As the minor premier, Williamstown went into the opening week of the Victorian Sub-District Cricket Association north-west finals last weekend knowing it could not be eliminated straight up.
Now the Seagulls need the double chance they earned in the home-and-away campaign.
The Seagulls let the qualifying final slip from a match-winning position against Plenty Valley on Sunday, going down narrowly by six runs.
Their home ground advantage ceases for the remainder of the finals – and they face a daunting trip to Melton in the semi-finals.
Seagulls all-rounder Craig Sheedy concedes the route to the big dance will be tougher after the first-up finals loss.
“It’s always a tough ask out there at Melton,” he said. “We played well against them in a one-dayer out there, so it will be a good game.”
Williamstown only has itself to blame for missing out on a home semi-final.
Set a testing 234 target, the Seagulls appeared on track for victory midway through the second day’s play, but were bowled out in the last over for 227. Brent McMinn and Dale McDonald provided rock solid foundations for the Seagulls, their 97-run partnership moving the score to 3-128.
McMinn made 53 off 100, including seven fours and a six, while McDonald top-scored with 55 off 140, also with seven fours and a six.
“Dale and Brent got us in a really good position,” Sheedy said. “They both batted beautifully and were just cruising along on a difficult wicket.
“We could’ve kept nudging it around and done it easy in the end, but unfortunately a couple of bad shots were played at the wrong times.”
Plenty of middle and lower order Williamstown batsmen got starts, but none could occupy the crease for long enough to take their side to the target.
The Seagulls’ batsmen got bogged down by tidy Plenty Valley bowling and a dead pitch that aided the bowling side.
Sean Ayres was the chief destroyer for Plenty Valley, taking 4-54 off 34 overs, including 17 maidens. He put the ball in the right areas and the batsmen reacted with impatient strokes.
“It was really difficult to get him away,” Sheedy said. “Blokes pretty much had to push forward and try to keep them out. A couple of poor decisions and it costs you the game.”
In a thrilling last over, Williamstown needed 10 runs, Plenty Valley one wicket.
After picking up four runs off the first two balls, the Seagulls were one maximum away from the win.
On the third ball of the over, tail-ender Jarrod Flood-Bauce, who had made the team’s third top score with 19, tried to finish the game in one fell swoop, only to get caught on the boundary.
Williamstown was disappointed not to start the finals with a win, but there is no time to dwell on that result.
“Everyone was fine after the game,” Sheedy said. “It’s always disappointing to lose, but it wasn’t as if we weren’t in the game.”
Yarraville was bundled out of the finals in an unceremonious fashion, losing to Melton by seven wickets at MacPherson Park.
The Eagles were abysmal with the bat, conjuring just 70. Melton cruised to victory, three down in the 28th over.