New Plymouth Marist United have taken a step towards the national club cricket finals with a 156-run thrashing of Woodleigh in the Taranaki one-day premier grade final.
Marist United now play Whanganui's top premier team in Whanganui on December 22. If they win that match, they go to a weekend Central Districts tournament in Palmerston North along with the other three regional winners in the Central Districts zone.
The winner of that competition will represent the region at the national finals in Auckland in April.
Nag 'n' Noggin Marist United captain Ryan Fleming said his team were "super excited" at the prospect of getting another shot at the national club cricket finals, having finished a creditable third last year.
"That was an eye-opener for us and gave us confidence knowing we could compete with those top sides," Fleming said.
Winning the toss and electing to bat at Pukekura Park yesterday, Marist United reached 289-9 in their 50 overs, before limiting Woodleigh to 133 all out to claim a rare third successive one-day title.
Woodleigh never got going in their chase and were dismissed in 33.4 overs.
The wickets were shared among the Marist bowling attack, with Ryan Watson, Leith Johnston, Ethan Bolstad, Jarred Cunningham and Sam Barrett each picking up two wickets.
Earlier, the defending champions' middle and lower order had been impressive with the bat, with several players contributing.
After appearing to be in trouble at 78-4, Johnston (50) and Cunningham (49) steadied the ship, sharing a 36-run partnership for the fifth wicket.
Better was still to come, with Cunningham making Woodleigh pay when dropping him on 15. He and former CD A rep Bolstad added 64 runs.
In a freak dismissal, Cunningham was out stumped after the ball bounced off the pads of wicketkeeper Phillip Barraclough back on to the stumps.
Bolstad (51) was then joined by Watson (71) and they took the total through to 255.
In reply, there was a slight glimmer of hope for Woodleigh when middle-order batsman Hayden Whiting joined Moritz Hartmann in the middle, but it was shortlived.
The duo appeared to be in control with Whiting hitting two massive sixes, one down the ground and out into Fillis St. But in a moment of recklessness, Hartmann nicked the ball on to his leg stump when trying to hit out of the ground when on 15.
A lower order late rally led by Peter Sears (37) and Whiting (46), took the total past the 100 mark.
Fleming said he had no concerns about batting on the same track that Taranaki and Wairarapa had been rolled for 35 and 34 respectively when batting first.
"It was a three or fourth day pitch and to us it looked pretty flat out there," he said.
Even with openers Dean Robinson (14) and Jason Meuli (0) out early, Fleming said he did not doubt his decision.
"Before we went out, we realised it might be tough and we might be three down for not many.
"We toughed it out and we made the runs when we had the momentum with us. It was about making hay while the momentum was with us."
Marist United bowled and fielded well, which is one of the strengths of the team.
"We are always pretty good in the field and we bowl good lines, but some days we are guilty of giving it away with the bat, but today we came up trumps.
"It was a solid team effort out there today and I'm proud of the boys."
Even with 289 runs on the board, Fleming admitted to being nervous going out to field knowing Woodleigh had some big hitters in their team.
"Guys like Hayden Whiting and Kenny Roycroft, they are pretty dangerous when they get going." But when Whiting was gone, caught Fleming, the skipper was able to relax in the knowledge that his club's three-peat of one-day titles was in the bag.
Whiting acknowledged that Woodleigh had been beaten by a better team on the day. "Marist have been the benchmark for the last couple of years and they deserved to win. My boys had a lesson today.
"But we'll be back for the Twenty20 and two-dayers and look forward to meeting them again."
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