Carrick made heavy weather of defeating bottom-of-the table Grosvenor 23-17 at home on Saturday.
The win keeps them top of Qualifying 2 and three points clear of Coleraine who also won, but did not pick up a bonus point.
The game against Grosvenor was played in probably the best weather conditions for rugby since late autumn, with a dryish pitch and only the bitter cold a problem when it came to handling. Carrick didn’t play that badly, but were perhaps taken by surprise by a Grosvenor side who had clearly come to play and not just make up the numbers.
After a scrappy opening five minutes, the hosts took the lead when, for the second week in a row, Aaron McKinney won the race to touch down when a well-placed kick up to the line was not gathered by the defending side. On this occasion, it was Luke Whitall who put in the kick and the out-half added the conversion points for a 7-0 lead.
After a missed penalty attempt Grosvenor hit back with a try with one of their forwards breaking a couple of Carrick tackles to touch down near the posts. The conversion would have levelled the scores but Conor Cambridge charged down the kick.
Carrick then began to exert some pressure of their own and McKinney found Reece Hamilton who set up Whitall to take the scoring pass. The out-half added the conversion points, making it 14-5.
Whitall added another three points with a straightforward a penalty in front of the posts but it was the visitors who scored next landing an uncoverted try from a well-executed lineout routine.
In the second half Whitall kicked another penalty to make it 20-10 lead but it was Grosvenor who got the next score as the game entered the final quarter when their blindside flanker ran back a kick from his own 22 through some poor Carrick tackling to score near the posts. The try was converted to take the visitors to within three points.
Another Whitall penalty, with four minutes remaining gave Carrick a safety net and the ran out winners.
It was far from one of Carrick’s best performances of the season but credit must be given to their opponents who defended well and took their chances. Carrick need to show more patience when they have control of the ball - particularly if their opponents have a propensity to infringe at ruck and maul - and show more discretion in going wide.
They still have four games to go and to secure the League title will probably have to win all of them; they will certainly need to be better than they were on Saturday to beat Coleraine and Enniskillen (twice). This Saturday they travel to face Randalstown who gave them a tough game in December and will be looking for an improved performance.
Carrick: M. Black; P. Simpson, R. Hamilton, A. McKinney, B. Alexander; L. Whittal, C. Cambridge; A. Gibney, N. Hanna, J. McIlwaine (R. Williams), A. Kinkaid, C. Rodgers (M. Gordon), A. McKeen, N. Marsden, R. McGonigle (Capt)