn Grafton Hotel qualified for its fourth successive Bananacoast Community Credit Union Premier League cricket competition grand final with a hard-fought win over a gallant South Services in the major semi-final at Ellem Oval on the weekend.
The simple stats from the match were: Westlawn made 202 in its first innings and dismissed South for 183.
But the game was full of intrigue, with an ebb and flow of ascendancy that went right down to the wire.
While cricket is considered a team sport, through exemplary achievement, certain individuals often rise to hero status during post-match scrutiny.
Most dictionaries describe a hero as: one greatly regarded for achievements or qualities.
Westlawn had three notable heroes -- Rob McRedie, Jason Rainbow and Jason Chevalley.
Matt Hartmann for South carried the same status, but in a different vein. Single handedly Hartmann nearly won the match for the night premiers with a brilliant 95no.
Cruelly for South, and Hartmann, within sight of a magnificent 'ton', he simply ran out of partners.
South will now face Harwood Hilton in the final next weekend, after the men from down river overcame Grafton Services Brothers at Yamba Oval, for the right to meet Westlawn in the grand final on March 19 and 20.
After winning the toss on Saturday Westlawn elected to bat and after a watchful start by openers Shaun Ulrick and Mark Robinson, Ulrick (7) fell lbw to Matt Peterson after a full toss.
Robinson and the in-form Rainbow took the score to 65 before Robinson was the first of three Matt Kroehnert wickets, dismnissed for 14.
Rainbow had earlier taken 18 off one Ryan Lynch over, including a massive six.
When Rainbow was eventually out Westlawn had slumped to 4-83.
Andrew Firth and Tim Grosser took the score to 110 then a rot set in. Grosser (8), Firth (23) and captain Tony Blanch were all dismissed in a 10-minute period. Westlawn slumped to 7-126.
South had their tails up, but McRedie enjoyed a 37-run partnership with Chevalley and 26-run partnership with Nathan Blanch to help bolster the Westlawn total.
Nudging 50, McRedie, the longest serving player in the Premier League, played one of his most vital roles in the fluctuating game.
The moustachioed Westlawn veteran steadfastly refused to surrender his wicket at a time when Westlawn looked vulnerable to the persistent South bowling attack.
Using his wealth of experience and deftly picking the precise time to attack, McCredie, with an unbeaten knock of 41, provided the backbone of the tail end fightback.
It was a chanceless innings.
Lynch, Kroehnert and Zac Page all bowled well for South.
South run chase bagan badly with Tom Kroehnert (1) out to a brilliant catch by Grosser off Firth's bowling.
Resuming at 1-20 yesterday, South were soon in deep trouble.
They lost big guns Brett Woods for 7 and Matt Kroehnert for 15 to be 3-22, then slumped to 5-58.
Hartmann proved the saviour, although he had a lucky escape being dropped before scoring off the second ball he faced.
With Hartmann making the most of his 'life', he and Brad Robertson put together a sterling partnership of 83 for the sixth wicket.
At 6-141 and with Hartmann powering shots around the ground, South were determined to make a fight of it.
The introduction of Chavelley proved the turning point.
Chevalley, the star of Westlawn's grand final win last year, snared 3-11 when South needed just 40 runs with four wickets in hand.