Illawarra's adventure in the Sydney T20 Cup is over after tough losses to leading Sydney first grade clubs St George and Sutherland yesterday.
Illawarra needed to win one of the two games to back up their stunning debut win over Parramatta and book a quarter-final spot in the comp featuring the 20 Sydney clubs plus Newcastle and Illawarra.
But Illawarra struggled with the bat in both games, beaten by 33 runs by St George and then by six wickets by Sutherland (4-106), led by Wests Illawarra's ex-Test opener Phil Jaques.
Against St George at Hurstville Oval, Illawarra made the perfect start with James Fleming's wicket off the ninth ball to have the home side 1-1.
But Simon Chu (57 off 40 balls) smashed five sixes, and with Kurtis Patterson (27), added 83 for the second wicket, with St George 1-82 off 10 overs and threatening a 170-plus total.
Illawarra pegged them back in the second half of the innings, with spinner Jonathon Cook (2-13, 4 overs) outstanding and five bowlers taking a wicket to restrict the home side to 7-143.
But Illawarra's run chase failed to gained traction with two run-outs, men caught on the boundary and bad shots punished.
Only Cam Nupier (19) and Cam Belshaw (36) got set with Illawarra dismissed for 110.
"It was a bit of a missed opportunity because we fought back so well with the ball but then were 4-22 and it was a battle from there," Illawarra coach Dean Merola said.
"We finished the game strong and if we'd had a few wickets up our sleeve it's a game we could have won."
With virtually no rest and having to drive across to Glenn McGrath Oval, Illawarra needed to start well against Sutherland.
But the batting again failed to fire with skipper Graeme Batty (52) dismissed in the 19th over and with Keira clubmate Tim Laws (24) playing lone hands with Illawarra held to 8-104.
Jaques made 27 and man-of-the-match Ben Dwarshuis 30no to go with his 4-14, as Sutherland reached the target in the 17th over.
"What we've found out in the three games is we are competitive with the Sydney clubs and just need to tweak a few things," Merola said.
"It's been a really promising debut and we'll definitely be better for the experience," he said.