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Strong pack performance as Carrick defeat Cooke

Posted On: Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Maxol-sponsored Carrick 1st XV beat Cooke by 18 points to 7 at Tom Simms Memorial Park on Saturday 17th December to move into sixth place in the League, four points clear of their opponents. The home side, with a dominant pack, had much the better of the first half but their opponents came back strongly in the second period and Carrick’s defence was tested to the full. It was to their credit that it was not until they were down to thirteen men as a result of two yellow cards that Cooke finally got on the scoreboard courtesy of a penalty try deep in injury time. The Carrick pack laid the foundations of their victory, dominant in the scrum until late in the game and fiercely competitive at the break-down. Captain Andy McKeen once again led from the front, carrying and tackling strongly while veteran John McDowell made a thorough nuisance of himself at the break-down. His late yellow card was simply a reflection of what happens from time to time to highly effective No 7s! The front five of Adam Gibney, Richard Higgins and Johnny McIlwaine, Chris Rodgers and David Ferris deserve great credit for their scrummaging efforts and all were heavily involved as ball carriers. In the backs, Ross Crymble made a number of weaving runs and at least one try-saving tackle in the second half and full-back Kenny Topping looked lively throughout and took his try extremely well.

Carrick started the game strongly and, after a blip at the first scrum, shoved their opponents off the ball at the second. Despite a number of attacking efforts involving forwards and backs however, it was not until the seventeenth minute that they turned pressure into points. They were awarded a penalty on the Cooke 22 following a handling move in which Ross Crymble, John McDowell, Chris Rodgers and Andy McKeen had been heavily involved and Luke Whittal converted to give Carrick the lead. Five minutes later, Carrick extended their lead when a move which started with a powerful scrummaging effort inside their own half led to the ball being carried deep into Cooke territory by Ryan McGonigle, Andy McKeen, John McDowell and Kenny Topping and then re-cycled for McKeen to race in from the 22 to score, fending off a couple of Cooke defenders as he did so. Luke Whittal added the conversion points to give Carrick a 10 points to nil lead. Carrick continued to enjoy dominance of territory and possession but Cooke at times looked threatening when they did get decent possession and on one occasion only good work by Ryan Bailey prevented them taking advantage of a well-placed grubber kick into the Carrick 22. However, with five minutes to go to the break it was the home side which struck again. Following another strong scrum, Andy McKeen took the ball up and after quick re-cycling Chris Rodgers ran a good line to make ground into the Cooke 22 where the ball was moved wide to Ross Crymble and then to Kenny Topping who went in at the corner despite the attentions of a couple of defenders. The try was not converted. As the game moved towards the break, the visitors mounted an attack of their own from a tap penalty but the Carrick defence forced them to move across the field and eventually the eventually they turned the ball over allowing the home side to go into half-time with their 15 points to nil lead intact.

Carrick began the second half as they had finished the first, looking very much on top and twice shoving their opponents off the ball at scrums. Following the second of these in the fiftieth minute, Kenny Topping made a break, Cooke were penalised at the tackle and Luke Whittal put over the kick to take the home side into an 18 points to nil lead. From this point on, Cooke began to control territory and possession and Carrick were forced into a more defensive role. However, they proved more than equal to the task and it was not until the closing stages that the visitors were able to seriously threaten the Carrick line. On one occasion, when Cooke had an attacking scrum five metres out, Carrick won the ball against the head. However, with the penalty count against Carrick starting to mount, Cooke began to look threatening in the closing stages and ,with a forward in the bin, Carrick came under serious pressure and a series of scrum penalties on the Carrick line ended in a penalty try to the visitors and another yellow card for Carrick. This occurred deep in injury time but Cooke had time for one more attack against thirteen man Carrick and only a great tackle by Ross Crymble stopped what could have been a try-scoring move. The ensuing scrum resulted in a free kick to Carrick and they gratefully put in into touch to bring the game to a close and claim an 18 points to 7 victory.

This was a welcome win for Carrick following three successive losses and, while it does not guarantee they will avoid the dreaded second bottom spot, they are now in a stronger position in the League and there to be chased rather than having to do the chasing. Their next fixture is again at home on Boxing Day when they will face a difficult task against top five side and local rivals, Ballyclare.

The Carrick team against Cooke was:-
K. Topping; R. Crymble, A. Boyce, R. Bailey, P. Simpson; L. Whittal, C, Cambridge; A. Gibney (D. McKeen), R. Higgins, J. McIlwaine, C. Rodgers, D. Ferris (D. Smith), R. McGonigle, J. McDowell, A. McKeen (Capt)

3rd XV
Carrickfergus 3rd XV won a very evenly matched game against Academy 2s.

Early nerves and a high penalty count allowed Academy to take the lead. Some strong runs from Connor Dodds, Joel Bell and Gaz Higgins settled the home team down and got the score board moving for the young Carrick team.

With Shay McCord hitting his passes and David (Peanut) Moore growing in confidence at 10, kicking for good territory also helped by the visiting team starting to rack up the penalty count, Carrick leveled the score board and took the lead early in the second half.

Strong running from Matty Best, Dave Lewis, Andy Magill and Stephen Welsh supported by strong defensive performances from Sam McMurtry, Shaun Hardie, Nick and Jordan Devenny kept the Carrick team in the game. Going into the closing minutes with a slim 2 point lead thanks to a late second try from Gaz Higgins saw Academy kick off and camp in the Carrick 22′ until the Academy No 10 decided Carrick deserved the win and kicked into touch.

In what has been a challenging season for the young Carrick 3rd XV this was a very well taken victory which everyone of them can be proud off.

4th XV
The 4th XV hosted Ards 3s in the 2nd round of the McCambley Cup and were beaten 13-21.

Under 16s
On Saturday morning the Under 16s played a friendly against local rivals Larne and notched up a narrow, but very satisfying, 19-15 victory.

Post Christmas fixtures (Fixtures for Saturday 31st December at 2.30, unless otherwise stated)
1st XV v Ballyclare (h), Boxing Day at 2.30pm
2nd XV – No match
3rd XV – No match
4th XV – No match
Ladies – No match
Youth Section v Randalstown (h), 11am
Mini rugby – Christmas Holiday

Boxing Day Festivities
The now traditional Boxing Day charity rugby game (Over 30s v Under 30s) will kick-off at 11.30am. If you want to take to the field and work of some of the Christmas Day excesses, please contact Warren McClean at the club.

If you prefer to continue your Christmas excesses then come along to watch and then attend the pre-match lunch at 12.45pm before the1st XV v Ballyclare fixture. The lunch is open to everyone at a cost of £12.50 per head with wine or just £10 without wine. If you want to attend please contact Craig Addley on (07710) 550711.

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