The Carrick 1st XV suffered their first defeat of the season on Saturday 21st September, losing by 25 points to 17 away to Armagh II in a Conference League fixture. In a match characterised by the number of mistakes made by both sides, Carrick certainly had their fair share of possession and territory. However the disruption caused by three yellow cards from a referee determined to strictly enforce the tackle laws, against one for their opponents, and a number of injuries which resulted in positional switches, meant that they never really settled into any consistent pattern of play. Nor did Armagh fare much better, with most of their tries coming off Carrick mistakes rather than patient build-up. The match was keenly contested and the home side never established any clear dominance despite leading for most of the game and the final 8 point margin was established only in the fourth minute of injury time with Carrick once again down to fourteen men.
In a game in which there were few stand-out performances, Chris Rodgers and Mattie Hadden carried strongly and put in some big tackles. possibly the reason they were both recipients of yellow cards! Nathan Greenwood and Ryan McGonigle were also prominent as carriers and in defensive duties. Centre Fionn McCormack was one of the best Carrick performers early on until he had to leave the field injured after twenty minutes.
Carrick started the game brightly and an early break by Chris Rodgers, supported by Ciaran Wilson, took Carrick close but they ended up being penalised at the break-down close to the Armagh line. Then, with just five minutes gone, a loose pass as Carrick tried to go wide following a line-out handed the home side an interception on half-way and their winger raced all the way to the line to score behind the posts. The try was converted to give the hosts a 7 points to nil lead. A few minutes later Carrick were back on level terms when a break by Fionn McCormack, who was tackled just short of the line, resulted in a penalty at the break-down and a tap and quick transfer allowed Shane Kelly to go over in the corner. Fionn McCormack put over an excellent conversion from close to the touch-line to level the scores. The home side regained the lead virtually from the re-start when Carrick failed to control the ball and some poor tackling allowed Armagh to drive up to the line where they were awarded a penalty, tapped and drove over. The try was not converted but Armagh then extended their lead to 15 points to 7 at the end of the first quarter with a penalty on the Carrick 22 and straight in front. The gap was narrowed in the twenty-fifth minute though when Carrick went over from a line-out catch and drive, with Ryan McGonigle getting the touch-down. The try was not converted and Armagh now led by 15 points to 12.They would have extended their lead shortly after the re-start had not been for a courageous try-saving tackle by injury replacement Ross Crymble. Armagh reminded just three points in front until the thirty-ninth minute when they found touch in the Carrick 22 following a penalty award, went through multiple phases and, with Carrick down to fourteen men as a result of their second yellow card, got over wide out. This try was not converted and the home side led by 20 points to 12 at the break.
The second half produced more of the same fare as the first, with a lot of handling errors by both sides and the concession of a string of penalties. Carrick were dominating territory in the early stages and got their reward with a try in the fiftieth minute. Following a tap penalty outside the Armagh 22, David Carse made a break into the 22 and, following quickly re-cycled ball, Chris Rodgers ran an excellent line to score. The try was not converted and Armagh’s lead was back to three points, with the score 20-17 in their favour. From then on both sides had periods of dominance in terms of territory and possession but neither could control the ball for long enough to break down the other’s defence. With the game in injury time, and Carrick yet again down to fourteen men, Armagh found touch from a penalty inside the Carrick 22, went through a number of phases, moved the ball wide and scored in the corner. The conversion attempt failed and the game ended with Armagh the winners by 25 points to 17, a somewhat flattering margin in the context of a match between two evenly matched sides.
Carrick will not be too disappointed by this loss in the Conference League but they will want to tighten things up considerably when they return to Ulster Championship League action next Saturday and play host to Clogher Valley at Tom Simms Memorial Park.
The Carrick team against Armagh II was:-
D. Carse; D. Moore, F. McCormack (R. Crymble), J. Sheriff (Capt), C. Wilson; S. Kelly, S. White; J. Bell, A. Whitley, P. Greenwood, C. Rodgers(G. McKeown), C. Rea, M. Hadden, R. McGonigle, N. Greenwood.