The Maxol-sponsored Carrick 1st XV were beaten by 45 points to 22 by League leaders Ballyclare at the Cloughan on Saturday 3rd November.
Carrick did pick up a four try bonus point and remain in sixth place in the League. Despite a number of injury set-backs – Captain Ryan McGonigle had to leave the field before half-time and then go back on carrying an injury when scrum-half Conor Cambridge suffered a head injury mid-way through the second half – the young Carrick side battled bravely against very powerful opposition. Ballyclare were simply too strong, well organised and clinical in execution for the visitors who started out slightly under-strength and then had to cope with injury disruption on the day. Playing with the breeze at heir backs in the first half, Ballyclare forced their opponents to play virtually all of that half inside their own territory . When Carrick tried to return the favour n the second half, the home side were able to make sufficient forays into the visitors’ territory to add four tries to their total against Carrick’s two.
For Carrick, out-half David Carse had an excellent game with limited “go forward” possession and contributed two tries, one of which must be a candidate for try of the season. In the pack, Ryan Gibson, Chris Rodgers and Adam Gibney were prominent as carriers and defenders. Curtis Rea was a reliable source of possession from the line-out and Bob O’Callaghan and Alan Whitley were busy throughout at the break-down.
Carrick made the perfect start when, in the first minute, prop Adam Gibney broke through the Ballyclare defence inside his own half to make twenty metres and feed Ryan Gibson who made ground up to the line; the ball was then re-cycled a couple of times before out-half David Carse stepped a defender to go over. The try was not converted and the visitors then had to endure a period of Ballyclare pressure in and around their 22. The pressure told on in the fifteenth minute when the home side went through multiple phases and Carrick simply ran out of defenders out wide to allow the home side’s impressive outside centre to go over for a try . This was converted to give Ballyclare a 7 points to 5 lead. However, this lead was short-lived as, a couple of minutes later, David Carse made a break on half-way and then skinned a couple of defenders on his way to the line for a superb individual try. Again this was not converted but Carrick had regained the lead by 10 points to 7. This lead was also short-lived. On twenty minutes, the Ballyclare No 8 went over following a break by his out-half and the subsequent conversion gave the home side a 14 points to 10 lead. Just short of the half-hour mark, they extended their lead when their outside centre broke through the Carrick mid-field defence off a simple pop pass to score near the posts. The conversion gave the home side a 21 points to 10 lead and this was to remain the score until half-time despite periods of pressure from both sides although the majority of the play in the remainder of the first half continued to take place in Carrick territory.
With the breeze now in their favour, Carrick did manage to exert some pressure early in the second half but it was Ballyclare who got the next score in the fiftieth minute when their No 13 once again carved open the Carrick defence to score. This try was not converted but five minutes later the home side added another try when they went wide following a line-out catch and drive and scored in the corner. This try was not converted but the home side were now virtually out of sight with a 31 points to 10 lead. However, Carrick were not yet in the mood to surrender and came back with a seven pointer when Alan Whitley touched down after a well-organised line-out driving maul and Adam White added the conversion points. However, they handed back the points just four minutes later when Ballyclare ran back a Carrick kick and were allowed to make far too much ground into the visitors’ territory from where they went through a couple of phases before one of their second row forwards went over. This try was converted but Carrick then hit back almost immediately when Johnny Sheriff made a break in mid-field and fed winger Fionn McCormack who scored in the corner. The conversion kick was unsuccessful and, with five minutes of normal time remaining, Ballyclare completed the scoring when their inside centre put a chip kick over the Carrick defence and gathered to score. The try was converted to make the score 45 points to 22 in the home side’s favour and this was to remain the situation until the final whistle.
After their disappointing All-Ireland cup encounter the previous week, Carrick could have done with easier opponents on their return to Kukri Championship rugby but they gave the very impressive Ballyclare side a match – they will not be happy at having their line crossed four times – and despite their injury problems and enforced on-field re-organisation they were still fighting hard at the end. Carrick now have a week off and then return to league action at Tom Simms Memorial Park where they play host to Dromore on 17th November.
The Carrick team against Ballyclare was:-
M. Black. F. McCormack, J. Sheriff, A. White, J. Burton; D. Carse, C. Cambridge; S. Cheshire (J. Bell), A. Whitley, A. Gibney, C. Rodgers, R. Gibson, B. O’Callaghan, R. McGonigle (Capt) (R. Crymble), C. Rea.