The Bush Blues will maintain their focus on the top national title as they put mixed T20 form behind them and reset for the 50-over section of the Australian Country Championships in Toowoomba this week.
NSW Country, who needed to win Sunday morning's fifth and final round game to have any chance of leading the ladder at the midway point following a 50-50 record on the opening two days of the carnival, went down to Victoria by 19 runs at Rockville Park.
Alec Baldwin's 68 not out saw the Bush Blues finish 4-126 in reply to Victoria's 7-145, which included 1-22 from Newcastle-based captain Nick Foster.
This came after NSW Country split results on both Friday and Saturday.
Newcastle opening batsman Aaron Wivell scored 55 and 21 across two digs on the second day as the Bush Blues beat Western Australia but lost to Queensland.
NSW Country restricted WA to 5-172, five runs short of their first innings total with debutant Andrew Somerville nabbing 1-26 and Novocastrian teammate Josh Geary picking up 1-21.
However, the Bush Blues' 8-104 wasn't enough against the hosts, who reached the target with seven wickets and 6.2 overs remaining. Foster claimed 2-24 and Geary top scored with 28.
The first of five straight 50-over fixtures start on Monday with the fourth-placed Bush Blues, who claimed the overall trophy two summers ago, taking on winless SA.
"It [longer format] probably suits our line-up a little better," Foster said.
"Our best against WA was very good but every other game, even the win against SA, we didn't really repeat that. I didn't think our bowling was too bad, but we struggled a bit with the bat."
In the equivalent women's tournament, which started in Toowoomba on Sunday, NSW Country recorded a two-wicket win over South Australia at Captain Cook Reserve by reeling in 5-97 with two balls to spare.
Newcastle representative captain Kirsten Smith opened the batting and top scored with 22 while Maitland leg-spinner Jaclyn Vickery took 1-20 from her four overs.
The Bush Breakers meet both Victoria and Western Australia in a T20 double header at Cahill Park Sports Complex on Monday.
Meanwhile, junior representative carnivals the Bradman and Kookaburra cups scheduled for Albury this week were cancelled by Country Cricket NSW on Saturday because of safety concerns in relation to bushfires in the region.
"CNSW takes pride in caring for our people, and this is one time where we could not guarantee the safety of players and their families," the state body posted on social media.
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