Carrick 1st XV achieved their first win of 2017 with a comprehensive 29 to nil victory over Enniskillen at Tom Simms Memorial Park on Saturday 28th January. Although the bonus point win leaves the Maxol-sponsored Carrick side in eighth place in the League they are now three points clear of Dromore who drew with Cooke on Saturday and just one point behind Clogher Valley. This was one of Carrick’s best performances of the season and again the plaudits must go to the pack who gave their opponents a torrid time in the scrum, disrupted their line-out and, for long periods, out-played them at ruck and maul. With the wind in Carrick’s favour in the first half, Enniskillen found it difficult to break out of their own territory and never seriously threatened the Carrick line in that period. By contrast, Carrick, mostly keeping the ball in hand, ensured that they made frequent visits to their opponent’s territory in the second half. The only time the visitors seriously threatened the Carrick line was in a ten minute period mid-way through the second half during most of which the home side were down a second row down because of a yellow card. However, Enniskillen’s attempts to score from a tap penalty and a series of 5-metre scrums were thwarted by a resolute Carrick defence. Once Carrick were restored to fifteen men, Enniskillen never again looked as though they were going to score a try. For Carrick it is difficult to pick out individuals but Andy McKeen was once again their leading ball carrier and was well supported by his fellow back rowers Andy Kinkaid and Ryan McGonigle and second row Stuart Currie. Chis Rodgers again ran excellent lines in attack and was rewarded with one try and might have got a second had the ball not been snatched out of his hands (it is rumoured) by one of his own players just as he was ready to touch down! The front row of David McKeen, Gareth McKeown, Paul Greenaway, and Adam Gibney when he came on, not only scrummaged very effectively but played their part as ball carriers and defenders. The half-backs Luke Whitall and Conor Cambridge kicked well out of hand, particularly in the first half, to keep Carrick playing in the right areas. The tackling and general defensive work across the backs was good, especially in the ten minute period when Carrick were under real pressure with Ross Crymble, Jason Wady and Jake Porter putting in some important tackles.
Carrick started well, a raking kick from full-back Kenny Topping finding touch deep in Enniskillen territory, somewhere the visitors were to struggle to escape from for most of the half. Although Luke Whitall missed with a long range penalty early on, the Carrick pack was soon demonstrating its dominance at the scrum with Enniskillen shoved back at the first couple of encounters The home side deservedly took the lead after ten minute when pressure at a scrum 5 metres out forced Enniskillen to hold on and concede a penalty as they tried to control the ball going backwards; Carrick opted for a scrum and, after two re-sets, pushed the visitors back over the line and Andy McKeen picked up and forced his way over. Luke Whutall added the conversion points to give Carrick a 7 points to nil lead. From this point on Carrick largely dominated territory and possession but found it difficult to break down the Enniskillen defence and, at times, to keep control of the ball. Meanwhile, the visitors had to rely on penalties to get a foot-hold in the Carrick half and, when they did get there, they were not able to stay for very long under the pressure of some strong Carrick tackling and rucking. It was not until the closing minutes of the first half that Carrick’s dominance began to be reflected on the score-board. With three minutes remaining until the break, Enniskillen were penalised for a high tackle, Carrick opted for the quick tap, drove up to the line and Chris Rodgers ran an excellent line to go over near the posts. Luke Whitall converted and then, in injury time, put over a penalty which followed from a Carrick drive up to the Enniskillen line and an offence at the break-down for which an Enniskillen player was yellow carded. Thus Carrick went into the break leading by 17 points to nil.
As the visitors started the second half it was clear thatchy were going to use the boot to try to force Carrick to play in their own territory. Carrick, on the other hand, kept the ball in hand to make ground rather than risk kicks into the fairly firm breeze. The first serious attacking threat from Enniskillen did not come however until towards the end of the third quarter when they put a penalty into touch in the Carrick 22. Following the line-out they were awarded another penalty, took a tap and drove up to the Carrick line where a series of picks and goes resulted in a Carrick yellow card and yet another penalty to the visitors. They opted for the scrum and had Carrick under pressure as they were now down a second row forward but lost the ball forward as they tried to mount an attack. They shoved Carrick back at the ensuing scrum and the home side were perhaps lucky that the referee re-set the scrum rather than allow Enniskillen to take the ball against the head. At the re-set scrum though Andy McKeen picked up and made ground before Conor Cambridge cleared to outside his 22. Following the line-out, Carrick even with a centre at wing forward, pushed Enniskillen back at a scrum and won a penalty to end what was was to prove to be the visitors’ only period of sustained attack. Both sides were finding it difficult to set up attacking moves with frequent turn-overs, knock-ons and penalties but Carrick were doing their best to ensure that any Enniskillen attacking efforts had to come from well outside their 22 and in this they were largely successful. With about ten minutes remaining, Carrick put a penalty into touch between the Enniskillen 10 metre line and the 22 and caught and drove up to and over the line to score their third try. This was a try which belonged to the whole pack although it is rumoured that Andy Kinkaid got the touch-down! Luke Whitall put over an excellent conversion to give Carrick a 24 points to nil lead. Following the kick-off, Carrick ran the ball back and Jason Wady made a line-break and raced deep into Enniskillen territory but the Carrick support could not get to him quickly enough and the visitors were able to clear the ball up-field. Then,with the game going into injury time, and following an attack in which Chris Rodgers had made ground up towards the Enniskillen line, Carrick were awarded a 5-metre scrum at which they pushed Enniskillen back over their own line for Conor Cambridge to get the touch-down for the bonus point try. The conversion was missed but Carrick dominated the closing minutes of the game to finish as 29 points to nil winners.
This was probably the most satisfying win of the season for Carrick because, with Enniskillen sitting in mid-Table and having won their home fixture in October fairly comfortably, it was not a game Carrick would necessarily have targeted as one they should win. And to win it in the manner that they did will have been even more pleasing for coaches Davy Scott and Michael Rainey. Carrickshowed much greater commitment than in the previous games post-Christmas, adapted their game to the conditions much more successfully than their opponents and showed that they can use their forward strength to score tries and win games. Next week, Carrick face Ballymoney at home in the Towns’ Cup and then the following week travel to Dromore for what will be a very important fixture in determining how the season finishes for them.
The Carrick team which faced Enniskillen was:-
K. Topping; R. Crymble, J. Wady, J. Porter, A. Boyce; L. Whitall, C. Cambridge; D. McKeen (A. Gibney), G. McKeown, P. Greenaway, C. Rodgers, S. Currie (D. Moore), A. Kinkaid, R. McGonigle, A.McKeen (Capt).
The 3rd XV game against Donaghadee 2s did not take place as Donaghadee have withdrawn from that league.
The 4th XV beat Cooktown 3 points to 29.
On Saturday morning the youth section played friendlies against Ophir. The 18s won 0-34 and the Under 14s won 0-41.
On Sunday the Ladies played Omagh and had a great 32-5 win.