A devastating early burst from Brody Blackett-Gregg set Tamworth on their way to a resounding Connolly Cup semi-final victory, and a home final.
Tamworth will host Narrabri in the February 24 decider after Narrabri held on for a seven run win over Glen Innes in Sunday’s other semi-final.
By virtue of finishing higher on the standings Tamworth earned the right to host, and on what they showed against Walcha they will be tough to beat.
The game was delayed for 40 minutes after the sprinklers were left on for longer than they were supposed to be.
The wicket had been covered but it left the outfield a bit wet. Fortunately though there were no overs lost.
After Tamworth skipper Ben Middlebrook sent Walcha in, Blackett-Gregg ripped through the top order to have the visitors reeling at 5-18.
Nick Endacott (21) and Cameron Wood (50) built some respectability back into the innings with a 72 run partnership but they could only muster 128.
“I thought our guys bowled well early,” Middlebrook said.
“Brody Gregg has been really good for us the last two games.”
The young tearaway has taken nine wickets after claiming 4-20 off his 10 on Sunday.
Middlebrook was also impressed by James Austin (1-9) and Josh Attard (0-9).
Austin provided the initial breakthrough but was only able to bowl five overs after a head clash with Kilian Apen out on the boundary, which also ruled Apen out of the attack.
Down two bowlers Middlebrook turned to wily old veteran Matt Zell.
Ever reliable, he cleaned up the tail to finish with 3-29.
Adam Lole (53) then notched his second consecutive half-century as Tamworth achieved the runs in 26 overs. He and Richard Bullock broke the back of the chase with a 56 run stand, Travis Ling (28no) then joining Lole and taking the home side to within 21 of victory.
Not noted as an opener, Bullock was given the job in their opening round clash with Moree and has batted there pretty well ever since.
“He has a goal to bat until drinks,” Middlebrook said.
Lachy Fletcher and Lee Harrison were the two successful bowlers for Walcha, who aided Tamworth’s cause with 34 sundries.
They didn’t help themselves in the field either. They had a couple of early chances they dropped, including against Lole.
Tamworth too fumbled a few chances.
It was lost though for Walcha with the bat.
As skipper Ed Blomfield commented, the home side batted with a better temperament than they did.
“Just poor execution in our batting,” he said.
“There were only a couple of good balls that got us out. The rest were poor shots.”
He shuddered to think what they might have been defending if not for Wood and Endacott, and a late flurry from Andrew Fuller (15) with four batsmen failing to trouble the scorers and only four making double figures.
“We’ve got a good squad and we fired in the Armidale game, but we just haven’t fired again,” Blomfield said.