Carrickfergus RFC got their 150th anniversary year off to a great start with a 14-11 extra-time victory over Qualifying 1 side Ballyclare.
The large crowd was treated to a hard-fought match which was deceided the fifth minute of injury-time when Luke Whittall’s late penalty proved decisive.
Carrick took the lead after 13 minutes when Johnny Cullen’s superb break and chip was gathered by Aaron McKinney who touched down for an unconverted score in the corner.
Gareth Byers opened the visitors account from a penalty straight in front of the posts and this heralded a period of ‘Clare pressure during which they nosed ahead. Inter-passing between full-back Stephen Bailie and winger James Greer took play deep into the 22, where Dave Clarke crashed over in the corner for an uncoverted score, leaving Ballyclare 8-5 up at the break.
Defences were on top in the second half but a high tackle by a Ballyclare defender gave Whittall the chance to slot over another penalty to level matters. Eight minutes from time he put his side 11-8 ahead with a second.
However, virtually from the kick-off, the home side conceded a penalty 30 metres out and Byers’ kick took the tie into 20 minutes of extra-time.
Half-time in extra-time was reached without either side adding to their points total.
The visitors, who shared the 2013 Towns’ Cup title with City of Derry II, again had chances in the early stages of the second period but Carrick’s defensive work was excellent.
Deep into injury-time, the home side were awarded a penalty and Whittall was cool under pressure, firing the ball between the sticks.
Carrick: A. McKinney (K. Jordan); R. Crymble, J. Cullen (C), 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.
Ballyclare: S. Bailie; J. Greer, D. Crawford, D. Clarke, T. Wilson; G. Byers, C. Morrow; D. Lawther, R. Montgomery, A. Boyd, C. McCartney, R. Boyd (C), J. McKinstry, G. Weatherup, D. Chambers. Replacements: J. Brownlee, W. Logan.