REPORT Carrick 1s v Enniskillen 1s

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1st XV v Enniskillen (h)
The Maxol-sponsored Carrick 1st XV maintained their position at the top of Section 2 of the Kukri Qualifying League with a hard-fought 9 points to 8 victory over Enniskillen at Tom Simms Memorial Park on Saturday 19th March. Their  lead in the League has been cut to two points though, with rivals Coleraine earning a bonus point in inflicting a heavy defeat on Donaghadee. As in their previous match against Randalstown, it was the Carrick defence, allied on this occasion to some excellent goal-kicking by out-half Luke Whittal, which earned them victory. The visitors had the dominant scrum for much of the match, shoving Carrick off the ball on a number of occasions, and had the lion’s share of possession and territory. However, Carrick competed fiercely at the break-down, managed to disrupt the Enniskillen line-out on three or four occasions and, above all, made their tackles. The home side’s work at the break-down in particular meant that the penalty count went against Enniskillen and this was a major factor in their inability to turn their dominance of possession into points. For Carrick, centre Reece Hamilton was outstanding in defence, putting in a lot of strong tackles and winning a couple of turn-overs. Wing Peter Simpson also tackled strongly as did props Adam Gibney and Johnny McIlwaine and both were extremely effective at the break-down. With the scrum going backwards much of the time, No 8 Ryan McGonigle had few opportunities to launch attacks with his trade-mark carries but worked as hard as anyone in defence, putting in some big hits and winning turn-overs. Mention must also be made of substitute David McKeen who appeared to turn matters around for Carrick in the scrum when he came on.

Towns’ Cup finalists Enniskillen started strongly and had the home side under pressure in the opening minutes, shoving them off the ball at the first scrum and then winning a penalty at a scrum just inside the Carrick 22 which they converted to take an early lead. Carrick though managed to get a foot-hold in Enniskillen territory thanks to a number of turn-overs and good line-kicking by Luke Whittal. They were rewarded with a penalty of their own after twelve minutes and Whittal put over an excellent kick from just inside the Enniskillen 10 metre line to level the scores. Carrick’s work at the break-down and the visitors’ propensity to concede penalties kept the home side very much in the game despite having to do a lot of tackling. They took the lead at the end of the first quarter with another Luke Whittal penalty again from just inside the Enniskillen 10 metre line. This was awarded following a great tackle by Adam Gibney who got over the ball immediately to win the penalty. The second quarter was dominated, in terms of territory, possession and scrummaging  anyway, by Enniskillen but they found it very difficult to break down the well organised Carrick defence. They missed with a penalty attempt at goal after twenty-five minutes and then spent a lengthy period camped on the Carrick line, spurning an number of opportunities to go for goal from penalties, instead opting  for scrums, but the home side’s defence held firm. However, such was the Enniskillen dominance of possession at this point that something had to give and in the thirty-seventh minute they finally got their reward with an excellent try. They moved the ball left and drew in Carrick defenders at the break-down, then switched to the right with, fast transfer across the backs, and, as Carrick ran out of defenders, their right winger got in at the corner. The try was not converted but Enniskillen went into half-time leading by 8 points to 6.

The second half was largely a repitition of the first with Enniskillen on top in the scrum and dominating territory and possession but, under pressure from the Carrick defensive effort, undoing their good work by conceding too many penalties. They were almost made to pay when a Luke Whittal penalty came back off the post after ten minutes of the half. Carrick were not helping their own cause with some indifferent kicking out of hand which merely gave possession back to the visitors and enabled them to run back. They had another problem to contend with when scrum-half Michael Black had to go off with a head injury early in the half and was replaced by “back five” substitute Chris Rodgers( who had left his sick bed to take his place on the bench). This required some re-organisation with Aaron McKinney going to scrum-half, Ryan Bailey to full-back and Andy McKeen into the centre. However, the home side finally regained the lead around the sixty minute mark when, following a rare attack with Andy McKeen, Ryan Bailey and Andy Kinkaid involved and with David McKeen on as a replacement, Carrick were awarded a penalty penalty following a 5 metre scrum and Luke Whittal converted from a difficult angle. From then on it was a matter of defending  to keep Enniskillen out and this Carrick did manfully although they had a couple of  scares along the way. First of all, the visitors missed a kickable penalty and then, in injury time,  a drop at goal by their out-half drifted to the left and was almost gathered by an Enniskillen player just short of the line. Fortunately, from a Carrick viewpoint, he knocked on and the home side managed to retain possession at the ensuring scrum and kick the ball dead to end the game still leading by 9 points to 8.

This was a Carrick performance full of character against a very strong Enniskillen side and keeps the destiny of the League title in Carrick hands. On 2nd April Carrick travel to Coleraine for the crunch game although both teams still have to play their postponed away fixtures with Enniskillen. The result at Coleraine in a fortnight’s time will determine whether or not those Enniskillen games become irrelevant!

The Carrick team against Enniskillen was:-
A. McKinney; P. Simpson, R. Bailey, R. Hamilton, K. Jordan; L. Whittal, M. Black(C. Rodgers); A. Gibney, N. Hanna (D. McKeen), J. McIlwaine, A. Kinkaid, K. McNeil, A. McKeen, N. Marsden, R. McGonigle (Capt).

2nd XV v Ballymena 3s (a)
The 2nd XV beat Ballymena 3s 24pts to 29 . Match report to follow.

4th XV v Larne 3s (a)
Reapers traveled the short distance to the Glynn to take on Larne 3s. Credit to Larne for a decent pitch, with a dry day perfect for rugby the Reapers team were ready for battle. It wasn’t long before the Carrick pack dominated play, the introduction of super centre Daz Smith at 13 and Marty McGonagle at 12 with Porter & Daryl hungry to come on from the bench the scores came.

Bree was causing Larne a world of pain with run after run, a Carrick pack razor sharp around the pitch, super hits from Chris Taylor, Penny, Ed Montgomery, Nick, Adam, Arthur, Billy & Adrian Newell split open the Larne defence.

It wasn’t long until Jamesy Hagan was added to the mix from the bench, try after try came with the bold but brilliant Luke Totten adding a perfectly placed drop goal to his huge tally of Reapers points.

Larne didn’t lie down and fought back but Carrick were to strong. Bree scored his third and picked up man of match for the third time this season. 

Tries also came from Marty, Ed, Daryl, Porter & Billy. Conversions from Luke. Final score 57-5. Second place in league and four games to play.

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