Onslow's upset win over club powerhouses Karori on Saturday could hardly have been timed better.
Needing a bonus-point victory to ensure their top-four spot, and a berth in the Pearce Cup two-day competition, Onslow won by five wickets after chasing down Karori's 124 in 35 overs.
Onslow and Taita - both level in third place - will join Karori and leaders Eastern Suburbs as guaranteed Pearce Cup combatants in the New Year. Those four will play among themselves for now and be joined by the top two from the repechage competition.
Onslow were a team to watch pre-season with the addition of fringe Wellington all-rounder Barry Rhodes and some promising youngsters. An early setback, a season-ending knee injury to another rep, Stewart Rhodes, has been absorbed.
"We're really happy. In a way it's exceeded our early expectations. When we lost Stewart Rhodes that was a huge blow," said manager Gavin Larsen, who joined coach Rhys Morgan in providing some direction. "We've got a really young team. Most weeks we've had seven or eight 18-19 year olds on the park who are all pretty fresh to senior cricket. We've been thrilled with the way they've responded and their work ethic has been great. We're starting to see things happen on the paddock now."
Captain Liam Chrisp has led the way. Newly installed this season, he chipped in with three for 27 and 30 not out on Saturday to guide home a tricky run chase and snare the vital bonus point.
Matches were transferred to artificial pitches but batsmen still struggled. The big wickets of Firebirds Stephen Murdoch (6) and Harry Boam (8) hastened Karori's collapse after Simon Baker top scored with 46.
"The ball swung and it pretty much swung all day," Larsen said. "They bowled well, too, and put us under quite a bit of pressure."
Eastern Suburbs hold a four-point lead after toying with Wainuiomata. Thanks to the only century of the round from Ronald Karaitiana (101), and support from rep Josh Brodie (87), Easts reached 325 for seven against Wainuiomata. They replied with 76 as Sebastian Logan and Ricky Joseph took four wickets apiece.
University scored 106 against Collegians but that was enough. Julian Brown took five for 33, his best figures of the season, but his batsmen couldn't capitalise. Collegians were skittled for 87 with Callum Geldart and Elliott Borren both snaring four wickets.
Naenae successfully defended a meagre 90 against North City, winning by 15 runs. Naenae were demolished by the bowling of Hamish Kyne and Tipene Friday, but Norths could only muster 75 as Michael Cornish (3-8) and Kyle Hitchman (3-20) returned the favour.
Runs flowed for Petone-Eastbourne, though, who made 283 for seven against Upper Hutt thanks to Kieran Butler (94 not out) and Brendan Cook (82). Upper Hutt fell 74 runs short as Mark Hewson and BJ Crook took three wickets apiece.
It was one-way traffic in Saturday's other match as Phil Tunnicliffe's career-best six for 20 helped dismiss Johnsonville for 96. Taita won by eight wickets.
- The Dominion Post
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