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1XV still in quest for title

Posted On: Monday, March 23, 2015

The Carrick 1st XV continued their high scoring run with a 57 points to 24 win over fourth- placed Academy at Roughfort on Saturday 21 March. In the four games since their narrow home loss to Omagh, the Maxol-sponsored Carrick side have scored over 200 points, including thirty-two tries, and conceded just 27. More, importantly their bonus point win over Academy puts them, at least temporarily, back on top in the League and, with Omagh having lost to Coleraine on Saturday, back into the Section 2 title race. However, the Co Tyrone side, who have three matches left to play, could still deny Carrick the opportunity of a League decider at Omagh on 11 April if they beat UUC and Randalstown and pick up at least one try bonus point.

The match at Academy on Saturday had many of the elements of the 6 Nations deciders on the same day with both sides throwing the ball about with abandon at times and Carrick, having moved into a seemingly unassailable position towards the end of the first half, threatening for a while to let their opponents back into the game. However, they always had more cohesion than Academy, who largely relied on the threat posed by a few talented individuals, and pulled together to stub out the resurgence by the home side and score two fine team tries to put the result beyond doubt. It must also be remembered that this was not a top versus bottom game; this was a comprehensive victory over the team sitting in fourth place in the League. Academy were on top in the scrum in the first half but Carrick sorted out their problems there after half-time and they always had the edge in the loose and the greater attacking threat. Perhaps because of the nature of the game, and Academy’s willingness to try to play open attacking rugby, the Carrick defence was a bit less solid than in previous weeks.

Up front, Ross Marsden was outstanding, winning turn-overs and putting in hard tackles throughout. Second row Chris Rodgers was also prominent as a ball carrier as were Andy Kinkaid, Curtis Rea, Ryan McGonigle and Robbie Williams while, in the backs, Kenny Topping kicked well out of hand and his half-back partner Luke Whittall produced a couple of telling breaks. Johnny Cullen was again busy in both attack and defence and both Johnny Sheriff and Peter Simpson contributed significantly to Carrick’s attacking threat. Aaron McKinney had a great game at full-back and, in the middle of the second half, produced a one-handed pick-up and line breaking run right out of the top drawer. However, perhaps realising that his support runner was his rival for the top try-scorer spot, Andy Kinkaid, he then threw a pass about four feet over Kinkaid’s head!

Once again, Carrick started strongly and almost had try in the second minute after winning a turn-over and strong carries by Chris Rodgers and Andy Kinckaid. In the event, they won a penalty which Luke Whittall converted. Academy came back strongly and nearly got through when their out-half sliced through the Carrick defence but could not find a supporting runner. It was the visitors who got the first try when Peter Simpson came in off his wing and ran an excellent line to split the Academy defence and score under the posts. Luke Whittall added the conversion points to give Carrick a 10 points to nil lead. The home side came back almost straight away and, when Carrick did not deal with a grubber kick into their 22, one of the Academy second rows gathered and went over near the posts for a try which was converted to narrow the gap between the sides to 3 points. The pattern of the game was becoming established by this stage, with both sides showing adventure but making a lot of handling and passing errors. It was a mistake by Academy, when they lost control of the ball on the Carrick 10 metre line, which led to Carrick’s second try  after twenty minutes when Johnny Cullen gathered the loose ball and raced 60 metres to score. The try was converted by Luke Whitta and a few minutes later the visitors extended their lead to 24 points to 7 when Johnny Sheriff went over following strong runs by Ryan McGonigle and Ross Marsden and Luke Whittall added the conversion points. Three minutes later Johnny Cullen got his second try, and Carrick’s bonus point when, when he again raced in from his own 10 metre line, this time after Aaron McKinney had intercepted an Academy pass. Again the try was converted by Whittall. Shortly after the kick-off, a Curtis Rea turn-over started a move in which Ryan McGonigle, Adam Gibney and Kenny Topping were prominent before Peter Simpson was stopped just short of the home side’s line but quickly re-cycled ball allowed Chris Rodgers to force his way over for his first try of the afternoon. Luke Whittall converted to leave Carrick leading by 38 points to 7 and seemingly out of sight with half-time not yet reached. As the break approached, Academy won  series of penalties in the Carrick 22 and tried to use their scrum dominance to go for  push-over. This approach was thwarted by Carrick whose scrum held up well but the visitors could do nothing to prevent the ever dangerous Norman Carson getting in at the corner for Academy after the ball was moved wide. The try was not converted and Carrick led by 38 points to 12 at the break.

Carrick began the second half with a series of errors which allowed the home side to build an attacking platform inside the visitors’ 22 and after a series of scrums and re-cycled ball one of their props forced his way over. The try was not converted leaving the score at 38 points to 17 in Carrick’s favour but the feeling that a comeback by the home side might be on the cards. However, good disruptive work by Ross Marsden at a ruck on half-way forced Academy to lose control of the ball and Aaron McKinney fly-hacked ahead and followed up to get the touch-down. Luke Whittall missed with his conversion attempt on this occasion but Carrick had restored the margin in their favour although not for long because a couple of minutes later Norman Carson sliced through the Carrick defence in mid-field to score. This try was converted to leave Carrick leading by 43 points to 24. However, the visitors began to take control of matters, aided by their now dominant scrum, and after twenty-three minutes of the half, Chris Rodgers went through a mid-field gap to score his second try. This was converted by Whittall to take Carrick up to 50 points. The scoring was completed with about ten minutes remaining when Luke Whittall made a clean break and, with a cleverover-head pass, sent Curtis Rea on his way to the line. Whittall converted from a difficult angle and Carrick comfortably saw out the closing moments to receord a 57 points to 24 victory.

While more error-strewn than in the previous weeks, the positives much out-weighed the negatives in this performance and Carrick will be well pleased with the outcome. They now have just the game at Omagh on 11 April left and can do nothing but wait to see how events unfold and whether or not the game in Omagh turns out to be the League title decider.

The Carrick team which faced Academy was:-
McKinney; R. Crymble, J. Cullen(Capt), J. Sheriff, P. Simpson; L. Whittall, K. Topping; A. Gibney, N. Hanna, R. Willianms(M. Smylie), C. Rodgers, A. Kinkaid, C. Rea, R. Marsden, R. McGonigle.

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