The Maxol-sponsored Carrick 1st XV were well beaten by second placed Ballyclare at Tom Simms Memorial Park on Saturday 16th February, the visitors running in six tries and conceding just one in a 42 points to 7 victory. This defeat drops Carrick back to seventh place in the League, Enniskillen having beaten Cooke to move back into sixth place. ( Last week’s initially reported win for Portadown against Instonians was incorrect!) In a game of two halves in terms of territory and possession, Ballyclare totally dominated the first half with the wind in their favour and had scored four tries by half-time. Carrick were in control of territory and, to a degree, possession in the second period but it was the visitors who scored the tries on their rare visits to Carrick’s half. The home side simply could not break down the strong Ballyclare defence and despite ample possession in the “red zone” could not add to their first half try. To make matters worse for Carrick they lost two of their best players – Curtis Rea and David Carse – to head injuries with fifteen minutes remaining.
The only positives for Carrick were that their scrum became more dominant as the game progressed and the line-out worked well, with Curtis Rea and Ryan Gibson stealing a number of Ballyclare throws. Most of the noteworthy Carrick performances were in defence, with Ryan Gibson, Alan Whitley and Ryan McGonigle prominent. Conor Cambridge, Johnny Sheriff and Adam White, when he came on, kicked well out of hand in the conditions but, in the end, Carrick could not get the “go forward” ball they needed to open up the Ballyclare defence.
The visitors started strongly but fell behind after two minutes when Carrick scrum-half Conor Cambridge spotted a cap in a disorganised Ballyclare defence and raced in from forty metres to score. Fionn McCormack added the conversion points. From that point on, however, it was all Ballyclare and Carrick could scarcely get out of their own half for the remainder of the first period. Resolute defence kept the visitors at bay for while but they levelled matters after fifteen minutes with a try and conversion following a series of picks and drives following a scrum inside the Carrick 22 . They took the lead seven minutes later after a break by their out-half outside the home side’s 22, a strong run by their left winger and then quiclkly re-cycled ball to let their scrum-half in near the posts. The try was converted to give the visitors the lead by 14 points to 7. This became 21-7 five minutes later when a Carrick pass was intercepted and Ballyclare scored under the posts to provide an easy conversion. Then, with five minutes remaining in the first half, Balyclare scored their bonus point try when poor Carrick defending allowed their out-half to score after they had gone through a couple of phases off turn-over ball. This try was converted and Ballyclare went into the break leading by 28 points to 7.
The visitors started the second half strongly and with just five minutes of the half gone had extended their lead to 35 points to 7 when they opted to take a scrum after a penalty award and, after going through a couple of picks and drives ,scored at the posts to make the conversion a formality. Fro this point on , however, it was Carrick who controlled territory and possession and visitors were forced to try to attack from deep. Despite a number of good attacking positions, however, Carrick could not get over the line and it was the visitors who completed the scoring in the sixty-fifth minute when they attacked from inside their own 22 and their left winger rounded the Carrick defence to race in from fifty metres out. The try was converted to make the score 42 points to 7 in the visitors’ favour and, despite a number of attacking line-outs and scrums deep in their opponents half in the closing stages, Carrick could do nothing to reduce the deficit. Indeed, matters could have been even worse if Conor Cambridge had not chased down a Ballyclare player who looked to have broken clear from inside his own half. The game finished with Carrick in possession off turn-over ball but in the end the move came to nothing when they lost the ball forward and the referee blew for full-time.
This was a reality check for Carrick after their victory last week against Grosvenor. They now have to pick themselves up quickly as they face third placed Dromore away in their postponed fixture against the Co Down club on Tuesday evening.
The Carrick team against Ballyclare was:-
D. Carse; B. Alexander, F. McCormack, R. Berry( A. White), D. Moore; J. Sheriff, C. Cambridge; A. Gibney (J. Bell), A. Whitley, P. Greenaway, C. Rodgers, C. Rea, R. Gibson, R. Marsden, R. McGonigle.