University are third on the NDCA first-grade ladder and into the Top Locker Cup final, but until last weekend they were in danger of looking like a one-man team.
Newcastle representative batsman James Rushford has three centuries this season, rattling up 489 runs at an average of 87.4. Before last weekend he was the only Uni batsman to pass 50.
But the opener fell for a duck in a one-dayer against former club Charlestown on Sunday before teammates Chris Connors (51) and Luke Bird (64) put on 89 in the middle order to guide Uni to 9-214. Uni then dismissed Charletown for 191 to secure a place in the Tom Locker decider next month against leaders Belmont.
Captain Matt Gawthrop said he was pleased to see someone else score runs when it mattered after a patchy start to the campaign.
“It’s never pleasing when you see one of your mates get out for a duck, but some of our players who haven’t performed as well as they wanted to really stood up and got us in a position to win the game, which was really pleasing,” he said.
“We’ve only lost one game, and most of our top six haven’t performed the way we want to, so that’s a real positive. Once that top six or seven gets going, we’re going to be pretty decent.”
Uni meet Wests on Saturday at No.1 Sportsground at the start of a two-day game. The previous time they met Wests made 5-449 at Harker Oval in the final round of last season thanks to Aaron Wivell’s 228 not out and James King’s 120 before Gawthrop smashed 164 and Uni (436) almost pulled off a miracle.
Gawthrop said he looked forward to reproducing an innings of that magnitude in the rematch.
“I’ve felt good all year. I’ve pretty much got a start in every game. I just haven’t gone on with it,” he said. “I’m due myself. It’s time for me to lead from the front as well.
“We’re hoping we can replicate those runs and go that bit extra and get the win.”
Uni will be without paceman Cameron Dack, who injured his groin last weekend and will be replaced by Josh Taylor.
Elsewhere, 11th-placed Wallsend host Merewether, who are back in the top four after winning both of their one-dayers last weekend.
Fifth-placed Toronto have a chance to increase the pressure on the Lions when they host Cardiff-Boolaroo at Ron Hill Oval; Hamilton-Wickham meet Charlestown at Passmore Oval; Stockton entertain City at Lynn Oval; and Belmont travel to Waratah.