BUSH BLUES surged late but fell agonisingly short of a national cricket title in Newcastle amid Wednesday's thrilling last round at the Australian Country Championships.
NSW "couldn't do much more" to jump leaders Victoria into first spot, rolling them for 111 and chasing it in 13.2 overs, only to be overtaken by the barest of margins shortly after when eventual winners Queensland reached their victory target eight wickets down.
In a first-past-the-post format and after eight days of competition, those three men's sides finished equal on 18 points and were only split by a net run rate of 0.340.
Queensland (0.604) were awarded the crown, narrowly in front of NSW (0.400) and Victoria (0.264) despite winning one less game than both of their nearest rivals. T20 and 50-over matches carry different point weightings.
NSW Country captain Nick Foster described the overall feeling as "disappointing", having clawed their way back from three straight losses and ending in such a dominant fashion but ultimately missing the silverware.
"As it turned out we've won more games than them [Queensland] and still lost the tournament. You don't get the trophy at the end of it, but you've got to take some solace from that. It's probably not something that happens very often," Foster told the Newcastle Herald.
Simon Keen (4-22), Foster (3-13) and Aaron Bills (2-23) did most of the damage with the ball at Lynn Oval before teenage opener Bailey Abela smashed an unbeaten 75 from 47 deliveries.
Temporarily on top of the ladder, the Bush Blues gathered together at a Stockton pub and watched the live stream of the deciding encounter. Queensland (8-210) edged past ACT (209) in the 45th over, sparking scenes of celebration at Harker Oval.
In Wednesday's other fixture, Western Australia (205) comfortably accounted for South Australia (108) at Wallsend Oval.