The Maxol-sponsored Carrick 1st XV made a disappointing start to their 2018/19 Kukri Ulster Championship campaign when they surrendered a 19 points to nil lead to end up drawing 19 points apiece with Enniskillen on Saturday 1st September at Tom Simms Memorial park.
The home side dominated for the first half hour and had three tries on the board by the twenty-fifth minute. From then on they allowed Enniskillen to dominate possession, if not territory, and the visitors gradually fought their way back into the game, finally achieving parity at the end of the third quarter. In the closing stages, much of the game was played between the 22s and neither side really looked like getting the winning score.
Carrick’s old problems of concession of unnecessary penalties and failure to keep control of the ball when in possession emerged in the second half as the tiredness displayed a week earlier against Armagh took hold. That said, both sides showed signs of early season lack of fitness and sharpness in the closing stages. For Carrick, David Moore did an excellent job as stand-in scrum-half while David Carse had a strong first half at stand-off but had few opportunities in the second period when Carrick were deprived of good go forward ball. League debutant Patrick McNeill had a solid game at full-back and Johnny Sheriff and Fionn McCormack were prominent in attack in the first half. Up front Captain Ryan McGonigle and second rows Chris Rodgers carried and tackled strongly.
The Carrick scrum looked to be on top in the first half but the situation was reversed in the second and the Enniskillen scrum was edging forward on most occasions.
Carrick started strongly, with good attacking runs from Adam White, David Carse and Patrick McNeill and the visitors were forced to play virtually all of the opening ten minutes in and around their own 22. The home side deservedly took the lead on ten minutes when, following a line-out inside the Enniskillen 22, the ball was driven up towards the visitors’ line and after a couple of picks and drives, David Moore gathered and dived over. Adam White added the conversion points. Following the re-start, Enniskillen had their chance to control the ball through multiple phases but the strong Carrick defence denied them the opportunity to make significant ground and in the end they kicked possession away. Then from a penalty on his own 22, Adam White found touch on the Enniskillen 22; following the line -out David Carse made a break into the visitors’ 22 and fed Fionn McCormack who raced over for the try.
Adam White again converted and Carrick led by 14 points to nil with twenty minutes gone. Just a couple of minutes later Enniskillen turned the ball over around half-way and Carrick went through a couple of phases before kicking into the visitors’ 22 where Johnny Sheriff did an excellent job in retrieving the ball and passing to Fionn McCormack who made ground down the right-hand touch-line. The move was continued by Alan Whitley and when he was tackled close to the line David Moore gathered to go over for his second try. The conversion was missed but Carrick now led by 19 points to nil and, at that stage, looked in control and set for a bonus point victory. However, to their credit the visitors came back strongly and for about ten minutes or so Carrick were forced to defend in and around their own 22. With just minutes remaining until half-time, the visitors finally got their reward when they drove over for a try following a scrum close to the Carrick line. The try was not converted and half-time was reached with Carrick leading by 19 points to 5.
The visitors continued to press following the re-start and five minutes into the second half got their second try. They won a penalty and found touch five metres out from the Carrick line; although Carrick stopped the initial drive, Enniskillen continued to pick and drive and got over for the try. This was converted to reduce the Carrick lead to just 7 points. Carrick then began to get a better share of possession but turn-overs and some wild passes cost them opportunities to put the visitors under pressure and it was Enniskillen who scored next as the game entered the final quarter. Following a series of penalties against Carrick, Enniskillen ended up with a scrum five metres out and, as their pack edged forward, their No 8 picked up and dived over. The try was converted to level the scores at 19 points apiece. From then until the final whistle, the game was played mostly between the 22s with neither side managing to get any sustained possession inside the other’s 22. Both sides had attacking opportunities from deep but turn-overs, break-down penalties and poor passes meant they came to nought. After a lengthy period of injury time, the referee blew for full-time with the score still at 19 points all.
The game ended in disappointment for Carrick after such a promising opening twenty-five minutes but there were a number of positive aspects. The mid-field defence was much better than at Armagh- all three of the Enniskillen tries were scored by the pack from line-outs or scrums close in- and the back-line has demonstrated considerable attacking potential in the three games so far.
Carrick have a bye in the first round of the Junior Cup and now have a fortnight off to work on their issues before facing CIYMS at home on 15th September.
The Carrick team against Enniskillen was:-
P. McNeill; F. McCormack; J. Sheriff, A. White, B. Alexander; D. Carse, D. Moore; A. Gibney ( S. Cheshire), A. Whitley, P. Greenaway, C. Rodgers, S. Currie, R. Gibson, R. Crymble, R. McGonigle (Capt). Sub: K. Topping.