Carrick Rugby I XV 23 v Enniskillen Rugby I XV 18 + Pictures Of II XV v Cooke Rugby II XV

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It’s a bad sign when a ‘Skins match report starts with reference to the weather and this is no exception. On a day that swung from beautiful, spring, “T” shirt and sunglasses weather to a total downpour, so ‘Skins performance swung from early total dominance to the almost abject surrender that resulted in Carrick’s winning try.
The game started brightly for the visitors who put their hosts under instant pressure especially in the set piece as ‘Skins marched Carrick some 20 metres in an early scrum. It was strange to see Gavin Parke, ‘Skins openside flanker, taking place kicks but having hit the post with his opening effort he gave ‘Skins a deserved three point lead with six minutes played.

It was all ‘Skins in the early exchanges and the lead was increased after sixteen minutes. First Parke made a more familiar break through the hosts’ defensive line and was ably supported by the returning James Carleton, who took play closer to Carrick’s line. Two phases later and ‘Skins were really knocking on the door but a five metre scrum resulted. From this a great shunt allowed Jamie Johnston to score the first try. Unbelievably Parke then hit the post for a second time with his conversion attempt to leave the score 8 – 0 to the visitors.

It was at this point that first signs of the Jekyll & Hyde split personality of ‘Skins emerged as they started to let their hosts off the hook with some loose play and Carrick took advantage to open their account with a penalty, followed nine minutes later with a converted try following a good driving maul to ‘Skins line, the result of a rather generously awarded penalty for offside when the ball was well clear of the base of a ruck.

With a lead of 10 – 8 Carrick then lost a man to the sin-bin after thirty-three minuets for a late tackle on ‘Skins fullback, Rob McSweeney, making a return to action after a lengthy absence, the result of a late Friday cry-off and the club’s gallant attempt not to weaken their second fifteen who were also on their travels in a relegation dogfight.

‘Skins did take advantage of the extra man when Paul Burns was put into space after some nice handling involving backs and forwards and Gareth Beatty was on hand to take the offload and with an outrageous step inside the last defender, the prop sprinted clear to score ‘Skins second try which Parke duly converted.

Again ‘Skins took the foot off the gas and allowed Carrick to finish the half on top with a penalty, converted with the final act, to leave the halftime score 13 – 15.

The second half saw ‘Skins fall badly off the game and whilst their set pieces were still dominant, the scrums were disrupted badly, with possession too often lost owing to a sound initial drive being “wheeled” due to some “jiggery pokery in the front row” in the words of the late, great, Bill McLaren.

The game was somewhat spoiled as a spectacle in the downpour that was the second half, with little scoring opportunities emerging in an attritional battle for dominance, but the lead was to change hands twice in quick succession with firstly Carrick striking with a penalty after twenty-three minutes before Parke replied four minutes later, having missed an earlier attempt, to see the scoreline change to 16 – 18.

With five minutes remaining the telling blow came. Almost from nothing Carrick’s outhalf waltzed through some sorry ‘Skins defending within their “22” to score a try close to the posts making the conversion a formality to establish the winning 23 – 18 lead.

All in all a day to forget as, like the weather, ‘Skins started brightly but finished the game as dull as the sky overhead.

A number of changes have been forced on ‘Skins over the past fortnight, and whilst the four changes did no damage against CIYMS the week before, the four this week could not lift them to the same dizzying heights. It was great to see Carleton return, albeit briefly, and the return of Richie Finlay to the club brings some craft behind a forward pack that has been on top of their game this season.

‘Skins have a fortnight off with which to regroup, lick some wounds, heal some bumps and bruises and prepare for their final three games of the season, starting with the visit of Grosvenor on April 16th.

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