AFTER battling through a winless campaign last season, Bethanga got their season off to a perfect start with a win over Howlong on Saturday.
Batting conditions were tough, but it looked as though the Spiders were in the box seat after bundling the home side out for just 106.
A top-order collapse looked likely to doom the Bethanga innings, but the middle order recovered to give them something to defend.
But, with the exception of a nice 36-run stand from Caleb Hobbs, Bethanga were able to cause similar problems for the Howlong top order.
Kieran Salome snared five wickets for the home side, putting them in a strong position to win after tea.
Howlong tail-enders Daniel Watts (21) and Darren Penn (6) had other ideas though.
Their final wicket stand threatened to pull the rug out from under Bethanga, until the mildly controversial stumping of Watts brought the game to an end.
With the five-run triumph their fist in well over a year, captain Brodie Sirl said spirits were high.
“We were pretty happy to get over the line,” he said.
“Our goal was to win three games this season, so we’re off to a good start.
“Winning games early always puts you in a good position.
“We know we’re not necessarily in the finals picture this season, but hopefully we get a bit of momentum from this.”
With the wicket playing tricks on almost everyone, Sirl was happy to have scraped over the line in a nail-biter.
“It got down to the wire,” he said.
“It was tough to bat on, there were a lot of players getting caught.
“It was a bit of a two-paced wicket, it was popping a bit at one end and quite slow at the other.
“Hopefully we’ll get some confidence from the win and kick on.”
Howlong’s Nick Dolan took full advantage of the variable wicket, finishing with five wickets for the the bargain price of just six runs.
In other matches, a four-wicket haul for Jake Styles got Mt Beauty’s season off to a fine start, defeating Barnawartha-Chiltern by six wickets.
An impressive 91-run effort from Andrew Creamer helped Dederang to a convincing 75-run victory over Eskdale.
Kiewa were too good for Wodonga in a close encounter, cleaning up the tail efficiently to avoid an upset loss.
Just 13 runs separated the Bulldogs and the reining premiers.