FOR the first time since the return of the Bathurst District Cricket Association first grade competition in 2007-08, the blue and gold colours of Rugby Union will be on display for the last day of the season.
And the manner in which the Bulldogs booked the debut grand final appearance was spectacular.
Rugby Union and major semi-final opponents Bathurst City didn’t get onto Morse Park until there was less than two hours of play left on the opening day, due to a damp wicket.
Bathurst City were sitting at 3-53 by Saturday’s conclusion and in a decent position of securing a fifth successive final appearance.
Rugby Union had other ideas.
Jeremy Thackray (4-26) and Ryan Peacock (4-44) combined with the ball to take Redbacks apart when play resumed on Sunday.
The match was turned on its head as the defending premiers were all out for 103 runs.
In reply Bulldogs crept their way towards the total with useful scores throughout the batting order.
Peacock (24), Jameel Qureshi (20 not out), Imran Qureshi (17) and Mick Tobin (16) were the best of the Bulldogs with the willow.
Despite no batsman enjoying a standout performance for the Bulldogs, the strong team contributions got the club home by six wickets.
Bulldogs captain Sam Macpherson said the club is enjoying a season to remember.
“We’re all very pleased, and we got first and second grade into the grand finals, which from a club point of view is very good,” he said.
“I think we deserved to be in there. We played the right cricket to get there.
“We were hoping to roll Redbacks for 200 or less. The boys bowled very well. Peakers and Thackers started the day well, as did Tyler Horton with a run out.”
Macpherson said while the bowling from his side was spot on, making a bigger impact with the bat will be an area to focus on for the decider in a fortnight’s time.
“No-one really stood out. The boys all scored around the 20 mark, and that’s what we spoke about after the game. With our top five batters, two or three have to be trying to get more runs after making a start,” he said.
“That’s the best Peakers has bowled all season and Thackers was just hitting the spot all day. Mick Tobin, who came up from seconds, bowled 1-5 from his five overs and that was perfect.
“All the boys did the job that was needed and hopefully they can do it again in two weeks.”
Rugby’s win was a slice of revenge against Redbacks, who claimed an outright victory over the Bulldogs in last season’s preliminary final.
Little has been able to separate the two sides in this year’s competition. Their head-to-head is now all square at two wins each.
This will be the first time since the 2013-14 season where the grand final won’t be a Bathurst City versus City Colts affair.
Those two sides will instead battle it out for the remaining spot in the decider in this weekend’s preliminary final, after Colts defeated Centennials Bulls in the minor semi-final.
Rugby Union will feature in at least two grand finals this season after their second grade side also accounted for Bathurst City, winning their major semi-final by 97 runs.