Carrickfergus RFC Towns Cup Report Round 1 v Ballyclare RFC

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Carrickfergus RFC Towns Cup Report Round 1 v Ballyclare RFC
 Carrickfergus RFC got 2015 and their 150th Anniversary year off to a great start with a 14 points to 11 victory(after extra time) over Ballyclare at Tom Simms Memorial Park on Saturday 3rd January. The day started with a pre-match lunch sponsored by Fire & Truck (NI) Ltd at which Club President Bill Crymble and Vice-President Craig Addley welcomed seventeen Past Presidents as well as officials of Ballyclare RFC and other guests. The large crowd was then treated to an entertaining and hard-fought match which was not deceided until the fifth minute of injury time at the end of extra time. On a cold but sunny day, both teams tried to play expansive rugby but it was a game in which defences were very much on top and in the end it came down to who made the mistakes in criucial areas and goal-kicking. The Maxol-sponsored Carrick side dominated in the scrum for the most part and definitely had the better of the line-out. However, the break-down was fiercely contested and neither side could claim a clear advantage in this area. The Carrick rush defence worked well and although Ballyclare tried to play with width they found it almost imposible, with one exception, to get round or through the Carrick defence. The home side also found it difficult to breach the opposition  defence and genuine try-scoring opportunities were rare. Carrick probably just about deserved victory as, not for the first time this season, they looked to be the stronger at both the end of normal time and in the second period of extra time. For Carrick, the defensive effort was basically what won them the game and both backs and forwards contributed mightily. None more so than Andy Kinkaid, who was a tower of strength in the line-out and as a kick-off receiver, and Ross Marsden who worked tirelessly at the break-down as well as putting in some big tackles. Kinkaid’s second row partner Chris Rodgers was also prominent in defence and attack and was unlucky to be yellow carded when his enthusiasm got him off-side in rushing up to stop a Ballyclare attack. The half-backs, Kenny Topping and Luke Whittall, kicked well for the most part and out-half Whittall held his nerve well to put over the winning goal kick at the end of extra time.
The early exchanges were fairly even with both sides mounting attacks but finding it difficult to retain the ball for more than one or two phases. Carrick though took the lead after thirteen minutes when, following a solid scrum, Johnny Cullen made a superb break through the middle of the Ballyclare defence and chipped towards the visitors’ line; when they failed to deal with the bouncing ball, Aaron McKinney was on hand to gather and touch down in the corner. From a difficult angle, Luke Whittall could not convert. Ballyclare came back strongly and after a couple of penalty kicks to touch, won a penalty within kicking range and duly converted to reduce the deficit to two points. As the half progressed neither side could make much impression on the other’s defensive line. That is until the thirty-fifth ninute when Ballyclare ran back a poor Carrick kick and found space down the left-hand touch-line and, after some inter-passing touched down in the corner. The try was not converted but the visitors now had an 8 points to 5 lead which they held until the interval.
The second half continued as had the first, with defences proving almoct impossible to break down. Even when Carrick were down to fourteen men because of Rodgers’ yellow card, Ballyclare never looked like scoring a try. It was always going to be a matter of who would tire first and/or concede penalties in kickable positions. Eventually, it was a high tackle by a Ballyclare defender which gave Carrick the opportunity and Like Whittall put over the ensuing penalty kick  to level the scores after twenty-five minutes of the second half. As the game moved towards the end of normal time, Carrick appeared to be finishing the stronger and were certainly now playing most of the game in their opponents’ territory. However, it was two minutes into injury time before they got any tangible reward when, following a series of scrums close to the Ballyclare line, they were awarded a penalty which Luke Whittall converted to give Carrick the lead by 11 points to 8. However, virtually from the kick-off, the home side conceded a penalty thirty metres out and Ballyclare put over the kick to level the scores at 11 points apiece.
Then it was into extra time and, in the first period, Ballyclare pressed strongly but the Carrick defence held and half-time in extra time was reached without either side adding to their score. The visitors again had chances in the early stages of the second period of extra time but the Carrick defensive work was excellent and, as at the end of normal time, they gradually began to get on top in terms of territory. They were perhaps unfornunate to be called back for a forward pass when Curtis Rea looked to have broken clear at the end of “normal” extra time. Deep in injury time,and  following a couple of penalties and a period of pressure close to the Ballyclare line, Carrick were awarded a penalty fifteen or so metres to the left of the Ballyclare posts; Luke Whittall showed great coolness in putting the kick over   to give Carrick victory.
This was a very solid performance by Carrick against a Section 1 team and is evidence that a squad is being developed which can compete at that level. In the last few matches the side has shown a level of cohesion and organisation under pressure which may have been lacking earlier. They can look forward with some confidence to the resumption of the League campaign on Saturday 10th January when they entertain Randalstown at Tom Simms Memorial Park.
The team which faced Ballyclare was:-
A. McKinney(K. Jordan); R. Crymble, J. Cullen(Capt), J. Sheriff, P. Simpson; L. Whittall, K. Topping; A. Gibney, N. Hanna, M. Smiley(R.Williams)C. Rodgers, A. Kinkaid, M Fisher, R. Marsden, C. Rea.
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