Shepparton’s Notre Dame College has again claimed victory in the Marist Cricket Carnival, snaring a third title since 2014.
It was a nail-biting finish to the five-match tournament in Sale though, with Notre almost stumbling at the final hurdle.
After losing the opening match of the carnival by five runs, the Notre had fought its way to the top of the table with three successive victories — by six wickets, 60 runs and 25 runs, respectively — before finding itself in a strong position in Monday’s final round.
Notre had dismissed St Joseph’s College Hunters Hill for a gettable 136, but struggled to get going in the chase.
Regular wickets had the outfit slump to 7-109, but Aidan Lloyd and Jimmy Boyer proved a formidable eighth-wicket pairing at the crease and set about reeling in the required runs.
Disaster struck with just 12 runs needed though, as Lloyd and then Sean McAllister departed in consecutive deliveries to bring Josh Linehan to the crease on a hat-trick ball — for his first knock in the tournament, no less.
To make matters worse, second-placed team Marist Ashgrove had arrived from its clash across town to watch on and learn its fate first-hand after just securing its fourth win for the tournament.
But Linehan was in no mood to see the efforts of his teammates go to waste, surviving 14 deliveries and striking two crucial runs as Notre claimed victory — and the title by about 0.32 per cent — in the penultimate over of the match to go with its 2016 and 2014 carnival triumphs.
‘‘(Josh) came out on a hat-trick ball and we still needed a few runs,’’ Notre coach Terry Cormican said.
‘‘He hadn’t batted at all through the carnival and the hearts were pumping across the whole team — especially because we had to win the game to win the carnival.
‘‘But it was a great result for the boys, especially because they were fairly disappointed and deflated after the first loss, but they showed great resistance to fight their way back into the carnival.
‘‘It was good to see some of the boys who hadn’t played a large part down at eight, nine, 10 and 11 getting in the runs, showing grit and digging in to get us over the line.’’
The ball certainly dominated the bat throughout the carnival, but Notre complemented its advantage with ball in hand by putting in consistently brilliant fielding performances.
‘‘It’s been a very bowler-dominated week in the competition,’’ Cormican said.
‘‘Batting sides only made about 130 on average and almost no-one made over 180 for the week.
‘‘It wasn’t to do with the quality of the tracks, but just the great bowling attacks every side had.
‘‘It was lucky we had such a great bowling attack, I was able to basically roll out Central Park’s A-grade bowling line-up as well as Old Students’ Connor Hangan.
‘‘But our fielding was the highlight of the carnival, we had nine run outs for the week and five of them were direct hits.
‘‘We probably only dropped two catches for the carnival as well, which highlighted how well we were fielding.’’
The Notre side was full of Central Park-St Brendan’s A-grade experience — with Aidan and Andrew Lloyd, Pat Cormican, Connor Holland, Boyer and Ethan Baxter (for the first three games) headlining the squad — but fellow Tigers Linehan and Mitch Trevaskis, Tatura duo Will Pyke and Sean McAllister, Katandra’s Mitch Black, Karramomus’ Wil Norman and Hangan also contributed superbly across the carnival.
‘‘It was a great carnival, the boys have been great,’’ coach Cormican said.
‘‘The A-grade experience definitely helped us.
‘‘For me it was the first time I’ve coached them and I’m very happy with the result.’’
The Lloyd twins made the Marist XI as part of the Team of the Carnival, with Aidan hitting 75 runs and taking eight wickets and Andrew managing 91 runs and snaring 10 wickets.
Pat Cormican led Notre’s batting with 106 runs — followed closely by Black (105) — while Hangan took eight wickets and Holland secured the best bowling figures of the entire tournament with his 5-29 in the second game.
Linehan was bestowed with the Marcellin Champagnat Award as best team player for his school for — among a number of other reasons — studiously filling out the scorecard each game.
Although someone else did have to take over his book when the teen was called upon to save the day with the bat.