Carrickfergus RFC MMW JNR Cup Round 1 Report ~ I XV 14 v Ards RFC II XV 12

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The Maxol-sponsored Carrick 1st XV beat Ards II by 14 points to 12 in the first round of the Junior Cup away at Hamilton Park on Saturday 27th September. In a hard fought encounter, Carrick staged a second half comeback, scoring fourteen unanswered points, having trailed by twelve points early in the second period. As in the match at Coleraine the previous week, Carrick played into a stiffish breeze in the first half and did well to contain their opponents to a seven point lead at half time. After conceding a soft try early in the second half, they began to use their scrum dominance and some excellent kicking by the half-backs to exert a measure of control which was rewarded with a well taken try by Captain Johnny Cullen and three penalty goals from Johnny Sheriff. They did leave it late though, the winning points coming in injury time.
For Carrick, Curtis Rea produced another impressive performance at No 8, making a lot of yards with ball in hand. Matt Hadden also carried well and the half-backs, Glen Picken and Johnny Sheriff, again kicked well out of hand, particularly with the elements in their favour in the second half. Credit must also go to the tight five who gave Ards a very uncomfortable afternoon in the scrum, winning three turnovers in the set piece and ensuring their opponents never had the luxury of clean ball when they did manage to get it back.
Ards started strongly and had Carrick under pressure from a series of penalties in their own half. The home side opted not to go for goal and set up a series of attacking line-outs. They were eventually rewarded with a try after twelve minutes when their blind side flanker forced his way over following a scrum ten metres out. It has to be said though that his task was made easier by some weak Carrick tackling. The try was converted to give the hosts a 7 points to nil lead. For the remainder of the half, much of the game was played between the 22s, with Ards failing to make good use of the wind in their favour and to take advantage of the fact that Carrick again gave away too many penalties for comfort. Both sides seemed to find handling difficult and the score remained at 7 points to nil to Ards at the break.
Carrick started the second half in the worst possible way, conceding another soft try just three minutes in. The Ards inside centre was allowed to burst through a group of defenders and make ground into the Carrick 22 where his long pass was well taken by the left winger who scored in the corner. The try was not converted. The visitors hit back immediately after the re-start; when Ards fumbled the kick-off, Curtis Rea gathered and made ground into their 22 and Carrick won a penalty at the break-down. Johnny Sheriff converted to get Carrick onto the score-board. Then, after fifteen minutes of the half, the out-half added another penalty won at the scrum as Ards were shoved backwards at a rate of knots. The momentum seemed to be swinging Carrick’s way, as they forced Ards to play from deep with some well placed kicks and solid defending when the dnagerous looking Ards backs did get the ball. Things then seemed to switch in the home side’s favour when the Carrick hooker was yellow carded for an alleged high tackle; even some of the home supporters thought it a strange decision to say the least! To Carrick’s credit though, they continued to dominate territory and, with three minutes of normal time remaining, scored an excellent try. The move began with Matt Hadden making ground into Ards territory, his back-row colleague Curtis Rea beating a couple of defenders and then Carrick re-gathering after an attempted intercept by an Ards defender resulted in a knock-on and switching the ball right to Johnny Cullen who rounded the defence to score. Johnny Sheriff came close with the conversion attempt but the ball drifted wide, leaving the home side leading by 12 points to 11. However, Carrick were now completely in control and were quickly back on the attack after the kick-off. Peter Simpson made godd ground up to the Ards 22 before being forced into touch. After the line-out, Carrick won turn-over ball and Cullen, McKinney, Hadden and Rodgers all handled in an attacking move which ended with a penalty to Carrick right in front of the posts. Sheriff converted to give Carrick a 14 points to 12 lead with only a couple of minutes of injury time remaining. The visitors took control of the ball from the kick-off and held onto it until time was up.
Carrick deserved the victory in this hard-fought match, particularly on the basis of their second half performance. However, as they return to League action away to Grosvenor next Saturday they will need to find ways to reduce the penalty count which is still too high. This side has the ability to cause problems for most teams they are likely to meet and if they can address the penalty problem and improve their accuracy in attack who knows what they could achieve this season.
The Carrick team which faced Ards was:-
A. Mckinney; N. Hastings, J.Cullen (Capt), J. Wady, P. Simpson; J. Sheriff, G. Picken; M. Smiley, R. higgins, R. Williams, A. Kincaid, C. Rodgers, M. Hadden, R. Marsden, C. Rea.

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