Although disappointed at not gaining promotion from West 1 this season, Carrick Rugby’s superb run to the final of the BT Shield has more than compensated.
Reaching the final at Murrayfield for the first time is undoubtedly the greatest achievement in the Club’s history and eleven busloads of supporters made the journey from Maybole to Murrayfield in eager anticipation of going one better and achieving a historic victory in the final against a strong Highland side. The award for the furthest travelled Carrick supporter must go to former player Alex Lucas who made the journey from his home in Australia to be at the Final.
The Club has taken huge strides forward over the last few seasons and the fact that 12 out of the starting fifteen for the BT Shield Final are former pupils of Carrick Academy is testament to the strong links between the Senior Club and the Carrick Academy School of Rugby.
Highland kicked off in glorious sunshine and right from the off their intent was clear as they used their powerful pack to drive into Carrick’s 22. As it proved to be throughout the whole of the game, however, Carrick’s defence was superb, with hardly a tackle being missed throughout the whole game. When the Carrick backs got the opportunity to attack they took full advantage, attacking with speed and accuracy and making huge inroads into the Highland defence.
Highland opened the scoring after 12 minutes when a period of forward pressure provided the opening for their scrum half to score. The try was converted to make the score 7-0 to Highland. In the 17th minute Carrick responded with a superb score, full back Allan Speirs creating the space to send Lewis Clark in for his first try. Highland scored their second try in the 36th minute again after a lengthy spell of pressure close to the Carrick line, to make the score Carrick 5 Highland 12. Gordon Brown and Michael Paton came on just before half time in the front and second rows respectively and Carrick then enjoyed a spell of pressure in the Highland 22 but there was no more scoring in the first half.
The second half opened in spectacular fashion for Carrick with Ewan Alexander making the break to send Lewis Clark on a scorching run to the line. Although he was held up, Gordon Brown was on hand to crash over the line and reduce the deficit to 12-10.
There then followed a real purple patch for Carrick with a period of sustained pressure which resulted in a try for Kyle Johnson after good work by Ewan Alexander and Gordon Brown. Kyle Johnson added the conversion to give Carrick the lead at 17-12. With the Carrick supporters now in full voice, Kyle Johnson sent a great kick into the Highland 22 and John Fulton’s tigerish chase forced the Highland full back to carry the ball over the line resulting in a Carrick scrum. After a spell of pressure close to the line with the forwards coming close on a number of occasions, the ball moved out through the backs with captain Greg Montgomery delivering the final pass to send Gordon Gregor in under the posts. Kyle Johnson added the conversion to make the score 24-12 and create a bit of breathing space in a pulsating game. Highland came storming back in the 64 minute with a converted try to reduce the deficit to 5 points so it was a great relief all round when Kyle Johnson knocked over a penalty in the 67th minute. Highland then made inroads into the Carrick half and were awarded a penalty which they converted to reduce the deficit to 5 points with less than 10 minutes remaining, thus setting up a nail biting finish. Highland mounted an attack well inside the Carrick half but as they moved the ball through the hands Lewis Clark intercepted the final pass and sprinted the length of the park to score his second try. Man of the Match Kyle Johnson added the conversion to make the score 34-22. In the final minutes the game moved from end to end with first Carrick coming close through John Fulton and then Highland going all the way up to the other end to eventually score a try in the final action of the game, making the final score Carrick 34 Highland 27.