TWO of the competition’s big guns will go to head to head tomorrow when Berry-Shoalhaven Heads host Shoalhaven Ex-Servicemen at the Berry Sporting Complex.
There’s no love lost between the two teams who contested last year’s grand final and both will be hoping for a win with the business end of the season just around the corner.
The second-placed Magpies go in on the back of an outright win, where they completely dominated wooden spoon contenders North Nowra-Cambewarra.
Berry’s skipper Kerry Penfold is always one for opponents to look out for and is in great form after 111 against Norths, which elevated him to the leading run scorer in the competition.
The Magpies bowlers took 20 wickets with ease in the last round with Ty Cherry picking up a five-wicket haul in the first innings, while allrounders Chris McCarron and Brad Carey enjoyed success with bat and ball.
Spinner Phil Dell’Orefice is another danger man for Berry, with the left-armer having a huge impact with 21 wickets in just four games this season.
Ex-Servos leapfrogged Bomaderry into third place after their win against Bay and Basin last week, but it was far from smooth sailing for the defending premiers.
Basin looked poised for an upset before the experience of Paul Meakins (43 not out) and Shane Phillis (30) in the lower order got them over the line.
Meakins has been one of Ex-Servos best with the bat this season, while Daniel Gleeson has made runs in recent weeks.
Shane Phillis has been dangerous with the ball, as he showed by taking a hat-trick against Basin, while their leading wicket-taker Mat Ganderton took eight wickets against Bomaderry recently.
Both teams look certain starters for the semis and the winner will take plenty of confidence with only two rounds remaining until the finals.
It will be a bit of a different story at Sanctuary Point Oval where two of the competitions cellar dwellers Bay and Basin and North Nowra-Cambewarra will do battle.
While the fixture will have no bearing on the semi-finals, a win for Basin would almost certainly ensure they avoid back to back wooden spoons.
Basin can take lots of positives from last week after giving Ex-Servos a bit of a scare at Hayden Drexel Oval.
Colin Searson toiled away for 28 overs and was rewarded with seven wickets, while skipper Jonathan Hill was dangerous with the ball once again.
Basin won comfortably when they played in the one-dayers and they will be hoping they can win their first game on their home soil this season.
While Norths may have a bruised ego after a heavy loss to Berry last week, their performances have improved in the second half of the season.
Nick McDonald has been their go to man with the bat and he will be hoping to return to form after missing out in both innings against Berry.
While Norths are sitting in last place, Batemans Bay is still in wooden spoon territory and they haven’t made it out of the woods yet.
The Tigers will be riding a high after they finally won their first game since joining the Shoalhaven, but they could be in for a tough one against Nowra at Nowra Showground.
The Bay have scored plenty of runs in their last two games, with Matt Sethi making his second century for the season against Norths, while Paul Gallen came close to the milestone with 93 against Ulladulla.
Scoring runs will be no easy task, with Nowra boasting the three leading wicket-takers in the competition, while their captain Rohan Hutchison has been in good touch with the bat, with back to back half-centuries, so the home side should feel pretty confident.
Ulladulla United’s finals prospects look to be just about dashed after their loss to Batemans Bay, with this week’s opponents Bomaderry having plenty of breathing space in fourth position.
After the misfortune of being the first side to be beaten by Batemans Bay, Ulladulla will be hoping they can bounce back on their home turf at Ulladulla Sports Park.
It was a bit of a struggle for Ulladulla with the absence of a few key players against Batemans Bay and in the end they were lucky not to be beaten outright.
There were some positives however, with Michael Devlin taking seven wickets for the match and making a half century, while Wes Holmes smashed five sixes in his second innings knock of 44.
They were without leading wicket-taker Peter King for the whole game, while top run-scorer Harley Bell missed their second innings with the bat, so there is no doubt they will make a difference if they play this week.
While Bomaderry are going into the clash coming off a loss, they were not too far off the mark against the top of the table Nowra last week.
Bomaderry did a good job with the ball and at one stage looked as though they might be able to defend their small total.
John Muggleton troubled Nowra’s top order with 4/37 from 21 overs, while Ben Lynch cleaned up the tail in style by taking a hat-trick.
They will be need an improved performance with the bat, but their top order has got the job done on a number of occasions this season, with Blake Munilla and Paul Sawkins making runs regularly.