The Maxol-sponsored 1st XV claimed fourth place in Division 1 of the Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship with a 42 points to nil home win over bottom side Clogher Valley. Although Dromore still have one game to play, Saturday’s bonus point win for Carrick means they cannot be overtaken and will play in the All-Ireland Cup next season.
In pleasant conditions, and with the pitch surprisingly firm underfoot despite heavy rain during the week, both sides favoured a handling game and, although the score-line gives the impression of a one-sided match, the visitors had plenty of possession and showed a willingness to attack from anywhere on the field. In the end, it was simply a matter of Carrick taking their chances while their opponents could not, partly because of a very good defensive performance by the home side and partly because of a lack of patience and a tendency to try to force things when simple ball retention would have been the better option.
In effect, the game was taken away from the visitors in a seven minute spell in the first quarter when Carrick ran in three tries, al of them converted, to leave Clogher Valley with the proverbial mountain to climb. Although they kept Carrick scoreless through the second quarter, the home side rode out periods of pressure from Clogher Valley in the closing stages of the first half and early in the second and added three more tries in the second half. For Carrick, the half-backs, Conor Cambridge and David Carse, again had excellent games, with scrum-half Cambridge grabbing two tries and out-half Carse one.
Adam White had a 100% record off the kicking tee and put in some great line kicks to put Carrick in attacking positions while wingers Fionn McCormack and David Moore were prominent in attack, the former running a beautiful line for his try, As against Portadown two weeks ago, the back row of Andy McKeen, Bradly Luney and Ryan McGonigle carried strongly and regularly punched holes in the shaky Clogher Valley mid=field defence. Second row Chris Rodgers was also prominent as a ball carrier and loose head David McKeen again put in an excellent shift until he was replaced late in the game.
Clogher Valley started strongly and a couple of penalties had Carrick under pressure in their own 22 before a line-out steal and a brace of penalties of their own put them on the front foot. They ran the second of the penalties, moved the ball wide and David Moore went close in the corner. Following the ensuing 5-metre scrum, Carrick went through a couple of picks and drives before Captain Andy McKeen dived over for the opening try in the tenth minute. Adam White converted and then, following the re-start, found touch on the half-way line. Carrick won the line-out following which Chris Rodgers broke through in mid-field, made ground up to the visitor’s 22 and handed off to Ryan McGonigle who was brought down just short but Conor Cambridge was on hand to take the quicly re-cycled ball, step a defender and go over. Adam White added the conversion points and Carrick now led by 14 points to nil with just thirteen minutes gone.
Following the kick-off, Carrick were immediately back on the attack with a David Carse break and a strong carry by Ryan McGonigle taking play close to the Clogher Valley line where Carrick were awarded a penalty for a break-down offence. They opted for the scrum and shoved their opponents back over the line for Conor Cambridge to touch down for his second try. The try was converted by Adam White to give Carrick a 21 points to nil lead at the end of the first quarter. During the second quarter, both sides continued to play ball in hand, sometimes spurning touch kicks from penalties to keep the ball alive but neither could convert their opportunities into points. The visitors enjoyed probably their best period in the five minutes before half-time, almost completely dominating possession inside Carrick territory but twice kicked away possession unnecessarily and half-time was reached with the home side well in control, leading by 21 points to nil.
Clogher Valley began the second half as they had ended the first, with an attack deep into Carrick territory but the home side won a turn-over to relieve the pressure. In the forty-fifth minute, a kick and chase by Fionn McCormack forced the visitors to scramble the ball into touch; following the line-out, David Carse broke through in mid-field, fed Adam White, who made ground into the visitors’ 22 and, when the ball was re-cycled, Carse stepped a defender to go over for the bonus-point try. Adam White converted to give Carrick a 28 points to nil lead. While the visitors continued valiantly to try to attack from just about anywhere, Carrick were now very much in control and it was only a matter of time before they added to their score. With sixty minutes gone, Conor Cambridge ran a penalty on the Clogher Valley 22 and Fionn McCormack ran a great line to take the scrum-half’s pass and score under the posts to give Adam White his easiest conversion kick of the day. Following this the visitors had another lengthy period of possession inside Carrick territory but could not break down the home side’s solid defence. They were not helped either by a number of unforced errors and wrong choices of options. In the closing stages both sides were guilty of errors but in the closing minutes flanker Bradley Luney capped a fine game with a kick over the Clogher Valley line from the base of a ruck thirty metres out and won the race to get the touch-down. Adam White again added the extras and Carrick ended the game with the new Doc Wilson score-board showing them as winners by 42 points to nil.
While this was, in the end, an easy win for Carrick, their already relegated opponents had clearly come to play and, with nothing to lose, this was a potential banana skin for Carrick, especially with the memory of their defeat at Clogher Valley before Christmas. But this is a very much improved Carrick side as their closing record of five wins in a row, including one over second placed Ballyclare, demonstrates. When they were going through a run of five successive defeats around the turn of the year, it was hard to believe that Carrick would end up in fourth place in the League, just one point behind third placed CIYMS. Coaches Davy Scott and Mickey Rainey deserve great credit for the work they have done with their young and talented squad, building on the work done by Warren McLean and Neil Hanna to get Carrick into Division1 in the first place.
M. Black; F. McCormack, P. Simpson, A. White, D. Moore; D. Carse, C. Cambridge; D. McKeen, A,.. Whitley, J. Graham (S. Cheshire), C. Rodgers, C. Taylor (R. Crymble), B. Luney, R. McGonigle, A. McKeen (Capt).
View photos of the game here.