St Paul's break decade long drought
St Paul's College has broken a 10 year Gillette Cup drought, winning the Northern Districts regional title and booking a place in the national finals.
Having gone without the Gillette Cup title since 2004, St Paul's were unbeaten last week in the regional finals played at Hamilton's Jansen Park.
That included a thrashing of Whangarei Boys' High School in an effective semifinal, followed by a gritty win over local rivals Hamilton Boys' High School in last Thursday's final.
Captain Chris Swanson said his team played exceptionally well in the first three games, but found themselves under pressure against Boys' High in the final.
Having won the toss all week and batted first, Swanson lost the toss in the final and his team soon found themselves in the field.
After missing an early chance, St Paul's slowly got into their work, with Simon Morbey bowling superbly to take 2 for 17 from his nine overs.
It was the captain who made the biggest impact bowling for only the second time all tournament, claiming 5-19 from his eight overs, ripping through the Boys' High middle order.
Spinner Eli Spadoni had 1-13 from seven overs, capping a fine tournament in which the year 11 made his debut for St Paul's.
After rolling through Boys' High for only 150, Swanson said his team were under the pump after losing two cheap wickets early in the innings.
''We were 7-2 early in our innings and things weren't looking great,'' Swanson said.
''Then big Al stepped up and guided us home really well. He took control of the innings.''
Ali Blackett, batting No.5 for St Paul's, strode to the wicket with his team at 55-3, and the game on a knife edge.
He belted 51 not out, while Devon Nolan scored 41 and Swanson scored 26, guiding his side to a six wicket win and what turned into an easy victory.
''We always set the goal for someone in our top five to bat through the innings. Dev did that a couple of times, and Al did it in the final which was huge.''
The coaches and management were just as excited as the players at the victory, ending a decade of failure in the big matches at the tournament.
It was also Swanson's first win over Boys' High since he made his way into the St Paul's first XI.
''It was huge. I hadn't been part of a win against them before, so it was really good to finally get one over them.''
St Paul's will join the top schools from each region of New Zealand in the national final, down in Lincoln, Canterbury this December.
Meanwhile, in the college cricket finals held on Saturday, St Peter's School took out the Division 1 title, beating Hamilton Boys' High School Development in the final.
Hillcrest won Division 2A title against Boys' High Emerging, while Fraser High School beat Te Awamutu College in the Division 2B final.