JESSE Dinnie hailed Atherton’s best performance of 2018 as they beat defending champions Kearsley to qualify for the season-ending Peter Stafford Trophy final against Bradshaw.

Relegated from the Premiership, Atherton have enjoyed a stunning cup run, highlighted by Sunday’s home win over the Hamer Cup finalists by five wickets chasing 208.

Dinnie, Atherton’s Australian captain and professional, admitted he was “absolutely stoked” at the end of a winning weekend, which also saw them jump off bottom spot in the league by beating Westhoughton.

“That’s probably the best win (Kearsley) we’ve had all season, and we’ve had some pretty good games recently,” said Dinnie, who helped get the chase off to a solid start with 52 off 56 balls opening the batting.

“To chase down 208 and to do it without the strongest team we’ve had all season is pretty pleasing.

“Our overseas Harry Campbell has gone home to Tasmania due to work commitments. We always knew he would be going early.”

Wiley medium pacer Adeel Baig set the tone with 5-28 from nine overs at Higham Park.

Ellis Mort, their quarter-final bowl-out hero against Walkden, also impressed with 3-40 from nine overs of seamers as Kearsley posted 207-9 from their 45. Captain Cameron Murray top-scored with 90 having elected to bat.

In reply, each of Atherton’s top five got into the twenties at least, with teenage wicketkeeper Jack Welch hitting 41 from number three and Baig 40 from number five as the win was secured with 3.4 overs remaining.

“For most of the season, we’ve had people getting in. Then a collapse comes,” said Dinnie.

“On Sunday, it was probably the first time we’ve got a start and consolidated it. It was pretty much a coming of age of some of the boys.

“To get to this cup final, we’ve needed some of the younger boys to step up like Ellis and Jack.

“Bradshaw are definitely beatable. Last time we played them, we had a really close game (in the league at Bradshaw in July). We can’t wait.”

The final venue was being decided by the toss of a coin last night, while the date could be brought forward to Saturday 15 from Sunday 16, using the latter as a reserve day.

Asked for a theory on why Atherton’s cup form has been better than the league, Dinnie said: “We’ve been competitive in league games all season, which a lot of people don’t see. We’ve just not been good for the whole 100 overs often enough.

“In April, the boys didn’t know what to expect in terms of the league strength, and it jumped us a bit. In the last few weeks, we’ve adapted.

“This season will be good for us when we do come back up.

“The lads have all come through the junior system, which is great. If we can keep this group together and come back up, we’ll be a lot better next time.”

The plan is for Dinnie to return to Atherton in 2019, and he added: If they want me to captain again, I’d be happy to.

“I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been great to see the boys grow.”