BT National Shield Final: Carrick make it a hat-trick as Harlequins run out of steam

Carrick will play national league rugby next season as a result of their success this year

Carrick's Kyle Johnson makes a break.
Carrick's Kyle Johnson makes a break. Image: © Craig Watson -

Carrick 39

Hawick Harlequins 19

ALAN LORIMER @ BT Murrayfield

CARRICK made it a hat-trick of wins in the BT Mens Shield competition after finishing worthy winners over Hawick Harlequins in the 2018 edition with a performance of fast, attacking rugby complemented by quick-engaging defence. 

The south Ayrshire team, which has been built on the back of a successful system of rugby coaching at the local academy that should be the blue print for all schools in the state sector, showed the value of the cohesion that has been grown over several seasons.

“The boys have all come through the school and there’s a real bond there. And the big thing is that the system is now sustainable,” suggested Carrick’s head coach, Gordon Brown. “They’ve worked very hard. The space out there suited us. We had pace in players like Lewis Clark – that’ s him scored seven tries in three finals.”

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Carrick certainly showed a sound team understanding in the way they built their attacks carefully. They had, too. a cutting edge in players like stand-off Kyle Johnson and inside centre Greg Montgomery, while in the forward pack the back-row provided real power.

For Hawick Harlequins, this was a disappointing end to what has otherwise been an excellent season for the Borderers. Blending youth and experience, or to be more accurate two generations, Quins used their street savviness to test the more youthful Carrick side. But errors proved costly as their captain Steve Mabon admitted.

“We made a couple of crucial mistakes and they capitalised on them. Carrick had a lot of ball early on and we thought we  had weathered the storm but they came right back us. They deserved their win,” he said.

“They were a bit more physical and they had more weight in the scrum. They had two pushover tries from scrums. We were dangerous when we moved the ball wide.”

Early Carrick pressure

Carrick’s energetic start to the game was almost rewarded after eight minutes but sadly for the South Ayrshire team Johnson’s 40 meter penalty attempt rebounded off the near upright.

Harlequins, however, having absorbed early pressure soon began to win the territorial battle and came close to scoring when veteran Gavin Douglas broke clear only for his potential try-scoring pass to be spilled.

At the other end, Carrick number eight Blair Jardine was held up over the line and seconds later the Hawick defence thwarted flanker Calum Smith in the same fashion.

But from their third close-range scrum Smith made no mistake to claim a pushover try converted by Johnson. Buoyed by this success, Carrick pressed the MAX button and only desperate, and, it has to be said, brave, defence kept the Ayrshire men out.

The mercurial Douglas offered Quins another opportunity as the former Greens midfielder again ghosted through a gap. The move set up a scrum for Quins from which they moved the ball through back-row Gary Rodgerson, before the second phase produced an unconverted try on the right for full-back Graeme Lothian.

Then, with half-time approaching, lively scrum-half Bruce Campbell took a quick tap penalty to create a try for Mabon. Adam Hall’s conversion gave Quins a 12-7 interval lead.

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Carrick on Catch-up

Quins’ lead was soon blitzed as Carrick turned early second half pressure into points, their breakthrough coming from powerful running by back-rows Smith and Jardine, which created a try for scrum-half Aiden Strachan, successfully converted by Johnson.

Carrick quickly extended their lead and this time it was the solo work of Lewis Clark that accounted for further points the left wing breaking free from a melee before backing himself in a sprint to the line.

Johnson missed with his conversion kick but the stand-off made amends with a 35 metre penalty goal to put his side two scores clear.

The swings in momentum continued and Quins grabbed the advantage with varied play that brought them within range of Carrick’s line before scrum-half Bruce Campbell applied the finishing touch, for a try under the posts converted by Hall.

But thoughts of Quins overtaking Carrick were delivered a killer blow when left wing Clark made a timely interception before running from inside his own half to deliver an under-the-posts try for the Ayrshire men. Johnson’s conversion giving Carrick a 29-19 lead.

The scoreboard gap became fifteen points after Carrick added a fifth try, a replica of their first half score when back-row Smith dotted down another pushover try.

Kyle shows guile

Quins tried tenaciously to fight back and were certainly helped by the sin-binning of Carrick’s replacement Ross McCulloch but with the minutes ticking away the Ayrshire men killed off the Borders’ challenge with another runaway try.

This time, stand-off Kyle Johnson did the damage with an interception and a well-judged pass to his supporting runner, replacement Blair Cooper, who had the pace to fly in for his side’s sixth try.

As full-time loomed, Quins were reduced to fourteen men with the departure to the sin-bin of replacement front-row Andrew Ford, but it mattered little to the Hawick men, who on the day could not match the triumphant Carrick side.

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Teams –

Carrick: C Wyllie; S Young, J Fulton, G Montgomery, L Clark; K Johnson, A Strachan; G Dick, J Connor, S Raby, D Andrew, A McColm, M Kirk, C Smith, B Jardine  Subs J Webster, C Davidson, J Limond, D Brown, S Bryden, B Cooper, R MCulloch.

Hawick Harlequins: G Lothian; A Hall, R Anderson, J Hyslop, S Bandeen; G Douglas, B Campbell; I Thomson, A Douglas, C Richardson, S Mabon, R Smith, G Rodgerson, R Nichol, R Kiore Subs D Fisher, A Ford, C Kyle, L Nichol, N Anderson, N Douglas, R Lothian.

Referee: J Perriman

Scorers –

Carrick: Tries  Smith 2, Clark 2, Strachan, Cooper; Cons Johnson 3; Pen: Johnson.

Hawick Harlequins: Tries: Campbell, Lothian, Mabon; Cons: Hall 2.

Scoring Sequence (Carrick first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-10; 7-12 (h-t) 12-12; 14-12; 19-12; 22-12; 22-17; 22-19; 27-19; 29-19; 34-19; 39-19

Yellow cards –

Carrick: McCulloch

Hawick Harlequins: Ford

Man-of-the-Match: A number of Carrick players put their hands up for this accolade including back-rows Calum Smith and Blair Jardine, flying wing Lewis Clark and inside centre Greg Montgomery, but games are usually won by the decision making of the ‘ten’ and this respect Kyle Johnson was the man of the match.

Talking point:  Carrick will play national league rugby next season as a result of their success this year. Their progress is all down to the commitment of an extensive team of teachers and coaches who have made rugby ‘tick’ in Carrick Academy, but most of all to the sheer dedication of the man who drove the whole project, Gordon Brown.

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About Alan Lorimer 351 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.


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