Carrick completed the double over local rivals Larne on Saturday (December 29) with a 21-7 victory at Tom Simms Memorial Park.
After a first half which the visitors shaded, and an uneasy start to the second half, Carrick gradually took control.
The foundations of the Carrick success were laid by the pack which eventually emerged on top in the scrum, were solid in the line-out, and worked hard in the loose; and none harder than flankers Neil Hanna and Mark Patterson. Ryan McGonigle was impressive as a ball carrier, as were Andy Kincaid, Robbie Williams and Glen Baxter.
Behind the pack, scrum-half Ken Topping kicked well out of hand and kept the Larne back row on their toes with his sniping runs. With some excellent line kicking, Karl Wilkinson ensured that Carrick took advantage of the breeze in the second half to play the game in the right parts of the field. Captain Aaron Mckinney put in some incisive runs from full-back and, as the game progressed, the three-quarters began to make inroads into the Larne defence.
Such was Carrick’s control in the last 30 minutes or so, minor mistakes scarcely mattered and they picked up one well-worked try and one opportunist score to win by a comfortable margin.
The home side began well and took the lead after five minutes with a Karl Wilkinson penalty, awarded for an infringement on the ground after a Larne clearance kick had been charged down.
From this point on though, Larne began to take advantage of the moderate breeze in their favour and, with the better kick-and-chase game, kept Carrick in their own half for much of the time. They deservedly took the lead after 16 minutes when their full-back won the race to touch down after a clever grubber-kick past the advancing Carrick defence. The try was converted from the touch-line to give the visitors a 7-3 lead which they held onto comfortably up to half-time.
However, despite a Carrick player being yellow-carded for interfering with the taking of a tap-penalty, and getting into good field position on a number of occasions, Larne could not add to their score in the run-up to the interval.
Carrick brought themselves to within a point of Larne in the third minute of the second half with another Wilkinson penalty. This followed a period of pressure on the Larne line with the initial thrust coming from Karl Love, who ran an excellent line to take the ball into the visitors’ 22. From this point on, Carrick began to dominate territory and possession, with their ball carrying forwards begining to cause problems for the Larne defence.
Twelve minutes into the half, the home side re-gained the lead with a try by centre Johnny Sheriff. A well-directed kick by Wilkinson produced a poor clearance effort by Larne and the ball was taken up to the visitors’ 22 by Aaron Mckinney, re-cycled and moved right, where Larne were short of defenders, and Sheriff was able to step inside and score under the posts. Wilkinson added the conversion points.
After this, the efforts of the Carrick forwards and the line-kicking of their half-backs consigned Larne to defending in their own half and, at best, attempting to mount attacks from in and around their own 22.
Despite their dominance, Carrick found it hard to add to their score, letting a number of chances go begging. Towards the end of normal time, another Wilkison penalty put put Carrick more than one score clear and then, well into injury-time, Adie Moore picked up a loose ball from a failed Larne effort to run out of their own 22 and stepped two defenders to score. The try was not converted but the final scoreline was perhaps a fair reflection of Carrick’s second-half dominance.
The win - Carrick’s first since October - puts some day-light between them and the relegation zone but they will need to continue to produce similar performances to take themselves to the safety of mid-table. This week, Carrick travel to Dungannon in the first round of the Towns’ Cup.
Carrick: A. McKinney (c); A. Moore, J. Sheriff, J. Wady, K. Love; K. Wilkinson, K. Topping; A. Gibney, G. Baxter, R. Williams, A. Kincaid, C. Rea, M. Patterson, N. Hanna, R. McGonigle.
Fixtures (Saturday, January 5): 1st XV vs Dungannon II, Towns’ Cup, away; 2nd XV vs CIYMS II, away; 4th XV vs Donegal II, McCambley Cup, away.