Merrivale, Woodford prepare for WDCA finals after epic last-round battle

RIVAL skippers  John Houston and Michael Walsh walked away from Woodford’s final round win over Merrivale upbeat, with both declaring their sides ready for cut-throat semi-finals on Saturday.

Resuming at 5-62 chasing Merrivale’s 98, Woodford’s Jake McKinnon (70) and Jayvan Houston (55) secured the Eels a vital win with a 98-run stand for the sixth-wicket. 

The pair eased the nerves in the Eels camp by wiping the deficit before going in search of quick runs in the hope of an unlikely outright victory to secure a finals berth.

The Eels declared at 7-161 but Merrivale made the most of time in the middle, finishing at 5-172 with four players making more than 30 including Otto Opperman with 42 and Josh Stapleton 39.

Houston said his Eels were unsure if the win would have been enough to make the semi-finals with the result of the Allansford versus Russells Creek match up in the air over a team sheet error.

“Jake and Jayvan batted really well,” he said.

“They knuckled down and worked hard, Merrivale threw a fair bit at them and bowled really well.

“It gives us a lot of confidence now. Jayvan comes in and gives us another bat and Jake has a 70 under his belt.”

Houston said the tough match was just what his side needed.

“We played East Warrnambool-YCW and they made 230 so the second week of that was a semi-final for us too and we’ve played this game and we were equal to the challenge.”

Houston said his side last season had struggled after winning the T20 competition and again this season had taken time to adjust from the short form.

“We fielded really well in the first innings and I think we are up and about.”

Merrivale skipper Michael Walsh said his side rued missed opportunities on Saturday.

“We needed to get a few early wickets but Woodford batted well in the first hour,” he said.

“We dropped five catches for the day but I think Woodford would still have won. They would have got 15 or 18 runs before it happened. Obviously the three dropped catches last week may have helped if we had got McKinnon out early.”

Walsh said his side took a lot from the game.

“We made 5-171 and everyone got a bit of a bat and the blokes down the order I pushed up got a bit of confidence. If you make 170 in a semi-final you normally win.”

Walsh said he was positive about his side’s fielding.

“Our bowling wasn’t too bad. You drop eight catches and if we had taken six out of the eight you would get a completely different scoreboard.”

Russells Creek’s decision to field eight players 19 or under against finals aspirant Allansford paid dividends with its 57-run win in another Merri conference match.

Creek captain Nathan Divall was delighted with his side’s effort.

“It was nice to have a win to finish off the year,” he said.

“It was good all the young guys contributed. It was a good effort.”

Young paceman Liam Brown took 2-24 off 10 overs, while off-spinner Joe Kenna was impressive with 0-12 off 10 overs. 

The star with the ball was veteran Ben Boyd, who finished with 4-20 off 20.1 overs, while last week’s century-maker Paul Walker grabbed 3-18 off 14 overs.

Divall said his side was determined to put the team list saga behind it from last week.

“It was about getting some respect for ourselves and showing what we can do,” he said.

In the other Hopkins conference match, Brierly-Christ Church finished the season with a win after Nathan Murphy took 5-41 off 11 overs to halt East Warrnambool-YCW’s charge for victory.

East seemed to be on track for victory at 5-173 but it lost 5-16.

In the Merri conference, Port Fairy finished its season in style with a comfortable win over Nestles at Reid Oval, despite a stubborn century from the Factory’s Geoff Williams.

Williams (105) was one of only three Nestles batsmen to make double figures as it was dismissed for 164.

Stephen Dwyer was the hero for the Pirates with the ball. He took 4-22 off 11 overs including the prized scalp of Nestles skipper Brett Eldridge for a duck.

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