At an arctic, rain and snow sodden and wind lashed Tom Simms Memorial Park at Carrick Rugby Club the 3rd XV, in the semi final of the Forster Cup, overcame a previously unbeaten and physically much larger Armagh 3s team. In a display of great discipline and defensive organisation and bravery they defeated Armagh by 8pts to 5pts. The starting 15 and the subs who came onto the field did themselves and the club proud and were raucously cheered on by a large crowd of Carrick supporters augmented by a coach load of supporters from Armagh. Captain James Porter led by example with a number of thundering hits on his opposite man.
Carrick got off to the best possible start with their winger slicing through the Armagh defence in the early minutes. The try was unconverted. Armagh countered and much of the opening 40 minutes was spent camped in the Carrick half. The weather and pitch conditions dictated that the game was a tight, close physical affair with the forwards from both sides engaged in a highly charged encounter. The Armagh team gained a number of penalties in this period but their kicker missed every attempt, one kick hitting the post and bouncing into the arms of an alert Carrick flanker.
Early in the 2nd half Armagh, after a series of driving mauls were awarded a dubious try despite Carrick players holding man and ball off the ground. The game entered its key phase, Carrick having conceded a score in the atrocious, frozen conditions could easily have succumbed but right from the restart they regained possession and after a series of plays were awarded a penalty almost directly in front of the posts but some 35 metres out. The strong easterly wind blowing across the pitch meant that any kick for goal was a lottery but the Carrick player held his nerve and coolly split the posts with his kick.
The tension around the pitch was unbearable but in the final 15 minutes the Carrick half backs played superb cup rugby constantly pinning Armagh back into their own 22. Carrick made a number of changes and special mention must be made of Craig Brazier who came on and won turnover after turnover. Armagh attacked ferociously for the final 5 minutes but Carricks defence again held firm. The referee blew his whistle and there were scenes of joy unbounded from Carrick supporters and players alike. All credit to Armagh for competing bravely and fairly but just coming up short.
This is the first senior Carrick side to make a “Ravenhill” final in some years. The date has still to be confirmed. Their opponents are not yet known but if the young team displays the courage, coolness and committment then they will have every chance of bringing home the trophy.
This week’s fixtures – Saturday 30th March (unless otherwise stated)
1st XV v Omagh (A)
3rd XV v Lisburn III (H) (Wednesday, 7.30pm)