(Reported by Tom Dickson)
Garnock had a rearranged front row for the visit of Carrick to Lochshore. With Richard O’Neill on holiday the front three started with Matt Shiells (1), Luke Wynn (2) and Joe Chapman (3). Stuart Wilson also returned to the back row having missed the Shield match the previous week.
The backline also saw some changes from the previous week with Chris Neill returning at 10 and Ewan Perry at 15. This resulted in some positional reshuffling .
Keir Walker started proceedings towards the whisky bonds and Garnock immediately took possession of the ball. Carrick were awarded a penalty and John Fulton cleared to the half way line. Play swung around the half way for a little but Garnock began to move deeper into the Carrick danger area.
When Carrick were penalised for offside Garnock opted for a kick to touch some 5 metres out. The lineout was duly won through Jonny Watson and the ball fed to Shiells, who broke away from the ruck to score near touch. The conversion was missed.
Five minutes played and Garnock were winning 5 – 0.
From the restart Garnock, through Chris Neill’s boot, forced Carrick back into their own half. They won a scrum ‘against the head’ with a powerful drive and drove deeper into Carrick territory.
At this stage all the play was being generated by the home squad. It was no surprise when they went further ahead.
From a lineout 10 metres out, Watson collected and, seeing no challenge from Carrick, strode across the line for a try. Walker converted and with 15minutes played Garnock were 12 – 0 in front.
It didn’t take Carrick long to get on the scoreboard when John Fulton converted a difficult penalty award to make it 12 – 3 after 19 minutes.
This score seemed to rouse Carrick and for the next five minutes they were the more dangerous looking side.
However, from another Neill clearance into the visitor’s half, Garnock won the lineout and drove towards the try line where Joe Chapman was alert and went over for his debut league score for Garnock. The conversion was missed but Garnock went further ahead at 17 – 3 after 26 minutes.
From then until the whistle ended the half, both sides served up an entertaining game but, with the defences able to cope, the half ended 17 – 3 in Garnock’s favour.
Carrick began the second half with a bang and powered towards the Garnock line. When Garnock were penalised for not rolling away from a ruck, Fulton kicked for touch they won the lineout and Stephen Raby rounded of the drive to score well out. The kick was missed and the score moved on to 17 – 8 after only two minutes play in the half.
The next 20 minutes saw both squads setting up attack after attack but tight tackling kept the scoreboard silent.
High points in this period were the powerful scrummaging of the Garnock eight, the composure of Neill in his relief kicking, the continuing domination in the lineouts of the Garnock forwards and the willingness of both sides to play an open game.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Fulton converted a simple penalty from in front of the posts to set up a pulsating finish with Garnock leading 17 – 11.
Play was tight with both sides trying to find ways through to add to their score. Both sides were showing why they are among the top sides in their league with the play at a high level, much to the enjoyment of the two groups of supporters.
With Carrick camped inside the Garnock half, referee Reid blew for full time with score at 17 – 11 in Garnock’s favour.
The Garnock squad on the day was: Shiells, Wynn, Chapman, McGeachy, Watson, Wilson, DR Miller, Dominy,
Walker, Neill, Woods, Reekie, Taggart, Anderson, Perry, Brocket, J.Miller, D.Miller and Johnston.
Next Saturday go on their travels to Helensburgh for another league game with a 3 0’clock kick-off.