Match reports for the 1st XV
PREVIOUS YEARS:
All previous match reports etc can be found at the Archive page.

FULL MATCH REPORTS: QUICK ACCESS
LEAGUE: HOME
BERWICK RFC
CAMBUSLANG RFC
CARTHA QP RFC
DUNFERMLINE RFC
EAST KILBRIDE RFC
EDINBURGH ACCIES
HILLHEAD RFC
MUSSELBURGH RFC
PRESTON LODGE RFC
RHC RFC
ROSS HIGH RFC
LEAGUE: AWAY
BERWICK RFC
CAMBUSLANG RFC
CARTHA QP RFC
DUNFERMLINE RFC
EAST KILBRIDE RFC
EDINBURGH ACCIES
HILLHEAD RFC
MUSSELBURGH RFC
PRESTON LODGE RFC
RHC RFC
ROSS HIGH RFC
CUP GAMES
EDINBURGH ACCIES
RHC RFC
OTHER GAMES
STEWARTRY RFC
VIOLETBANK TROPHY

CAMBUSLANG 43 v ANNAN 0
SATURDAY 17TH APRIL 2004

After four wins on the trot and although already relegated Annan looked to leave the Premiership (albeit temporarily!) with a roar but, unfortunately left with a whimper instead as the Cambuslang forwards dismantled a disappointing visiting eight thereby denying the Annan backs any quality ball with which to create anything of any significance. To add to the small gathering of visiting supporters’ miseries the game was played in atrocious conditions with driving rain and gusting winds driving all but the hardiest supporters from both sides into the welcoming warmth of the magnificent Cambuslang clubhouse.

In the opening exchanges things did not go too badly for Annan, playing with the advantage of the wind as both teams tried to come to terms with the dreadful weather conditions. However it soon became apparent in the forward exchanges that the visiting forwards were being overpowered in the scrums by an extremely powerful and much heavier home pack. Only in the lineouts did Annan achieve parity. Within ten minutes Annan went behind to a penalty and although they had their moments in the opening quarter with a couple of scoring chances but poor handling let them down. The home side, as their forwards gained supremacy, slowly began to exert a stranglehold on the game and before half time scored a brace of tries, both of which were converted, to take the half time score to Cambuslang 17 Annan 0.

Against the wind in the second half Annan were always going to have their work cut out and immediately from the drop out the home standoff posted his intent with a fine line kick to touch which drove Annan deep into their 22. Annan’s cause was not helped by the injury of Stuart Clanachan who had to leave the field with a recurrence of a shoulder injury early in the second half. He was replaced by Neil Bell with Neil Halliday, who had replaced wing forward Craig Moffat (also injured) at half time, moving to No 8. The changes, it has to be said, made little difference to the home team’s game plan as their forwards continued to dominate. Their Kiwi No 8 in particular providing a stern test to the Annan defences with his powerful drives with which he continually breached the gain line to provide an attacking platform for his backs. It was not long after the restart that the home side added to their points total when their young winger finished off a fine interlinking move fro deep in their half to score. This try was followed in succession throughout the half with a further three tries three of which were converted to complete the scoring. Final Score Cambuslang 43 Annan 0.

All in all this was a disappointing finale to Annan’s Premiership campaign with little to commend over the 80 minutes. However it was two of Annan’s veterans lock Ian Thorburn and No 8 Neil Halliday who showed the way for several of the other players with their determination and drive. Neil Halliday was named by the home team as Annan’s Man of The Match. Also Neil Moffat showed up well at wing forward and later in the second half at hooker. The backs never really had a chance to show their skills in attack but had ample opportunity to show their defensive ones. Special mention however must go to young full back Duncan Fisher in his first full game in the 1st XV and who showed a few glimpses of the good things to come.

Annan 1st XV: P O’Donnell(J Gilmour), P Carruthers, C Warrick, W Henderson, I Thorburn, C Moffat N Halliday), N Moffat, S Clanachan ( N Bell), B Graham, N Smith, K Jones, A Render, K Jones, A Eggleton, M Rennie, D Fisher

ANNAN 19 v MUSSELBURGH 7
SATURDAY 10TH APRIL 2004

With Annan relegated from Premier 3 last Saturday, despite beating RHC and Musselburgh outwith the promotion zone neither team had anything to play for except pride. This, however was as entertaining a game, as seen from the Annan perspective, that had been seen at Violetbank this season.

Within minutes of the start Annan looked to have scored a fine try when a break by centre Andy Render left the visiting defences floundering and set up lock Paul Minto on a rampaging run for the line where he ‘scored’ only for the referee to disallow the try as he maintained it was not properly grounded. For the next 20 minutes the game ebbed and flowed from end to end with neither team really gaining the upper hand. The deadlock was eventually broken when the visiting fullback Jamieson latched on to a short pass from a turned over ball at a ruck just outside the Annan 22 and danced through some despairing tackles to score. The try was converted by stand off Clark.

Five minutes later the home side hit back when right winger Mike Rennie popped up on the left and broke through the ‘Burgh line and set up left winger Kevin Jones to score in the corner. Standoff Niall Smith hit the post with his conversion attempt. Annan laid siege to the ‘Burgh line in the closing stages of the half but the visiting defences held out. Half time score Annan 5 Musselburgh 7.

In the second half Annan were always in control as the home forwards gave their opposite numbers a hard time in the scrum taking three strikes against the head. Annan also held sway in the lineouts where they secured quality ball. From a ruck in the visiting 22 the ball was fed quickly out to winger Mike Rennie who brushed off a couple of tackles to score. This time Niall Smith made no mistake with his conversion attempt. Annan tails were now up and on more than one occasion they looked to be certain to score but some determine and stuffy defence by ‘Burgh held them out. Annan’s third try when it came was testament to the determination of lock Billy Henderson. Niall Smith latched on to an interception pass just inside the Musselburgh half and finding Billy Henderson on his shoulder popped the pass. Henderson made it to the line to score despite the close attention of a couple of visiting defenders who were hanging on to his shirt. Again Niall Smith added the extra points.

Although Musselburgh had their chances they never looked like breaking through the home defences in the last quarter of the match it was Annan who always looked the more dangerous with ball in hand. The home forwards were in fine form in the set piece and the loose with lock Paul Minto and the backrow of the brothers Moffat and Stuart Clanachan doing sterling work in defence and attack. In the backs scrum half Barry Graham and winger Mike Rennie proved quite a handful for their opposite numbers with the latter posing numerous questions for the ‘Burgh mid field defence.

Annan 1st XV squad: P O’Donnell (J Gilmour), P Carruthers, C Warrick , W Henderson, P Minto, C Moffat, N Moffat, (P Quinn) S Clanachan, B Graham,( D Fisher), N Smith, K Jones, A Render, K Jones, A Eggleton, M Rennie, (M Griffen) K Hogg.

ANNAN 12 v RHC 9
SATURDAY 3RD APRIL 2004

A little bit of history was made at Violetbank on Saturday, unfortunately it’s a bit of history Annan could have done without! Despite achieving their aim of beating RHC they were unable to deprive them of a bonus point and as a result Annan are relegated for the first time in their history and National 1 rugby returns to Violetbank next season.

With a gale blowing at their backs in the first half the home side started the match brightly and despite their visitors being awarded a string of penalties in the opening ten minutes play was contained for the most part in the first half within the visitors half. With both sides looking rusty after a several weeks of league inactivity, Annan’s last league game being on 13th March, the match was littered with mistakes and with the added vagaries of the gale force wind playing their part flowing rugby was not on the menu. However hard uncompromising rugby was and both sides gave as good as they got.

After the opening flurry of penalties Annan set about the task of winning the game and laid siege to the visitor’s line. Annan faced a set back when wing forward Craig Moffat was sin binned but even with a man short the home side still kept play firmly in the visitor’s 22. Annan looked to have opened the scoring when from a penalty in front of the posts scrum half Barry Graham took a quick tap penalty and when No 8 Stuart Clanachan was stopped short of the line the ball was quickly recycled out through the backs for winger Mike Rennie to crash over the line. The try was disallowed by the referee who deemed the ball had not been grounded. However Annan were not to be denied and minutes later, from a lineout the ball, was driven on through a rolling maul and when the ball was quickly released from the ensuing ruck winger Mike Rennie coming on an angled run cleaved through the RHC defence to set up Stuart Clanachan to score under the posts. Stand off Niall Smith added the extras to give Annan a 7 point lead. Annan continued to dominate proceedings and were unlucky on several occasions not to cross the whitewash but stubborn RHC defences kept them out. Annan also spurned several kickable penalty chances in favour of attacking scrums and linouts, decisions which, with the benefit of hindsight, might have been better kicked and thereby denied the opposition their bonus point.

Against the wind and the low sun in the second half few supporters favoured Annan’s chances of increasing their lead and so it looked in the first ten minutes of the half as the visitors clawed their way back into the match with two well struck penalties to take the score to 7-6. Annan however continued to battle away driving play with some fine close quarter work by the forwards and some excellent defensive work by the back row and backs to deny the visitors a chance of crossing the home line.

Annan’s persistence in keeping the ball in hand and driving play into the RHC half eventually paid off when wing forward Paul Minto, taking a long pass from scrum half Barry Graham dummied his way through the RHC defensive line to set up winger Mike Rennie for the try. Niall Smith just failed with his conversion attempt. Annan continued to attempt to widen the points gap but it was the visitors who closed the gap at the death with a final penalty to kill off Annan’s hopes of retaining Premiership rugby at Violetbank next season. At the final whistle the air of disappointment was palpable around the ground but with two games to go to finalise Annan’s league campaign there was the knowledge that there was real reason for optimism in this basically young team with several young players having been blooded in the squad during the season.

Annan 1st XV squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers, J Gilmour, W Henderson, M Newton, P Minto, C Moffat (N Halliday), S Clanachan, B Graham, N Smith, M Rennie, A Render, K Jones, K Hogg. Replacements not used: N Moffat, P O’Donnell, D Fisher.

ANNAN 13 v CARTHA QUEENS PARK 5
SATURDAY 20TH MARCH 2004

Annan succeeded in the first of their three quests on Saturday, although events elsewhere did not go quite as planned, beating their visitors from Glasgow by two tries and a penalty to a try in Division 3 of the Premier leagues

On a bright sunny day at Violetbank, with the wind the only element causing any problems, both teams made a nervous and somewhat error strewn start. Cartha were the first to settle and using the wind advantage were able to keep the home side pinned in their 22 for long periods. With some fine driving play by their forwards Cartha looked to have scored when they drove the Annan forwards over their own line but the referee deemed that the ball was held up. Although Cartha continued to pressurise the Annan line the home defences held firm. When the siege was lifted Annan launched some attacking moves of their own but on more than one occasion poor handling let them down and Annan found themselves driven back into their own half with some long clearance kicks by the visiting stand off.

The visitors looked to have scored when their inside centre broke through the home defensive line and when tackled slipped an inside pass to his hooker who tackled short of the line was penalised for a double movement. However the Cartha were not to be denied as their inside centre again broke through some ineffectual tackling but this time finished the job off himself to score. Annan launched an attack on the visitors line from the restart but were just held up short and were unable to make any inroads into the Cartha lead before half time.

The second half with the wind and sun at their backs Annan held sway for most of the 40 minutes with only the occasional breakout from defence from their visitors. Early in the half following a scrum the ball was spun wide to the Annan right wing who with the line at his mercy spilled the pass. Annan however continued to dominate with several attacks falling down with knock ons or dropped passes. When Cartha on one occasion tried to run out of defence Annan capitalised on a turn over and drove over for what looked a perfect try but the referee was unsighted and deemed the ball held up. A minute later again from a rolling maul prop James Gilmour looked to have driven over to score but once again the referee deemed the ball held up. After this period of intense Annan pressure all they had to show for it was 3 points for a penalty when the Cartha backs were caught off side at a ruck.

Annan’s first try when it came was a beauty. From a speculative kick out of defence by the Cartha stand off the ball was gathered by centre Michael Rennie who split the Cartha mid field defence and in a sweeping backs move the ball was passed between right winger Andrew Eggleton, full back Keith Hogg, centre Andy Render back to Andrew Eggleton who gave the scoring pass to scrum half Barry Graham. With the conversion missed Annan had a tentative 3-point lead. By this time however it was almost all Annan and even the yellow carding of Annan hooker Paul Carruthers in the final quarter of the game made little difference to the home sides dominance of territory and possession. Wing forward Stephan Dreyer looked to have scored from a forward drive only for the referee to chalk it off.

Annan’s second try eventually came when from a ruck in the visitor’s 22 the ball was taken up the blind side by scrum half Barry Graham and when centre Andy Render was tackled he found Barry Graham on his shoulder who in turn fed wing forward Stephan Dreyer who with a show of the ball to a Cartha defender drew his man to set up No 8 Stuart Clanachan to score in the corner to take the final score to Annan 13 Cartha Queens Park 5.

Although not a classic by any means this was an exiting and enthralling match and made up for Annan’s 7-try defeat at Cartha in October. The Annan forwards, although struggling at time in the set piece against a much heavier pack, held their own in the lineout and with their back row making their presence felt in the loose, especially in the second half, the team must feel a little disappointed that they were unable to gain the vital bonus point with several ‘tries’ chalked off by the referee. With RHC beaten by East Kilbride, although gaining a bonus point, Annan have it all to do in their remaining three games with the big one this coming Saturday with the visit to Violetbank of RHC. As a local worthy said on Saturday ‘the ball may be in the air but it’s not on the slates yet!’

Annan 1st Squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers, J Gilmour, W Henderson, I Thorburn (M Newton), C Moffat (N Moffat), S Dryer, S Clanachan, B Graham, N Smith, K Jones, A Render, J Crowther, (M Rennie) A Eggleton, K Hogg. Replacements: P O’Donnell

ANNAN 57 v ROSS HIGH 3
SATURDAY 28TH FEBRUARY 2004

Annan secured their biggest win of their Premier League campaign on Saturday in a nine try demolition of Ross High. The visitors from Tranent, who are already relegated from the Premiership put in a spirited performance but clearly will be glad when this seasom ends as with one fixture remaining they have yet to win a game.

Annan started the game with some fine driving play and were rewarded with a penalty in the opening minutes which was kicked to the corner and from the ensuing lineout take and drive Annan were awarded another penalty which was quickly taken and the ball was driven towards the line but some stalwart defensive work by the visiting team kept Annan from scoring. However it was only a matter of time before the Ross High line was breached and after 10 minutes from a lineout drive No 8 Stuart Clannachan broke from the back of the driving maul to score. Ross High hit back from the restart and were awarded a penalty which they converted to take the score to Annan 5 Ross High 3.

Annan’s second try, which was the best one of the first half came from a scrum awarded just inside the home half when a speculative kick through by the Ross High stand off ran into the dead ball area. From the scrum the ball was fed along the Annan backline with full back Keith Hogg coming into the line creating the overlap winger Kevin Jones cut back inside and slipped the ball to stand off Niall Smith who found open side wing forward Stephan Dreyer on his shoulder who romped home to score. Niall Smith converted the score to take Annan into a 12-3 lead. Mid way through the half the Ross High No 7 was sinbinned and when Annan were awarded a penalty 5 metres from the visiting line they opted to take a scrum and with the advantage of the extra man they drove the visiting pack back over their line to score with No 8 Stuart Clannachan credited with his second score of the day. Annan continued to dominate proceedings, especially in the set piece with Annan’s scrummaging in particular proving too much for the visiting pack and although Ross High had their moments in the half they frankly never looked like scoring.

Almost on the stroke of high time, again from a line out following a penalty award, the Annan forwards rumbled towards the line but this time the ball was shipped to centre Andy Render who, with the Ross High back row tied into the maul, broke through the the scant midfield defence to score under the posts. Niall Smith added the extra 2 points to take the half time score to Annan 24 Ross High 3.

In the second half Annan continued to dominate and it wasn’t too long before the home side added to their points tally. When Ross High tried to run out of defence and were caught in front of their posts they were penalised for holding on and from a quickly taken penalty the ball was spun along the back line where it found No 8 Stuart Clanachan acting as winger who scored in the corner to get his hat trick for the day. Niall Smith converted the try from the toucline. Winger Andrew Eggleton was next on the score sheet when from a sustained piece of possession play the Annan backs stretched the vistors’ defences to the limit and from a move started on the right the ball travelled the full width of the pitch for the winger to score an excellent try in the corner. Yet again Niall Smith added the extras from the touchline.

The lineout following a penalty award seemed to be Annan’s most productive ploy of the day when instead of the driving maul which the visitors were expecting the ball was spun to the backs and with centre Michael Rennie, who had replaced Joe Crowther, cleaving through the mid field defences released centre Andy Render who scored his second try between the posts. Niall Smith again converted. Annan reverted to the lineout and drive for the next score with wing forward Stephan Dreyer scoring off the side of the maul for his second try, again converted by Nial Smith. Ross High had their best spell of the match following the try and almost scored but full back Keith Hogg prevented the score with a fine piece of defensive work. Annan’s last try was a gem. From a quickly taken penalty the ball was spun wide to centre Michael Rennie who was lurking on the left wing and with plenty to do he burst through a couple of tackles and handed off the Ross High back to score in the corner. Final Score Annan 57 Ross High 3.

All in all this was a satisfying performance with nine tries being scored. But it must be said that the visitors were a pale reflection of the Ross High of a couple of years ago. Also some of the handling errors by Annan may well have punished more severely by better teams. However there were some fine performances with No 8 Stuart Clanachan and wing forward Stephan Dreyer outstanding in the forwards and stand off Niall Smith playing a fine captains game in the backs.

This win keeps Annan’s hopes, athough mighty slim hopes of staving off relegation, alive and RHC’s narrow one point victory over Preston Lodge means that Annan must win all of their remaining four games (3 at home and I away) and RHC lose all of their remaining three games for the miracle to happen. The fat lady is yet to sing but she is definitely warming up in the wings.

Annan 1st XV: C Warrick ( P O’Donnell), P Carruthers, J Gilmour, W Henderson (P Minto), I Thorburn, C Moffat (N Moffat), S Dryer, S Clanachan, B Graham, N Smith, K Jones, A Render, J Crowther (M Rennie), A Eggleton, K Hogg. Replacements: P O’Donnell, N Moffat, M Rennie, P Minto

BERWICK 29 V ANNAN 12
SATURDAY 7TH FEBRUARY 2004

Both teams contributed to an exciting game in this Premier 3 encounter, despite the strong wind and typical Berwick temperature. That Berwick won, and get the bonus for four tries, was largely down to their bulkier pack which was able to bulldoze its way over for crucial scores, despite valiant efforts by the Annan defence. Annan came off disappointed at defeat, but pleased that they had given one of the contenders for the championship a hard game.

The opening quarter did not go well for Annan. Annan's initial kick off went into touch, and from the ensuing scrum Berwick drove into Annan territory and laid siege to the Annan line. Manful defence kept Berwick out, but gave away a penalty, which the Berwick kicker McCreath missed. Further pressure brought the first Berwick score on the right when they ploughed over following a line out. McCreath made amends by converting from wide. Annan's restart kick went into touch, and from the ensuing scrum..... yes, Berwick scored again following pressure on the line. McCreath again converted to put Berwick 14-0 ahead in as many minutes. Annan had not yet had a touch of the ball outside their own half.

From that point on the game was evenly balanced. Annan began to make inroads into Berwick territory, and committed defence snuffed out Berwick's midfield. The home backs could find no way through, and mistakes began to creep into the Berwick game. Midway through the half Annan scored a gem of a try. Stand off Niall Smith found centre Andy Render, whose pace and angle of running took him clean through the midfield, and when the fullback moved to cover him, fullback Keith Hogg came up fast to collect and score under the posts. Smith converted to bring Annan back to 7-14. Berwick's tally increased by a penalty before half time, which stood at 17-7 to the home side.

Annan had the benefit of the wind in the second period, but fell further behind to another bulldoging try from another lineout drive, but again the game swung back and forward with both defences stretched. Annan enjoyed periods of pressure, and from one scored another fine backs try. After Paul Minto had come close to scoring in the left corner, replacement wing Mike Rennie did. Having driven into the Berwick 22, and with the Berwick defence in disarray, two long passes from Smith and Render put Rennie in the clear to score in the corner, but at 12-22 Annan needed to score next. Unfortunately it was to be Berwick who did that, and made the game safe, when after battering at the Annan line a gap opened allowing a score near the posts. McCreath's conversion completed things at 29-12 to the home side.

Perhaps Berwick deserved to win. Their heavier pack, their good close support work, and their determination to win promotion meant that they were usually able to gain something from their periods of pressure. Annan were at their best in the loose, where young Stephan Dreyer was prominent, and could claim to have won the battle of the backs. An encouraging show, then, from Annan after four weeks of inactivity, and if this form can be reproduced in the five remaining league games, who knows ?

Annan team: K. Hogg; P. Minto (M. Griffen), J. Crowther, A. Render, K. Jones; N. Smith (M. Rennie), B. Graham; P. O'Donnell (G. Wylie), P. Carruthers, C. Warrick, W. Henderson, I. Thorburn, C. Moffat (N. Moffat), S. Dreyer, S. Clanachan.

EDINBURGH ACCIES 49 V ANNAN 5
SATURDAY 10th JANUARY 2004

With Edinburgh Accies well in the frame for promotion to Premier Two and Annan battling manfully to steer themselves away from the drop zone, this was always going to be a tough assignment at Raeburn Place for the Violetbank side. Accies, playing into a moderate breeze, gave early notification of their intentions with a slick handling movement across their back division to post a score in the left corner within the first five minutes. Annan certainly had no intention of defending, and probably had more possession than their Edinburgh opponents in the first half, but they could not break down a strong Accies defence despite having a lot of pressure and numerous sorties extremely close to the home team's line.

Annan were playing adventurous rugby and taking the game to Accies, but wrong options and handling errors allowed Accies to regain the upper hand. A couple of missed tackles set up scrum half Matt Couper to nip in for his 13th try of the season and shortly before half time, a line-out take and drive from the 5 metre line resulted in Accies third try. Half time and Annan were 0-20 down with a mountain to climb. They had played very well in the first 40 minutes, had nothing to show for it and the elements were now conspiring against them, playing in to a severe wind after the interval. They started strongly and, after several excellent phases, the ball reached left wing Michael Griffin who went over in the corner for an excellent Annan score. A drop goal from stand off Alex Guest, who scored 19 points to bring his season's haul to 153, was the signal for Accies to take control and they did so with clinical effect. It wasn't pretty, but they started to exploit Annan's inability to cope with the driving maul and all three of their second half tries came about as a direct result of these moves by a strong Accies pack. Annan were penalised for repeated infringements and the unfortunate Ian Thorburn was in 'the bin' as Accies scored their final try and Annan were visibly tiring. In the end, Edinburgh Academicals were well worth their win. They were solid in every department and are well worth their league position, one point behind Dunfermline at the top of the table.

Annan certainly more than played their part in providing an entertaining spectacle and fought with passion throughout. Stuart Clanachan was again to the fore in the front eight and Niall Smith was instrumental getting the back line moving well, particularly in the first half. Another big-hearted performance, too, from centre Andy Render who epitomises the gutsy Annan team spirit which is still there in abundance. It has to be said, too, that everyone at the Club is delighted with the progress of the many Annan youngsters who have forced their way into the side and have had a very steep learning curve of late.

With East Kilbride having won their last three games and RHC winning last week with a bonus point, things aren't getting any easier for the Violetbank squad. But the Fat Lady has yet to sing - and Annan have six games left, four of them at home. A big performance, and a big Annan support, this Saturday against Cartha Queens' Park at Violetbank might just signal the start of a late revival!

Team: P O'Donnell (G Wylie), P Carruthers, C Warrick: W Henderson, J Nelson: C Moffat, S Dreyer (I Thorburn), S Clanachan: B Graham, N Smith: M Pattinson, A Render, J Crowther, M Griffin: A Eggleton (D Fisher). Replacement not used: C McCann

ANNAN 22 V DUNFERMLINE 27
SATURDAY 3rd JANUARY 2004

Before this match started most Annan supporters, would have been happy, in most cases, to have settled for a bonus point against promotion hopefuls Dunfermline in this Premier 3 league fixture. However by the end of the match their was a real feeling of disappointment that Annan had not won this match after having put in a fine performance. The difference at the end of the day was that the home side had missed two kickable penalties in the first half and given away a soft try at the beginning of the second.

Annan kicked off with the breeze in their favour and towards the clubhouse. It was however the visitors who took the early initiative. Good driving play from the visiting forwards almost brought a score on 5 minutes but a penalty award enabled Annan to clear their lines. Annan began to exert some pressure through their forwards but Dunfermline’s large pack made life difficult in the set piece but ten minutes into the game Annan stand off Niall Smith had an opportunity to open the scoring from a penalty but his effort sailed wide. Five minutes later he made amends to put the home side ahead 3-0 and five minutes after that he missed with another effort. As the home side forwards continued to keep driving forward Annan’s tactic of using the wind kept play in the visitors half. Niall Smith’s second miss however seemed to spark the visiting forwards into action. Good drives by the visiting pack almost brought a score but when the ball was released to the backs the move broke down. On 25 minutes following a fine line kick from the Dunfermline stand off a scrum 5 metres out was awarded after the resultant line out. The heavier Dunfermline pack drove for the line. Annan went offside to prevent a score and the referee awarded a penalty try under the posts which was converted to make it 7-3 to the visitors. Five minutes later another superb drive by the visiting pack from a lineout resulted in an other score to take the score to 12 –3. Then came one of those moments that can turn a game. A delightfully flightly up and under from Niall Smith and a dreadful defensive error by the Dunfermline fullback allowed centre Andy Render a clear run for the line to score a try beside the posts. Niall Smith converted and out of the blue Annan were back in the match at 12-10. Annan were fortunate not to go further behind on the stoke of half time when following a fumble by the home full back the ball was hacked on and it looked as if a Dunfermline player had touched the ball down over the line but the referee deemed that a Dunfermline player had deliberately obstructed an Annan player and the try was disallowed.

Dunfermline having ended the first half with a slice of misfortune the second started with stroke of luck! Following the kick off a scrum was awarded to the home side on the 22 and with No 8 Stuart Clanachan driving the ball away from the base of the scrum the home scrum half lost sight of the ball which squirted out of the ensuing ruck beyond his reach. The visiting openside wing forward reacted fastest and he scooped up the loose ball and although held just short of the line managed to release it for his No 8 to score. With the try converted Dunfermline were back in the driving seat. Five minutes later Dunfermline seemed to have been killed the game off when following another drive from a lineout they scored to clinch the bonus point. The visiting stand off was unable to convert but at 24-10 the game seemed as good as won.

Annan, however, had other ideas and proceeded to take the game directly to the opposition and with Dunfermline proceeding to lose their discipline, errors resulted in good ball being unnecessarily lost. Annan capitalised on their visitors’ loss of discipline and sloppy defence and scored a try from a lineout take and drive with prop Colin Warrick being driven over and credited with the score. Even at 24-15 there still seemed to be little danger of Dunfermline actually losing the game. That belief, however, was totally dispelled two minutes from time when from a period of excellent driving play in the Dunfermline 22 Annan flanker Stephen Dreyer was on hand to take a scoring pass on the blind side of a ruck to score a third try Niall Smith converted from the touchline and with the score 24-22. Annan were now in the driving seat and well aware that an upset could well be on the cards. Unfortunately on this occasion a last minute penalty went Dunfermline’s way which, the visiting stand off kicked from in front of the posts and Dunfermline won the game 27-22.

This was another fine performance from the Annan team albeit in defeat. As so often happens when a team is struggling it is difficult to get the rub of the green and Annan were somewhat unlucky not to have gained the scalp of the new league leaders.

Annan Squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers, P. O’Donnell, J Nelson, (I Thorburn) W Henderson, C Moffat, (P Minto) S Dreyer, S Clanachan, B. Graham, N Smith, M Griffen, A Render, J Crowther, M Pattison, A Eggleton.

STEWARTRY 17 V ANNAN 22
SATURDAY 27th DECEMBER 2003

After two defeats in the last two seasons Annan eventually retrieved the Chisholm Cup at the Greenlaw by four tries and a conversion to three tries and a conversion. With two Annan XVs at Stewartry and with several players unavailable due to seasonal duties or injured, Annan 1st XV showed several changes from the one originally selected. The most notable of the changes was the inclusion of 16 year-old Duncan Fisher at fullback. Stewartry, who are having a trying time in Division 1 of the National leagues just as Annan are having in Premier 3 (both sides sitting second bottom of their respective leagues), were bolstered by the return of their antipodean travellers.

In the first ten minutes of the game Annan laid siege to the home line with some fine rucking and mauling drives by the forwards but resolute defence by the home side deprived the visitors of a score and when the siege was lifted the rest of the first half belonged to the home side who played with much more conviction than the Annan side. In a ten minute spell in the middle of the half the home side punished some slack Annan defending and scored two well worked tries one of which was converted to take them into a well deserved twelve point lead at half time.

The tongue lashing that the Annan squad had to endure at halt time from their coaches for their lack lustre first half performance obviously had the desired effect as Annan’s second half performance bore little resemblance to their first. With the ball being played wide Annan began to find chinks in the home defences and it was only a matter of time before the visitors scored. The first try came from a ruck in the home 22 and with some fine interplay and handling between forwards and backs hooker Paul Carruthers drove over to score his first try for the 1st XV. Minutes later from a ruck on the five metre line with the home defences obviously expecting the ball to be spun to the open side scrum half Barry Graham instead broke up the blind side and drove over to score. It was Barry Graham who was instrumental in Annan third try when from a scrum in the Stewartry 22 he again broke up the blind side but this time he fed the ball to winger Paul Minto who crashed over to score. Stand off Niall Smith converted the try to take Annan into a slender 5 point lead. The home side worked their way back into the game and it was only stalwart Annan defence that kept their line intact. This was doubly rewarding as during this period Annan’s No 7 Stephan Dreyer was sin binned for ten minutes for a repeated technical offence. The Stewartry pressure however eventually paid off when the scored a finely worked try to tie the scores at 17 all. Annan were not to be denied their victory when from a scrum on the right the ball was worked along the back line and winger Michael Pattinson scored his first try for the 1st XV. Despite an exerted period of pressure in the last minutes of play Annan held on to win what was a thoroughly enjoyable game of rugby for the spectators.

What was most pleasing for the Annan support and coaches was the performances of the younger members of the team with full back Duncan Fisher and winger Michael Pattinson in particular doing their selection prospects no harm at all.

Annan Squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers, J. Gilmour, J Nelson, W Henderson, C Moffat S Dreyer, S Clanachan, B. Graham, N Smith, P Minto, M Griffen, A Render, M Pattison, D Fisher.

HILLHEAD 53 V ANNAN 0
SATURDAY 13th DECEMBER 2003

After two encouraging performances, losing narrowly at Preston Lodge and in beating East Kilbride at Violetbank last weekend, this crushing defeat by Hillhead was hard to bear for the Annan squad and their loyal travelling support at Hughenden on Saturday. Truth be told Annan were never in this game at any time as the home side put in a flawless performance in dreadful conditions. Within five minutes of the whistle the home side the home side posted their intent when playing into the driving rain they scored a fine try in a move which tore the visiting defensive line to shreds. With the home stand off and back row in terrific form throughout the entire eighty minutes Annan had a miserable afternoon as Hillhead controlled all facets of the game. On the rare occasions Annan managed to put a few phases of play together they were unable to sustain the pressure as the ball was either dropped, knocked on or turned over. Ever Annan’s strong suites, their scrummage and lineout, was put under immense pressure throughout the game.

In the first half Annan conceded three further tries, a penalty and two conversions to take the halt time score to 27-0. The second half, playing into the driving wind and rain, Annan had to suffer more of the same as the home side continued where they had left off at the half time whistle and conceded a further four tries and three conversions without reply. Hillhead’s continuity play with their backs and backrow in particular in devastating form allied to their ability to always play the ball out off the tackle and provide quick ball from rucks combined with some some dynamic mauling meant that Annan played most of the game on the back foot.

The only positive for Annan was that they battled all the way to the final whistle but the misery was compounded when the news filtered through that East Kilbride, who Annan had dragged into the relegation zone the previous week, had beaten the league leaders Edinburgh Accies putting the relegation pressure firmly back onto Annan.

Annan Squad: P O’Donnell, P Carruthers, J. Gilmour, (D Irving) M Newton, (J Nelson),W Henderson, C Moffat (C Warrick), S Dreyer, S Clanachan, B. Graham, N Smith, M Griffen, A Render, J Crowther, M Pattison, A Eggleton

ANNAN 24 V EAST KILBRIDE 10
SATURDAY 6th DECEMBER 2003

Annan at long last got their first home Premiership win of the season with a convincing 4 try to 1 victory over East Kilbride at Violetbank on Saturday. This victory means that Annan now have a chance of survival in the Premiership but still have a lot to do to maintain that dream.

In the first quarter of the match the visitors held sway as their forwards kept play in the home half for long periods and in fact had a chance to take the lead after a few minutes when they were awarded a penalty, which their kicker missed. However he made up for his miss minutes later when awarded a further penalty, which he duly slotted between the posts. The Annan forwards fought their way back into the game and from a fine piece of driving play following a scrum in the East Kilbride 22 the ball was driven up the blind side of a ruck by No 8 Stuart Clanachan who fed the ball centre Andy Render who in turn fed winger Michael Rennie who crashed over to score. Stand off Niall Smith added the extra 2 points to take the score to 7-3.

Neither team managed to stamp their authority on the remainder of the half until that is Annan, minutes from the half time whistle, scored perhaps the best try ever seen at Violetbank. From a scrum in the visitor’s 22 scrum half Barry Graham started a move which saw the ball pass through nine pairs of hands as the ball went out the wing and back in again ending back with Barry Graham who, while looking for someone to pass to, realised he could score himself. Niall Smith failed with his conversion attempt. The half time score Annan 12 East Kilbride 3.

The second half almost entirely belonged to Annan as the Annan forwards took control of the set piece with the scrummaging and lineout much improved from the first forty minutes. With some quality possession on offer the Annan backs began to make inroads against their opposite numbers and from a ruck the ball was fed again to winger Michael Rennie who had come off his wing and he again used his ample weight and strength to power over for his second try. The try was again converted by Niall Smith.

East Kilbride had their best spell immediately after this try as they laid siege to the home line but Annan showed their mettle in their defensive duties and repelled the East Kilbride onslaught time and time again before they ran out of defensive cover and the visiting outside centre broke through to score a converted try. That was the last time the visitors got near the home line as Annan drove play deep into the opposition half in an attempt to gain the bonus point fourth try. The try when it came was well worth the effort expended as the home forwards battered away at the East Kilbride line and eventually the ball was worked along the back line to young winger Michael Griffen who, with still plenty of work to do, took his opposite number on the outside to score a fine try in the corner. Niall Smith’s missed conversion brought the match to a close and Annan had scored a fine victory and avenged their earlier defeat in the season at Torrance House. As the fair sized crowd dispersed the talk was still on the ‘barbarian’ type try witnessed at the end of the first half and thoughts were already turning to hopes of staving off relegation with East Kilbride now a factor in the relegation equation.

This was by no means a classic match as both teams with so much at stake made mistakes and at times the match became some what ill tempered as frustration set in. What raised it above the ordinary was the quality of the tries scored and that all the tries were all scored by the backs! Annan now have to continue playing at this pace if they are to have a fighting chance of Premier survival.

Annan Team: P O’Donnell, (J Tinning) P Carruthers, J. Gilmour, (C Warrick) M Newton, W Henderson, C Moffat, I Thorburn) S Dreyer, S Clanachan, B. Graham, N Smith, M Griffen, A Render, J Crowther, M Rennie, A Eggleton Replacement not used M Pattinson

PRESTON LODGE 16 V ANNAN 12
SATURDAY 29th NOVEMBER 2003

After the dismal performance against R.H.C. the previous week, and with the team further weakened by injury, illness, work commitments and selectorial whimsy, the small band of Annan supporters travelled to Prestonpans more in hope than expectation. The home team lie second in the League and were impressive in winning at Violetbank early in the season. However, Annan kicked off with a stiff breeze and squally showers at their back and quickly took the initiative. After stand-off Craig McCann had tested the P.L. back three with a high ball and found them wanting, another wickedly judged up and under again forced P.L. into mistakes and Annan prop Paul O’Donnell, who played splendidly throughout, latched onto the loose ball and drove towards the try line and from the ensuing ruck, Annan No. 8, Stuart Clanachan picked up and muscled his way over for an excellent trademark try. The difficult conversion was missed but Annan kept up the pressure and mid-way through the half, struck again. The initial break came from a robust run out of defence by right wing Paul Minto who, when daunted by the prospect of a 50 metre solo sprint to the posts, sought the familiar security of the supporting forwards. Sure enough the ball came back again on the Annan side. Craig McCann kicked speculatively and the P.L. wing ushered the ball over his line only to lose control and the every alert Minto was on hand to secure the touchdown. Craig McCann converted superbly from wide out to put Annan 12 points up. The game continued to be played mostly in the P.L. half and Stuart Clanachan was just held up over the line and Andy Render was denied what appeared to be a good try when the referee deemed that an opposition hand had got underneath the ball.

After the interval it was a different story. P.L. tightened up their game and used their bigger forwards to control possession. Time and again the P.L. rolling maul drove Annan back 20 or 30 metres and gradually the game turned. A penalty was P.L.’s early reward followed by another and following sustained pressure the P.L. pack drove over for a deserved try. The conversion points were added to put the home team ahead by a single point. Annan rallied and a surging run by Stuart Clanachan deep into the P.L. 22 created a scoring chance which was missed. A penalty attempt by Craig McCann then went just wide before P.L. took control again and Annan spent the last 15 minutes in dogged defence and there could be no complaint when a final penalty from P.L. secured victory for the home team.

A bonus point for Annan was just reward for a much improved performance. The tactics were spot on for the conditions and the players exhibited a refreshing vigour and pride. This was essentially a team performance but special credit must go to the line-out specialists Billy Henderson and Stuart Clanachan who stole much of P.L.‘s ball, to young Craig McCann who showed many good touches, to centre Andy Render who marshalled the midfield defence, ably assisted by player/coach Paul Minto who clearly relished his role of roving destroyer and young Stefan Dreyer who matures and improves week on week and in this his first season of senior rugby, already looks a worthy successor to the redoubtable Robert Currie who now plies his trade with Glasgow Hawks, the No. 1 team in Scottish Club Rugby. That’s high praise Stefan – believe me!

RHC 49 V ANNAN 5
SATURDAY 22nd NOVEMBER 2003

Annan were unceremoniously dumped out of the BT Shield competition on Saturday at Union Park in Edinburgh by RHC (the amalgamation of the Royal High and Corstorphine clubs) by 9 tries to 1- thankfully the RHC kicker had an off day only managing to convert one of the scores. This will be a game, which Annan will want to forget, as this was without doubt the clubs poorest performance of the season and perhaps for some seasons. From the start Annan seemed disinterested in this Shield game, which was surprising given the club’s success last season at Murrayfield. Also with RHC sitting fourth from bottom of the league in Premier 3 and within striking distance of Annan a league marker was hoped to be set by the visitors. It unhappily only took five minutes for this hope to be shattered as the home side crossed the Annan line with ease in a sweeping backs move which scythed through some hapless Annan defences with their No 5 on hand to take an inside pass to score. Annan made life extremely difficult for themselves but surrendering possession all too easily in the tackle and ruck situations. This shortcoming was compounded by some aimless kicking out of hand which on two occasions in the first half led to tries for the home side when the ball was fielded by the home fullback who then proceeded to dance through the despairing visiting defence to set up his stand off and scrum half to score with one try converted. RHC added a further two tries before half time to complete a miserable 40 minutes not only for the Annan players but also the knot of Annan supporters some of whom had made their second journey to the capital in a week to support their team.

Hopes of a resurgent Annan performance in the second half were cruelly crushed as RHC carried on in the same vein as the first with their backs and back row embarrassingly carving through the now shell shocked visiting lines adding a further three tries before Annan scored their consolation try. No 8 Stuart Clannachan picked up from the base of a scrum and set of on one of his trademark bullocking runs towards the RHC line and when eventually stopped his forwards were there to drive the ball over the line with replacement prop Darren Irving credited with the touchdown. Annan’s misery was complete when the home side scored a further try on the final whistle. Thankfully the home kicker missed with yet another conversion attempt, which saved the blushes of the visitors being beaten by more than 50 points.

What positives can Annan take from this performance ? Well none - other than it could have been worse and that they can surely not play any worse than this. With the attitude that this was only a Cup match and didn’t really matter as one wag was heard to say at the death from the touchline ‘it’s not a sports physiotherapist that this team need but a sports psychiatrist’.

Annan Squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers, G Wyllie, (D Irving) M Newton (J Nelson), W Henderson, C Moffat, S Dreyer, S Clanachan, B. Graham, M Rennie, M Griffen, A Render, A Eggleton, C McCann, S McCann,

ROSS HIGH 3 V ANNAN 25
SATURDAY 15TH NOVEMBER 2003

Agreed it may not seem an historic moment to most, especially as it was the basement battle between the two clubs, but this was Annan’s first ever Premiership win and was relished by the players and the small knot of Annan supporters who had made the long journey to Tranent on Saturday. Before the game the prospect of an Annan win had seemed remote as the selected squad, already ravaged by injury, were without prop James Gilmour and lock John Nelson who had both fallen victim to ‘flu. However such was the resolve of this young team that the game was only minutes old when, playing against a considerable wind blowing in from the sea, centre Andy Render latched on to a wayward Ross High pass and blasted out of the Annan 22 and when he was tackled he popped the ball to left winger Michael Griffen who, taking his opposite number on the outside, sprinted in to score in the corner. The conversion was missed. Although the visitors had the bulk of possession and territory in the first half Annan were unable to break down a stubborn and stuffy home defence and it was the home side who scored the only other points of the half. Ross High were awarded a penalty in one of their rare excursions into the Annan 22 which their stand off slotted between the posts to take the half time score to Ross High 3 Annan 5.

With the wind and sun at their backs after the break it looked if the visitors used the elements to their advantage they would be able to increase their slender lead. It was the home side, however, who upped their game and had Annan on the back foot for long periods, which put Annan’s defensive line under considerable pressure. But it was Annan who added to their points tally when Scott McCann slotted a penalty award. It was the younger McCann brother who was on hand again to score his first try for the 1st XV when from a driving piece of play by the Ross High forwards the home right winger was fed the ball and sprinted down the touchline. When he was tackled by centre Andrew Eggleton his attempted pass inside was snapped up by Scott McCann who, in turn, sprinted up the same touchline to score in the corner.

Annan in the last quarter of the game began to exert some control over the match and the Ross High defences began to crumble and prop Paul O’Donnell was next on the score sheet when from a ruck within the home 22 he broke through the middle of the pile of playeds to score between the posts. Scott McCann added the extras to give the visitors a healthy 17 point lead. The icing on the cake in the form of a bonus point came in the dying moments of the game when from a superb piece of driving play by the forwards the ball was sent along the back line for full back Scott McCann, coming into the line at pace to score in the corner. This final act took the final score to Ross High 3 Annan 25.

All in all this was a highly satisfying victory for Annan, especially bearing in mind the considerable injury problems the club has at the present time. This however should take nothing away from this battling performance. Special mention must be made of the fact that all of Annan’s points were scored by the younger members of the squad with Scott McCann, who has just turned seventeen Annan’s man of the match with a personal points tally of 15 points.

In the forwards the players who caught the eye were lock Michael Newton and wing forward Stephan Dreyer who both had outstanding matches and in the backs centre Andy Render and the aforementioned Scott McCann providing constant attacking threats and solid defence. This result has given the club a great lift and the belief that relegation is no longer a foregone conclusion although there are still major hurdles to overcome to ensure Premier 3 rugby at Violetbank next season but the green shoots of optimism are there to be seen.

Annan Squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers, P O’Donnell (G Wyllie) M Newton, W Henderson, C Moffat (I Thorburn), S Dreyer, S Clanachan, S McCann (B Graham) M Rennie, M Griffen, A Render, J Crowther, C McCann, A Eggleton,

ANNAN 0 V BERWICK 52
SATURDAY 8TH NOVEMBER 2003

Annan suffered their heaviest home league defeat on Saturday when visitors Berwick put the home side to the sword scoring eight unanswered tries at Violetbank. Annan had had to make some late changes from the original team selected when captain and stand off Niall Smith had to pull out with a hamstring problem and scrum half Barry Graham called off suffering from ‘flu. Centre Michael Rennie moved into the stand off berth and 16 year old Scott McCann called up to fill the No 9 shirt and make his debut in the 1st XV.

Although Annan battled well in the early stages they never looked at ease on the ball and with the visitors pressurising the home forwards in all facets of the game numerous turnovers created problems for the creaking home defences. It was only a matter of time therefore before the Annan line was breached and tries by the Berwick scrum half and outside centre saw Berwick go into the half time break 12 points to nil in the lead.

Annan continued to labour in the second half under the onslaught of some fine play by the Berwick forwards who put their Annan counterparts under great pressure in scrum and lineout and with their forwards providing quality ball for their backs tries came at regular intervals throughout the remaining forty minutes with a further five tries being scored. With Annan’s No8 Stuart Clanachan and centre Andy Render having to leave the field injured the re-organisation required allowed the visitors cut loose in the final minutes when the last three tries were scored.

Although Annan had their moments during the game they were unable to secure and retain enough possession to threaten the Berwick line. Again territory was surrendered cheaply with some sloppy play and wayward kicking. The home scrummage was under the cosh for most of the game with the usually secure home lineout also poor in providing a platform from which to launch attacks.

At the final whistle Annan left the field frustrated that they had been unable to exert any control on the game but not down hearted bearing in mind the changes that had had to be made to their lineup. One of the major plusses of the day was the heartening performance of young scrum half Scott McCann who was awarded the Annan Man of the Match Award by match sponsors BNFL.

Annan Team: P O’Donnell, (G. Wyllie) P Carruthers, J Gilmour, (D Irving) J Nelson, W Henderson, C Moffat, S Dreyer, S Clanachan, (I Thorburn), S McCann, M Rennie, M Griffen, A Render, J Crowther, C. McCann, A. Eggleton

ANNAN 19 V EDINBURGH ACCIES 25
SATURDAY 1ST NOVEMBER 2003

There was a definite feeling of déjà vu at Violetbank on Saturday as Annan entertained Edinburgh Accies for the second time in four weeks albeit this time it was in the 3rd Round of the BT CUP and not in the league. It was almost a re-run of the previous encounter with the visitors playing well in the first half and the home side making a storming comeback in the second.

Unlike the previous encounter where Annan were 20 points down in twenty minutes it was 25 minutes before Accies opened their account when their left winger Dillon scored in the corner. He added to his try haul with a further score 10 minutes later which was converted to take the half time score to Annan 0 Edinburgh Accies 12. Although scoreless in the first half Annan had their moments with the home forwards battling hard for every loose ball and the backs making inroads into the visiting half on numerous occasions with some astute kicking by stand off Niall Smith.

In the second half Annan carried on as they had in the first with some fine driving play by the forwards who tightened up their game and denying the visitors as little ball as possible began their fight back. Annan of course do not believe in doing things the easy way and in the opening minutes of the half gifted a relatively soft converted try to Accies when from a loose ball the visitor’s stand off Couper drifted over the line to score. Annan began their fight back with a rousing try when from a ruck just inside the Accies half No 8 Stuart Clanachan set off on a barging run to the line to score. The visitors replied with another try of their own scored by winger Dillon to give him his hat trick. Annan continued to have the better of the possession and territorial advantage in this half but spurned several scoring chances when either dropped passes or wrong options were taken.

However the Annan pressure did begin to tell and from a series of rucks in the Accies 22 wing forward Stephan Dreyer drove over for his first try for his club, which Niall Smith converted. He was followed minutes later by prop Jack Tinning who scored a similar try. Again Niall Smith converted the try to take Annan within a score of winning the game. Had the match lasted a further five minutes few doubted Annan could have won. However it was not to be and Annan although out of the BT Cup are now in the BT Shield competition.

This was without doubt Annan’s best performance of the season so far, especially pleasing because they were without several of their 1st team regulars three of whom watched the game from the sidelines on crutches. In the forwards wing forward Stephan Dreyer and Stuart Clanachan put in excellent performances with stand of Niall Smith and centre Andy Render having impressive games in the backs.

Annan Team: P. O’Donnell, (J.Tinning) P. Carruthers, J. Gilmour, (C. Warrick) J. Nelson, W. Henderson, C. Moffat, S. Dreyer, S. Clanachan, B. Graham, N. Smith, M. Griffen, A. Render, M. Rennie, (I. Thorburn), C. McCann, A. Eggleton,

MUSSELBURGH 35 V ANNAN 22
SATURDAY 25TH OCTOBER 2003

Annan were again beaten on Saturday despite a battling performance at Stoneyhill by 4 tries to 3. Annan’s cause was not helped when wing forward Andy Renwick had to withdraw from the team during the pre-match warm up with a recurrence of a knee injury. He was replaced by lock John Nelson which resulted in Billy Henderson moving to the blindside wing forward’s berth. Coach Paul Minto, having made the mistake of bringing his boots ended up on the replacements’ bench.

Throughout this league campaign Annan have started most of their games as if they had just got off the bus and that includes home games! This match was to be no exception as within minutes of the start Annan’s entire back line was posted missing as home winger Di Rollo got his name on the score sheet with a splendid finish under the posts. Stand off Wells added the conversion to give the home team a 7-0 lead. From the restart Annan drove play into the Musselburgh 22 and during a ruck Annan’s lock Graham Smith sustained a serious knee injury, which resulted in him having to be stretchered off the pitch. He was replaced by Paul Minto with Billy Henderson returning to the second row.

At the restart home winger Di Rollo again got on the score sheet as he burst through the shaky Annan defences to score his second try stand off Wells missed his conversion attempt but was on target minutes later with a penalty award when the Annan went over the top at a ruck. At this time it looked as if the home side were well in control when Annan upset the applecart when scrum half Barry Graham drove over in the corner after some good driving play by his forwards. Stand off Niall Smith added the conversion to take the score to 15-7. Musselburgh drove play deep into the Annan 22 from the restart and were unlucky to have a try disallowed for a double movement. Then the visitors’ rocked the home support when, with the Musselburgh backs pressing up in attack and five metres from the Annan line centre Andy Render intercepted a pass by standoff Wells and won the lung bursting footrace to score between the posts with Wells in hot pursuit. Niall Smith added the conversion to take the half time score to Musselburgh 15 Annan 14.

With the game finely balanced Annan unfortunately started the second half as they had the first and within two minutes of the restart the home side had increased their lead. The home standoff Wells again proved to be the home sides catalyst when he chipped the ball over the advancing Annan back line and when he was unable to gather the awkwardly bouncing ball hacked the ball on and won the race to the line. He then converted his try to a seven pointer. The game ebbed and flowed for the next 15 minutes as neither side was able to get the upper hand. The impasse was broken when Wells added a drop goal from the 22 metre line when the Burgh backs were unable to penetrate the stubborn visiting defensive line.

The home side continued to launch attack after attack but it was Annan who got the scoreboard ticking over when, from a ruck, in their best move of the match Annan moved the ball through several pairs of hands including the entire back row and back line to winger Craig McCann who evaded his opposite number, taking him on the outside, to score in the corner. With score at 25-22 and Musselburgh obviously rattled Annan looked to capitalise on their mistakes. Unfortunately for the visitors they were unable to turn pressure into points and Wells added a penalty to his impressive tally for the match, which eased the home side 6 points clear. Although Annan still battled away to try and pull off their first win of the season the last word was left to Musselburgh centre Stewart who burst through the middle to score between the posts. Wells added the conversion to take the final score to Musselburgh 35 Annan 22.

Annan can take great heart from this battling performance especially their forwards who over the piece had the edge over their East Lothian counterparts in most set piece facets of the game. Unfortunately the injuries to Andy Renwick and Graham Smith look as if they will take both out of the game for sometime and with several other Annan players still battling against injuries the club are having to dig deep into their limited resources. Whilst the Annan forwards held their own the lighter Annan backs found it difficult to deal with the bigger and stronger looking Musselburgh counterparts and with at least two Annan players having to deal with one Musselburgh player in the tackle holes in the Annan defences were constantly being opened up.

Annan 1st XV: P. O’Donnell, (J.Tinning) P. Carruthers, J. Gilmour, J. Nelson, G. Smith, (P. Minto) W. Henderson, C. Moffat, S. Clanachan, B. Graham, N. Smith, S. Williamson, A. Render, M. Rennie, C. McCann, A. Eggleton, Replacements: M. Griffen,(not used)

ANNAN 14 V CAMBUSLANG 24
SATURDAY 18TH OCTOBER 2003

There are some who probably feel that this report on Annan’s defeat at Violetbank in their Premier 3 match against Cambuslang should be edged in black as this was a must win match for Annan if they were to have a chance of surviving in the Premier Leagues. Annan, with a considerable breeze at their backs, started off well as they kept play in the visitor’s 22 for the first ten minutes and infact took the lead when standoff Niall Smith landed a penalty when the Cambuslang forwards were caught offside at a ruck. The visitors worked their way back into the game and scored a converted try when their forwards rumbled over to score from a lineout on the home 5 metre line. Annan fought their way back into the visitor’s half and from a ruck just inside the 22 No 8 Stuart Clanachan burst through some ineffectual Cambuslang tackles to score an unconverted try beside the posts and retake the lead.

Annan’s lead was short lived. An enterprising attack by the home backs which set full back Andrew Eggleton up the left touchline for him to be bundled into touch just short of the line and from the ensuing lineout the visitors cleared their lines only for the ball to be mis-fielded and gathered by the visiting full back who won the race to the Annan line for a somewhat soft score to take the score to Annan 8 Cambuslang 12. Niall Smith reduced the visitors’ lead to a single point when he slotted a penalty just before half time. Half Time score Annan 11 Cambuslang 12.

Niall Smith added a further penalty to re-take the lead, which was once again short lived, when the visitors left winger scored in the corner. Annan were pinned in their own 22 for long periods of the second half as the Cambuslang forwards put a stranglehold on the game. However with the game finely balanced at 14-17 Annan realised that the game was still there for the winning and on a couple of occasions drove play deep into the visitor’s half only for the moves to break down. As the game moved towards full time Annan, in a desperate attempt to win the game tried to run the ball out of defence and the ball was spilt in a tackle. The visiting back row gathered the loose ball and drove towards the Annan line to score a converted try to take the final score to Annan 14 Cambuslang 24.

As the disconsolate Annan players and supporters trudged off the park they all realised that, barring a miracle, Annan now have an almost impossible task to remain in Premier 3 next season. However although not playing to anywhere near their potential there is still a great team spirit within this young team which augers well for the future.

Annan team: P. O’Donnell, P. Carruthers, J. Gilmour (D. Irving), M. Newton, W. Henderson, A. Renwick(J. Nelson), G. Smith, S. Clanachan, B. Graham, N. Smith, S. Williamson, A. Render, M. Rennie, C. McCann, A. Eggleton,

CARTHA QUEENS PARK 45 V ANNAN 13
SATURDAY 11TH OCTOBER 2003

Over the years Annan has often followed a fine performance with a poor one and Saturday proved to be no exception. After the previous Saturdays encouraging performance against Edinburgh Accies hopes were high that Annan’s fortunes were on the turn. Last season although Cartha won both games they were both close games with Annan outscoring Cartha in the try count. Cartha made up for that on Saturday at Drumbreck outscoring their visitors by 7 tries to 2. Annan’s cause was not helped by the fact that they were without centre Andrew Eggleton and back rowers Andy Renwick and Stephan Dreyer from the original lineup all of whom had not recovered from injuries picked up the previous week.

The visitors were rocked in the opening minutes of the game when the home team scored a simple unconverted try. Stand off Niall Smith landed a penalty to bring Annan within two points which was the closest Annan got to Cartha all day. By half time Cartha had scored a further 3 tries converting 2 and Annan had scored one when scrum half Barry Graham, from the base of a ruck 5 metres from the Cartha line sold the home blindside flanker a dummy to score to take the half time score to Cartha QP 24 Annan 8.

The second half was almost a mirror image of the first with Annan conceding a try early on in the half and then a further two tries before Annan scored a try at the death when No 8 Stuart Clanachan crashed over following a penalty award to take the final score to Cartha Queens Park 45 Annan 13.

Annan looked a pale imitation of the team who had caused Edinburgh Accies so much trouble in the second half of the game the previous week. The Annan forwards were given a torrid time in the scrums and looked to be at least a yard off the pace for most of the game. Only in the lineouts did Annan look to have parity with their opposite numbers. The home backs looked at ease on the ball and when the ball was spun wide the Annan defenses were always in trouble. On the other hand the Annan backs with ball in hand looked indecisive and lacking in invention. In the forwards prop James Gilmour always looked threatening with ball in hand and young wing forward Craig Moffat in only his second 1st XV outing again showed great promise. In the backs centre Andy Render was the only back who looked capable of breaking the gain line.

Annan Team: P. O’Donnell, (D. Irving) P. Carruthers, J. Gilmour, M. Newton, G. Smith, W. Henderson,(G. Wyllie), C. Moffat, S. Clanachan B. Graham, N. Smith, M. Griffen, A. Render, (S. Williamson) M. Rennie, J. Crowther, C. McCann.

ANNAN 29 V EDINBURGH ACCIES 45
SATURDAY 4TH OCTOBER 2003

Unbeaten Edinburgh Accies versus pointless Annan. This always looked like a very high hurdle indeed for the home side, and after 20 minutes it all appeared to be going according to script. Accies had all the possession, recycled the ball well, got their pacy backs moving, and the scores came. A penalty by stand off Guest, a try by scrum half Couper, quickly followed by tries from winger Powell and full back Dillon both converted by stand off Guest, seemed to point the way to a miserable afternoon for Annan players and supporters alike. Incredibly, or so it would have seemed at that point, Annan "won" the remainder of the game.

This transformation was the result of aggressive forward play and committed defence from the backs. Annan first stemmed the tide, though they did give away a converted try just before half time, scored by winger Powell converted by Guest. Annan's sole points came courtesy of a penalty by Niall Smith as Accies killed the ball in front of their own posts. Even so, the half time score of 27-3 to the visitors gave little indication of what was to come.

Whatever the half time team talk, or whatever was in the oranges, Annan proceeded to have their best 40 minutes for a long time, even though Accies started the second period with another try by full back Dillon to go 32-3 up. At this point Annan pack leader Andy Renwick and his troops took control of the forward battle. Keeping the ball tight, they drove up the field, rucking well and keeping possession much better than of late. They were assisted by good set piece form, which gave them control of their own ball. And so an increasingly delighted home support saw Annan gain a try bonus point in the second half. First over was flanker Graham Smith when from a shortened lineout three home forwards drove through the bemused Accies defence who were obviously expecting the ball to be sent wide. This was followed by a typical effort from centre Andy Render who was on hand to take a pop ball from his rampant forwards to crash over, then stand off Niall Smith got over in the corner and substitute No 8 Stuart Clanachan, making a welcome return to action after months of injury, clinched the bonus when from a penalty he drove over, through the increasingly frustrated Accies defences, from the ensuing lineout. Niall Smith converted three of the tries, two well struck from wide out. During this period Accies had managed two penalties from Guest, but Annan had fought back to within nine points at 38-29. The tide turned in Accies favour when Annan lock Michael Newton was sin binned with six minutes to go until the final whistle and sadly, from the Annan perspective, the final score was to go to Accies, a converted try at the death, scored by full back Dillon to give him his hat trick.

Though another defeat, this game can give Annan enormous encouragement. Their scrum and lineout worked well, they rediscovered that hunger in the forwards, which made them so effective in recent years. The backs, though never with the pace of their opponents, defended well and made fewer errors in possession, with Andy Render showing again that he can find a way through from close range. Captain Niall Smith kicked well, making good ground up the touch line. What Annan now need is to show the same self belief from the start of the next match at Cartha next Saturday.

ANNAN TEAM: C. McCann (M. Rennie); M. Anderson (C. McCann), A. Eggleton, A. Render, M. Griffin; N. Smith, B. Graham; P. O'Donnell, P. Carruthers, J. Gilmour (J. Tinning), M. Newton, J. Nelson, (S. Clanachan) A. Renwick, S. Dreyer, G. Smith

DUNFERMLINE 45 V ANNAN 7
SATURDAY 27TH SEPTEMBER 2003

Last week Annan were unlucky to lose at RHC, but this second away game in successive weeks was a clear win for the home side.

Dunfermline were a slick and pow­erful side, and by half time they had the four tries for the bonus point, the result of periods of sustained pres­sure. At this level every mistake seems to be punished. A couple of missed tackles, a couple of missed touch kicks, defence pulled out of position a couple of times, and Annan were out of this game. To their credit Annan battled on to the end, and had the better of the final quarter to come off with their team spirit intact.

After their first defeat at Berwick the previous week, Dunfermline were obviously fired up for this game, and determined to get early points on the board. They certainly got the posses­sion and pressure, but for 15 minutes the Annan defence held firm. There was a touch of good fortune about Dunfermline's first score, a kindly bounce of the ball wrong footing the Annan defence allowing winger Mclntyre in for an unconverted try.

Dunfermline's three other tries came after sustained pressure and good movement of the ball across the pitch had left the Annan defence depleted. Wing McLaren, fullback Swankie and centre Brown did the damage, with stand off Barr kicking three conver­sions.

By half time the conditions were wet, and both teams made more errors in the second half, but two early Dunfermline tries put the game out of sight for Annan. The first came from a pushover on Dunfermline's only scrum near the Annan line, the other when Mclntyre stormed in for his sec­ond. Annan's perseverance, however, meant that they were not going to be swamped, and they proceeded to dom­inate the final quarter, though their only reward was a try from centre Andy Render, who danced through the defence under the posts to give Niall Smith an easy conversion. With Annan now moving with more confidence and purpose, it was rough justice that an Annan pass on halfway should be intercepted, leading to an easy run in and conversion to finish the game.

There were positives for Annan in this game. The lineout was more like its old self, with good ball from Graham Smith and Mike Newton. The scrum, though outweighed, secured its own ball well. In the loose Annan found it hard to get over the gain line - only Graham Smith and Mike Newton regularly making ground, while the backs were unable to breach the Dunfermline midfield defence or get in behind their opponents. Encouragingly one of Annan's best runs came from substitute Michael Griffin late in the game.

Annan Team: A. Eggleton, M. Anderson, A. Render, M. Rennie, J. Crowther (M. Griffin), N. Smith, C. McCann, P. O'Donnell, P. Carruthers, G. Wylie (0. Irving), M. Newton, J. Nelson (W. Henderson), G. Smith, S. Dreyer (C. Moffat), A. Renwick.

RHC 23 V ANNAN 10
SATURDAY 20TH SEPTEMBER 2003

Disappointment was etched on the faces of the Annan players and coaches at the final whistle of this fixture against the new Edinburgh "merger club", and not because Annan had played poorly or had been beaten by a better team. Quite simply, the game had been there for the taking and Annan were unable to transfer their considerable superiority in the first half into points on the board.

Annan played with pace and passion in the first period and were mostly on top throughout. The scrum was more than solid, they were accomplished in the line-out, the rucking was effective and a good share of loose ball was snaffled from the opposition, thanks to good work by the Annan forwards and by newton and Moffat in particular. Annan were camped in the RHC half for lengthy periods but lacked that incisive thrust, occasionally through wrong options, when it seemed only a matter of time before the RHC defence would give way. With the first half drawing to a close, it was rough justice when RHC drew first blood with one of their rare handling forays into Annan territory. An innocuous move down the left flank, two missed Annan tackles and full back Thomson was in for a relatively soft try. Stand-off Vaughin, who was excellent throughout, converted and slotted a penalty for RHC shortly thereafter. Half-time score - RHC 10 Annan 0. This was a cruel scoreline but Annan had had ample opportunity to capitalise on their first-half pressure, including two missed penalty attempts.

Annan started the second half well but were rocked by a try from inside centre Thomson, again due to a crucial missed tackle. With this try converted, it was RHC 17 Annan 0 and Annan were now chasing the game. RHC began to play with confidence for the first time in the match while Annan lapsed into a 20 minute spell of unforced errors and nervy handling, although they did come close to scoring on a couple of occasions, once in particular where it seemd certain that either Griffin or Eggleton would be in for a well-earned try. Vaughin slotted two further penalties for RHC, needlessly coceded by the away side. Annan did score two tries in the last five minutes, both beautifully scored by Graham Smith and Michael Anderson. Too little, too late!

Not for the first time, a visit to Union Park had a disappointing conclusion. It is one thing knowing that you are a better team than the opposition, it is another actually proving it. While there were many good individual performances in the Annan team - Michael Newton was immense throughout, James Gilmour was a powerhouse in the scrum, young Craig Moffat had an excellent first-team début, and Andrew Eggleton and Andy Render performed well in the backs - the collective responsibility for solid defence has to return to the high standards set last season. Although some teams in this league are bigger than the Annan boys, this need not be a barrier. Aberdeen Grammar School FP are buzzing in Premier One and outplayed Hawick away from home on Saturday. A quote from the AGSFP coach "...Hawick's forwards are as powerful as any side in Scotland, but our little fellas did a good job against some monsters." Annan's defence will improve - and they will start scoring tries when it matters. Self-belief is going to be an essential ingredient in the weeks to come.

One final important point - the RHC stand-off Vaughin was a real dead-eye with the boot, scoring 13 crucial points. Annan failed to score any of 13 kickable points on offer. Grooming a consistent kicker at this level is an absolute must!

ANNAN 7 V HILLHEAD/JORDANHILL 31
SATURDAY 13TH SEPTEMBER 2003

Although Annan are still without a win in Premier 3 this game at Violetbank on Saturday was a great advert for rugby with some fine play by both sides, played in a good spirit and at a furious pace. There will always be those supporters who only enjoy the game if their team wins and whilst the beer always tastes better in the aftermath of a victory all of the home players who came off the pitch at the end of the game must have been satisfied in the knowledge that they had given their all but were beaten by the better side on the day.

For the greater part of the first half Annan were under the cosh as the visitors laid siege to the Annan line but the home side to their credit defended well and after 20 minutes of intense pressure all Hillhead had to show for their effort was a penalty award converted by their outside centre. The home side also had their moments and came close on a couple of occasions the best move coming from an incisive inside break from centre Andrew Eggleton who looked odds on to score but was hauled down just yards from the line. Hillhead added to their lead ten minutes from the half time break when from some great driving play by their forwards set up their wing forward to score a converted try. Annan had the chance to open their account when awarded a kickable penalty, which was missed by fullback Craig McCann.

With a ten point deficit to make up Annan started with some purpose in the second half and had a period of sustained pressure on the visitors line which paid off when from a piece of fine interplay by both backs and forwards winger Andy Render came off his wing and tore a hole in the Hillhead blanket defence to score under the posts. Craig McCann added the conversion to take the home side within 3 points of the lead. Unfortunately for the home side the visitors hit back within minutes when from a scrum just outside the Annan 22 the Hillhead scrum half evaded the attentions of his opposite number and got a short pass away to his blindside wing forward who sprinted down the touchline and when tackled got an inside pass away to his inside centre to score a converted try to re-establish a ten point lead.

Annan were not to be outdone and in the best bit of rugby in the game some superb interplay between backs and forwards took play within inches of the visitor’s line and although the home support thought centre Michael Rennie had crashed over for a try all he received for his efforts was a broken nose! Although Annan continued to battle hard the visitors continued to stretch the home defences and it was only a matter of time before the Annan line was breached by a further two tries both of which were converted to take the final score to Annan 7 Hillhead Jordanhill 31.

This was a match, played at a frantic pace throughout, but where once again Annan had difficulty in retaining possession in contact situations and pressurised into making mistakes by the visitors. Too often the line kicking fell short of touch allowing Hillhead to mount attacks out of defence. Annan also played too much of their game behind the gain line when some direct running might have paid dividends. Annan also struggled to gain the upper hand in the lineout which normally is a secure source of set piece ball. On the plus side however the Annan scrummage looked secure throughout the match and in the loose Annan’s young backrow recruit Stephan Dreyer had another good game winning some vital possession on the floor and Craig McCann at full back again showed his attacking potential, especially from defensive situations.

For the record James Gilmour replaced prop Jack Tinning, John Nelson replaced lock Michael Newton (knee injury), Joe Crowther replaced centre Michael Rennie (broken nose) and prop Grant Wyllie replaced Bill Henderson with Paul O’ Donnell moving to the back row.

EAST KILBRIDE 36 V ANNAN 7
SUNDAY 7TH SEPTEMBER 2003

Annan succumbed to their second Premiership defeat at Torrance House on Sunday by five tries to one. The final scoreline however did not reflect the effort put into the game by this young Annan team. In the first thirty minutes of the game the visiting support were heartened by the efforts of their team as they looked capable during that period of winning the game. Even when down to 14 men with centre Andrew Eggleton sin binned for a repeated offence the home side were unable to break through the Annan defensive line. Annan however were guilty of surrendering hard won territory too cheaply by giving away a plethora of penalties which saw them driven time and time again deep into their own 22 by some fine line kicking by the opposition kicker. Hopefully the Annan coaches will be addressing this worrying problem in the coming weeks.

Annan had their chance in the opening period to take the lead when centre Michael Rennie was not far of the mark with a long range penalty award but it was the home side who took the lead when Annan gave away a penalty which was successfully converted by the East Kilbride hooker. During the ten-minute period prior to the half time break the visitors saw their line breached in quick succession as they gave away two simple tries due to some poor mid field defence. With both tries converted Annan went into the half time break 17 points to 0 down.

Even with a 17 point deficit the game did not look out the visitors reach but Annan were rocked early after the restart with a further two tries in the space of ten minutes which took the game beyond their reach. Credit to Annan however as they gamely battled on and their efforts were eventually rewarded when from a lineout the visiting forwards drove the ball over the East Kilbride line with No 8 Paul O’Donnell credited with his first 1st XV touchdown. Full back Craig McCann added the extra two points with a finely struck conversion from the touchline.

East Kilbride added a further converted try to take the final score to 36 –7. Annan’s misery was completed when with only minutes to play replacement prop John ‘Onnie’ Carlisle had to be stretchered off the field of play with a broken leg.

Although this was a disappointing defeat there were signs that once several of the squad get over their injuries they may well be capable of causing a few upsets in this league. The scrummaging and lineout play from the forwards showed a marked improvement from the previous week. One cause for concern, however, was the mid field defence which, normally a major plus in the Annan side was the weak spot in the overall defensive set up. However had there been a Man of the Match Award it would undoubtedly have gone to Annan lock Michael Newton who, although not quite at full fitness, had an outstanding game. Also impressive was young ex colt Craig McCann at fullback who showed a rugby maturity well beyond his years. In the forwards prop Grant Wylie, who was drafted in to replace Colin Warrick who had broken a finger in training during the week, showed up well.

ANNAN 7 V PRESTON LODGE 42
SATURDAY 30TH AUGUST 2003

Annan had a torrid start to their Premiership campaign with the visit to Violetbank by Preston Lodge FP who celebrated their return to Premiership rugby by securing a comfortable victory over their hosts, playing some attractive rugby and scoring six tries in the process. The visitors who had two victories against their hosts last season, albeit close affairs, looked a different side this season with the acquisition of some new players. Notably their live wire scrum half Crispen Ponder from Duns and hooker Kiwi Simon Chisholm from Bay of Plenty who was red carded on his debut for the visitors.

Despite the lack of rain Violetbank was in perfect condition as PL kicked off into the Annan half and it was that half of the pitch that saw the bulk of the action during the first quarter and it wasn’t long before PL racked up their first score when with only 2 minutes gone, the Annan forwards were caught offside at a ruck and their centre Patterson opened the scoring with a penalty. The visitors dominating all phases of play during this early spell and soon stretched their lead after 10 minutes. The forwards had driven close to the Annan line, where once more Annan conceded a penalty. The PL scrum half Ponder took a quick tap and fed his centre who crashed over in the corner. The conversion was missed.

Two minutes later that lead became 15 points, when PL scored the first of two long range tries which looked so easy as the usually solid Annan defense was made to look quite ordinary at times. The home team at last came alive and on the first occasion that they had carried the ball into the PL half, scored their only points of the game. Under pressure for the first time, PL conceded a couple of penalties in quick succession. Home centre Andy Render took a quick tap on the second of these and catching the PL defence by surprise went over for a try from close range. Fellow centre Michael Rennie added the conversion to reduce the score to 7 points to 15.

From the restart Annan continued to apply the pressure and the PL defence was tested on several occasions but Annan were unable to break down the resolute visiting defenses.. During this spell centre Michael Rennie failed to convert a penalty award.

Annan’s hopes of a comeback were dashed when the visitors scored their second long range try scored just before half time by the PL fullback who cleaved through some despairing tackles to score under the posts. The distance of his run must have covered 70 metres. The try was converted to take the half time score to 22 points to 7.

Ten minutes into the second half saw the PL hooker received the first of his yellow cards and visited the sin bin for ten minutes after committing a serious of penalty offences. Despite this set back for the visitors Annan were unable to capitalise on their numerical superiority and missed converting another penalty award. Preston Lodge continued to look the better team and soon added to their points tally. Some slick handling had taken play into the Annan half where a penalty was conceded which was successfully converted. This was followed by the visitors fourth try. With the score now standing at 25 points to 7, the game was well won.

Twenty six minutes into the half PL found themselves down to fourteen players when the referee deemed that the PL hooker was guilty of “dangerously play” and was given a second yellow card which in turn saw the red card being shown. However being short handed did not effect the visitors’ dominance of the game and PL scored a further two tries to take the final score to Annan 7 Preston Lodge FP 42

All in all this was a baptism of fire for Annan in their debut into the Premiership which also saw the home side concede their highest ever home defeat since their arrival into the league set up. However the plus points are that Annan will see an improvement in their set piece play which was erratic over the piece. Their lineout, normally one of their most secure set piece plays, was poor along with their scrummaging and loose play. It has to be said that Annan’s cause was not helped on the day with the warm up injury to prop Jack Tinning. The Annan backs who had looked impressive in the Violetbank Tournament the week before looked lacklustre with their normally solid defence made to look ordinary by a hard running Preston Lodge side who will no doubt give most of the other teams in the league a hard time.

Annan Team: 1. C. Warrick 2. P. Carruthers 3. P. O’Donnell (G. Wylie) 4. W. Henderson 5. J. Nelson 6. S. Williamson 7. S. Dryer 8. A. Renwick (M. Newton) 9. C. McCann 10. N. Smith 11. J. Crowther( A. McDonald) 12. M. Rennie 13. A. Render 14. M. Anderson 15. A. Eggleton

VIOLETBANK TROPHY
SATURDAY 23TH AUGUST 2003

With Upper Eden calling off at the last minute some re-jigging was required by the organisers to re-arrange the league set up on Saturday at Violetbank. The competition still went ahead with two leagues one of four teams and one of three. The four-team league playing 30-minute games and the three-team league 40-minute games. League A comprised teams from Biggar (The holders), Aspatria, Penrith and Stewartry and League B comprised teams from Annan, Langholm and Workington.

Aspatria, although beaten 7-5 by Cumbrian rivals Penrith topped League A after beating Stewartry 24-0, and Biggar 22-7. The other results from league A were Stewartry 0 Penrith 5, Biggar 14 Stewartry 0 and Biggar 12 Penrith 5

With both Annan and Langholm beating Workington 29-0 and 6-0 respectively the Annan Langholm game was the league decider. In a tense error strewn game Annan came out worthy winners 15 –7 with tries from winger Michael Griffin and scrum half Craig McCann with centre Michael Rennie adding a penalty and conversion to take the hosts into the final against Aspatria.

The final between the hosts Annan and Aspatria was played at a hectic pace with the larger Aspatria pack holding the edge throughout the game against their lighter and younger opponents. The Annan defences stood up well against several Aspatria onslaughts and all the visitors had to show for their efforts after ten minutes was a well struck penalty by their stand off but the Annan line was eventually breached towards the end of the half when the Aspatria No 8 crashed over for a converted try to take a 10 point lead. Annan hit back with a fine try by Annan stand off Niall Smith converted by centre Mike Rennie to take the half time score to Annan 7 Aspatria 10. In the second half although the Aspatria forwards still had the upper hand the Annan defences stood up well and in one attack on the Annan line the ball was intercepted by centre Andy Render who won the foot race to the line. With the try converted by Mike Rennie Annan took a 14 –10 lead. Aspatria, however, were not to be denied their deserved victory and scored two late converted tries to win the tie 24 – 14 and lift the Violetbank Challenge Shield for the first time.

The Annan coaches were well pleased with their squads efforts, especially the younger members of the squad who showed that some of the more experienced players in the squad will have a run for their money to retain their 1st XV places in the coming season.

For the record Annan’s point scorers in the Workington game were tries by Niall Smith, Michael Anderson (2) and Andy McDonald with Michael Rennie adding a penalty and two conversions

linebreak