Annan progressed to the 2nd round of the BT Bowl by beating a lively, determined Kinross side at King George V playing fields. There may be 5 divisions between the two teams but there were times on Saturday when one would have been hard pushed to decide which team plyed their trade in which league.
This game was played in the gathering gloom except that the gloom had already gathered at 1.30pm for the kick off and if Kinross had not had floodlights it is doubtful if the game could have been played at all. The gloom was augmented with cold, driving rain and an extremely heavy ground.
In the opening seconds it looked as if Annan were going to score directly from the drop out when the home forwards fumbled and the ball was hacked on with the two visiting centres winning the race to the line but neither were able to control the ball and the chance was lost. This incident seemed to set the scene for Annan’s day as they struggled not so much against their opposition but against a series of self inflicted mishaps in handling and poor decision making.
After the initial flurries of activity by both sides the visitors began to exert pressure on the Kinross line and from a series of driving mauls and rucks the backs were released and in a sweeping move left winger Michael Anderson scored in the corner. Stand off Niall Smith converted from wide out to give Annan a 7 point lead.
Annan added to their score in a rerun of the first try when the forwards provided quality for their backs and this time full back Michael Rennie coming into the line at pace provided the space for right winger Stuart Williamson to score an unconverted try.
For the remainder of the half Annan, in particular the forwards, looked lacklustre and allowed the home side back into the game. Annan’s defensive game stood up to the home onslaught and kept Kinross from crossing the line but the home side were rewarded for their efforts when they converted one of their three penalties awards to take the half time score to Kinross 3 Annan 12.
At the restart the home side were again awarded a penalty when the Annan forwards handled in a ruck and Annan’s lead was cut to 6 points. Annan hit back minutes later when from a scrum on the 5 metre line No 8 Stuart Clanachan picked up at the base of the scrum and drove over to score with Niall Smith adding the conversion.
Whilst never stamping any real authority on the game the visiting forwards ruled the lineouts with the home side only winning one during the whole game. From one 5 metres from the Kinross line Annan disrupted the throw and with the ball loose prop Colin Warrick was on hand to scoop the ball up and drive over the line to score to take Annan into a comfortable 24 - 6 lead.
Kinross were not to be outdone and from a scrum in the visiting 22 their scrum half darted up the blind side to score untouched by an Annan hand. Annan’s response was immediate and from a scrum No 8 Stuart Clanachan again picked up and was driven over to score his second try of the game which was converted by Niall Smith to take the final score to Kinross 11 Annan 31.
This was not one of Annan’s finer displays but one cannot take anything away from Kinross who played well above their league status. With Annan the highest placed team in the Bowl competition they are going to have to get used to teams upping their game against them and avoid the potential banana skins, which are waiting for them.
Annan Team: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, P. O’Donnell (G. Wyllie), J. Nelson, G. Smith (M. Newton), A. Renwick, N. Moffat (C. Moffat), B. Graham, N. Smith, A. Render, A. Eggleton, S. Williamson, M. Anderson, M. Rennie.
Annan progressed to the quarter finals of the BT Cellnet Bowl competition on Sunday at Violetbank by defeating a stuffy Waysiders Drumpellier team from Coatbridge by two tries, two penalties and a conversion to a penalty.
The game, which was played in appalling conditions of gale force winds and driving rain at Violetbank, was always going to be tense affair for the home side. Annan sitting some four divisions above their opponents, and the highest placed side left in the tournament, were well aware of all the potential banana skins lying in wait for them as favourites to progress to the quarter finals.
Annan, playing with the gale at their backs in the first half, were rarely out of the visitor’s half for the first forty minutes and it was only some stout defence by Waysiders which kept the home side from crossing their visitor’s line. The pressure however did pay off for the home team as Waysiders gave away several penalties for ruck offences two of which stand off Niall Smith successfully converted to take Annan into a six point lead.
The home pack whilst under some pressure in the scrums from a heavy visiting eight continued to dominate the loose play and the lineouts and from a Waysiders scrum in their own 22 Annan’s scrum half Barry Graham caught his opposite number, and when the ball went loose it was won on the floor by the Annan backrow. From the ensuing ruck No 8 Stuart Clanachan drove over to score. Niall Smith converted the try from near the touchline with a magnificent kick despite the howling gale to take Annan into a healthy 13 point lead at half time.
Although playing against the wind in the second half Annan tightened up their game and played a simple driving game in order to deny their opposition possession. From a scrum in the Waysiders 22 the ball was quickly fed to the backs. Centre Michael Rennie with a bull dozing break took out two of the visiting defenders and released winger Stuart Williamson to score a fine try in the corner.
Waysiders to their credit refused to give up and despite having two players yellow carded for persistently killing the ball in rucks took the game to Annan and were rewarded with a penalty. Annan continued to play simple rugby in awful conditions and kept play, in the main, in the centre of the pitch.
In the last minutes of the match Waysiders exerted considerable pressure on the Annan line but they were denied a score by some magnificent defence from the entire Annan XV and at the final whistle Annan progressed to the quarter finals on 30th March against Garnock at Violetbank.
All in all this was a game in which the weather played a major part but credit has to go to both teams who provided an entertaining game of gritty rugby for both sets of drenched supporters. For the record winger Stuart Williamson (head injury) was replaced by Michael Anderson, prop Paul O’Donnell was replaced by Jack Tinning and wing forward Neil Moffat was replaced by Paul Minto.
Annan Team: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, P. O’Donnell, W. Henderson, G. Smith, A. Renwick, N. Moffat, S. Clannachan, B. Graham, N. Smith, S. Williamson (C), M. Rennie, A. Render, B. Hay, A. Eggleton. Replacements: P. Minto, J. Tinning, M. Anderson, D. Wyllie
Annan progressed to the semi final of the BT Cellnet Bowl competition with a convincing win over Division 3 Garnock on Sunday. In front of a large crowd at a sunny Violetbank The visitors made Annan work hard, in the first half, as they played their hosts at their own game with some fine driving rucks and mauls which in the opening minutes pinned Annan in their own half.
Annan however showed their attacking potential when full back Andrew Eggleton, coming into the back line at pace, burst through the Garnock defences and only a despairing shirt tail tackle kept him from scoring. Annan however did get some reward from the territorial advantage when from the ensuing ruck the home forwards were penalised for handling in the ruck and standoff Niall Smith opened Annan’s account with a well struck penalty.
The visitors struck back with a penalty of their own minutes later to tie the scores at 3 points all. The visitors then silenced the Annan support when from a speculative kick out of defence the ball, rather than being gathered on the full by the Annan defence, was allowed to bounce into the hands of the Garnock inside centre who outpaced the home defence to score in the corner. The conversion was missed.
From the restart Annan took the game deep into the visitor’s half and from a quickly taken penalty in the Garnock 22 wing forward Paul Minto strode over for a majestic score with hardly a hand being laid on him. With the conversion missed the scores were tied at 8 points each and despite Annan gaining the upper hand for the remainder of the half the score remained tied at 8 all at half time.
In the second half, it was one way traffic as the home forwards took control of the game and with the lightweight home scrum bolstered by the bulk and experience of replacement props Jack Tinning and veteran Murray Forbes and with the back row triumvirate of Paul Minto, Andy Renwick and Stuart Clanachan supreme in the loose and the lineout aided and abetted by locks Billy Henderson and Graham Smith the Annan backs had a plentiful supply of quality ball to play with.
Garnock’s desperate defence was penalised on several occasions for slowing the ball down at rucks and Niall Smith took advantage of two of the awards to punish these indiscretions with two successful kicks to take the score to 14 – 8. The home side continued to attack the visitor’s line and eventually the tiring Garnock fringe defences faltered and centre Andy Render, receiving the ball at pace, breeched the line to score. Niall Smith added the conversion to take the score to 21-8.
The Annan try count was increased when from a No 8 pick up and drive from a scrum near the Garnock line Stuart Clanachan added to his seasons considerable try tally with a score. The final score in the final moments of the game came from a scrum 5 metres from the visitor’s line when the ball squirted out of the side of the Garnock scrum and the ever alert Annan winger Michael Anderson pounced on the loose ball to score.
With the failed conversion attempt the last act of the game the Annan players and supporters were able to celebrate and start planning for the semi final tie on Saturday against Hawick YM.
This was a satisfying performance by the Annan squad against the stuffy and well organised team from Garnock who had in their scrum half Paul McCrorie a real live wire who showed why he is in the Scotland Under 19 squad.
Whilst the Annan pack were under some pressure in the set piece scrum against their heavier Ayrshire counterparts their fitness in the loose and supremacy in the lineout provided the basis for this fine win. For the record Ian Thorburn replaced wing forward Andy Renwick with props Murray Forbes and Jack Tinning replacing John Carlyle and Paul O’Donnell.
Annan overcame a stubborn Hawick YM side, who caused Annan no end of trouble at Violetbank on Saturday, to book their place in the Bowl Final at Murrayfield on the SRU BT Cellnet Cup Finals Day on 26th April.
Despite local radio’s erroneous assumption that Annan were the underdogs against the mighty Green Machine that is Hawick RFC in this BT Cellnet Bowl semi final, Annan were in fact the favourites to overcome Hawick YM one of the top Hawick junior clubs.
With three divisions separating the teams one could have been forgiven for expecting the home side to have a fairly easy ride. But nothing could have been further from the truth as the YM ran the home side close in an exciting if error strewn semi final at Violetbank.
As expected both sides opening play looked nervous and edgy but it was the visitors who overcame their nerves to put the Annan defences under severe pressure in the opening quarter. In truth Annan never seemed to lose their nervousness throughout the entire game.
Ten minutes into the game Annan at last exerted some pressure in the YM half and from a scrum 5 metres out from the visitor’s line No 8 Stuart Clanachan picked up and drove over the line to score. Stand off Niall Smith converted to give the home side a 7 point lead – a lead which they never lost but on several occasions looked perilously close to giving up.
Niall Smith added a penalty when the YM forwards were penalised for killing the ball in a ruck. The penalty was made easier for Smith when the YM side were marched back a further 10 metres for protesting their innocence.
The visitors tactic of putting up high ‘garryowens’ almost paid dividends when on more than one occasion the defending players either missed the ball entirely or knocked on much to the joy of the visiting support.
The visiting support had something to cheer about scoring a try of their own when their outside centre danced through some woeful defending by the home side. When he was eventually tackled he got away a superb pass out of the tackle to his No 8 John Parkes who crashed over to score a converted try to take the score to 10 – 7.
Against the general run of play, from a lineout deep in the YM half, play was driven towards the line by the Annan forwards and then released the ball to the backs who, with quick hands, spun the ball wide to winger Michael Anderson to score in the corner.
With the conversion missed the home side looked to be heading for the half time break leading 15 –7 but almost on the stroke of half time YM were awarded two penalties in quick succession which to the delight of the large travelling YM support both were slotted between the posts to keep them within a score at Annan 15 Hawick YM 13.
In the second half, with the exception of a couple of forays into the Annan half, Hawick YM were forced to put in some desperate defence as the home side battered away at the YM line. Some fine line kicking by stand off Niall Smith kept play deep on the visitor’s half for long periods.
On a couple of occasions, from lineout drives, Annan looked to have scored but unfortunately not to the referee’s satisfaction. Annan did add a further penalty from the boot of Niall Smith and this was to be the only score from either side in the half.
Annan did have opportunities to add to their penalty tally as the visitor’s killed the ball on numerous occasions which earned two of their players yellow cards during the half. In the end Annan won the game with an unconvincing display at 18-13.
They will however have to up their effort and find some way of keeping their nervousness in check when they run out onto the hallowed Murrayfield turf on 26th April if they are to add the SRU BT Cellnet Bowl to their trophy cabinet!
Annan Team: P. O’Donnell, P. Carruthers,J. Tinning, W. Henderson, G. Smith, A. Renwick (I. Thorburn), N. Moffat (P. Minto), S. Clannachan, B. Graham, N. Smith, S. Williamson(C), M. Rennie, A. Render, M. Anderson (B. Hay), A. Eggleton.
M. Forbes, J. Carlyle, B. Hay, I. Thorburn
ANNAN 18 v HAWICK YM 13
SRU BOWL FINAL
SATURDAY 26TH APRIL 2003
Please note: Annan v Irvine match courtesy of STV Sport.
Twenty two Annan players stood justly proud on Saturday in the centre circle after as scintillating a game of club rugby seen on the Murrayfield pitch. A view not only expressed by this slightly biased correspondent but also the national press.
Annan’s display was one of the best for some time, which along with Annan’s magnificent passionate vocal support coupled with the Irvine display on the pitch and equally terrific vocal support made this a day to remember for both clubs. A support, which as indicated in one of the national newspaper reports, ‘frankly put the support in the (Cup) final to shame’.
In the opening quarter of the game, with the Irvine forwards, displaying plenty of controlled aggression, and generally in control, only resolute Annan defence kept the Annan line intact but their efforts were rewarded when the Irvine standoff slotted a magnificent drop goal from well outside the Annan 22 to take a 3 point lead after 10 minutes.
The Annan defence in this period and in fact for the entire 80 minutes was immense as they soaked up drive after drive by the well organised Irvine pack. Stand off Niall Smith got Annan back on level terms in the 25th minute when the Irvine backs conceded a penalty when they were caught offside. Irvine showed that they were more than a purely forward orientated team when from a lineout following a penalty the ball was spun out to the Irvine left wing who was just prevented from scoring by a terrific tackle from winger Michael Anderson.
This let off seemed to inspire Annan as following a break out of defence by centre Mike Rennie they looked certain to score the opening try but were penalised two metres short of the line for handling in the ensuing ruck. With Niall Smith missing a penalty on the half hour mark the remainder of the half provided a superb exhibition of defensive play by both teams.
Half Time Score: 3-3.
Right from the restart the Annan forwards laid siege to the Irvine line and within the opening minute it looked as if they had scored the first try when centre Mike Rennie looked to have breached the whitewash but with the referee unsighted the score was chalked off.
Annan were not to be denied however when minutes later they were awarded a penalty. Spurning the kick for goal Annan instead opted for a lineout 5 metres from the line. From the throw in the forwards rumbled for the line with first lock Billy Henderson in control and then in his now trademark fashion prop Colin Warrick burrowed over to score Annan’s first try which Niall Smith failed to convert.
Annan visibly upped their efforts and they put the Irvine defence under immense pressure and in a superb move from a ruck within the Irvine 22 Niall Smith found a gap in the Irvine defence and finding Bill Henderson on his elbow for the lock to offload the ball with an overhead pass to wing forward Andy Renwick to score a crucial try. Although Niall Smith failed in his conversion attempt he atoned for his miss with a successful penalty minutes later to give Annan a healthy 16-6 lead.
The best try of the day came along minutes later when Mike Rennie finished of a terrific move by the Annan backs in concert with the forwards with centre Andy Render putting in a gem of a pass to his co-centre to score. Niall Smith converted the try and Annan were home and dry.
Irvine to their credit never gave up and threw everything into the final minutes of the game and were rewarded with a try in the 80th minute which was converted to take the final score to Annan 23 Irvine 13 and the rest is history as they say!
In the last ten minutes within the friendly spirit of the game Annan and Irvine gave all of their replacements a chance to savour the unique Murrayfield experience. One particular moment to savour was the sight of veteran lock Ian ‘Tam’ Thorburn taking the field as he had played his first game for Annan when this correspondent was playing his last.
The final whistle brought some great scenes of jubilation both on the pitch and in the West Stand as Annan Captain Stuart Williamson raised the BT Bowl aloft. The celebrations, however, were only just beginning as the massive Annan party began.
The icing on the cake for a great performance was the Man of the Match Award made to the ebullient Michael Rennie. A lot of credit must go to the valiant effort put into the overall spectacle of the BT Bowl final by Irvine who pushed Annan all the way.
The effort, which Irvine put into the first half perhaps was ultimately their undoing as the energy expended began to show in the second half as the fitter Annan team began to exercise control.
The journey home and the welcome in the Annan clubhouse for their heroes was one, which all involved will savour for the rest of their lives. It has to be said that several tears were shed by some of the older members of the club who perhaps realised that they may never see the likes again but are willing to hope they may.
Annan Squad: 1. P. O’Donnell (J. Tinning 55 mins, M. Forbes 76 mins)) 2. P. Carruthers 3. C. Warrick (J. Carlyle 67 mins) 4. G. Smith ( I. Thorburn 78 mins) 5. W. Henderson 6. A. Renwick 7. P. Minto (N. Moffat 79 mins) 8. S. Clanachan 9. B. Graham 10. N. Smith 11. S. Williamson (C) 12. M. Rennie (C. McCann 79 mins)13. A. Render 14. M. Anderson (B. Hay 75 mins) 15. A. Eggleton
Replacements: 16. M. Forbes 17. J. Tinning 18. J. Carlyle 19. I. Thorburn 20. N. Moffat 21. C. McCann 22. B. Hay