In what seems a very long time ago, the Carrick Coaching team of Brown, McHarg, Glen and Bennett started putting their players through the hard work of pre-season training.
Starting in late June and through to August, the players have shown great commitment to what the coaches have asked of them and this has carried on into four wins during the pre-season programme.
Victories against Whitecraigs (19-5) and Ardrossan (43-31), who both play in National League 2, two divisions above the ‘Rick’, certainly boosted confidence.
These wins were backed up with two wins on the road against Gordonians in Aberdeen (26-8) and against Linlithgow (33-5).
The return of some of Mr Brown’s Boys in the shape of Michael Kirk, Blair Jardine and Michael Paton certainly was pleasing for everyone at Carrick but also joining the squad were Andrew Lang a talented back row forward who has been coached before by Brown, McHarg and Glen as well as Conor Duignan an Irish scrum half who has moved to the area.
To add to this, some of the young talent from the Academy has emerged in the shape of John Fulton and Jonny Webster so the squad has certainly developed from last season.
On Saturday, the Rick started their competitive season at home to local rivals Newton Stewart in the West Shield.
Carrick, while winning both matches last season against their opponents in the league, have always found the boys from the south a difficult challenge and this game proved no different.
With a good crowd filling the far side of the touchline the players and supporters observed a minute’s applause in memory of founding member Alan Murray. Alan was one of the stalwarts of the club and everyone connected with Carrick Rugby will miss his great wit and humour as well as his expertise and knowledge.
The match kicked off with the Carrick forwards establishing a foothold in the , gaining ample possession and territory; however, a combination of poor decision making and excellent defence kept the scoreline at 0-0.
With 20 minutes on the clock, the deadlock was broken after a series of forward drives and scrum half Duignan dived over for the opening try. The conversion was missed.
Rather than give the boys from Maybole confidence to add to their tally, Newton Stewart started to get themselves into the game and after a side entry at the breakdown from Carrick, the Red’s ten Muir slotted the penalty to take the HT score to 5-3.
In the second half, the Carrick forwards seemed to have the edge in the set piece with flankers Kirk and Lang putting in a number of big hits and from one of these hits Carrick found themselves in the Reds 22. A Yan Young throw at the lineout was well taken and from the catch and drive second row Speirs dived over for his team’s second try. The conversion was successful from Jardine.
Once again Newton Stewart came back and scored after series of forward rucks close to the breakdown. At this point, the Carrick support was looking nervous as Captain Raby received a yellow card for pulling the maul down.
However, the Carrick boys rolled their sleeves up and under the on field direction of Brown and Kirk saw out the next ten minutes with some excellent defence and impressive scrummaging against 15 men. When Captain Raby returned this gave the Blues the confidence to go for the win and after a clever set piece move winger McCulloch scored in the corner, once again Jardine converted to make it 19-8.
Newton Stewart had the last word, though, when their second row scored late on to take the score to 19-13. While the Reds pressed for a late try the Carrick defence was excellent. When Referee McLean blew for full time, it was a relieved but content coaching team that left the field.
The Pickles Agriculture man of the match was Michael Kirk.
This was a difficult match and without doubt Newton Stewart will be a real threat to all sides in West 1. However, cup rugby is about one thing and that’s getting your name into the draw for the next round and that was achieved.
Carrick will host Helensburgh at home this Saturday in the next round of the shield. Kick off is 3 pm.
In what was scheduled to be the 2nd XV’s first league game on Saturday, GHA called off at the last minute which meant no time was available to find another fixture, so the boys will travel to GHK this weekend for their first competitive match.
It has also been a busy time behind the scenes at Carrick Rugby. This season they will be fielding five Academy sides every Saturday morning as well as P6 and P7 sides against all the local state and independent schools. The P1 to P5 teams have started training on a Thursday night between 5 pm and 6 pm. The development team will be headed by new Development Officer Michael Kirk and comprises of Kyle Johnson (Admin Manager), Yan Young (Assistant DO), Shania Irvine and Nicolas Davidson (Modern Apprentices).
The team will deliver rugby to all the local primary schools in the Carrick and Girvan Clusters as well as delivering the School of Rugby programme and specialised skills and strength and conditioning programmes at the Academy.
The rugby building has also seen a huge refurbishment with the help of a community project link with CE Caledonia. This has seen the building painted inside and out, new changing rooms for boys and girls and the office has also been expanded. This will help support the development of Carrick this season and in future years and they would like to thank CE Caledonia for their support and hard work on this project.