Carrick rugby were desperately unlucky to lose 30-27 to Garnock at Kilbirnie on Saturday in a top-of-the- table clash.
The match at Lochshore was a match which produced, at times, a quality of rugby which could have been displayed at much higher level.
It was a match which produced seven tries but it was a match that Carrick lost and in competitive sport nobody remembers who came second.
Carrick kicked off down the slope with a strong breeze behind them and was soon in the Garnock 22 and when the home side’s three-quarters were caught offside at a lineout Kyle Johnson converted the simplest of penalties.
With the wind advantage most of the early play was in the Garnock half but poor finishing and poor discipline by the visitors kept the pressure off the home side.
In the 13th minute of the match Garnock showed their strength when they captured a Carrick throw in at a lineout and attacked across the field, an attack which was stopped five metres from the Carrick line but with a lineout to Garnock.
From the lineout Garnock drove over for a forward’s score. Walker added the extra points.
Six minutes later the home side went seven points clear when Carrick was penalised on the halfway line but indiscipline produced a one ten metre then a second ten metre advance to the penalty. Walker converted.
On the half-hour mark Carrick levelled the score.
A missed pass to Ross Knight set free right winger Russ McCulloch who outstripped the Garnock defence to score a converted try near the posts.
Referee Logan eventually had enough of Carrick’s persistent infringement and the unfortunate Garey Thompson paid with a yellow card.
Starting the second half one man down the visitors immediately paid the penalty. From a scrummage on the half way line Garnock’s No 8 picked up, crossed the gain line, drew the visitor’s midfield defence, and when the ball was recycled from the ruck Walker shot through the gap left and ran the 40 metres to score a converted try. Even reduced to 14 men Carrick still had chances but the wind made it difficult for Johnson to reduce the deficit with a couple of missed penalty opportunities.
Walker did not miss his opportunity when Raby was penalised, in the 50th minute for side entry at a ruck and moved the score on to 20 to 10.
Five minutes later Carrick’s promotion hopes, this early in the season, nose dived. The visitors won a line-out ball within the Garnock 22.
They tried to maul it and drive it forward but the home side emerged with the ball and Walker sent off on a long run which was stopped in the Carrick 22 but Garnock recycled and back row forward, Reid, crashed over near the corner. Walker again converted. With under a half hour of the game to go Coach Brown freshened his side with immediate effect and the forwards driving play caused the Garnock’s defence so many problems that they lost their discipline and with 15 minutes left they lost their full back for persistent infringement.
From the quickly taking penalty the ball was transferred to Connor Wyllie who scored an unconverted try in the left corner. Moving into the last 10 minutes of normal time the Carrick forwards had taken control of the game and were pounding the Garnock line.
Again, persistent killing of the ball earned Garnock’ Walker a yellow card. Again from the quickly taken penalty and a series of rucks Carrick’s No 8 drove over close to the posts for Johnson to convert.
Now only five points behind and Garnock back to fourteen men the reduced defence of the home side was again exposed and when the ball was transferred to right winger McCulloch who scored near the corner to level the score at 27 apiece.
In added time with Garnock restored to a full complement the home side regrouped and pressed into the Carrick twenty two.
The visitors had a chance to clear downfield but managed only to clear to the twenty two line and from the ensuing lineout ruck Referee Logan adjudge that a Carrick forward was offside.
From way out on the touchline Walker showed great coolness and bisected the uprights to bring an enthralling game to an end with a 30 points to 27 win for Garnock.
Carrick came away with two points, one for scoring four tries and one for finishing within seven points of the winners, a feat that seemed unlikely 15 minutes earlier when they were 17 points adrift.
Carrick now drop to third in the league, one point behind Oban and one point above Cambuslang, who are the visitors this Saturday coming.
It is a club who have also aspirations for promotion, so Saturday’s encounter is a massive game for both clubs.
l The second XV travelled to Castle Douglas last Saturday and continued their winning streak, beating Stewartry 22 points to 15.