Carrick lifted the BT West Regional Shield at the weekend to complete the semi-final line-up for the national event.

They came out on top 27-20 away at Irvine to set-up a national last four tie with Hawick Harlequins on March 25.

In the other semi, Gordonians host Murrayfield Wanderers with the two victors then meeting at BT Murrayfied towards the end of April.

On Saturday, the much awaited West Regional Shield final took place at Marress, Irvine.

The final saw an ever improving Irvine side host both regional and National Shield champions Carrick.

With all three Carrick coaches Gordon Brown, Raymond Festorazzi and John McHarg in the Carrick dug out as well as a fair number of Carrick Academy FPs having once dawned Irvine colours, but returning to their home club of Carrick then this was always going to be a tense affair.

The game started brightly for Irvine and after a successful line break by Irvine they were awarded a penalty which was converted by their winger.

Carrick then got a foot hold into the game with the back-row of Kirk, Gregor and Smith more than holding their own in the tight and lose exchanges. After a fine break by flanker Gordon Gregor, No.8 Calum Smith scored in the corner.

Unfortunately Smith was injured in the process and had to leave the field of play. Last season’s school first XV Captain Joe Connon came on at hooker with former Scotland under-18 and Carrick FP Blair Jardine taking over at 8. The conversion was missed by Johnson.

Carrick were well on top at this point and Johnson stuck a fine penalty to take the score to 8-3. Irvine then managed to hit from deep after an individual error from the Carrick winger. This lead to a try by scrum-half McVey. The conversion was missed, 8-8.

Once again the Carrick side struck back, after a series of drives by the forwards the ball was moved to Blair Jardine who applied his trademark dummy and scored from 15 metres out. The conversion was successful to make the half-time score 15-8 to the visitors.

The second half was a tense affair with Irvine scoring a well work try to make it 15-13  before Carrick struck back with two fine penalties from Johnson to make it 21-13.

Once again Irvine showed no lack of desire and application and scored another try which was converted to make the score 21-20.

At this point the crowd, which was the biggest Marress has seen in many a year, were tense and knew that one mistake or piece of class could be the difference.

Carrick’s fine pack took the play to Irvine in the last eight minutes and showed some fine controlling rugby which earned two penalties that the outstanding Johnson converted.

Referee McHendry, who had a fine game, blew his whistle and Carrick were once again regional champions.

Captain, Development Officer and FP Michael Kirk received the shield from John Gillies and the celebrations continued long into the night.

Carrick Head Coach Gordon Brown said after the game: “It was always going to be hard to come back to Marress, but my players were outstanding and showed great character.

“The experience of last season certainly helped, but I was pleased to see the likes of Joe Connon come on and make such a positive contribution.

“Michael Kirk lead the side brilliantly and his game management and our better discipline were key factors in our win. We now host Hawick Harlequins in what will be a very challenging match.

“All credit to Irvine who played some fine rugby and their coaches can be very proud of their team. I also would like to thank our support who travelled in huge numbers to support the side.”

Thanks to Carrick for the photo from Saturday

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