YOUNG gun Connor Matheson was back to his brilliant best yesterday, smashing a classy century at West End Oval to propel Leagues Club into this weekend's GDCA preliminary final.
The Country NSW representative put his barren recent form behind him to score a powerful and unbeaten 105 and end the Coro Cougars' premiership defence.
Batting in tandem with fellow rising star Jimmy Binks (51 not out), the teenager gleefully punished some erratic bowling from an out-of-sorts Cougars attack, pushing the Panthers well past Coro's first innings total of 84 and closing the door on any chance of an outright victory.
"It was sensational. Connor played all the shots and looked superb doing it," Leagues Club captain Paul Plummer said.
"He just looked like a batter.
"The expectations with him that everyone has ... he just showed them what he can do."
Resuming yesterday morning with the Panthers at 1-24, Matheson and Binks were immovable at the crease in their 122-run partnership and tore through nine different Coro bowlers on their way to their milestone scores.
"It was Connor's day, I suppose," Coro skipper Haydn Pascoe said.
“He batted really well but the little things went his way – he was chipping it in front of fielders and that and we dropped him on 50 or 60-odd.
“We bowled too short, to be honest, and he just hit pull shots all day.”
Leagues Club will now face Exies this weekend for a spot in the GDCA grand final against Yenda – and as far as Pascoe is concerned, the Panthers should be favourites.
“They’ll be the team to take it out, I reckon,” he said.
The Panthers never looked bound for defeat after what Plummer described as a good toss to lose on Saturday.
Coro elected to bat first and despite an early blockfest from the likes of Tim Rand (17), who faced 86 deliveries, and Paul Josling (8), who faced 49, the Cougars were undone as Leagues Club took advantage of the damp conditions.
Wickets fell regularly and were it not for top-scorer Justin Moat, who came in at 9-61 and added a quickfire 24, the scorecard would have been much worse reading for Coro.
“We had a pig of a day batting on Saturday,” Pascoe said. “The pitch was a bit wet and it was beautiful batting conditions on Sunday.
“Some days you have a good day and can’t do anything wrong, and some days it’s the other way.”
Raj Singh was the backbone of the Panthers attack, bowling 21 straight overs to finish with figures of 1-34.
Plummer took 3-26 while Binks cemented his all-rounder status with 3-4 off eight damaging overs.
“He’s got a weird action, Binksy. He’s hard to pick up,” Plummer said.
“He drops his head, looks at the ground... it almost looks like he pops his shoulder out or something.
“It’s weird but it does the job.“
Plummer said the Panthers will march on full of confidence after such a commanding win.
“We’ve had a pretty bad month and lost a couple of bad games – and not just lost, but got flogged,” he said. “To come back and win, and win easily, gets the confidence back up in the camp.
Meanwhile, it’s a bitter end to an up-and-down season for the Cougars.
“It’s pretty hard to go through the year when you don’t know who’s going to be in your side every week,” Pascoe said.
“Leagues Club had a group of boys that stuck together whereas we lost four or five through moving away or just unavailable.”