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Clarence too hot for Coffs in final

THE Clarence River Cricket Association first XI has cruised home against a frazzled Coffs Harbour Cricket Association first XI to claim the inter district championship by 148 runs at Ellem Oval yesterday.

Under the baking Grafton sun, in a match which simmered, but never reached boiling point, the CRCA first XI proved why it has been so hard to beat all season long.

Before it had even faced a single ball, Coffs Harbour were staring down a rival whose defences only SCG Cup winners, Tamworth, had been able to unlock.

However Coffs Harbour were not banking on reputations and a fierce local rivalry ensured the CRCA squad would remain wary of its southern opponent.

Sent into bat, the CRCA batsmen thrilled their home crowd with scintillating shots early in their innings, shots which promised half tons, centuries and plenty of boundaries in between.

A rash shot, a lapse in concentration, a wicket snared and the bubble was burst.

Throughout the Clarence Valley top order; Brendan Purser (24), Matt Pigg (27), Brad Robertson (30) and Matt Kroehnert (34), eyes had been set on glory, to only lose sight for a fraction of a second.

“We had a good start ... then through the middle order we just lost wickets consistently,” CRCA first XI captain Matt Pigg said.

“It was a bit disappointing that the top four all got starts but couldn't go on with it.

“And then we were in a little trouble at seven for 130.”

With Ben Gudex (5/31) demolishing the top half in a blinding spell, trouble was a reality the CRCA tail end had to come to grips with.

However, facing adversity has been one of the strong characteristics of this CRCA squad, and like Billy Ocean crooned, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

Facing a patch of uncertainty, The CRCA squad watch as speedster Rohan Hackett strode to the crease.

Known for making runs, but not on a consistent basis, Hackett's ability with the bat for once, would have to overshadow the job he was primarily in the team to achieve; destroying the wickets of rival batsmen.

Standing and delivering, Hackett took on the Coffs bowlers, creaming a 55 run innings and, with the help of Jarrad Lynch (28) and Chris Adamson (10no), delivered the a team a 241-run total to defend.

“It really put us in a position of instead of struggling, we had a total we could well and truly defend if we bowled well,” Pigg said.

How true Pigg's words were as the Chris Adamson (2/17) and Hackett (1/9), the past and future of the CRCA fast bowling stocks, combined to rid the pitch of Coffs openers Matt Rose (0) and Joe Willman (4).

Ben Gudex repeated his heroics with the ball, carving out a solid 22 run innings, but slowly, the game started to slip away from Coffs.

Ryan Lynch (3/24) and Robertson (2/28) were now on at either ends, offering a new challenge to the Coffs batsmen, but acceptance had its perils.

The middle order flew by as Coffs batsmen, like two platoons, one ravaged by the horrors of war and one fresh out of basic, passed each other on the sidelines.

The tail end was now the only stumbling block between CRCA and victory, but it was now just a matter of time.

“Last game we played against them we scored 288 runs and they came out and scored 220,” Pigg said. “They've got a good side and I expected it to come down to the wire ... but they were never in the game.

Matt Francis (11), with his last action of the game, struck the ball straight at player of the match Hackett, who fumbled the catch but had the presence of mind to spin around, flick the ball into his throwing hand and direct it straight at Francis's stumps.

It was a game the CRCA, a team which has slowly been building over the past two years, once in front, never looked like losing.

A game where even a dropped catch led to a run-out.