1st XV v Ballymoney
Carrick 1st XV maintained their unbeaten League record, and their position at the top of Section 2 of the Kukri Qualifying League, with a 24 points to 10 win away at Ballymoney. While the Ballymoney pitch probably offered the best surface the Maxol-Sponsored Carrick side has played on since late Autumn, the strong cross-wind and bitterly cold conditions made any sort of fluid rugby difficult and contributed to a lot of stoppages for injuries. This was the proverbial game of two halves, with Ballymoney dominating territory and possession in the first and going in at half-time leading by 10 points to 7, and Carrick taking control for most of the second period. In the windy conditions, the Carrick line-out mis-fired from time to time but their scrum was dominant and, in the end, they got the better of matters at the break-down. Once again, when under pressure, their defence coped extremely well. For Carrick, Conor Cambridge again had a very good game at scrum-half both in general play and with the boot, one superb clearing kick leading to Carrick’s third try. Luke Whittal also kicked well out of hand and finished with a 100% record off the kicking tee, with three conversions and a penalty. Both wingers, Peter Simpson and Brian Alexander, put in a lot of solid defensive work and Alexander took his try very well. Up front, Ross Marsden was prominent until he had to go off with an injury at half-time and Andy, Kinkaid, after a quiet first half, was one of Carrick’s best ball-carriers in the second. Once again, Ryan McGonigle got through a power of work both as a carrier and in defence while props Adam Gibney, Johnny McIlwaine and Robbie Williams put in some thumping tackles as well as carrying out their primary scrummaging duties with great efficiency.
The first quarter of the game was dominated by the home side who confined Carrick to their own half for much of the time and forced them to do a lot of defending. Indeed, it was not until the tenth minute that Carrick made their first visit to the Ballymoney half but they spoiled that by losing line-out ball after they had put a penalty kick into touch inside the home side’s 22. They were fortunate not to go behind when Ballymoney failed to convert a penalty after fifteen minutes but then, on their first sustained visit to the Ballymoney half at the end of the first quarter, Carrick, against the run of play, took the lead with a pushover try. This followed a line break by Aaron McKinney off a well timed pass by Luke Whittal which made thirty metres into Ballymoney territory after which the home side were forced to scramble the ball into touch; Carrick then won line-out possession followed by a scrum and penalty from which they opted for another scrum and marched the Ballymoney eight back over the line for Ryan McGonigle to touch down. Luke Whittal added the conversion points from a difficult angle. From the kick-off, Ballymoney re-asserted their territorial control and with thirty-two minutes gone, reduced the deficit with a penalty kick from just inside the Carrick half. They continued to dominate territory for much of the remainder of the half and took the lead in the fifth minute of injury time when their outside centre chipped over the Carrick defence and won the race to the touch-down. The try was converted with an excellent kick from wide out on the right and the home side deservedly led by 10 points to 7 at the break.
Carrick lost no time in squaring things up after the break, winning a penalty in front of the posts when Conor Cambridge was the victim of a high tackle with Luke Whittal putting over the kick to level the scores at 10 points apiece. Just as their opponents had in the first half, Carrick, with the cross-wind helping and now playing “down the slope”, took control of territory but also had great difficulty in keeping control of possession for any length of time and in breaking down the opposing defence. The breakthrough finally came after twenty-five minutes of the half when Carrick shoved Ballymoney off the ball at a scrum, went through a series of picks and drives before moving the ball wide and Brian Alexander beat a couple of defenders to get over in the corner. Luke Whittal added the conversion points, again from a difficult angle, to give the visitors a 17 points to 10 lead. Virtually from the kick-off, Conor Cambridge put in a great clearing kick from inside his own 22 which rolled into touch inside the Ballymoney 22. The home side’s throw missed its intended target and fell straight into the arms of Andy Kinkaid and the big second row charged over from twenty metres out. Luke Whittal again converted to give Carrick a much more comfortable lead of 24 points to 10. To their credit, the home side came back at Carrick and began to enjoy some time in their opponents’ half but the visitors’ defence held up well. Even when Ballymoney had a line -out five metres out following a penalty kick to touch, they couldn’t get the throw straight and Carrick won a penalty at the ensuing scrum. The game finished with a Carrick attack from turn-over ball but, not for the first time during the bitterly cold afternoon, the attacking side lost control of the ball with a handling error and the referee blew for full-time.
This was not one of Carrick’s most inspiring performances but it was a win in weather conditions which made handling rugby difficult. They clearly won the kicking duel as well as making good use of their dominant scrum to ensure that Ballymoney did not profit from Carrick’s handling errors. Next week, Carrick play host to Academy at Tom Simms Memorial Park and, with Coleraine having narrowed the gap to three points at the top of the League table with a bonus point win against Grosvenor, they will be looking for repeat of their bonus point win when the sides met at Roughfort back in October.
The Carrick team against Ballymoney was:-
M. Black; P. Simpson, R. Bailey, A. McKinney, B. Alexander; L. Whittal, C. Cambridge; A. Gibney, R. Higgins, J. McIlwaine (R. Williams), A. Kinkaid, C. Rodgers, A. McKeen, R. Marsden (Capt) (N. Marsden), R. McGonigle.
2nd XV v Dromore 2s
On Saturday Carrickfergus 2’s entertained Dromore 2’s, the only side to have defeated them in their league campaign this season. That 48 point reverse back in September against a “very strong” Dromore 2’s side whose 1st XV weren’t playing that day, has been spoiling in the background ever since and was motivation for Carrick to serve retribution on their opponents, in bucket loads if possible.
The day started in ominous fashion for Carrick, inebriated skipper Gareth “Baby Coug” McKeown lost the toss which allowed Dromore to avail of the strong wind and keep the blinding low sun at their backs, factors that could make life very difficult and frustrating for a pumped up Carrick outfit. Gladly, that was as good as it got for Dromore, Carrick’s performance of the season put their visitors to the sword, an awesome display of hard committed rugby saw them embrace the cold and wet conditions and take Dromore apart from the first minute to the last.
Playing into the wind in the first half, outside half David “the quiet man” Carse decided to keep the kick off low…….low, scuffed, miskicked, dreadful there are many adjectives to describe what was a truly brutal kick! Dromore failed to clear their lines from that and a handling error allowed Carrick to attack from a scrum in the opposition half, that gave them an opportunity to show their intent. Strong carries from Nathan “King Tit” Greenwood (so named because he is the king of the dummies), Keith “Braveheart” McNeil and Joel “juicehead” Bell saw them progress into the Dromore 22 and threaten their line. From a ruck 5 metres out “juicehead” (playing his first sober match for the 2’s) got up a head of steam and bulldozed over the whitewash just right of the posts taking 3 opposition players with him. “Wee Sam” added the extras. From the restart Carrick again progressed up field through superb support play and continuity between forwards and backs, the extremely difficult underfoot conditions not deterring them from their task in hand. When Jake “Big Chopper” Porter made a break in the centre and fed Marcus “Boom Boom” Brush down the left, the forwards were quick on the scene to secure superb front foot ball 5 metres out from the Dromore line, Kenny “the wee general” Topping took the opportunity from there to dummy and snipe around the fringe to go in for Carrick’s second try into the wind. “Wee Sam” did the needful.
Again from the restart Carrick carried strongly into the opposition half, “juicehead”, Reece “the pocket rocket” Hamilton and Jack “the terrier” Millar made gains as did “wee Sam” who was having a “run over them rather than around them” day. Jonny “look at me I’m a rugby league international” Mooney was a prominent ball carrier in this period and broke through many tacklers with his abrasive running style. Continuity and support were becoming the themes of the day, forwards and backs were operating in unison, phase after phase was hurting the Dromore defence, when Carrick made yet another foray into the Dromore 22’ the “wee general” fed “King Tit” who sniffs out opportunities to score tries like a sniffer dog on Vicks, he broke 2 tackles to score 10m out to the right. This time “wee Sam” pulled the conversion attempt left. The next try was a collector’s item, “the terrier” manufactured the turnover of the day and set Carrick off again on the front foot. With the Dromore boys already praying for the final whistle (after 30 minutes!) David “big John Eales” Ferris made his claim to become “big David Campese” when he received the ball outside the Dromore 22’, shimmied, dummied, dropped the shoulder, swayed the hips, turned on the after burners and made it past 6 Dromore defenders before (looking embarrassed for the defenders) setting the ball down under the posts…..’awesome’ is the only word to describe it, fitting that this would be the try to seal the bonus point on the day. Wee Sam added the conversion.
The final score of the first half seen “big chopper” on the end of some slick backline handling which put “wee Sam” in the clear, when he again decided to run into, rather than around defenders and got stopped he offloaded to “the quiet man” who progressed matters before setting “big chopper” free to finish the move off. Wee Sam just missed with the kick. Half Time (into the wind): Carrick 31 Dromore 0
Special mention must go to the skipper “BC” (standing for blocked c**t) who remarkably on the day threw straight into the lineout, made his hits and didn’t get caught by the referee either sledging or messing about at rucks and mauls because he was “pished as a fart”.
The second half was to be more of the same, “the quiet man” and the “wee general” ensured from the off that Carrick played the game in the right parts of the pitch. Dromore did their best to escape but relieving kicks only found Carrick ball carriers ready to attack their defensive line with pace, vigour and enterprise. No ball carrier did that more so than “Big David Campese”, when a clearing kick found him wide on the left on his own 10m line he set off …… Dromore afforded him space “it’s only a second row” said one defender, “he can’t be that quick” said another but with cries of “go the white Kenyan” coming from the huge crowds he outpaced the entire Dromore backline and nonchalantly touched down under the posts. Knackered, he then took a well-earned rest (lacking the white blood cells of the real Kenyans!!)“wee Sam added the extras.
On 50 minutes, following a Dromore misdemeanour at a ruck, “wee Sam” pushed Carrick just inside the Dromore 22’ from a penalty, “look at me I’m a rugby league international” found Marc “look at me my first name looks French” Gordon and the pack set off on a trundle up the park. With precision timing the “wee general” set off on a mazy run, in, out and under tackles he went, he then fed the “quiet man” who bust a few moves himself before passing back to the “wee general”, one more defender to beat…..job done, a superb combined effort from the 2 halfbacks, try number 7 scored under the sticks, and yes “wee Sam” added the extras. Next on the scoresheet was “King Tit” with his second, a wonderful barraging run from inside the Dromore 22, shrugging off defenders and showing immense strength to stay on his feet and keep forward momentum, just making it over the line in the corner. “Wee Sam” missed wide right. “Boom Boom” was next to cross the line, on a rare occasion when “big chopper” passed the ball – just ask “pocket rocket” about that…. “Boom Boom” cut an awesome line past 2 straggling defenders to touch down just left of the posts. “Wee Sam” converted.
On the day, with a ball caked in mud the Carrick handling, support and continuity was superb, the next try was testament to that, forwards and back were making big carries and being backed up by their team mates, one such run saw “big chopper” who in his own words is renowned for his speed break through two tackles to set himself free down the middle…a foregone conclusion we all thought, let’s see what the big man has been keeping in the locker until now…….. well, what a load of sh**e, blaming the heavy pitch he was caught by a jogging Dromore prop however did manage to offload to another jogging front row – Clarke “I’ve still got it” Blair. He kept the move going with silky handling showing off the panache and flair that has always been the hallmark of his game!! The ball went through 2 more phases involving forwards and backs with Chris “can anyone really be that nice?” Taylor making strong carries and Kyle “the whippet” Jordan as ever threatening to break loose and score, when the ball ultimately got moved out to “the quiet man” he spotted a gap in the Dromore defence to scythe through and cap a fine personal performance with a well taken try. “Wee Sam did it again” 8 out of 10.
I can’t remember the last try… it came after Kris “the baby faced assassin” Berry had made a great break and passed the ball to “Big David Campese” at this stage playing on the wing who in order to make sure he didn’t have to buy a jug had stayed 2 metres in front of the ball carrier to make sure that any pass would be called by the ref! …… all I know is that “King Tit” scored it for his hat-trick but had no money to buy a jug. “Wee Sam” converted it to move level on points with Gareth “the terminator” Higgins as the top points scorer in the club on 105 points for the season. Final score Carrick 73 Dromore 0 – Retribution is served!! Next up a massive game away to Clogher Valley who defeated league favourites Ballynahinch at Ballynahinch on Saturday.
It has to be said that while the majority (all) of this report has been about the try scoring / attacking side of Carrick’s game, when Dromore did get the ball in hand they were met with a solid red and black wall of defence. Jack “the terrier” Millar was again outstanding as was “Braveheart”, “the baby faced assassin” and “can anyone really be that nice?”. That’s not forgetting “Boom Boom” turning angry and morphing into “Bosh Bosh” when the red mist descended in the second half, his opposite number felt his full wrath and got unceremoniously dumped when he had the cheek to try and take him on around the outside. “Juicehead” on the day was fantastic in both defence and attack, his man of the match performance made all the more special as he had picked up a hamstring injury in the warm up….yes props do have hamstrings!!
Carrick Team: Sam Wallace 7, Marcus Brush 8, Reece Hamilton 7, Jake Porter 8, Kyle Jordan 7, David Carse 8, Kenny Topping 8, Nathan Greenwood 8, Jack Millar 8, Kris Berry 8, Marc Gordon 8, Keith McNeil 8, Joel Bell 9, Gareth McKeown 5 (drunk), Clarke Blair 7, David Ferris 8, Jonny Mooney 7, Chris Taylor 7.
4th XV v Holywood 2s
In a freezing cold day the on fire Carrickfergus Reapers took on Holywood 2s in a double header league game with four points up for grabs to the successful team. With Luke Totten as stand in Reapers captain the whistle blew and Carrick had seven points on the board within 4 minutes played. For a third week the dominant Reapers pack took early control with Skinny, Penny, Jamesy and Bree to name a few forcing through. With the Reapers discipline in question, to many infringements and numerous penalties against the flow of play a frustrated team held the lead to half-time. The half-time chat was clear, slightly blue and the players listened, from the second half whistle the team played with discipline and purpose. Two tries from Rab Hawkins, Luke Totten, further tries from Bree, Ed and Jamesy Hagan, plus conversions’ from Luke the final score was 41-0. The funniest try was scored by Jamesy Hagan who teased the Holywood winger before charging over eventually!
Luke picked Andy Magill as man of match and know one would have challenged that decision based on the excellent performance put in by the young versatile player.
The Reapers team are considering booking Carrick’s own Dynamo magician for end of year dinner entertainment. On Saturday Dynamo laid on some pre match entertainment with two black bin liners, which caught the whole teams attention “causing quite a stir” and laugh! Anyone looking Hagan’s number just ask.