THE final day of round 15 saw the bottom two teams breathe life back into their finals hopes, with Latrobe and Sheffield winning gripping struggles against the Burnie Hurricanes and Devonport respectively.
Meanwhile, Ulverstone continued its ominous two-day form with a big first-innings win over Wynyard, highlighted by a mammoth 197 from English import Harry Smith.
LATROBE v BURNIE
The Hurricanes gave the pursuit of Latrobe's 8/277 a real crack. A 58-run opening partnership from Aydan Costelloe (25) and Sam Rubock (19) provided a good foundation from which to launch, but once Latrobe claimed its first wicket, it piled on the pressure.
In the absence of Sean Gower, part-time medium-pacer Nathan Avery accepted greater responsibility with the ball and responded, claiming the wickets of Costelloe and Adam Drinkwell (5) as Burnie struggled to 5-92 in the morning session.
Andy Harris (60) and Dale Baker (47) worked hard to rebuild the innings in the middle session, adding 67 runs for the sixth wicket.
Just when the tide looked to be turning, Avery claimed the vital wicket of Baker, and Latrobe had a first-innings victory in its sights.
To Burnie's credit, its lower order fought hard but would ultimately fall 40 runs short, with the Hurricanes all out for 237.
Latrobe would have been delighted with its team bowling effort, and none was better than Avery, who took a career-best 4-52 from 24.4 overs.
Having secured the first- innings win, Latrobe's second innings never reached any great heights, as it struggled to 5-32 at the close of play.
The Hurricanes' new-ball bowlers all took the chance to improve their bowling averages, with Clynton Scharvi (2-12), Tyler Johns (2-13) and Adam Drinkwell (1-7) snaring wickets in a confidence-building final session. However, Latrobe would ultimately be satisfied that it had kept its finals chances alive with a vital first-innings win.
WYNYARD V ULVERSTONE
Resuming at 4/216, Ulverstone already had a 60-run first-innings lead, and was intent on racking up the first-innings batting points with a big total.
After it lost Jordan Kelly (45) early, centurion Harry Smith was joined by Jacob Snare (37), and the pair added 82 runs for the sixth wicket.
With Snare and Shaun Knott (8) dismissed in quick succession, Smith, having already passed 150, was joined by Sam Murfitt (52 not out from 43 balls) at the wicket. The pair put the hammer down, adding 46 runs in quick time, and Smith edged ever closer to a double century. He would ultimately fall three runs short, bowled by Todd Chatwin (1-55) for 197.
Smith's 266-ball innings included 32 fours, with the Englishman making the highest score in CNW first grade since 2004-05.
With Smith gone, Ulverstone captain Josh Walmsley declared the innings a short time later, with the ladder-leaders reaching a mammoth 8/428 from 96 overs.
Wynyard's bowling attack was well led by 15-year-old spinner Pearce Watling (3-95 from 20 overs) and veteran swing bowler Kade Bellinger (2-76 from 26 overs).
Smarting from its big first- innings defeat, Wynyard made the most of its second innings, reaching 6/227 at the close of play.
In a good sign for the Blues, its three key batsmen, Nick Granger (65), Nick Pearce (54) and Gregg Sharman (50), were all among the runs, and received solid support from their younger team-mates.
Ulverstone spinner Jacob Snare continued his excellent form this season, taking 3-26 from 11 tidy overs in another impressive performance.
SHEFFIELD v DEVONPORT
Devonport resumed at 0/5, needing a further 250 runs to chase down Sheffield's innings of 7/254. Openers Miles Barnard (19) and Tyler Dell started beautifully, looking untroubled in a 65-run opening partnership before Barnard was knocked over by Aiden Marshall (3-49).
Dell was then joined by Bruce Will, and the impressive youngsters guided the Orions past 100.
After reaching his half-century, Dell (58) played a false shot from the bowling of Shane Crawford (2-42), and it was left to Will and Alex McChristie to guide the Orions safely to lunch. After losing McChristie shortly after lunch, Will and Scott Mitchell combined for a 44-run fourth- wicket partnership.
Will passed 50, but just as the Orions were looking good things to score a first-innings win, he was deceived by spinner Gary Miles, bowled for 55, with the score 4-181. Despite the best efforts of a fighting Mitchell (43), Devonport's middle and lower order could not get the Orions over the line, and they were eventually dismissed for 232, falling 23 runs short of the victory target. Marshall, Crawford and emerging paceman Mitchell Cashion (2-26) were impressive in the Mountaineers' first win since round 1.
In an entertaining final session, there was a good battle between bat and ball, with Sheffield reaching 6/116 from 23 overs.
Dave Cummings (45) and Aaron McNab (20) played some enterprising strokes.