Brigade have upped the ante at the top of the Long’s SuperValu Premier Division table after they recorded maximum points in two games over the weekend, while previous leaders Donemana fell to a surprising defeat at Eglinton.
Even at this early stage of the season this could be a telling move in the title race and the Beechgrove outfit could now be hard to shift from their perch.
Saturday’s win against Ballyspallen came courtesy of some real resilience in their batting line-up. The Roe Valley side were well the hunt early on after three wickets from Mark Averill had left Brigade’s top order in trouble.
Skipper Andy Britton made a fine half century to put his side firmly back in the contest before late runs, which included a stand of 42 run between number 10 Ryan Macbeth and number 11 Robbie Logue, helped Brigade to a total of 208 all out.
The visitors seemed to know they had let their hosts off the hook and they never got going in reply. An excellent 64 from Graham Kennedy and 28 from skipper Adam McDaid was very much the best of it as they limped to just 114 in their response.
Skipper Britton was again to the fore with the ball claiming three for 18 while Ross Allen and Johnny Robinson picked up two wickets apiece for the home side.
With the points in the bag, Brigade then travelled to Coleraine on Sunday and posted a decisive victory over the Bannsiders.
Batting first, the home side were dismissed for 150 and once again it was very much down to Graham Hume that they got that far. Hume hit 11 fours in his 86 not out with the only meaningful support coming from Varun Chopra who added 22.
Robinson was the most successful of Brigade’s bowlers this time as he claimed 4-50 with Britton, Allen and Macbeth picking up two each.
The batsmen had no problem rattling off the required runs, David Barr (52), Iftikhar Hussain (39*) and Gareth McKeegan (32), combining to make sure it was a good weekend for the Limavady Road men with a seven-wicket win.
Previous leaders, Donemana, had looked invincible up to this point however they had their colours firmly lowered by Eglinton on Saturday afternoon.
The villagers’ win was built on a solid bowling performance that saw them dismiss the former champions for just 147. Best with the bat for Donemana where Bilawal Iqbal, who made 48 not out, and William McClintock who added 30 late on.
Former Donemana player, Stevie Dunn, helped himself to three wickets while Mike Erlank and Mattie Mills picked up two each.
The home team’s top order had little difficulty fending off Donemana’s opening attack with Andy Miller, Josh Martin, Tommy Orr and Mike Erlank all among the runs.
The former champions fought back with Iqbal picking up three wickets however Eglinton had enough about them to finish the job.
Coleraine’s defeat on Sunday was softened somewhat by the fact that the north coast side had claimed the points against Strabane on Saturday.
In difficult batting conditions, the Tyrone side mustered a total of 158-9 in their 50 overs courtesy of 41 from Aaron Gillespie and cameos down the order from Khushpal Singh and Tommy Barr.
Strabane were well in the contest throughout the second innings but they couldn’t find a way through the key defences of Graham Hume.
The South African is absolutely pivotal to whatever the Bannsiders do this season and that was certainly the case here too. Where Brigade were able to cope with Hume’s defiance, Strabane didn’t have that luxury.
Not only did he end up with an unbeaten 65 this time, he also nursed the tail through when the going got tough towards the end.
It was a one-wicket game from a long way out, however Hume kept the Red Caps’ bowlers at bay to secure the points for his team.
Saturday’s final game saw reigning champions, Bready, inflict another defeat on newly-promoted Glendermott.
Gordon Montgomery’s team have struggled in their new surroundings so far and they found the home side’s total of 248 well beyond them here.
Irosh Samarasooriya hit 87 and his efforts, coupled with a half-century from David Rankin, provided the platform for that total.
Keshan Wijerayhne claimed four wickets for the Waterside team and the same player anchored the reply as he made 71 in his side’s effort with the bat. Unfortunately for them runs were few and far between elsewhere in the order and Glendermott’s reply ended tamely on 164 all out.
In the championship, Burndennett continued their excellent start to the summer with a seven wicket win at Bond’s Glen. Three wickets apiece for Ross McCay and Mark Snodgrass were enough to see the home side bowled out for just 64. An unbeaten 31 from Mark Doherty insured the visitors came away with the points.
Fox Lodge crushed St Johnstone by nine wickets; Aaron Heywood claiming three wickets and Alistair Doherty and Jason Milligan two apiece as the Saints were bowled out for 92.
An unbeaten 57 from Brian Allen meant the Foxies claimed all the points available.
Andre Henry’s brilliant century and an unbeaten 96 from William Finlay helped Killyclooney make 340-7 from their overs at Newbuildings.
Despite half centuries from Darnell McCallum and Mark Hanna and 41 from Jason Dunn, four wickets for Giles Moan and three for Jordan Connor steered the visitors to a 101-run verdict.