Carrick 1st XV produced an amazing five minutes of rugby in injury time against Ballynahinch II in the Conference League at Tom Simms Memorial Park on Saturday 22nd September to turn a slender 2 point lead going into the eightieth minute into a 40 points to 17 victory. Indeed the Maxol-sponsored Carrick side looked in danger of losing as the visitors mounted an attack late on but a turn-over close to the Carrick line ended in a try for the home side at the other end; this was followed by two further tries in quick succession to give a very lop-sided look to the scoreboard at the end of what had been a hard-fought encounter.
The win means that Carrick remain unbeaten so far during the 2018/19 season and in second place, temporarily at least, in the Conference League. After a fairly even first half, in which the visitors shaded possession and territory, and deserved their 14-7 half-time lead, Carrick dominated territory in the second half, forcing Ballynahinch to try to attack from deep which they showed a willingness to do and only good scrambling defence from Carrick at times kept them out. Because of their second half performance, and the entertaining rugby they played in the closing stages, Carrick deserved victory but the 23 point margin does not do justice to the Ballynahinch performance. For Carrick, there were good performances all round, from both half-backs, Conor Cambridge and Adam White, from Michael Black on the wing and Chris Rodgers, Ryan McGonigle and substitute Nathan Greenwood up front. Stand-out performer though was Ross Crymble. Forced to move to the wing when Reece Berry was injured putting in a thumping tackle early on, Crymble not only caused problems for the Ballynahinch defence with his weaving runs but found time to make the occasional return to his “day job” in the back row and win a couple of valuable turn-overs.
The opening quarter of the game was scrappy with both sides finding it difficult to keep control of the ball. Carrick lost both second row Stuart Currie and centre Reece Berry early on which required some re-adjustment but forward substitute Nathan Greenwood put in a good shift when he came on and the switch of Ross Crymble to the wing to cover for the loss of Berry did not cost Carrick anything. The visitors took the lead after twenty minutes when they picked and drove their way over following a line-out close in. The try was converted. The home side continued to struggle to keep the ball through multiple phases but levelled the scores after thirty minutes when Ryan McGonigle forced his way over after the ball had been taken through a number of phases when an attempted catch and drive from a line-out had been stopped. Adam White added the conversion points. The visitors restored their lead however just a couple of minutes later when one of their back-rowers ran an excellent line to go over and touch down behind the posts. The try was converted to give Ballynahinch a 14 points to 7 lead which they held until half-time.
Carrick started the second half strongly and Ryan McGonigle scored a second try when he dived over following following a line -out close in. This try was not converted and the visitors now led by 14 points to 12. The home side continued to dominate territory, aided by some very good line kicking by Adam White and Conor Cambridge, and took the lead in the sixtieth minute when a move which started on half-way ,and involved handling by backs and forwards, with Chris Rodgers and Ryan McGonigle prominent, ended with prop Johnny McIlwaine going over. This try was converted to give Carrick the lead by 19 points to 14. Although Carrick continued to keep Ballynahinch pretty much penned in their own territory, the visitors, with a couple of very strong running backs, looked dangerous on the counter-attack. With ten minutes remaining they reduced the deficit to just 2 points with a penalty goal and in the remainder of normal time looked, if anything. the more likely of the two sides to score. Indeed in the fortieth minute they broke out of their own half , made ground into the Carrick 22 and looked to have set up a promising position but turned the ball over. From the turn-over, Carrick ran out of their 22, Michael Black raced up to the visitors’ 22 and gave a lovely reverse flip pass to set the supporting Conor Cambridge clear to race over the line. The conversion gave Carrick a 26 points to 17 lead but they were not finished yet.
The kick-off by Ballynahinch did not go ten metres but Carrick decided to play on and a strong run by Chris Rodgers set up an attacking ruck inside the visitors’ 22 from which the ball was spread wide for Adam White to go over. The out-half added the conversion points. Spectators and Ballynahinch players alike scarcely had time to draw breath before Carrick were at it again. From the kick-off, hooker Alan Whitley decided he would show the girls in the backs a thing or two and put in a deft chip over the Ballynahinch defence, gathered and attempted a Michael Black like reverse flip but not quite with the same success. The ball was scrambled into touch but from the line-out Carrick drove up to the line and Gareth McKeown went over to score. Adam White again added the extras and Carrick. with a blistering last five minutes, had ended up as winners by 40 points to 17.
If only Carrick could play for a full eighty minutes with the ball control and accuracy they displayed in the closing minutes against Ballynahinch, they would be unbeatable! All joking aside, this was a good performance from a young Carrick side missing a few regulars.
Next week they meet Larne at The Glynn in the second round of the Junior Cup.
The Carrick team which faced Ballynahinch was:-
P. McNeil; M. Black, J. Burton, R. Berry( N. Greenwood), D. Moore; A. White, C. Cambridge; G. McKeown, A. Whitley, J. McIlwaine, C. Rodgers, S. Currie (S. Cheshire), R. Gibson, R. Crymble, R. McGonigle (Capt).