Carrick 27, Wigtownshire 26
Wigtownshire travelled to Maybole on Saturday knowing that they needed a positive result.
Their position in the league is somewhat precarious. The teams below them have many games in hand and the prospect of being overhauled and relegated is very real.
Thirteen of the players who had been involved in the previous week’s heavy defeat by Lenzie made the shortest trip in their away campaign. They were joined by three others but were still very short of the full squad they are allowed to field.
This has been an issue for ’Shire throughout the season. It was most certainly not the case for their opponents Carrick on the day. They had a full bench to call on during the game.
However, 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.
Wigtownshire kicked off and immediately went on the offensive, chasing the ball and effectively disrupting the home side’s fielding attempts. With the ball recovered by Gordon Keith, they made their intentions very clear.
It was passed out through the backs and released wing forward Jason “The Kraken” McKie, playing at outside centre. He crashed through the 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.
Poor discipline at the break down by ’Shire brought Carrick right to the five-metre line with the advantage of the throw at the lineout. A clean catch was taken and passed quickly along the line seeking to break the scrambling defence.
’Shire winger James Hunter, making his first appearance for several years, read the play well and intercepted the final pass and kicked down the field to clear the danger.
Carrick continued to press home their attack through driving play by their forwards and strong running by their backs. The visitors’ defence held, preventing Carrick from converting their possession and field position into points.
The penalty count against ’Shire was rising and referee Colin Lauder gave them fair warning about not addressing the problem.
With 12 minutes played the home side decided to take a kick at goal, but it slipped wide of the mark.
From the restart, Carrick continued to press. The ’Shire defence held until six minutes later when a controversial lineout awarded by referee 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.
Carrick kicked off the second period with clear intentions of taking the game to the ’Shire . But the visitors were having none of it. They battled up the park and Wigtownshire were putting pressure on the Carrick line. It was the home side who now were showing their defensive skills. Despite their best efforts they were having real difficulty containing the attacking play of ’Shire . All 14 players were involved, working for and supporting each other.
They were rewarded six minutes into the half. The ball was taken at a lineout and passed towards the centre of the pitch. With backs playing like forwards, the ball was rucked and recycled, play was switched back towards the touch line.
Very fast flat passes along the line came out to winger Hunter, who dived in to score a try in the corner, but the conversion went across the face of the goal.
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. They began to vary their play, kicking for field position and to keep Carrick away from their line. Farquhar chipped the ball over the players coming towards him. Corrie Hose and John Dalrymple sprinted up chasing the ball. Hose gathered the ball and passed to Dalrymple and the defenders regrouped. He laid it off to Farquhar and looped round to collect it from him as the tackle came in. Dalrymple sprinted forward, crossing the line to score. 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 was beginning to take its 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.
If they carry this forward into the remaining two matches they might be able to avoid the drop. A special mention needs to be made for the dozen or so ’Shire supporters who travelled to the game on Saturday.
Travelling support is rare for the team and was very much appreciated by the players. The result earned two bonus points in the league (a losing and try bonus), lifting them to eighth in table. These may be very important at the final reckoning.
The team will be in action again at London Road, Stranraer, on Saturday, March 16, when they face Lenzie again, for the penultimate match of the season.
’Shire : C Hose, J Hunter, J McKie, A Farquhar (captain), J Dalrymple, D Maccaig, C Austin; C McGregor, G Keith, B Graham, G Campbell, G Dunlop, C Stephens, C Reid, K McNeil. Replacement: A Graham.