Sheehan stars in strong victory for Merriwa over Bunnan in UHDCA round 13

TABLE TOPPERS: Merriwa have continued their impressive title defence with another home win. FILE PHOTO
TABLE TOPPERS: Merriwa have continued their impressive title defence with another home win. FILE PHOTO

WITH the Christmas break over, teams across the competition were looking to get their new year off to a winning start.

There were some surprise results, such as Souths winning their first match as a club in 1,416 days and Brook Blue defeating Murrurundi, but there was also a showing of force from the competition's best with Merriwa and Belltrees both picking up strong wins.

Belmore Bulls also won their match, which kept them in third place above Aberdeen in fourth and Rouchel - who were held by the plucky bye, which hasn't conceded defeat once this year - in fifth.

There's not much to mention for the Merriwa versus Bunnan fixture, with the home side claiming a 7 wicket victory in under 15 overs, after restricting their opponents to 57.

It was a poor day for the travellers' lower order, who appeared to have the spirit animal of a duck after their final four batsman failed to trouble the scorers, although a pass could be given to Scott Connett since he at least remained not out.

They now sit second last on the table, just two points ahead of Souths, and will likely need to address their stumpy tail if they want to avoid the wooden spoon.

It's would be too difficult to pick a man of the match based on batting performances, with Doug Munro's 34 being to top score, but Greg Sheehan's 4 for 6 with the ball makes the choice pretty obvious.

Despite being a popular figure in the 'best on' category, those bowling figures actually represent the best spell of his career - or at least as far back as not-so-expert statistician MyCricket can find.

Meanwhile Belltrees were made to work for their win over a visiting Aberdeen side, who put together a solid score of 172.

However, the hosts put in a team effort to catch the total, with the main contributions coming from Chris Simpson, Brad McCosker and Trent Coe who combined for 112.

Paul McTaggart and Troy Dunley were crucial with the ball, taking three wickets a piece, while Hayden Quinlivan made up for a rare miss with bat by dismissing two opponents.

Aberdeen will however jump into the four, with the two points given for a loss enough to see them overtake Rouchel.

The Bushrangers showed that while they're used to handing tough terrain, like the conditions often seen at their home ground, they're ill-equipped to deal with Bulls.

Making their way to Boyd Oval at Bill Rose Sports Complex on Saturday, they were made to field first and struggled almost immediately, with opener Ben Crackett making 53.

The Bulls' first three batsman made 141 between them, which proved crucial as the rest of the team managed just 57.

That was more than enough though, with the Bushrangers making just 130.

Chris Knight could argue he was just as, if not more, important than any of the batsman after claiming 4 for 29 from 8 overs.

Meanwhile, Murrurundi will be ruing a missed chance to break into the top four, after falling victim to a much improved Brook Blue side which has sparked a couple of surprises this season.

Josh Cooper starred in that match, making 50 with bat in hand and collecting two wickets.

The importance of batting out an innings was on display for all to see in the upset win, as Brook Blue made 160 from their full 40 overs.

Murrurundi scored at a much quicker rate and fell just 10 runs short, but had lost all of their wickets by the 30 over mark.

With nine games to go until finals, it's still a little early to be trying to predict who will claim the third and fourth spots behind Belltrees and Merriwa, who look like lock-ins.

But, it wouldn't be media without wild speculation, so I'm willing to predict that on current form it could be difficult to remove the Bulls, and state that if Rouchel can exploit their unique and for the opposition, frankly nightmarish, home ground then they should still be in the mix come mid-March.