CTPL Season & Grand FInal Review 1977-78
Highlight of the final round was Geoff Rowlands’s 6/66 for New Town which took his aggregate to 50 wickets but more importantly put Sandy Bay out of the finals race. Standings were: New Town 68, Glenorchy 59, Clarence 58 and University 54 (Sandy Bay 49).
The two semi-finals were similar. Clarence recovered from 107/7, to reach 243 with Murphy 92; paceman Dennis Baker followed up with a marathon 5/103 to restrict Glenorchy to 213. University recovered from 125/7, thanks to Leon Wootton (62) and Simon Allen (49*), to reach 200 in reply to minor premier New Town’s 162.
The dismissal of the two leading contenders set up one of the most open final since 1971-72, the last time the final had been played between the third and fourth place finalists. When Clarence and University had last met in a final in 1974-75, neither club had enjoyed premiership success, so the Roos were very keen to reverse the result to claim their first flag.
By the end of the first day, however, the fortunes favoured the Students again. Despite another extensive spell by Clarence’s hard-working paceman Dennis Baker, who claimed 5/71 from 25.5 overs, his team-mates put down chances galore and University was able to recover from a shaky 148/6 to reach the respectable score of 258. In the remaining time to stumps Clarence scored 27/0 off seven overs.
Clarence skipper Graeme Farrell opted to send University in after winning the toss. “It turned out to be a beaut wicket and the outfield was fast; given equal conditions there is no reason we can’t catch University’s total” said Farrell after stumps on the first day. “Sadly our fielding was pathetic – we dropped catches all over the place which basically meant we had to get them out twice.”
Although University batsmen enjoyed the luck of ten dropped catches and a missed run out, all-rounder Ray Brown, opener Robert Cotgrove and Leon Wootton all batted well. Credit must go to Cotgrove, who stayed at the crease during Baker’s early fire in the first session; he was eventually out after lunch for a slow but invaluable 33.
Wootton, a classy batsman, who top scored for the Students in their semi-final, took a blow to the face from Baker when he missed a pull shot, but he returned to the wicket after an hour only to be unluckily run out for 49.
Lynch-pin of the innings was solid New Norfolk footballer, Ray Brown, who scored 74; in his three hours at the wicket he withstood all the Clarence attack could launch at him and was eventually bowled by Baker, who’d taken the new ball, attempting a wild swing.
Overnight rain did not affect the wicket but play was delayed for 30 minutes to dry the surrounds, and the breakthrough for the Students came in Ray Brown’s first over when he bowled Ian Beven for 5. Greg Crowden, son of the former State player, Ian, joined Laughie Wright who’d scored the bulk of Clarence’s runs and the pair carried the score to 54 when the opener was bowled by Roger Clemons for 33. This dismissal opened the flood gates and signalled a disastrous collapse as the wickets of Crowden, Michael Tame and captain Graeme Farrell fell in quick succession and at 59/5 Clarence still needed 200 runs for victory.
John Smeaton, who had had a fine season with the bat, offered some resistance before becoming Brown’s fourth victim, bowled for 9 after more than an hour at the crease. Dennis Baker then demonstrated some sensible application as he and fellow opening bowler Steve Murphy, the batting hero of Clarence’s semi-final win, lasted only one run as Brown struck again. The former West Australian battled on for more then ninety minutes for his 20 runs but when he fell, with Clarence 103/8, the grand final was all but over.
Coach Geoff Stephen put some respectability into the score with a chancy 37, but it was University’s flag when he was well caught by Leon Wootton at extra cover off Paul Cossum.
Allrounder Ray Brown spearheaded a well deserved victory. After his courageous rearguard 74 on the first day, he followed up with an outstanding 5/24 off 14 overs to help skittle Clarence for a disappointing 139.
University enforced the follow-on and at one stage, with an hour left to play, looked an outright win chance with Clarence 39/4 and Crowden out of contention after he’d been hit in the mouth by a Clemons delivery. However, Clarence held out and was 105/5 when stumps were drawn.
Despite the apparent ease with which University beat the eastern shore club, captain Michael Norman wouldn’t concede his side had an easy win. “It was a final and they are all tough. You never know what is going to happen. I think we got there because we put in a team effort and our players gave 100% all the time. It wasn’t until six matches ago the team started to believe it was a winning combination.” University had to win its last four games and hope Sandy Bay lost to even make the final four.
Mercury reporter – John Hamilton