ON THE FRONT FOOT: Lower clinch consecutive Cotten Shields
COTTEN SHIELD: It was a case of the young and the bold at McKittrick Park as Lower Clarence maintained its unbeaten record in the revamped Grafton Toyota Cotten Shield rivalry.
In form captain Ben McMahon reprised his brilliance from last year's corresponding clash, as he mounted a successful run chase alongside seasoned cricketer Mark Ensbey.
McMahon (69 not out) and Ensbey (71 not out) put on an unbeaten 147-run stand as they comfortably chased down arch-rivals Clarence River's total of 181 with more than 10 overs to spare.
But it could have proven to be a much different night for the Lower Clarence brigade when strike seamer Brandon 'Bear' Honeybrook was removed from the attack four balls into the match after bowling consecutive 'beamer' deliveries.
It forced McMahon to turn to representative debutante Simon Harrison to shoulder the extra workload and he was impressed the seamer refused to back down.
"It is good to see the tradition of Lower Clarence blokes stepping up despite the challenges continues,” he said. "He had to lead the attack for us with Bear ruled out and he did a damn good job of it.”
Harrison ran through the Clarence River top order cheaply and took the prized scalp of opposition captain Jake Kroehnert (61) as he finished with four wickets for 33 off nine overs.
McMahon was the other stand out for the Lower Clarence attack finishing with four wickets after he closed out the innings.
McMahon praised his counterpart Kroehnert for his effort with the bat after he added a strong 84-run stand with Jacob Ellis (42).
While early wickets had Lower Clarence in a spot of bother at 2-19, Ensbey steadied the ship with son Hayden (2) before putting together a match defining stand with his captain.
"Dickie (Ensbey) batted really well out there, he just seemed like he was on for a big one from ball one and he didn't disappoint,” McMahon said.
"We just kept talking to each other out there and tried to keep each other grounded throughout the chase. In the end we had plenty of balls to spare.”
While it is a friendly contest between the sides, there is a lot of pride on the line for the players.
The Cotten Shield contest is steeped in a rich history and swince its return to the fields three years ago, it has been Lower Clarence's playtoy.
"This win really means a lot to our boys,” McMahon said. "You want to win every game you play in, especially against the Grafton boys.
"Apart from maybe the interdistrict grand final, this is the biggest game of the season.
I think this was one of the best years we have had at the representative level, we have a good culture going in Lower Clarence and hopefully we can continue that.”