THE Penola Eagles flew back into finals contention with a solid win over West Gambier, as the Mount Gambier and District Cricket Association players returned from their Christmas break on Saturday.
The Eagles performed well on their home turf at McCorquindale Park to defeat the Roos by 78 runs.
West won the toss and elected to field first under sunny skies and the decision initially paid off.
After the home side’s openers began well with 26 runs on the board, Shane Dycer turned the tables with two quick wickets.
He first found the edge of Lewis March’s bat to end his innings on six, before the left-armer trapped Jack Schulz lbw for four.
It was a different story at the other end, as Jack Mullan appeared comfortable against the new ball with a number of attacking strokes over long on.
He found a partner in Mark Smith and the pair frustrated the visitors.
They steadily built a formidable partnership with regular boundaries and scored 62 runs to push the total into triples figures.
But their stand came to an end at the half-way mark of the innings when Sam Willis claimed Smith caught behind on 38.
Penola captain Jase Bateman could not replicate Smith’s aggressive effort and also fell to Willis for a duck.
After Connor Prior clean bowled George Kidman for nine, the Roos found an avenue back into the match.
But Mullan remained and continued to build his innings.
He raced past the 50-run milestone and reached 77 until Prior ended his resolute knock.
Without Mullan, the Eagles’ tail struggled to keep the runs flowing.
Only Michael Waters offered resistance with an unbeaten 31 from 32 balls, as his four partners could only manage 12 runs between them.
His efforts allowed Penola to finish with a solid score of 181 from its 40 overs.
Willis finished with the best figures of 3/30, while Prior also collected three and Dycer was the only other wicket-taker.
West’s run chase did not begin in ideal fashion after both openers fell during a difficult opening 10 overs.
Niall Easterbrook and Jack Geddes were dismissed by Waters and Kidman respectively and left the visitors in trouble at 2/13.
But the Roos were dealt a bigger blow when captain Richard Crute was caught behind off Waters for a duck.
After three early wickets, West needed a new face to stand up.
The visitors found a response from Willis and Prior, who backed up their bowling performances with hard-fought efforts with the bat.
The pair’s defence proved up to the task against the persistent Eagles’ outfit and they managed to get the team total up to 50.
Eventually Curt Evans found the edge of Willis’ bat and he fell for 16.
With the gritty stand broken, Penola seized on the chance to eat into the Roos’ middle order.
Conrad Slabber dismissed Josh Cornolo and Jed Matthews cheaply, while Bateman made a severe impact with the ball to take three victims.
Standing at the other end was Prior, who remained at the crease, but ran out of partners with just one wicket in hand.
He and Steven Hughes pushed West’s total into triple figures with a defiant stand.
But the return of Waters proved too much for Prior, who was finally dismissed for 49, which allowed the Eagles to comfortably claim the honours by 78 runs.
Bateman finished with the best figures of 3/13, while Waters and Slabber offered strong support with three and two wickets respectively.
The victory saw Penola jump from fifth to third on the ladder, which demoted the Roos down to fourth in the process.