North Coast Under-14s win title
LOCAL cricketers Blake Taylor, Oliver James and Nathaniel Scott have become NSW Under-14 State champions after their North Coast team defeated Sydney South-East Metropolitan.
Playing at Port Macquarie, North Coast was in early trouble at 5-48 before Clunes’ Oliver James (37) combined with Nambucca’s Darcy Balenzano (57) for a 50-run partnership.
It proved to be a turning point, with North Coast scrambling to a defendable 165.
In reply, Met South-East started steadily, and reached 4-101. With six wickets in hand and plenty of overs they were in the box seat.
But North Coast fought back with some tight fielding and a vital run out the trigger for wickets to begin falling.
Despite some shaky moments, North Coast held their cool and Met South-East were eventually dismissed for 155, with another Clunes youngster Blake Taylor taking 2-22.
It was the first time North Coast had won the State Challenge in the Under-14s and it came after the team had won the Kookaburra Cup Country title at Bowral on January 15-19.
Playing in the final at Bradman Oval, North Coast bowled out Central Coast for 173.
North Coast lost two early wickets before Blake Taylor (51) and Ballina’s Nathaniel Scott (40) scored quickly and led the way to victory, with the team getting over the line with seven wickets down in a nail-biting finish.
It capped an impressive week for the team, which had previously beaten Riverina and Newcastle. Blake Taylor was named player of the carnival for his 144 runs and five wickets.
North Coast coach Merv Bourke, of Port Macquarie, said the players were a pleasure to coach.
“Blake is an all-rounder, a No 3 batsman and change bowler, while Nat is a middle-order bat,” he said.
“They both were in the top-5 leading batsmen in the carnival and scored a lot of runs.
“Oliver is a middle-order bat who didn’t get many opportunities but really stepped up when needed.”
The North Coast team had played only one trial match, but despite their distance apart, they played with a lot of character.
“It was a really good team effort,” Bourke said.
“When it came to the close games, the boys really played for each other.”
North Coast last won the Kookaburra Cup two years ago and it comes after a North Coast win in the Under-16s Bradman Cup.