Wigtownshire travelled to Maybole on Saturday knowing that they needed a positive result but it could not have been closer with only a point winning the match for Carrick in a 27-26 win for the Ayrshire side.
Carrick’s league form has dipped recently and was a good deal short of what it was when they beat ’Shire by 12 points at London Road earlier in the season.
Jason McKie crashed through the Carrick defence and over the line for a try with one minute on the clock. Callum Austin stepped up and added the conversion.
This stung the home side into action and they came back strongly.
A lineout was awarded on the visitors’ five-metre line, was cleanly caught by Carrick and mauled over the line for their first try. The conversion kick added the extra points to level the scores.
Wigtownshire responded well, taking the game to Carrick once more. Following a period of good scrummaging and ball retention by the ’Shire pack and fast hands by the backs, McKie broke the defensive line once more. He was hauled down short but popped the ball to captain Andy Farquhar, who completed the attack scoring a try. Austin made the conversion.
A short time later the referee eventually lost patience with the visitors continuing to handle on the ground. Keith McNeil was given a 10-minute break in the sinbin 25 minutes into the match. Carrick were awarded a penalty but felt they could take advantage of the absence of McNiel’s considerable presence, and elected to take a scrum. To their surprise the seven-man ’Shire pack pushed Carrick off the ball and indiscipline cost them a penalty. This allowed the visitors to clear the danger.
Wigtownshire battened down the hatches against the Carrick attack and the defence worked hard to keep them at bay. However, indiscipline cost them again. Carrick kicked a fine penalty to add to their score.
Soon after that, while being rucked off the ball, Campbell Reid kicked out and struck a Carrick player. Mr Lauder matched Reid’s red mist moment with a red card of his own. This reduced ’Shire to 13 men for the next three minutes and 14 for the remainder of the game.
Carrick sensed an opportunity to take the game back but the ’Shire boys were having none of it and great teamwork and every man making their tackles count kept the score at 10-14 until half time.
Wigtownshire scored an unconverted try and once more Carrick fought to get back into the game. It was a full 12 minutes before they were rewarded for their efforts.
They took a solid scrum ball and passed it along the back line, drawing the defence across the park.
They then worked back in the opposite direction to score a well worked try. The conversion attempt went wide.
Five minutes later ’Shire scored again. Austin added the conversion.
Carrick responded with a strong forwards drive, sucking in players and then released their backs.
They kept it simple and passed the ball out to the winger taking advantage of their extra man to add to the try count. The conversion kick was good and the point difference was reduced to four with 10 minutes still to play. As the clock ran down the exertions of the ’Shire team were beginning to take their toll and breaks for injuries increased.
Into injury time Carrick managed to score again. This time it was a full-blooded forwards drive that took them over the line for a try and into the lead for the first time in the match. The conversion was missed.
When play continued ’Shire were unable to pull back the deficit before Mr Lauder brought the game to close.
This was a tremendous performance by a spirited Wigtownshire side that rose to the challenge set for them.
They paid dear for their indiscipline, but showed spirit, determination and teamwork often missing in earlier games.
A special mention needs to be made for the dozen or so ’Shire supporters who travelled to the game on Saturday.