STUART RUTHERFORD @ BT Murrayfield
CARRICK were crowned BT Shield champions for the second straight season, after a blistering second-half performance in which they scored 31 unanswered points against Murrayield Wanderers.
The first-half was an even, well-balanced affair and following two well taken tries from Liam Hanlin, plus a solo effort from Callum Johnston, the capital outfit held a slender 21-17 lead at the break.
However, that was as good it got for Wanderers. After the break they struggled to cope with Carrick’s robust style of play. With four second-half tries, including a beautifully taken 50-metre breakaway score from Greg Montgomery, the Maybole outfit were an irresistible force and, in the end, worthy winners.
“They let us back into the match, and we took our opportunities really well. We had that fire in our belly, and after the experience of being behind at half-time in last year’s final, we were pretty calm, and never really panicked,” said Michael Kirk, the Carrick captain.
“The funny thing is, we could be here again next year, because we managed to mess up the league. Next season we’re going to have a big focus on trying to get into the National Leagues [which would mean that they compete in the Cup competition], because that’s where we belong, or that’s where we think we belong anyway.”
The match began in a frenzied manner. Full-backs Chris Beattie and Greg Montgomery traded a number of aimless, and rather nervous looking, clearance kicks. It was Wanderers who began to settle into the contest first and with only nine minutes on the clock they grabbed the lead. Following a quick-tap penalty from Fraser Strachan and a charge up to Carrick’s 22, the ball was recycled and popped to the trailing Murray Hastie. With the Ayrshire side’s defence caught cold, the former Kelso stand-off was able to dummy through a gap before offloading to Hanlin, who ghosted under the sticks to break the deadlock.
Carrick hit back immediately via a Kyle Johnson penalty, before the a gaffe from the capital side’s Patrick Cooney handed the the Ayrshire side the lead, An aimless kick seemed to be going nowhere particularly interesting until the winger carelessly fumbled the ball into the arms of the onrushing Montgomery, who could hardly believe his luck as he touched down. With Johnson chipping over the simple conversion, Carrick held a 10-7 advantage.
With both sides lackadaisically swapping possession, chances were few and far between, until former Selkirk star Callum Johnston showcased the quality that saw him playing regularly at BT Premiership level not so long ago. The capital side shouldered their way into the Carrick 22 with a series of high-paced pick-and-goes, before the ball was eventually sent out to Johnston who wriggled over from ten metres out.
Following a second try of the afternoon from Hanlin, Wanderers held a convincing eleven point advantage, whilst a yellow card for Carrick’s Iain Speirs further strengthened their position. However, on the stroke of half-time, the the men from the west put together a slick move which involved almost their entire back-line before Lewis Clark went over to make it 21-17 at the break
After Carrick’s Ross McCulloch rounded his opposite number to grab his side the lead early in the second half, the Ayrshire outfit further cemented their advantage after a neat handling move involving Montgomery and Benjamin Brown put John Fulton in for a fine try in the corner.
With two quick-fire scores, Carrick had flipped the momentum, whilst Wanderers looked a shadow of the side which had scored three first-half tries.
Clark touched down for his second score of the afternoon to stretch the lead to 21-34, and Carrick’s rowdy support were in dreamland whenMontgomery provided the coup-de-grace with that fifty-metre breakaway try.
Peter Walker did manage a consolation score at the death for Wanderers, but that did little to spoil the Ayrshire party.
Murrayfield Wanderers: C Beattie; A Godsmark, L Hanlin, L Thomas, P Cooney; M Hastie (c), F Strachan; T Lawman, L Webb, P Navunivanua, A McFarlane, J Lee, S Crawford, L Thom, C Johnston. Subs: S Lynes, B Reid, M Stevens, C Guerin, P Walker, L Lee, E Eley.
Carrick: G Montgomery; B Brown, J Fulton, A Speirs, R McCulloch; K Johnson, G Ward; G Dick, J Connon, S Raby, I Speirs, D Brown, M Kirk (c), G Gregor, B Jardine. Subs: J Webster, D Andrew, A McColm, S Bryden, C Wyllie, S Young, L Clark.
Murrayfield Wanderers: Tries: Hanlin 2, Johnston, Walker; Cons: Hastie 4
Carrick: Tries: Montgomery 2, Clark 2, McCulloch, Fulton; Pen: Johnson; Cons: Johnson, Fulton 2
Scoring sequence (Murrayfield first): 7-0; 7-3; 7-10; 14-10; 21-10; 21-17 (ht) 21-24; 21-29; 21-34; 21-41; 28-41
Yellow cards –
Murrayfield Wanderers: Stevens
Referee: Ian Kenny
Man-of-the-Match: Carrick’s Greg Montogomery was impressive from start to finish, and ended the match with two tries – including a score from half-way – which ultimately closed the door on the contest. A rangy, but fluid runner – the full-back was an attacking threat all afternoon.
Talking point: With two successive BT Shield triumphs, Carrick are clearly a club on the up and should be an example to all aspiring teams.Can they emulate the success of their near neighbours Ayr and Marr by building their way right to the summit of Scottish club rugby?