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Carrick make winning debut in Division 1

Posted On: Monday, September 5, 2016

The Maxol-sponsored Carrick 1st XV got their Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship, Division 1 campaign off to a good start with a 17 points to 15 victory over Clogher Valley at Tom Simms Memorial Park on Saturday 3rd September.

The game was close throughout, with the result in doubt up to the final whistle, but Carrick, with a dominant scrum, a line-out which, while far from perfect, functioned more smoothly than that of their opponents and a solid defence, deserved their victory. With the match played on a bone hard pitch but in rain for much of the time, both sides found it difficult to keep control of the ball, resulting in a large number of scrums which suited Carrick with their scrum dominance. On the other hand, with the referee very strict on players staying on their feet at rucks and rolling away after the tackle, the penalty count was high, with the home side suffering to a greater extent than the visitors. Carrick also lost the yellow card count, having two against one for Clogher Valley although there were times, especially in the final quarter, when both sides were probably lucky not to get further cards.

While Carrick may have felt that luck deserted them in their encounter with Ballynahinch II the previous week, it was with them on Saturday, with Clogher Valley missing a penalty from right in front with just five minutes of normal time remaining! For Carrick, the main plaudits must go once again to the front five of David McKeen, Richard Higgins, Paul Greenaway, David Ferris, Chis Rodgers and prop sub Adam Gibney for their scrummaging efforts. Ferris was also prominent as a ball carrier as were the back row trio of Robbie Williams, Ryan McGonigle and Andy McKeen. Out-half Luke Whittal had a very good game, kicking well off the tee and out of hand as well as putting in some thumping tackles. Centres Jason way and Reece Berry broke the line on a number of occasions -the former’s break early in the second half led to Carrick’s penalty try – as well as putting in the hard defensive work.

Both of Clogher Valley’s tries came from line-out catch and drives and, even when they had a lot of possession in the middle stages of the second half, they could make little impression on the Carrick mid-field.

The early stages of the game set the pattern for what was to follow, with both sides making handling errors and conceding penalties at the break-down. It was from a penalty kick to touch on the Carrick 5 metre line after ten minutes that the visitors took the lead, rumbling over from the line-out catch and drive. The try was not converted and five minutes later Carrick got on the board with a Luke Whittal penalty awarded for a scrummage infringement . In the minutes which followed, Carrick spoiled a promising attacking position when they were penalised at the break-down inside the visitors’ 22 and then did the same thing early in the second quarter following a scything break by Reece Berry. Territory and possession were fairly even throughout the half but both teams had great difficulty in holding onto the ball for more than a couple of phases. With just five minutes or so to go to half-time, it was fitting that Carrick’s scrum dominance produced the try which gave them the lead. At a 5-metre scrum they pushed Clogher Valley back to their own line and after an initial dart by Ryan McGonigle, Robbie Williams forced his way over. Luke Whittal put over an excellent conversion from wide out to give Carrick a 10 points to 5 lead. Both sides had attacking opportunities before half-time but Carrick went down to fourteen men with a minute or so remaining when Whittal was shown a yellow card, the referee judging his attempted intercept to be a deliberate knock-on. The visitors kicked the resulting penalty to make the score 10 points to 8 in Carrick’s favour at the break.

The second half was just a few minutes old when Carrick increased their lead with a penalty try. This followed a great break by Jason Wady who then broke a tackle to get up to the Clogher Valley line; when the ball was re-cycled and Carrick were in the act of scoring, illegal interference from one of the visitors’ defenders resulted in the award of the penalty try and a yellow card for the infringer. In Luke Whittal’s temporary absence, Conor Cambridge added the conversion points to give Carrick a 17 points to 8 lead. The visitors then hit back a couple of minutes later when they went over for their second catch and drive try following a line-out on the Carrick 5- metre line. This try was converted to reduce the home side’s lead to just two points once again.

For the remainder of the third quarter and the first ten minutes of the fourth, the visitors kept Carrick penned in their own half but the same problem of failing to hang onto possession, and giving away unnecessary penalties, dogged both sides. On one occasion the ball changed hands between the teams on four occasions just outside the Carrick 22! Despite another yellow card after twenty-five minutes of the half, the Carrick defence remained solid when Clogher Valley had possession. The visitors did put Carrick under pressure with six or seven minutes remaining when they drove into the 22 following a couple of tapped penalties and the home side were perhaps fortunate not to lose another man to the bin as they attempted to stop the visitors’ advance. In the event, Clogher Valley were awarded a penalty on the 22 and straight in front but they missed the kick at goal. After this, the home team had their first attacking opportunity in some time but once again they turned the ball over in a promising position. In the last minute of the game, the visitors were awarded a penalty just inside the home team’s half but the kick at goal was wide and Carrick gratefully kicked the ball out of play to claim their first win in Division 1 rugby.

This was an important win for Carrick, starting out as they are in a higher Division, and they will be pleased with some aspects of the game, notably the scrum as well as their defence and work at the break-down. They will need to work on ball retention and take note of some of the stricter interpretations of the laws by referees around the break-down. Next week they renew their acquaintance with Ballynahinch II in the first round of the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup at Tom Simms Memorial Park.

The Carrick team which faced Clogher Valley was:-
M. Black; P. Simpson, J. Wady, R. Berry, R. Crymble (N. Hastings); L. Whittal, C. Cambridge; D. McKeen (A. Gibney), R. Higgins, P. Greenaway, C. Rodgers, D. Ferris, R. Williams, A. McKeen (Capt), R. McGonigle.

Other results
Unfortunately it was a tougher start to the new season for the other two Carrick teams who secured promotion last season.
The 2nd XV travelled to Co Down to take on Bangor 2s and were beaten 21-7.
The 3rd XV made the somewhat longer journey to Fermanagh and were comprehensively beaten 44-0 by Enniskillen 2s.

The youth teams’ fixtures against Ballymena were called off by the opposition.

Next week’s fixtures (Fixtures for Saturday 10th September at 2.30, unless otherwise stated)
1st XV v Ballynahinch 2s (h), Junior Cup
2nd XV – No match
3rd XV v Instonians 3s (h)
4th XV v Ballymena 4s (a) (NB – This is now an away fixture)
Youth Section v Malone (h), 11am
Mini rugby – Training (h), 9.30am

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