SOUTH Shields are champions of Dukes NEPL Division One and promoted back to the Premier Division from whence they came 12 months ago.
The formalities of gaining that extra point to be absolutely sure of topping the table were concluded before a ball was even bowled on Saturday.
Shields skipper Chris Rainbow called correctly at the toss, and it didn’t take too much prodding for him to elect to bat and thus control his own team’s fate, with a declaration at some point all that was necessary to prevent hosts Washington earning their required maximum.
As it turned out, Shields crawled carefully through their full 55 overs to close on 167-8, this representing a modest recovery from 84-6, with Rainbow adding colour to an otherwise plodding innings by cracking eight fours and one six in his 61-ball 57.
Andrew Ebdale was the most incisive in the home attack, picking up 4-46 in his 10 overs, while Ash Thorpe was right on blob in a restrictive 15-over stint in which he recorded figures of 2-28.
Washington took 48.5 overs to defeat the new champions, and they lost eight wickets in the process, but their success ensured they finished the season as runners-up, which was the most they were really hoping for going into the final game.
The inspirational Thorpe was once again their top man, his 49 being comfortably the highest score as Chris Stewart (3-53) completed a fine personal campaign.
Over at Eppleton, they were playing for the consolation prizes, and a 19-run win for the away team, Brandon, saw them finish third and consign their hosts to fourth place at the end of a season which held out much promise.
A careful half-century for John Carmedy (57 from 115 balls) was bolstered by a much more aggressive innings from Mattie Cowling, who cracked 62 from just 42 balls as Brandon posted a 50-over total of 222-7 before declaring. Craig Scurr took three wickets in the home attack.
Kyle Davis (47 from 51 balls) was once again in free-flowing form as the Eppleton chase began, but he stood glaringly alone in the top order as Jamie Robinson (5-56) caused problems to leave the hosts looking down and out on 129-7.
Skipper Graham Hoban provided the grit and fight, his unbeaten half-century rekindling hopes of a dramatic win, only for the final wicket to fall with more than four overs left and 20 runs required for a win.
Seaham Harbour could do with the season going on for a bit longer, their three-wicket win at Boldon being their fourth in their last seven completed games.
To be fair, the result was a bit cruel on the home team as they made all the running, rattling up 251-2 before generously declaring after just 44.1 overs.
Skipper Chris Ellison hit his season’s best of 82, his rousing innings including 12 fours and two sixes and coming from just 88 balls, although he could have done with nine more as he fell that amount short of 500 for the summer.
Aiding and abetting him were Neil Mulvaney (58 from 51 balls), and Joe Coyne, who performed the anchor role by batting through to end on 69 not out.
The Harbour’s run chase was choreographed by Stephen Sennett, the opener just making it to his century when victory was achieved having hit 16 fours and a six to end on 104 not out.
Ian Pattison (50) kept him willing company at the start of proceedings, but following a mini-collapse number nine Peter Hambleton (25 not out) provided crucial input just when it was needed.
South Hetton’s “annus horribilis” ended with yet another defeat, Ian Hunter turning in extraordinary bowling figures of five wickets for one run in 4.1 overs as the home team slumped to 156 all out.
Mo Ali (57 not out) and Graham Hubber (68) then put the game to bed with a third-wicket partnership of 103 which propelled the visitors to a seven-wicket win.