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Carrick lose to title hopefuls Ballyclare

Posted On: Monday, January 16, 2017

The year 2017 started for Carrick 1st XV as 2016 had ended, with defeat at the hands of Ballyclare. The Maxol-sponsored Carrick side lost to their local rivals by 29 points to 3 at the Cloughan on Saturday 7th January to drop to seventh place in the League, level on points with eighth placed Dromore. The game on Saturday was actually much more keenly contested than the scoreline might suggest. Behind by 7 points to 3 after twenty minutes, Carrick totally dominated territory, and had most of the possession, for virtually all of the second quarter but could not find a way through a resolute Ballyclare defence nor force the penalties from which scores might have come. Then, with just two minutes of the half remaining, some poor defending handed the home side a try. To make matters worse for Carrick, in trying to prevent the score they lost a player to a yellow card under the new interpretation of the high tackle law and, with another yellow later for a similar offence, ended up playing for twenty minutes of the second half with fourteen men. The visitors had the dominant scrum throughout- for which credit to Paul Greenaway, Gareth McKeown, Adam Gibney and sub David McKeen – and were perhaps unfortunate not to gain more from the referee in terms of scrum penalties, but they could not turn this dominance into try-scoring opportunities. Apart from two first half lapses, Carrick defended bravely for most of the game with Jason Wady and Peter Simpson in particular putting in some crunching tackles. Captain Andy McKeen was again Carrick’s leading ball carrier and was well supported by Ryan McGonigle but, apart from the second quarter, most of their work was done in areas where they could not threaten the Ballyclare line.

The home side had the better of the opening exchanges of although they missed an opportunity to take the lead when a penalty attempt from a difficult angle was put wide. They did however go ahead after ten minutes with the first of their four tries. Carrick lost their own line-out on their 10 metre line, Ballyclare gathered, drove up towards the 22, re-cycled and were able to exploit a yawning gap close to the ruck for their No 8 to race in and score with no sign of any Carrick cover defence. The try was converted. Ballyclare continued to have the better of matters in terms of possession but it was Carrick who got onto the score-board next when they won a penalty at a scrum and Luke Whittal converted from forty metres out and from a difficult angle. From this point on, and until the closing minutes of the half, Carrick dominated territory and possession. However, they could not find a way through the well organised Ballyclare defence. Their best chance came on the half hour mark when, after going through the phases following a line-out, a move involving Andy McKeen, Ross Crymble and Chris Rodgers took play up to the Ballyclare line but the ball was lost in contact. The visitors continued to have the better of things in terms of territory and possession if not on the score-board up until the stroke of half-time when, completely against the run of play, and aided by some indifferent Carrick tackling, Ballyclare, in their first handling move for about fifteen minutes, broke down the right and quick transfer allowed their winger to race in from the 22 to score near the posts. The try was converted to give the home side a 14 points to 3 lead at the break. To make matters worse for Carrick ,they lost a player to a yellow card for a tackle offence in trying to prevent the try.

Carrick’s woes continued at the start of the second half when Ballyclare put over a penalty from just inside the visitors’ half after two minutes. Then, eight minutes into the half, the home side went further ahead against fourteen man Carrick when, following a more stable 5-metre scum, they went through the phases and drove over for a try. This was converted to make the score 24 points to 3 in the home side’s favour. Then, shortly after having been restored to full strength, Carrick lost another man to the bin for a tackle offence. Although they continued to defend bravely, and to try to mount attacks of their own, Ballyclare now had territorial dominance and Carrick could not get themselves into a position to threaten the line. As the game moved into the last ten minutes Carrick were getting more possession but most of their moves were lateral and when they did go forward the ball was lost in contact. The home side, chasing the bonus point try but frustrated by brave Carrick defence, were finally rewarded with five minutes remaining when they ran back a Carrick kick and a missed tackle allowed them in for a try in the corner. This was not converted but the home side comfortably controlled matters in the closing minutes to gain their deserved 29 points to 3 victory and keep their title ambitions alive.

This was in some ways a typical Carrick performance this season against one of the top sides. In a lot of areas they are very competitive. They had the stronger scrum, got the better of things at the line-out, competed well at the break-down and for the most part their defence was well organised. On the debit side, they could not turn pressure into points, particularly in the second quarter when they had the upper hand, and gave away too many penalties which cost them not only territory and possession but playing personnel. It is not possible to beat sides like Ballyclare with just fourteen men on the field for a quarter of the game. Next week, Carrick travel to Cooke for what is looking like a must win game as they are now have only Cooke, Ards and Dromore below them in the League and the latter only on points difference.

The Carrick team which faced Ballyclare was:-
K. Topping; R. Crymble, J. Wady, J. Porter, P. Simpson; L. Whittal, C. Cambridge; A. Gibney (D. McKeen), G. McKeown, P. Greenaway, C. Rodgers (M. Gordon), D. Ferris, A. Kinkaid, R. McGonigle, A. McKeen (Capt).

Other results
The 2nd XV were beaten 14-36 by Ballynahinch 4s.
The 4th XV also lost out 36-5 against Coleraine 3s.
On Saturday morning the youth teams travelled to Ballynahinch. The Under 16s won 14-40 and will be looking forward to a big match this Saturday against Malone.
The Under 14s lost 0-58 and the Under 18s lost 6-22.

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