Carrick 1st XV made a losing start to their 2017/18 Kukri Uster Rugby Championship campaign, going down by 15 points to 7 to Instonians at Tom Simms Memorial Park on Saturday 2nd September. In a hard-fought, and at times bad-tempered match,the Maxol-sponsored Carrick side were always in contention, matters not being decided until the first minute of injury time when the visitors converted a penalty. While their defence was for the most part solid – both Instonians tries came when Carrick were down to fourteen men because of a yellow card – Carrick’s problem was once again a lack of patience during their frequent periods of possession inside Instonians territory. Instead of holding onto the ball through multiple phases, as their opponents did to good effect late on, Carrick too often tried to go wide early and ended up turning over the ball. Despite being under pressure in the scrum and having line-out problems in the first half, Carrick did manage to dominate territory for long periods in both halves and should have had more to show for it than their solitary try. After a shaky start and a yellow card (which he took for the team), Curtis Rea put in a strong performance in the second half . Ryan McGonigle was once again Carrick’s strongest ball-carrier – and put in some thumping tackles – although hooker Gareth McKeown was not far behind and his well-timed off-load produced Carrick’s try.
Instonians started strongly and in the early stages tested the home side’s back three with a number of Garryowens. However, the Carrick back three of Michael Black, Peter Simpson and David Moore were more than equal to the task and the visitors soon abandoned this tactic in favour of a “keep ball” approach. After being penned in their own half early on, Carrick began to establish themselves in Instonians territory as the first quarter drew to a close. They deservedly took the lead in the seventeenth minute with a try by Peter Simpson; this came after a move which started with a sniping run by Conor Cambridge, was carried on in a strong carry up the right touch-line by Gareth McKeown whose well-timed pass allowed the winger to cross in the corner. Adam White added the conversion points to give the home side a 7 points to nil lead. Carrick continued to have the better of both territory and possession for much of the remainder of the half but could not take advantage even when their opponents lost a man to the bin. They had their chances but a missed penalty and a couple of lost line-outs in attacking positions following penalties meant that they went into the closing stages of the half with just the 7 point advantage. With the game moving towards half-time, Instonians, for the first time since the early stages, established an attacking position close to the Carrick line from a penalty kick to touch. After a line-out catch and drive, another penalty ,a yellow card for Carrick, and despite some heroic defending, the visitors finally got over the line from another catch and drive four minutes into injury time. The try was not converted and Carrick went into the break with a slender 7 points to 5 advantage.
With Carrick temporarily down to fourteen men, the visitors started the second half strongly and had Carrick under pressure with a series of attacking scrums and picks and drives close in. They got their reward six minutes into the half when, after going through a number of phases ball in hand, the ball was moved wide and their out-half went through a gap to score close to the posts. This try was converted to give Instonians a 12 points to 7 lead. When restored to their full complement, Carrick began once again to establish some control of territory and, for the remainder of the third quarter and into the fourth, much of the game was played in the Instonians half. However, Carrick simply could not break down the visitors’ defence, despite some strong carries and one half chance when Jason Wady and Johnny Sheriff combined to breach the Instonians defensive line but the ball was lost forward in the tackle. The promlem was that Carrick could not manage to hold onto the ball for long enough to create real try scoring opportunities. In the last twelve minutes of normal time the visitors came back strongly and, going through multiple phases, had Carrick under severe pressure. They came close to scoring in the left hand corner but were denied by a try-saving tackle by Ryan McGonigle. Despite the odd Carrick foray, it was the visitors who now had the attacking opportunities and it was only a very solid Carrick defence which held them out. Indeed, it was not until injury time that Instonians were able to make victory secure with a penalty from in front of the posts to give them a just about deserved 15 points to 7 victory.
This was a game which Carrick could have won given the shares of territory and possession they had but they needed to show more patience, protect their possession for longer and wait for mistakes to happen and gaps to appear. That said, the Carrick defensive performance was good and there was enough to suggest they will be competitive against anyone they meet in Division 1 of the League. Next week Carrick travel to Lisburn in the first round of the Junior Cup and will be hoping for their first victory of the season against Division 2 opponents.
The Carrick team which faced Instonians was:-
M. Black; P. Simpson, J. Wady, J. Sheriff, D. Moore; A. White, C. Cambridge; S. Chesshire (J. Graham), G. McKeown, A. Gibney, C. Rea, C. Rodgers (R. Williams), R. McGonigle, R. Marsden, A. McKeen (Capt).
Next week’s fixtures (Fixtures for Saturday 9th September at 2.30, unless otherwise stated)