The visitors to London Road on Saturday travelled all the way from Maybole to play Wigtownshire.
Carrick are the closest club, geographically, to ’Shire in the league so there was a real derby match feeling before the game.
Given this fact, it was a great surprise to both the home side and Carrick that one of the visiting players travelled to Wigtown for the game. Thankfully it did not impact on the start time of the game.
The two sides had met earlier this year in a pre-season warm-up match when Carrick ran out convincing winners. Wigtownshire were hoping to make amends for that, but Carrick, who started poorly in the league, have recently put together some good results.
They are definitely on the up, fielding two senior sides every week, and a full range of youth age groups sides.
The ’Shire boys, however, do not lack confidence either.
As the expectant supporters gathered on a very cold afternoon, they were sure it would be a well-contested match.
’Shire kicked off and the ball was knocked on by Carrick as they attempted to field it. The first scrum showed both sides had combative packs but winning the ball, ’Shire released their backs, only to be halted short of the line.
Awarded a penalty, the home side kicked to touch. They won the lineout but were pushed into touch.
With three minutes gone, the referee awarded them another penalty, for defenders being offside. The kick at goal was elected on this occasion but it drifted wide.
The home side maintained the pressure from the restart but eventually the visitors secured good possession and battled their way out of their half.
It was now their chance to have a kick at goal, having been awarded a penalty for offside 45 metres out.
The kick went wide but made the home side aware of the confidence of the Carrick kicker.
Carrick broke the deadlock from a very good drive at the scrum, taking the ball against the head by pushing the home team back at alarming rate. They capitalised on this, playing the ball through a number of phases in the forwards before releasing their backs.
They passed the ball along the three-quarter line to put their winger in for a fine try in the corner, to which their kicker added the extra points.
Substitutions were made in the ’Shire scrum and, from the kickoff, they were back on the attack.
However, the visitors were given the ball after a binding infringement and the sides exchanged kicks before the Carrick fullback decided to run at the home defence. He met the not inconsiderable combined force of David Watson and Duncan Maccaig, who brought his progress to a halt. The referee felt, however, that Maccaig’s contribution was not within the laws and awarded him 10 minutes in the sin bin. Down to 14 men, ’Shire held out until half-time.
The game restarted with ’Shire still a man down and further replacements used due to injury. Carrick went on the offensive, with their fullback enjoying some good possession and displaying mazy running. However, ’Shire managed to repel these advances until restored to full strength, when they were able to gain possession and move to within 10 metres of the try line. Carrick, however, turned the ball over and cleared to within 10 metres of the ’Shire line.
They capitalised by turning over a Wigtownshire lineout and bursting through the defence for a second, unconverted, try.
From the restart ’Shire recovered possession and drove up the pitch. They were awarded a lineout from which they mauled to just short of the line. The ball was recycled and came back to captain Andy Farquhar who drove low and hard across the line for a try, though the conversion attempt by Callum Austin fell short.
Carrick again were thwarted by ’Shire counter-rucking, but poor clearance kicks, which had plagued the home side all day, allowed the visitors back into the game. Clean lineout ball was passed along the line for a score on the wing. The conversion fell short. Wigtownshire came back with purpose only to be frustrated at the breakdown by Carrick handling on the ground. Carrick were working well as a unit and only resolute defence prevented them from adding to their tally.
This was a hard-fought, well-contested match. Carrick have a well-drilled pack used to getting their own way. ’Shire presented them with the hardest challenge they have had so far in the league. This was little consolation for ’Shire as another home game slipped away. The Carrick backs were good runners but benefited from some ineffective attempts at tackling.