HAT-trick hero Dave Howard stunned pre-season title favourites Read as Whalley romped to a thumping win to stay top of the Houldsworth Solicitors Ribblesdale League.

The veteran seamer tore the heart out of depleted Read as the battle of the sides with maximum points turned into a simple stroll on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

And there was a third straight win for reigning champions Clitheroe, while Earby also made it three maximum point wins from three to stay at the summit of the fledgling Section B table.

But all eyes were on Whalley Road as the local rivals locked horns in a game where something had to give.

Read were hit by the late withdrawals of Jon Harvey and Richard Sharples but even those changes gave no hint of the carnage to come as they batted first. Joe Marshall and Kyle fell early as they slumped to 3-2 as Whalley turned the screw on a green track.

Young Nabeel Ahmed did his best to redress the balance, while Elliott Artingstoll was the only man in double figures as he went on the attack to make 21.

But the day belonged to Howard.

Bowling a nagging line and length, he caused all manner of problems and after Read pro Brandon Scullard hit him straight for six, the veteran came up with the best possible answer.

The next ball, Scullard was removed followed in the next two deliveries by Warren Eastham and Michael Taylor as Howard celebrated a hat-trick.

Read subsided to just 59 all out in under 75 minutes as Howard returned 7-31 in just 8.5 overs and professional Wilkin Mota was forced to play second fiddle as he claimed 3-28 from nine overs.

It was never going to be enough and despite losing three wickets, Richard Palmer saw Whalley over the line as they put down a real statement.

Gary Sudworth threatened to upset Clitheroe at Chatburn Road as his six wickets saw the reigning champions bowled out for 132.

The consensus was that a score of around 140 would be enough – and that proved to be the case thanks to big Josh Marquet. He claimed five wickets as Bash slipped to 91 all out.

Stuart Maher and Russ Whalley propelled Great Harwood to their first win of the season against Cherry Tree at The Cliffe.

Whalley hit 70 as Harwood struggled with the bat and were bowled out for 122 with Cherry pro Ruan Sadler claiming 6-67 and Rob Ince picking up three wickets.

Then it was over to Maher as he ripped the heart out of Cherry with his second six-wicket haul in three games.

He claimed 6-9 as the Blackburn side collapsed to just 49 all out.

Barnoldswick claimed their first win of the season as they got home by six wickets at Oswaldtwistle Immanuel, claiming a game at New Lane that was briefly interrupted by two streakers.

Skipper Richard Craddock bowled Earby to their third straight win as he claimed 5-16 to pile on the misery for beleaguered Brooksbottom.

They have yet to register a point this season and went down by 66 runs at The Applegarth. But there was better news for Edenfield as they got on the board at the third time of asking.

And that was a shock as they hammered Settle at Gincroft Lane. Pro Paul Gallagher hit 56 as Edenfield posted 148-8 despite the best efforts of Settle pro Imran Khalid, who claimed 5-63.

The Dalesmen fancied chasing that down but slumped to 80 all out.

Ed Foster had a good day as Salesbury beat Padiham at The Arbories.

Foster claimed 5-50 as Padiham were shot out for 130 and the Red Caps chased that target down with more than 21 overs to spare and with six wickets in hand.

Ben Dougall hit 66 as Ribblesdale Wanderers just squeezed over the line as they beat Euxton by one wicket at Church Meadow.