RINGWOOD'S Walsh brothers gave St Kilda the blues in an innings-defining partnership at Junction Oval in Premier Cricket on Saturday.
At 5-124 in the first day of their final-round clash, Rams opener Nathan Walsh (131) and brother Brendan (43) got together and posted a 128-run partnership for the sixth wicket which took the visitors past 250 and set the course for them to score 9-271 from 91 overs.
The third-placed Rams should hold their place from the Saints (fourth) no matter what the result of the match, but the Rams still want to enter the finals with a win.
Nathan Walsh's century was his second for the Rams this term and takes his personal season tally to 531 runs at 37. With the Rams looking to hold third spot, they may try to bat through the first few overs when play resumes this Saturday at noon.
Saints spinner James Muirhead took 4-110 from 35 overs to be best of the bowlers.
Rams captain Ben Osborne said his side had enjoyed the chance to battle a finals-calibre opponent.
"To be playing against St Kilda is a fantastic way to enter the finals because we are already getting that taste of how it's going to be when they start," he said.
"I find it much better to play another finals contender than a nice easy game against a bottom side.
"It gets you prepared because, as we know, finals matches are cutthroat and you have to be ready for them."
Osborne praised the form of Nathan Walsh, who he said was a reluctant opener when first asked to take on the role in two-day cricket.
"I'd seen him open before and he's quite an aggressive cricketer so he works in well with our other opener David King, who tends to bat for a long time," Osborne said.
"Nathan is more the aggressor so we know if he gets off to a good start and spends time out there then we can get in position to make a great score.
"Nathan played a fantastic knock against good opposition on Saturday and he did so on a day when our other top-order batsmen failed.
"We have a very strong top order with Tom Stray at three and Ian Holland four. We have seen across the season that when one or two of them fails, the others stand up for us."
The Rams expect to host a match when the finals begin on March 16.
The Rams' second XI face a huge task to hold onto eighth place and make the finals after the first day of its clash against St Kilda, with the Saints second XI posting 9-315 from 90 overs with Rams bowler Jackson Freeman (4-81) the best bowler.
■ Croydon pulled itself off the bottom of the Victorian Sub District Cricket Association ladder with a win over Kew in its final match of the season on Saturday.
The Cockies made 7-181 from their 45 overs and then bowled out Kew for 173.