The Blaze 137 for 3 (K Bryce 54*) beat Western Storm 134 for 76 (Corney 23, K Bryce 2-17, Ballinger 2-24) by seven wickets
Kathryn Bryce scored a superbly-judged unbeaten half-century to propel Charlotte Edwards Cup finalists The Blaze to a comprehensive seven-wicket victory over Western Storm at Cardiff's Sophia Gardens.
Chasing 135 to win, The Blaze achieved their target with eight balls to spare thanks to an innings of 54 not out from 35 balls by Bryce, who shared in stands of 66 and 41 with Georgie Boyce and Marie Kelly for the third and fourth wickets respectively.
Put in to bat, Storm slumped to 49 for 4 and were indebted to Emma Corney, who top-scored with 23 and shared in a restorative stand of 42 for the fifth wicket with Sophie Luff, while Alex Griffiths clubbed 19 not out at the death.
But Blaze were always in control, Grace Ballinger taking 2 for 24 with the new ball and Kathryn Bryce weighing in with 2 for 17, including the key wicket of Luff, as Storm were restricted to 134 for 7.
Having already qualified for Saturday's final at New Road, Worcester, group winners Blaze ensured they finished with a 100 percent winning record, extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to 10 matches in 2023. A team in transition, Storm won three of their seven fixtures to claim fifth place.
Even without star players Kirstie Gordon, Tammy Beaumont, Nat Sciver-Brunt and Sarah Glenn, who were involved in England's two-day training match ahead of the women's Ashes, Blaze proved too strong for a Storm side that were missing Heather Knight, Dani Gibson and Lauren Filer.
Ballinger made a breakthrough in the first over, bowling Nat Wraith for four with her second delivery from the River End, after which she and Nadine de Klerk sent down 10 consecutive dot balls to apply immediate pressure.
Orla Prendergast had registered a superb hundred on debut in her last appearance at Sophia Gardens in April, but managed just 19 from 14 balls on this occasion as Storm slipped to 35 for 2 in the fifth over. The Ireland international plundered three consecutive fours at the expense of Ballinger, who then exacted a swift revenge by pinning Prendergast lbw next ball.
Although the powerplay yielded 44 runs, Storm continued to lose wickets and Niamh Holland, promoted to open the batting in the absence of Gibson, was run out by de Klerk, having contributed a 23-ball 21. Fran Wilson went in the very next over with the score on 49, driving at a length ball from Sophie Munro and finding Kathryn Bryce at extra cover.
Charged with the task of rebuilding, Luff and Corney played spinners Josie Groves and Lucy Higham well, combining deft placement and quick running between the wickets to keep the scoreboard ticking over during the middle overs.
Corney enjoyed a large slice of good fortune when, having scored seven, she was dropped by Beth Harmer at mid-on off the bowling of Groves with the score on 76. But there was no let-off when Luff stepped in front of a straight ball from Kathryn Bryce and was adjudged lbw in the 15th over. Storm's influential captain had raised 19 from 18 balls and helped add 42 runs in 6.5 overs for the fifth wicket, but her dismissal represented a body blow to the home side, who were 91 for 5 in the 15th over.
Previously deployed in the role of chief support, Corney now picked up the cudgels, driving fluently to register her highest score in the competition, advancing to 23 from 32 balls before being bowled by the returning Kathryn Bryce as Blaze sought to reimpose their earlier dominance. Sophia Smale was bowled by de Klerk for 10 in the penultimate over, but Griffiths was able to score an unbeaten 19 at a run-a-ball to haul Storm to respectability.
Prepared to take a risk at every opportunity, Sarah Bryce and Beth Harmer rode their luck to provide the Blaze reply with early momentum, the opening pair adding 28 in 4.2 overs. But Harmer then scooped off spinner Claire Nicholas to short fine leg and departed for 12 and Smale had Bryce held at mid-off for 15 in the next over to reduce the visitors to 30 for 2.
Unperturbed by that double setback, Kathryn Bryce and Boyce initially went about their business in workmanlike fashion, finding the gaps and running hard to keep the rate down. When Bryce hoisted Smale over mid-wicket for the first six of the match and then drove her next ball through the covers for four, Blaze were 69 for 2 at the halfway point of their innings, requiring a further 66 at 6.6 an over with plenty of wickets in hand.
Becoming ever-more expansive, Bryce then helped herself to three boundaries in the twelfth over, sent down by Prendergast, at which point the rate was below a run a ball for the first time. Nicholas returned to have Boyce caught at mid-off for a 27-ball 26 in the 14th over, in the process terminating a productive stand that had yielded 66 runs in 8.1 overs and giving Storm renewed hope.
But skipper Kelly slammed the door shut on West Country ambition, seizing the initiative in a forthright knock of 20 in 18 balls, which put the outcome beyond doubt before Bryce raised her 50 from 31 balls with her sixth four in the 18th over.