It was a case of close but not close enough for Finley on the weekend with the Premier Cats going down to Barooga in an outright defeat by 72 runs in round 12 of the Murray Valley Cricket season.
In a game of varying fortunes, the Cats will rue the missed opportunity to knock off one of the premiership favourites.
Winning the toss and electing to bowl, the Cats struck almost immediately with Darcy Webb (2/15) removing the dangerous Riley Gow (one).
He then snared Sam Leigh (20) and the Cats had two big wickets with 29 on the board.
A couple of gilt edge opportunities went past the Cats but the young squad kept their composure and continued to attack.
Jesse Barker (1/25) produced a ripper to remove Kale Watkins (nine) before a sustained period of dot ball pressure by the Cats began to take its toll on the Hawks.
Jamie Stanyer proved the stumbling block with a determined 43 before Russell Stockdale (5/22) stepped up big and the Cats tore through the middle and lower order.
Runs dried up and the wickets flowed. Shadeau Brain (1/2) snared his first Premier Grade wicket late as Finley dismissed the hosts for just 117.
The Cats got away to a bad start with the bat losing Daniel Hibberd (eight) and Dan McHugh (0) early and the innings was in trouble.
Barker (seven) dug in to keep out some excellent Barooga bowling and Cougar McGrath (13) worked the ball around well. But wickets continued to tumble. At 4/33 the innings was in the balance.
A 29 run partnership between Matthew Wilson (nine) and Stockdale (32) gave the Cats a sniff of victory. As stumps approached though the Cats stumbled badly losing four wickets quickly including the vital scalp of Stockdale and at the end of Saturday’s play the Cats were 8/76.
Resuming Sunday the Cats were only able to add 10 runs before being dismissed.
Webb (10) belted a huge six in the opening over of the day but the Cats fell short by 31 runs on first innings.
Batting again Barooga went hard chasing quick runs.
Gow (60) made up for his first innings failure with a superb knock and Leigh (30) also made a handy contribution.
The Cats attacked hard though.
Stockdale picked up two wickets in two balls to curtail the Hawks’ charge and should almost have had a hat-trick with Watkins (43) just surviving a huge shout.
Watkins worked the ball around well with Gow before Wilson (3/21) was introduced and took three very quick wickets to have the Hawks five down.
Not long after the hosts declared at 5/143 with an overall lead of 174.
With absolutely nothing to gain from playing for a draw the Cats went on the attack from the start.
Three wickets fell quickly but runs flowed at a run a ball rate.
At 3/10 the assault looked futile but Wilson (51) rose to the challenge and smashed the attack to all parts.
The young bat belted six fours and a six in his knock and with Cameron Isedale (14) the Cats threw everything at the Hawks.
When both bats were dismissed the target was out of sight and despite some determined striking the Cats were all out for 103 in the chase.
The Cats return home and host Waaia over the next two Saturdays.
Finley’s Division Two had a huge victory on Saturday against Cobram-Yarroweyah United with the win edging the Cats closer to cementing a top four spot on the ladder.
CYU batted first but were no match for the Cats’ strong bowling attack.
The Blues were restricted to 8/86 from their 35 overs with James Midson (2/13), Paul Massingham (2/21) and Phillip Leatham (3/11) bowling superbly to keep the visitors in check.
In reply the Cats made light work of the chase with a superb unbeaten stand between Justin Crowley (24 not out) and Russell Anderson (55 not out) giving the visitors no hope of victory.
Anderson was at his dominant best with three ‘fours’ and a ‘six’ in his first half century of the season.
It took just 17 overs for the Cats to chase down CYU’s total, finishing 0/88 in a 10 wicket win.
The Cats continue their chase for a finals spot against Tocumwal on Saturday.
■ Details on Finley’s junior cricket side results on page ??.