Chance goes begging
MARIST Brothers skipper Craig Ferguson has played in the Far North Coast Cricket LJ Hooker League since its inaugural season in 1994-95 but he has never felt so disappointed after a loss.
His side was on a high heading into day two of its clash against the Ballina Bears at Oakes Oval, Lismore, on Saturday.
The previous Saturday Ferguson's men had posted a competitive total of 220 and Brothers looked almost certain to make the top-four finals.
Those hopes went up in flames on Saturday as the Bears ran down their total with four wickets to spare.
Other results also went against the Lismore outfit, with teams breathing down their neck going into the final round, including the Casino Cavaliers, Cudgen and Tintenbar-East Ballina, all enjoying victories.
In the two-day semi-finals to be played this weekend, the first-placed Bears will host Tintenbar at Fripp Oval, Ballina, in a local derby, while reigning premiers and second-placed Cavaliers will take on third-placed Cudgen in a 2010-11 final rematch at Queen Elizabeth Park, Casino.
Cudgen and Tintenbar finished equal on competition points (45) but Cudgen finished ahead on percentages, with Brothers a point back on 44.
"I've never felt so disappointed walking off after a game," Ferguson said after Brothers' defeat.
"That's two years in a row now we've missed the top four by one or two points.
"I really felt we had the team to do some damage this season.
"We're all gutted."
The Bears were in trouble on Saturday at 5-86, before Sam Adams (41) and Nathan Anson (64 not out) saved the day.
Bears captain Adams said his team was deserving minor premier.
"We've been consistent and were undefeated in the two-day competition," he said. "Brothers lost a couple of games at the end of the season and missed out. It just shows the game can be a bit cruel."
Indeed, it was a cruel twist of fate in the opening round of the summer that now haunts the Brothers.
In their October 8 game against Tintenbar, they had their opponents in trouble at 8-39 chasing 116 for victory. But with 20 minutes of play left, lightning struck not far from the Kingsford Smith South ground at Ballina and play was stopped with 20 minutes remaining. Day two of that game was washed out.
However, Ferguson made no excuses.
Tintenbar will go into the finals on the back of four straight victories, after its impressive 154-run first-innings win over Alstonville at Hill Park, Wollongbar.
Spinner Mark Hoare took 5-9 from 6.4 overs and paceman Jacob Stephenson assisted with 3-15 from 10 overs in the visitors' first innings, when they could manage only 96.
Alstonville also struggled in its second innings to reach 7-99 before stumps were drawn.
"Mark and Jacob bowled good line and length on a soft pitch, which gave us some assistance," Tintenbar-East Ballina captain Luke Shay said.
The Casino Cavaliers were equally as impressive in their outright win over Byron Bay at Queen Elizabeth Park, Casino.
The visitors were bundled out for 87 and the Cavaliers reached their target after just 22 overs with four wickets down.
They instantly declared and went on to bowl out the Bay for 114.
Casino then reached 1-115 from just 23.4 overs to ensure the outright win.
Brendon Maguire (3-23 from seven overs), Al Nowlan (3-26 from 10), Caleb McIntyre (48 not out) and Sam Irvine (34 not out) starred for the hosts.
The Terranora versus Workers Goonellabah match at Bilambil was washed out, with the visitors 1-29 in reply to Terranora's 9-232 declared, meaning the Lismore outfit could not manage a win in its debut Hooker League season.
Cudgen confirmed its spot in the finals with a four-run win over Pottsville at Seabreeze.
Pottsville lost its last four wickets for seven runs chasing 133.
Final standings: Ballina Bears 62, Casino Cavaliers 53, Cudgen 45, Tintenbar-East Ballina 45, Marist Brothers 44, Alstonville 27, Byron Bay 26, Pottsville 25, Terranora 24, Workers Goonellabah 21.