WHOEVER lifts the Bradford Premier League championship at the close of play on Saturday, one thing can be taken as read.
Namely, that the team who reign supreme will have fully earned silverware the hard way, with the respect for those who came close likely to be fulsome, too.
It has been one of the most intriguing title races for a number of years, moreso by the fact that a clutch of sides were in the mix until late season.
Ultimately, it is Pudsey St Lawrence – who need just eight points to lift their third title in the space of four years – and New Farnley who are the ones left standing on the final day.
But the closeness of the competition at the top end of the table, with Hanging Heaton, Farsley and Methley having all enjoyed their places in the sun at varying stages of the season, has been a major talking point, and a positive one too.
In the push for top-flight honours at least, the league looks to be in relatively rude health.
Yet there is only room for one winner and some wonderful consistency in the second half of the season from St Lawrence looks like proving the decisive factor after a magnificent run of ten wins in 11 matches.
Saturday’s game with troubled Scholes did not look much of a contest on paper and so it proved with run machine Mark Robertshaw (62no) and Adam Waite (37no) sharing an unbroken stand worth 114 to see St Lawrence home after dismissing ten-man Scholes for 111.
Captain Chris Marsden and Steve Watts took four wickets apiece for St Lawrence, who will be popping the champagne corks if they pick up eight points against Methley on Saturday.
Offering his take on a compelling title race this summer, Robertshaw said: “It is not often that four or five teams have been in it for so long and it has been nip and tuck.
“I know us and Farnley have been at the top for the majority of the season, but Hanging Heaton, Farsley and Methley have all been on our coattails for long spells.
“That spurs you on to keep going because a couple of bad weekends and you could have found yourself down to fifth before you know it and long gone.”
Second-placed Farnley must hope that Methley do them an almighty favour at home to St Lawrence, while performing their side of the bargain at Bradford and Bingley. But the Tofts Road men are overwhelming favourites.
Farnley eased past Methley on Saturday, with Ajmal Shahzad (4-42) and Alex Lilley (3-29) in the wickets and Steve Bullen (50) and Lee Goddard (46) in the runs.
Matthew Waite (46) top-scored for the visitors.
Hanging Heaton remain third, but their buffer over Priestley Cup winners Woodlands is now down to just two points after a surprise six-wicket loss against lowly Bradford and Bingley.
A fine unbeaten 79 from Aqsad Ali rescued the Tewits, but they could not defend their total of 187, with Callum Goldthorpe hitting 76 not for Bingley.
Paceman Jack Hartley (4-55) and Bailey Wightman (4-54) had profitable days with the ball for the victors.
Woodlands moved above Methley into fourth with Kez Ahmed and Elliot Richardson taking three wickets apiece in their nine-wicket win over East Bierley, with Sam Frankland (58no) top-scoring.
Spin-kings James Logan (5-33) and Mark Harrison (4-3) helped Farsley end a difficult week with a 105-run win over Lightcliffe, dismissed for 97.
Harrison had earlier hit 71 to crown a fine day’s work.
Spinner Suleman Khan (4-36) was Lightcliffe’s best.
Josh Thurwell’s 5-42 could not stop Cleckheaton losing by five wickets to Townville.
Harry Clewett (3-30) was the pick of the Townville bowlers.