A SIXTH-PLACE finish in last week's Bendigo Country Week Division One competition will see the Northern District Cricket Association drop down a grade at next year's event.
The 2015 Division One champions won one of its four matches during games held last week, with percentage proving to be the difference between the side and fifth-placed team, Castlemaine and District, who also recorded one win during the tournament.
Northern District's only win came last Wednesday against Gisborne and District at White Hills, set up by a century to Tyler Jones.
Bowling first, Northern District was able to get on top of Gisborne and District after the side's opening batsmen, Cameron Clayton (66) and Nathan Dantonio (44) fell one run short of putting together a 100-run partnership.
Three wickets to James Keath helped Northern District restrict Gisborne and District to 7/233 off its 50 overs.
The side struggled early in its reply, slumping to 3/37 before Jones and Greg Dickson (30) united for a 75-run fourth-wicket stand.
Jones then worked with Bradley Griffiths (32) to put together a 105-run fifth-wicket partnership, but Griffiths' run-out started a collapse that saw Northern District lose five wickets for 14 runs.
Keath and Logan Spittal were able to secure the win - which ended a five-match losing streak that stretched back to the opening round of the 2017 competition - before the team fell for 256 in the 50th over.
The team came close to opening its campaign with victory last Monday, falling to Emu Valley by two wickets on the third-last ball of the game at Rochester.
Sent in to bat first, Jones (36) and Josh Novoselek (30) gave Northern District the best possible start, putting together a 60-run opening-wicket stand.
However, it would prove to be the most prolific partnership of the innings, as Jeremy Hancock, Greg Thomas and Tom Wilson - who took three wickets each - helped dismiss Northern District for 192 in the 50th over.
Emu Valley looked to be on track for a comfortable win, thanks Matt Dwyer's 82 runs off 76 balls, but his dismissal at 2/121 saw Emu Valley lose its next three wickets for seven runs.
Rick Ladson and Thomas - who remained unbeaten on 41 - steadied the innings, before the side slumped to be 8/190, leaving Bentley to hit the winning runs in the 50th over.
Keath was the pick of Northern District's bowlers, taking two wickets.
However, the team struggled in its other matches against eventual premiers, Murray Valley and grand finalists, Goulburn Murray.
An unbeaten century to Murray Valley's Liam Evans was the difference in Northern District's eight-wicket loss last Tuesday at White Hills.
Electing to bat first, five Northern District batsmen surpassed 20 runs, led by Sam O'Shea (35), but none could turn their starts into a significant innings as the side fell for 174 in the 50th over.
Evans proved to be the difference between the two sides, uniting with Riley Gow (76) for a 116-run first-wicket stand, then working with Zeniffe Fowler (54 not out) to secure the win and help Murray Valley score 2/268 off its 50 overs.
Evans remained not out on 118 at the end of the innings, with Keath claiming Northern District's two wickets.
Northern District was also no match for Goulburn Murray during the final day of preliminary matches last Thursday.
Goulburn Murray scored 7/234 off its 50 overs after electing to bat first at Kangaroo Flat, with Alister McCann (87) one of five top-order batsmen to surpass 10 runs.
Warren Lolicato, Keath and Spittal took two wickets each, before McCann dominated with the ball, taking five wickets to help dismiss Northern District for 156 in the 48th over.
Kurt Brereton (72) led the way with the bat for Northern District, with four others scoring between 10 and 19 runs.