ECSTATIC Pudsey St Lawrence captain James Smith says that lifting the Division One championship represents the pinnacle of his career – after the Tofts Road outfit ended 24 years of hurt on Saturday.
St Lawrence defeated last season’s champions Cleckheaton by 66 runs at Moorend before heading back to Pudsey to be presented with the league title for the first time since 1991.
Needing seven points for silverware, the outcome was never truly in doubt as the visitors totalled 210-7, batting first, with Adam Waite top-scoring with 76 – while fellow opener Mark Robertshaw passed 1,000 runs for the campaign.
Replying, Cleck’ lost their final six wickets for 33 runs as they were dismissed for 144, Chris Marsden taking 4-33 as St Lawrence ended their campaign in fitting style.
The day also saw wicketkeeper Matthew Duce claim the one victim he needed to complete the double of 500 league victims and 5,000 runs.
The championship success enabled Smith to follow in the footsteps of his father Keith in winning the title, with Chris Gott, skipper of the last St Lawrence’s championship class of 1991, presenting him with the trophy on a special night back in the clubhouse at Tofts Road.
Smith, who has previously twice lifted the Priestley Cup with St Lawrence in 2014 and 2011 and won other honours, said: “This is the pinnacle.
“Twenty-four years of waiting for a title is a long, long time.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet and words can’t describe the amount of mental strain you go through to win it over 22 games.
“The cup runs are one-off games; you can play well and win a cup, but the league is about consistency week-in week-out.
“As I said to the guys on Saturday night, to be outplayed once out of 22 games is a massive effort.
“I do think we deserve it, although we were pushed all the way.”
On the game at Cleck’, he added: “We had to worry about winning a game of cricket, not getting seven points. If we’d done that, we could have found ourselves in a bit of a situation.
“But the lads were brilliant. Waitesy played out of his skin and got seventy-odd on a tough wicket to score runs and the lads applied themselves brilliantly with the ball.”
Ending their long wait for the title was made all the sweeter by casting aside their reputation as nearly-men in the champions stakes in the process, with St Lawrence vanquishing those memories in a superb campaign when they have possessed stamina to last the course.
Smith said: “We had a reputation of tailing off in the second half of seasons and losing focus and concentration and not practicing hard enough.
“But we have kept that focus and continued to execute our skills.
“The second team have also had a successful year and the future is really bright for us.”
Woodlands (171) finished as runners-up, despite a five-wicket loss to Lightcliffe (172-5).