The Maxol-sponsored Carrick 1st XV ground out a 21 points to 18 victory over fourth placed Grosvenor at Malone on Saturday 9th February in a match marred at the end by a serious leg injury to young out-half Sam Wallace. Best wishes go to him and his family for his recovery. The victory over Grosvenor cements Carrick’s seventh place in the League and they are now 10 points clear of Enniskillen in eighth place with the same number of matches played. They were denied the opportunity to move into sixth place because of Portadown’ s victory over Instonians.
The game at Malone was played in windy and cold conditions and there were frequent, and sometimes lengthy, injury breaks before the injury to Sam Wallace in the eighty-third minute. This necessitated the match being moved to the main pitch for the last few minutes of injury time. After a bad start, Carrick dominated territory and possession for much of the first half but ended up going into the break 12 points to 5 behind. The second half was somewhat more even in terms of territory and possession but Carrick this time Carrick dominated matters on the scoreboard to win with a very late injury time penalty. There were good performances throughout the team from Carrick, including from Sam Wallace, Conor Cambridge and David Carse in the backs.Up front Captain Ryan McGonigle had a storming game in attack and defence as did Curtis Rea who dominated the line-out both on Carrick’s throw and Grosvenor’s. Ryan Gibson and Adam Whitley were also prominent in defence and at the break-down The scrum was on top for most of the game and tight-head Paul Greenaway put in yet another strong performance both in the tight and loose. The hero on the day though had to be kicker Fionn McCormack who, in very difficult kicking conditions, put over three penalties and an excellent touch-line conversion.
Carrick started badly, conceding an early penalty, having to defend a line-out five metres out and then making a complete hash of controlling the ball at the base of a defensive scrum enabling Grosvenor to pounce and score the opening try. This was not converted. From this point on Carrick pretty much took control of the game but, despite pressure on the Grosvenor line and a couple of breaks by Sam Wallace and strong carries by Curtis Rea, Ryan McGonigle and others, could not get over the line. Then, with thirty-five minutes gone, and against the run of play, Grosvenor extended their lead when they went wide following a line-out catch and drive and scored in the left corner. This try was converted to give the home side a 12 points to nil lead. Following the kick off there was a period of scrappy play by both sides but then, following a lengthy injury break, Carrick at last made their pressure pay. Following a scrum inside the Grosvenor half, Brian Alexander made ground down the right, the ball was transferred infield and, following a charge by Curtis Rea and a series of picks and drives, Conor Cambridge darted over to score. The try was not converted and the referee blew for half-time with the home side leading by 12 points to 5.
Carrick started the second half strongly with a powerful carry from Ryan McGonigle and then an excellent touch by David Carse ten metres out from the Grosvenor line. Curtis Rea stole the Grosvenor throw and the ball was moved wide and David Carse broke through the Grosvenor defence to score in the corner. Fionn McCormack put over an excellent conversion from the touch-line to level the scores at 12 points apiece. Then, in the fiftieth minute, Carrick took the lead when McCormack put over a penalty after Carrick had won a turn-over and Curtis Rea and Reece Berry had made ground into the Grosvenor 22. Five minutes later though the home side levelled matters with a penalty of their own. The visitors then regained the lead in the sixtieth minute when Carrick were awarded a penalty at a scrum on the Grosvenor 22 and Fionn McCormack duly converted. Grosvenor then set up a promising attacking position with a penalty kick to the corner but Carrick once again stole their line-out throw and cleared. However, from the line-out Grosvenor went wide and their left winger looked to be heading for a try in the corner but was stopped just short by a superb covering tackle by David Carse. They came close again shortly afterwards but Adam Whitley did well to hold up their out-half as he dived over the line. The visitors continued to apply pressure and, with eight minutes of normal time remaining, levelled the scores again with a penalty from close range. As the game moved into injury time, Carrick mounted an attack following a line-out and in the process Sam Wallace suffered his serious injury in a tackle and the game was held up for a long period as he was attended to including by the Grosvenor Physio and one of their players. The game was eventually re-started on the main pitch with a scrum at which Carrick were awarded a penalty and from thirty-five metres out Fionn McCormack converted to regain the lead. For the remaining two minutes or so of injury time Grosvenor were unable to establish any foot-hold in Carrick territory and the visitors held on for a 21 points to 18 victory.
This was a performance of character by the Carrick side against the fourth placed team who had beaten them by a significant margin earlier in the season. However, at the final whistle thoughts were very much with Sam Wallace after his very serious injury. Next Saturday Carrick will have to take another step up when they face League leaders Ballyclare at Tom Simms Memorial Park.
The Carrick team which faced Grosvenor was:-
D. Carse; B. Alexander, F. McCormack, R. Berry, D. Moore; S. Wallace, C. Cambridge; A. Gibney, A. Whitley, P. Greenaway, C. Rodgers ( R. Williams), C. Rea, R. Gibson, R. Marsden(J. Millar), R. McGonigle (Capt).