A scintillating maiden century from Phil Johnston allowed Celtic to cruise past Star by six wickets in the final round of the senior 45-over cricket competition on Saturday.
Johnston hit 106 in just his third senior innings to ensure the defending champions eased past its target of 188 with 16 overs to spare.
With Celtic and Timaru having already secured the two spots in next month’s final, teams were playing for little more than extra momentum heading into the resumption of two-day cricket this weekend.
Timaru overcame a slow start in the field to beat Waimate by four wickets at Knottingley Park and Temuka were too strong for Roncalli/Celtic at Temuka Oval.
The home team won by 44 runs thanks to five wickets from leg spinner Nick McGuire.
While Johnston’s knock, which included 13 fours and one six, was superb, the match would have been finished early had it not been for a determined 93 not out by former Star captain Phil McGregor.
His side was languishing at seven for three at one stage after Celtic quick bowler James Blackstock ripped through the top order. The poor start meant McGregor had to play more watchfully than his already rock-solid approach dictated.
Richard Hickson (20) and Sam Richardson (21) gave the opener support to build the foundations for a competitive total, while a quick-fire unbeaten 21 from Adam Fahey allowed Star to amass a respectable 188 for six.
Blackstock, still troubled by a knee injury, got through six overs and finished with three for 27.
With only two front-line bowlers to call upon, Star were ruthlessly exposed by Johnston.
The Celtic opener bullied his team to 80 off the first 10 overs and when his opening partner Brad Gilbert was dismissed for a well-compiled 31, the team was cantering on 127 for one going better than a run a ball.
Although his own departure sparked a mini-collapse, they did eventually make it home despite three late wickets from Henry Race.
Waimate made a strong start with the bat against Timaru before they let it slip. The home team was 103 without loss but then lost all 10 wickets for just 83 runs.
Spinner Zane Sanders started the rot for Waimate, claiming the top four batsmen to finish with figures of four for 49 from nine overs, as Waimate were bundled out for 186 despite 53 from opener Scott Willoughby, 47 from Murray Prattley and 40 from Nathan Sew Hoy.
Contributions from most of the top six meant Timaru was not in any danger during its run chase.
Sam Porter’s 37 laid the platform, while Sanders added 36 and Prabodha Arthavidu made 24.
Timaru reached the target with 49 balls to spare.
A 120-run second wicket partnership between Rory Lorimer (59) and Johnny Geddis (49) helped set up Temuka’s win over Roncalli/Celtic. Temuka made 216 for nine batting first despite excellent seam bowling from Nick O’Brien and Grant Watt, who each took four wickets.
It was the spin of McGuire that buried the visitors’ hopes of an upset victory. He finished with figures of five for 29 as Roncalli/Celtic were all out for 172 in the 36th over.