Carrickfergus RFC Notes: I XVII 5 v Dromore RFC I XVII 20 TOWNS CUP REPORT

Carrickfergus RFC Notes: I XVII 5 v Dromore RFC I XVII 20 TOWNS CUP REPORT

The Maxol-sponsored Carrick 1st XV were beaten in the first round of the Towns’ Cup, going down by 20 points to 5 against Dromore at Tom Simms Memorial Park on Saturday 4th January. After their successes over the holiday period, this was not the start to 2014 that Carrick wanted but they gave a reasonable account of themselves against Section 1 opposition and, had they been a bit more accurate in execution in the first half, the result may well have been much closer. This was, however, a match dominated by the referee’s actions, with a number of questionable decisions and the handing out of three yellow cards and one red, all to Carrick players. He was certainly strict at the break-down, and Carrick have to learn to play to the referee’s interpretations, but how Dromore got away without at least one yellow as well is hard to fathom. Certainly in the melee at the end which led to the red card for Carrick, the were punches thrown by the opposition and at least one incident appeared to be right in front of the referee. All of this said, Dromore were the better side, particularly in the first half when they clearly won the kicking battle and when a lot of Carrick’s kicking was rather aimless. The visitors were also better at taking the chances which came their way and were well organised in defence in the second half when the home side had more territory and possession than they had enjoyed in the first half. This despite being down to fourteen men, and at one point thirteen, for about half of the time. On the positive side for Carrick, their scrum was on top for most of the match for which credit must go to props Michael Smiley and Adam Gibney and hooker Neil Hanna. The line-out operated smoothly, with Curtis Rea and Chris Ferris prominent and the latter, together with his second row partner Chris Rodgers, put in some big tackles in defence. Behind the scrum, Aaron McKinney was solid as ever at scrum-half while out-half Johnny Sheriff showed flashes of what he can do when he has the confidence to stand on the gain line and go for the break.
The match was played on a rain affected pitch but in conditions which, although cold, were better than the forecast suggested might be the case. The early exchanges were fairly even but the visitors took the lead after seven minutes with a catch and drive from a line-out five metres from the Carrick line. The try was not converted but the visitors at this stage looked the stronger and their kicking out of hand was much better than Carrick’s, allowing them the territorial advantage. However, with twenty minutes gone, and following a Carrick catch and drive, Johnny Sheriff scythed through the Dromore defence on half-way and, when he was tackled just short of the line, quickly re-cycled ball allowed Neil Hastings to dive over in the corner. The try was not converted, leaving the sides tied at 5 points apiece. Dromore continued to have the advantage in terms of territory and possession but this was not refelected in the score until the closing minutes of the half. With two minutes to go to the break, the visitors again drove over from a line-out close in. The Carrick defence appeared at fault on this occasion as the “pod” at the front of the line-out was allowed to walk over virtually unopposed. This try was converted and the visitors then extended their lead virtually from the kick off when their scrum- half juggled and then gathered a ball which appeared to have richoceted off one of his own players and raced over in the corner. This time the try was not converted but Dromore led by 17 points to 5 at the break.
The second half was a dour affair but one in which Carrick did have their chances despite being down to fourteen men, and briefly thirteen, at least half of the time because of two yellow cards- and the time still to serve on a card issued in the first half – and then a red in the closing minutes. However, Carrick never managed to turn attacking positions into scoring opportunities, turning the ball over on a number of occasions when they did get into the “red zone”. Credit must go to the Dromore defence, however, and the only score of the second half was a penalty to the visitors with about ten minutes to go. The game unfortunately finished in a brawl after which a Carrick player received a red card but there were certainly membersof the opposition who were lucky also not to see red!
Things do not get any easier for Carrick next week when they entertain League leaders Ballyclare at Tom Simms Memorial Park.
The Carrick team which faced Dromore was:-
L. Whitall; N. Hastings, J. Cullen, R. Hamilton, K. Jordan; J. Sheriff, A. McKinney(Capt); A. Gibney, N. Hanna, M. Smylie (R. Williams), C. Ferris, C. Rodgers, N. Marsden, C. Rea, N. Greenwood (A. Kincaid).