The Maxol-sponsored Carrick 1st XV moved to the top of the Kukri Qualifying League Section 2 with a hard-fought 6 points to 3 win over Coleraine at Tom Simms Memorial Park on Saturday 13 December. (Omagh, of course, remain unbeaten and have played fewer matches.) Like the encounter at Coleraine at the start of the season, which Carrick won by 9 points to 6, this was a game in which defences were always on top and neither side produced more than half chances of scoring tries. Carrick once again finished the stronger although the visitors did have a late chance to square things with a long range penalty which, thankfully for the home support, drifted wide. The Carrick scrum was, for the most part, solid although a couple of lapses in concentration did enable Coleraine to take strikes against the head. The line-out operated smoothly, with Andy Kincaid, Chris Rodgers and Curtis Rea ensuring that Carrick won all of their own throws. The break-down was contested fiercely and neither side mangaged to get on top in this area, a factor which, at least partly, explained the lack of try-scoring chances. The other problem here was that handling appeared to be difficult for both sides in the cold and damp conditions.
The visitors started strongly and Carrick had to resist some early pressure which they did with a very solid and well organised defence. Somewhat against the run of play, Carrick took the lead after eight minutes when they won a penalty at a scrum on the Coleraine 22 and Luke Whittall converted to give Carrick the lead. The visitors continued to dominate territory for most of the first quarter but when Carrick got their kicking game functioning properly, they began to spend more time in Coleraine territory. However, scoring chances were few and far between and with half-time approaching Coleraine levelled the score with a penalty awarded for taking the jumper out in the line-out after an Oscar winning performance by one of their’ second rowers!
The second half continued much as had the first, with defences on top and both sides frequently resorting to the boot to try to make progress. Carrick did have two opportunitiesto take the lead with penalty kicks but both were missed, one coming back off the upright. As in the away match in Coleraine, Carrick began to dominate territory and possession in the final quarter but with no tangible result until, with just three minutes of normal time remaining, a sustained Carrick attack, with Chris Rodgers and Ryan McGonigle prominent, resulted in a Carrick penalty inside the Coleraine 22 and this time Luke Whittall made no mistake to give Carrick the lead by 6 points to 3 going into injury time. With normal time up, the visitors did have a chance to level the scores with a penalty on the Carrick 10 metre line but the kick drifted wide leaving Carrick, probably deservedly, the victors in what had been a very keenly contested match.
Next Saturday, Carrick take on Larne in the return leg of the Hawkins Cup at Tom simms Memorial Park.
The Carrick team against Coleraine was:-
A. McKinney; R. Crymble, J. Cullen(Capt), J. Sheriff, P. Simpson; L. Whittall, K. Topping; A. Gibney, N. Hanna, M. Smiley(R. Williams), A. Kincaid, C. Rodgers, C. Rea, R. Marsden, R. McGonigle. Sub M. Fisher.