Match reports for the 1st XV
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ANNAN 25 v KILMARNOCK 3
SATURDAY 2ND APRIL 2005

Annan, in their last league game of the season, secured maximum points at a sunny and warm Violetbank on Saturday with a convincing win over relegation strugglers Kilmarnock. This performance purged the memory of their 18 – nil defeat at Bellsland in October and consolidated their position in 5th place in Division 1 of the National leagues.

Kilmarnock started brightly and from an early sortie into the Annan half almost scored when their No 13 broke through the home midfield defences and looked certain to have provided the scoring pass but luckily for Annan the pass was deemed forward. That proved to be Kilmarnock’s best period of play as Annan got into their game and began to dictate the pattern of the game. Annan’s first try came 15 minutes into the game when from a lineout Annan’s No 10 Niall Smith made a break and feeding the ball left created a piece of fine interplay between backs and forwards. When the play broke down No 8 Stuart Clanachan was on hand to drive play deep into the visitors’ 22 and when held up popped a pass to scrum half Keith Hogg who outflanked the last vestiges of the Kilmarnock defences to score. The conversion was missed.

Kilmarnock seemed to struggle behind the scrum and whilst their half backs played well they rarely managed to break the gain line so it was to their credit that they managed to win a penalty on the stroke of half time in the Annan half which was only made kickable as they were awarded a further 10 metres to take the half time score to Annan 5 Kilmarnock 3.

The second half belonged entirely to the home side as Kilmarnock by this time seemed to be a spent force. It only took Annan minutes from the restart to add to their score when they were awarded a penalty which Niall Smith converted. Annan then had a period of excellent play when forwards and backs interlinked to drive play deep into the visitor’s half only to be denied a score by some poor decision making at the final moment. But they were not to be denied as they sustained their pressure on the Kilmarnock line. From a lineout following a penalty award the ball was driven to the line with prop Colin Warrick driving over for one more of his trademark tries to take the score to 13 – 3.

Immediately from the restart No 8 Stuart Clanachan gathered the ball and sprinted up field, made an inside pass to wing forward Neil Moffat who in turn fed hooker Andrew Gunning who with a beautiful floated pass found centre Michael Griffen who, drawing his opposite number, released centre Kevin Jones who outflanked the last remnants of the Kilmarnock defences to run behind the posts to score. Niall Smith added the extra points to increase Annan’s lead to 20 – 3.

Annan were not finished yet and from a further period of pressure they were awarded a further penalty and from the ensuing lineout and take and drive it was Annan’s young hooker Andrew Gunning who drove round the side of the maul to score in the corner. This gave Annan their bonus point and provided them with a fine win at 25 – 3.

The Annan forwards were in sparkling form with the back row of Neil Moffat, Jason Vaughan and particularly Stuart Clanachan outstanding. Special mention must go to stand in hooker Andrew Gunning who even at his young age looks the part.

In the backs the half back pairing of Keith Hogg and Niall Smith look solid with centre Kevin Jones looking back to his best.

With this league game being the last for veteran Billy Henderson who is ‘retiring’ the party went on well into the night.

Annan Squad: : C Warrick, A Gunning, P O’Donnell, J Nelson, W Henderson; J Vaughan, N Moffat, S Clanachan; K Hogg, N Smith; J Crowther, M Griffin, K Jones, S McCann; C McCann Replacements: G Wylie, M Newton, C Moffat (all used)

ANNAN 29 v ROSS HIGH 8
SATURDAY 26TH MARCH 2005

Annan were expected to win this game comfortably, since the visitors had not won a league game in near three seasons. Annan certainly got off to a good start in the first half, and had run in three tries before turning to kick in their favoured direction, towards the pavilion, in the second half. Though they did secure the try bonus, Ross High were much more of a force in the second period, which Annan narrowly won 10-8. Surely next season in Division 2 will bring an end to Ross High’s woes.

Annan dominated from the kick off, and had an easy time of it in the first half, Ross only breaking out of their own half twice. Early Annan pressure foundered on errors, but then Annan ran in three tries in fifteen minutes. The first came from a planned backs move inside the Ross 22, with left winger Joe Crowther cutting in to take an inside ball from stand off Niall Smith, and angling his run to take him through the defence and behind the posts. Smith had an easy conversion to make it 7-0.

There was a stop-start nature to the game, with the referee’s whistle marking minor errors by both sides, but Annan then scored a neat try to extend their lead. Moving towards the Ross 22, Smith put through a good grubber kick to the line, and fullback Craig McCann was quick to follow up and get the touch for 12-0. Annan’s third score was another for the backs. This time scrum half Keith Hogg took a quick tap penalty inside the 22, and the ball went quickly to Smith, Michael Griffin and then Crowther, who got up the left side and round behind the posts for his second score. Smith converted to make the half time score 19-0.

The floodgates did not open in the second half, which was much more even, with Ross High coming much more into the game. Their reward for more enterprising play was a try for their right wing, who came into the line to score on the left. Then a good long penalty from the stand off made it 19-8 to Annan. This was to be the visitors’ last throw however, and Annan regained control of the game. A Smith penalty in front of the posts settled nerves to make it 22-8 before centre Kevin Jones intercepted a long pass outside the 22 and ran in to the posts, giving Smith another easy conversion to wrap up the scoring at 29-8.

There were some signs of rustiness in this game after three weeks of inactivity, but an encouraging willingness to move the ball in the backs was pleasing, and it is not often these days that they score all the tries in a game. Joe Crowther had his best game so far. The forwards rucked well, and the set piece was sound.

Now Annan can look forward to a sterner test on Saturday with Kilmarnock the guests in Annan’s final league game.

Stuart Clanachan, a real thorn in the Ross flesh in the away game, failed a late fitness test, and will be hoping to be fit for this week. P. Carruthers was yellow carded late on for retaliation.

Annan team: C. McCann; D. Wyllie, K. Jones, M. Griffin, J. Crowther; N. Smith, K. Hogg; G. Wylie, P. Carruthers, C. Warrick, J. Nelson, W. Henderson, J. Vaughan, N. Moffat, M. Newton. Replacements, all used, - A. Gunning, S. McCann.

HILLFOOTS 12 v ANNAN 6
SATURDAY 5TH MARCH 2005

One of the most picturesque settings in Scottish rugby hosted a fairly drab encounter between these two middle of the table sides. With the backdrop of the snow capped Ochils, Annan elected to play with the wind and the slope, knowing that scores were essential before the teams turned around. After a brisk start, however, the game slowed to Hillfoots' pace. The Hillfoots pack, bolstered by experienced campaigners Sandy Penman and Brian Ireland, caused Annan problems with their bulk and nous. However, Annan defended resolutely and the home side was unable to breach the Annan defence throughout the first period. Annan did have a number of forays into the opposition 22, but were a bit tentative in their play and a number of promising moves broke down with handling errors and an inability to protect the ball. Niall Smith gave Annan a slender 3-0 lead with a well struck penalty and there was a concerted spell of pressure in the dying minutes of the first half but the referee brought the opening 40 minutes to a close just when Annan were camped on the Hillfoots line.

The second half saw Hillfoots employing the driving maul more and more and Annan found this difficult to deal with. Both Hillfoots tries, one of which was converted, came from such moves - certainly not pretty, but effective nevertheless. Craig McCann brought Annan back into contention with a penalty but, despite some good breaks by Hogg, Griffin, Clanachan and Jones, this was not to prove a fruitful outing for Annan. It was a match low on entertainment value, played by two teams who had difficulty retaining the ball in contact and where players were too often isolated.

All in all, an eminently forgettable match, although credit must be given to the Annan team for gaining a bonus point. The final two games of the season, at home against Ross High (March 26th) and Kilmarnock (April 16th) give Annan the opportunity to finish the season on a high note and provide their loyal Violetbank supporters with an entertaining end to this season's league campaign.

Annan Team - C Warrick, P Carruthers, G Wylie (A Gunning); J Nelson, W Henderson; C Moffat (J Vaughan), N Moffat, S Clanachan; K Hogg, N Smith (D Wyllie); G Lynch, K Jones, M Griffin, C McCann; S McCann

DUNS 31 v ANNAN 24
SATURDAY 19TH FEBRUARY 2005

Annan’s Duns hoodoo remained intact on Saturday when coming within a whisker of at least earning a draw even that was snatched from them a couple of minutes from the final whistle.

On a bitterly cold day at Hardens Field, with a cruel wind blowing from end to end of the pitch but with ground in near perfect condition for playing rugby both teams tried wherever possible to run the ball, which resulted in an entertaining match for those hardy souls who braved the elements.

Annan played the first half with the strong wind at their backs and took only seven minutes to score their first try. From a scrum several metres from the home line, a simple back row move yielding a simple score for Annan wing forward Michael Newton. Stand off Niall Smith added a simple conversion to take the visitors into a 7 point lead. Annan’s lead lasted for 10 minutes when Duns centre Renton broke through some woeful mid field defences and when stopped popped the ball to his fellow centre Davidson who sprinted into score a converted try to even the score at 7 points all.

Annan retook the lead minutes later when the Duns forwards were caught off side at a ruck which Niall Smith kicked from 30 metres in the windy conditions. Annan added to their lead on the half hour mark when from a scrum on the Duns 22, stand off Niall Smith received the ball at stand off he checked inside his opposite number and with several Duns players surrounding him he evaded their attentions to score a fine individual try which he also converted.

With half time fast approaching there was still time for each side to increase their try total. Duns reduced the leeway their centre again took advantage of some lacklustre Annan defences to score on the stroke of half time, which was converted. Then in injury time centre Michael Griffen, received the ball in his own half and set out on a mazy run and when he was stopped 10 metres from the Duns line he managed to off load the ball to that man Niall Smith who scored Annan’s third. He then added the conversion of his own try to take his points tally to 19 points in the first half. Half time score Duns 14 Annan 24.

There was little doubt amongst the small group of visiting supporters that Annan would have their work cut out to maintain their lead in the second half against the elements and whilst Annan put in a power of work in the second half the home side generally played the better rugby with the conditions after the break than Annan had done in the first half. In truth the visitors were rarely out of their own half during the second period. However it took Duns 20 minutes to add to their try count when when from broken play just outside the Annan 22 the Duns open side wing forward picked up and set off on a mazy run to score which their full back converted which along with his penalty attempt 2 minutes later tied the scores at 24 all.

With the match looking as if it was heading for a draw Annan in the last five minutes put together their best period of pressure in the half as they drove play, through their forwards, from their own 22 to the home 22. They then were penalised for handling in the ruck and the Duns stand off put in a massive clearance kick to within 5 metres of the Annan line. From the ensuing lineout, although Annan managed to absorb the initial surge the Duns prop Lyons eventually burrowed his way over by the posts and with the try converted Duns won the game 31 – 24, with Annan gaining a losing bonus point which in truth was less than the visitor’s deserved. However Annan were the creators of their own demise in that, although leading 24-14 at halt time, they lost the game in the first half when their mid field defence leaked two ‘soft tries’. Whilst the forwards played well with the back row in particular putting in a power of work for 80 minutes the backs’ poor defensive work and lack of cutting edge in attack cost the team a greater balance of the spoils.

On the plus side No 8 Stuart Clanachan, although lacking match practice, played the full match on his return from his cheekbone injury with his fellow backrower Michael Newton in fine form. Also it was good to see stand off Niall Smith with a 100% kicking display as well as his two tries.

Annan Team: Colin Warrick, Paul Carruthers, Grant Wylie (Andrew Gunning), John Nelson, Billy Henderson, Stuart Clanachan, Neil Moffat, Michael Newton, Keith Hogg (C), Niall Smith, Craig McCann, Michael Griffen, Joe Crowther (Gavin Lynch), David Wyllie, Kevin Jones. Replacement not used: Graham Hogg

ANNAN 10 V ARDROSSAN 10
SATURDAY 29TH JANUARY 2005

This game will long be remembered by those from Annan for its controversial conclusion, which enlivened what had been an unspectacular game, but also robbed Annan on a win.

With Annan leading 10-3, and with full time looming, it seemed that there was little chance of the visitors getting anything other than a losing bonus. They had failed to penetrate Annan's defence all afternoon. However Ardrossan centre Baillie received the ball inside his own half on the left touchline. Somehow he wriggled out of the first tackle, evaded a second, then burst past a final defender and strolled behind the posts. The disappointment of the Annan support was quickly eased when it was seen that the Annan touch judge had his flag up. What happened then was one of the more bizarre events possible in amateur rugby union. The referee consulted the touch judge, over-ruled him and gave the try. The conversion was a formality, and the game ended in a draw. The referee was within his rights to do this, but study of the match video shows that while the Annan players waited quietly behind their posts for the matter to be resolved, a group of Ardrossan players surrounded the referee - players who could not have seen events on the touchline.

The previous 80 minutes had been nothing to set the pulse racing. The first half saw Ardrossan with the greater possession, but doing little to trouble the Annan defence. Their running had no particular pace or guile. Annan were little better, finding no way through a resolute Ardrossan defence, Ardrossan might have done better to take a shot at goal from two penalties kicked to the corners, but they did eventually move ahead through a penalty, cancelled out just before half time when, the visitors having been caught offside, centre Duncan Fisher made a good job of a tricky kick.

Annan were livelier in the second half, and had spells of pressure in the Ardrossan 22. Like their opponents, however, they tended to kick penalties to the corner, which proved fruitless, rather than try kicks at goal. The brightest moment in the game for Annan came mid way through the half. From an Ardrossan scrum just outside their 22, stand off Niall Smith brought the ball carrier down, prop Colin Warrick snaffled the ball and fed centre Michael Griffin, who sped through a gap and got past a feeble tackle to score. Duncan Fisher again did well to convert to give Annan a 10-3 lead. Fisher then missed a penalty chance which would have wrapped up the points, before that final controversy.

On the balance of play perhaps a draw was a fair result, but games are often won and lost despite the balance of play. In this instance Ardrossan were lucky.

For the record the Ardrossan flanker Tyler and Annan hooker Carruthers were both yellow carded.

Annan team: S. McCann; K. Jones, M. Griffin, D. Fisher, J. Crowther; N. Smith, K. Hogg; C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, D. Irving, W. Henderson, J. Vaughan, N. Moffat, C. Moffat, M. Newton. Replacements used G. Wylie, S. Murray, C. McCann.

ANNAN 5 V STEWARTRY 36
MONDAY 27TH DECEMBER 2004

On a miserable, cold and soggy Violetbank on Monday afternoon Annan surrendered the Chisholm Cup to old rivals Stewartry in front of the largest crowd of the season so far.

Annan started brightly with some fine driving play by their forwards and from one of the drives, following some excellent interplay between backs and forwards, No 8 Michael Newton was driven over to score for the only score of the first half. Annan it has to be said dominated proceedings in the first half with their visitors rarely threatening the home line. However aimless kicking and several needless penalties conceded meant that Annan were unable to add to their score line in the half. Scrum half Keith Hogg came closest to scoring when he broke up the blind side of a ruck and crashed over in the corner but was deemed to have touched the corner flag in the act of grounding the ball. Towards the end of the half Stewartry had a concerted period of pressure in the Annan 22 but some fine home defensive work kept the Annan line intact. Half Time Score Annan 5 Stewartry 0.

In the second half Stewartry made better use of the wind than Annan had in the first half with their stand off driving play deep into Annan territory at will. Annan’s cause was not helped with Captain Keith Hogg had to retire injured with full back Barry Graham covering the scrum half role.

Stewartry levelled the score minutes into the half when from a ruck within 5 metres of the Annan line their No 8 drove over to score an unconverted try. The visitors took the lead minutes later when, following a fine backs move their No 14 cleaved through some paper thin defences to score. The Stewartry No 9 converted the try. Annan continued to make inroads into Stewartry territory only to give the ball away cheaply either by poor ball retention or by conceding needless penalties. These errors were punished by the visitors as they increasingly found gaps in the home defences which they took full advantage off in scoring a further five tries. The best of these tries was scored by their full back who after a blistering attack down the right wing started by himself he found himself on the receiving end of his winger’s pass to then sidestep his way to a fine score between the posts. He also scored the final try of the game when, as Annan were pressing he latched on to a wayward pass to score. Final Score Annan 5 Stewartry 36.

All in all this was not the way Annan wanted to end 2004 with not only the Chisholm Cup winging its way to the Greenlaw but with a catalogue of injuries to boot. With both captain Keith Hogg and No 8 Michael Newton having to leave the field of play and Stuart Clanachan and Andy Render still on the injured list along with Scott McCann, Niall Smith and Kevin Jones missing from Mondays game the Annan coaches must be grateful that their next game is not until 8th January. At the end of Mondays Cup game it was fairly obvious who had eaten all the mince pies!!

DALZIEL 15 V ANNAN 3
SATURDAY 18TH DECEMBER 2004

It was a desperately disappointed Annan side who trudged off the pitch after 80 minutes of unrewarded endeavour against Dalziel who now stand fourth in the League only a point behind the second and third placed teams Ellon and Ardrossan. Annan lie in fifth place but oh how different it could have been if Annan had been able to convert the copious amount of possession and territorial advantage, into points. Sadly though, the necessary spark of creativity which produces tries was absent and in the face of a very able and well organised Dalziel defence, Annan simply could not find a way through.

From the kick-off it was clear this would be a very even game and although Annan possibly enjoyed a territorial advantage, it was Dalziel who drew first blood with a penalty midway through the half. Annan had a good chance to equalise in kind but the usually reliable Scott McCann’s kick was wayward.

The killer blow for Annan came early in the second half when Dalziel scored a converted try after a sustained spell of pressure. 10-0 down, Annan mounted attack after attack for the remainder of the game. Another relatively simple penalty chance went a-begging before Annan eventually closed the gap with a successful penalty kick by stand off Niall Smith. As the game drew to a close Annan’s inability to score a try was accepted with resignation by the small band of travelling supporters, consoled by the prospect of a bonus point. The final blow came on the stroke of full time, when Dalziel scored a runaway try to snuff out Annan’s last chance of salvaging anything other than pride from this game.

From first to last Annan could not be faulted for effort. A wet pitch and even wetter ball led to a higher than usual incidence of unforced errors by both sides with the home side being rarely able to sustain any degree of continuity. Annan were also having to work very hard to win their own lineout ball, the scrum was often under pressure, the kicking from hand was well below par and there was no real cutting edge in the backs. On the other hand the commitment was beyond reproach throughout the team with Colin Warwick, Michael Newton and John Nelson particularly catching the eye in the forwards whilst in the backs Craig McCann and Kevin Jones had good moments. Annan deserved more from this game and should not be downhearted. The team is in good heart and can look forward with confidence to the remaining league games.

Annan Team: Colin Warrick, Paul Carruthers, Darren Irving, John Nelson, Billy Henderson, Jason Vaughan, Neil Moffat, Michael Newton, Keith Hogg (C), Niall Smith, Craig McCann, Michael Griffen, Duncan Fisher, Kevin Jones, Scott McCann Replacements: Craig Moffat, Dougie Wyllie, Andrew Gunning (All used)

ANNAN 16 V ELLON 5
SATURDAY 11TH DECEMBER 2004

Annan’s victory over promotion chasing 2nd placed Ellon was a ray of sunshine in the gathering gloom on Saturday afternoon at Violetbank. While this was no classic in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues it was nevertheless an enthralling game of rugby for the spectators who turned out at a misty drizzly Violetbank.

Annan had a dream start to the game when from the kick off the visiting No 5 stepped on the touchline in the act of gathering the ball. From the ensuing lineout Annan’s standoff Niall Smith launched a towering bomb of a kick which the Ellon fullback failed to gather and as the ball bounced over the line winger Kevin Jones pounced on the loose ball to score. Full back Scott McCann added the extra two points and Annan were seven points up in the opening minute of the game.

The visitors slowly upped their game and for periods of the game it looked as if they were beginning to gain the upper hand in the forward exchanges but they were unable to capitalise on their visits into the Annan 22. However almost on each occasion the home team fought their way back into their opponents’ 22 they came away with points in the first half as the Ellon forwards gave away a plethora of penalties mainly for killing the ball in rucks. Annan on the other hand seem to have managed to cure their early season habit of conceding penalties with the result that by half time Annan’s Scott McCann had increased Annan’s lead to 16 – 0 with three successful attempts.

In the second half although the visitor’s probably had the balance of territorial advantage Annan’s defences managed to soak up all that that Ellon managed to throw at them. Annan had the advantage in the lineout as they managed to disrupt the visitors at will and whilst in the first half the Ellon pack made life difficult for the home eight in the second half Annan’s fitness began to show even managing to sneak one against the head. The visitor’s rolling mauls were their most potent attacking weapon and twice managed to drive over the Annan line but on each occasion a home player managed to get under the ball. Ellon did manage to score the only score of the half with a blind side break by their open side wing forward from a ruck in the home 22. At this time Annan had been reduced to 14 men with hooker Paul Carruthers being yellow carded for stopping Ellon taking a quick penalty

All in all this was a magnificent result for Annan who are now beginning to gel into a team capable of winning despite missing a couple of experienced players through injury. The home defences on Saturday were exemplary with the mid field defence especially pleasing. With this Annan’s fourth win in a row hopes are high that if they can win on Saturday away to Dalziel that they can go into the Christmas break confident with the first two games after New Year at Violetbank, albeit one is against league leaders unbeaten Hamilton, that they may be able to mount a promotion challenge for the second spot in the new year.

It would perhaps be churlish to single any one player out as outstanding in what was very much a team performance suffice it to say that Annan’s Aussie recruit Jason Vaughan was named Annan’s Man of the Match by the game sponsors the British Nuclear Group.

Annan Team: Colin Warrick, Paul Carruthers, Darren Irving, (Jack Tinning) John Nelson, Billy Henderson, Jason Vaughan, Neil Moffat,(Craig Moffat) Michael Newton, Keith Hogg (C), Niall Smith, David Wylie, (Ally Muir) M Griffen, K Jones, Craig McCann, Scott McCann

GREENOCK WANDERERS 10 V ANNAN 23
SATURDAY 4TH DECEMBER 2004

A determined, gutsy performance at Fort Matilda brought Annan their fourth victory in their last five matches in Division One of the BT National Leagues. The first half was an evenly contested affair, but with Annan playing against the elements it was evident that they were more than capable of mopping up any threats which Greenock presented. Niall Smith’s astute kicking relieved the pressure on a number of occasions and the Annan outfit certainly looked composed, even when under pressure. Wanderers took the lead from a penalty when the Annan backs were caught offside, but this stirred the visitors into taking the game to Greenock. Following a line-out and good driving play, Annan were awarded a penalty. A kick to the corner by Smith, quick line-out ball, and forwards driving in a solid unit led to Billy Henderson ploughing over for Annan’s first try. Greenock’s best spell came in the second quarter of the match. Annan were penalised twice on the five metre line and Greenock forced their way over for a try just before half-time. Half time - 10-5 to the home team, but a fitter Annan were beginning to gain the upper hand.

The second half belonged to Annan, with Greenock Wanderers losing their shape – and their discipline. Annan were causing them problems with controlled rugby and pressuring the opposition into making errors. The forwards drove at the Greenock defence time and again and Scott McCann reaped the rewards with a belter of a penalty from 40 metres. Annan’s second try was a beauty. Good interplay between backs and forwards, sharp reactions by Jason Vaughan, a break by centre Michael Griffin and Henderson squeezed in at the corner for his second try. A slender lead on paper at 13-10, but Annan had Wanderers rattled by now and it was only a matter of time before they extended their lead. A penalty conversion by S McCann was just the boost that Annan needed half-way through the second period to extend the lead to 16-10. Greenock did have one last throw of the dice as they were awarded a series of penalties near the Annan line, but the black and ambers were in no mood for conceding an inch and eventually snuffed out the danger by winning a scrummage against the head – brilliant defence! The result was put beyond doubt following an intelligent cross-field kick by Smith, marvellous driving play again by the forwards and that man Billy Henderson rolled back the years to claim his third try. S McCann’s majestic conversion from far out on the touchline brought the scoring to a conclusion, but Annan can consider themselves unlucky not to have got a bonus point from this match. They certainly deserved it, given the pressure they exerted in the second half. This game was a test of character which Annan passed with flying colours. Every player more than fulfilled his responsibilities in a fine team effort, none more so than Michael Newton, who was a constant thorn in Greenock’s flesh, stand-off Niall Smith who posted one of his best performances for some time and, of course, hat-trick Henderson. If Saturday’s frame of mind and collective responsibility are maintained, the match against Ellon this Saturday should be well worth watching!

Team: S McCann; D Wyllie, K Jones (S Murray), M Griffin, C McCann; K Hogg, N Smith; G Wylie (C Warrick), P Carruthers, D Irving; W Henderson, J Nelson; J Vaughan, N Moffat, M Newton.

ROSS HIGH 17 V ANNAN 47
SUNDAY 28TH NOVEMBER 2004

Annan posted their biggest league win of the season at lowly Ross High on Sunday, securing the bonus point by half time, and going on to score seven tries to two.

While this was not a classic, Annan showed enough pace and power to leave their small band of supporters happy, and their coaches could also be happy that Annan maintained their discipline in a game which could have boiled over. Such was Ross High’s determination to compete that they frequently ran foul of the referee for offences at the breakdown, while their general discipline was at times weak. This frequently allowed Annan either to relieve pressure or to establish a position inside the Ross 22. Only on two occasions did the home side show glimpses of how things might be if they could maintain composure.

For once Annan got off to a dream start, crossing the line three times in the first 15 minutes. First over was Stuart Clanachan. A penalty allowed Annan to kick to the corner. The lineout take led to a ruck near the Ross line, and a slick move off the ruck gave Clanachan the space. Next the ball was moved along the line by the backs and centre Kevin Jones was in at the right corner. This purple patch was concluded by big lock Michael Newton driving over from close range. None of the conversions was successful.

Perhaps Annan were unused to such an early lead, or perhaps Ross were stung into action. Whatever, the home side then had their best spell of the game. A penalty put their first points on the board, and then left wing Unwin ran past the Annan defence to score at the posts. The successful conversion brought the home side back to 10-15.

By half time Annan had re-established their dominance. A Niall Smith penalty was followed by the best try of the game. Smith exploded through a gap in midfield and flanker Neil Moffat showed good vision and pace to take the inside pass and outrun the defence to the posts, giving fullback Scott McCann an easy conversion. Half time saw Annan with the bonus point, but the game was not yet won.

The crucial score came early in the second period. Ross were on the Annan 22 and preparing to spread the ball wide, but the stand off Scott telegraphed his intentions, and Kevin Jones gratefully intercepted and ran 75 yards to the posts. McCann’s conversion made it 32-10, and it looked all over for the hosts when McCann added a penalty to make it 35-10. Ross then showed that second glimpse of effective rugby. The forwards established themselves on the Annan line, and the ball was moved right for an easy score, again converted, but at 35-17 to Annan it was too little too late. Annan reaffirmed their superiority with two late tries. Jones got his hat trick scoring on the left, McCann converting well from the touchline, before Smith again burst through the Ross defence to round off the scoring.

This was a good team performance from Annan, solid in both forwards and backs. It was good to see Michael Newton back from injury and making the hard yards, while Niall Smith at stand off was a constant threat to the home side, and Kevin Jones showed plenty pace and awareness in collecting his three tries.

For the record, the Ross No 8 was sin binned first half, then later sent off for break down offences, while Jason Vaughan and home No 6 Ketchin were binned for a “disagreement”.

Annan team – S. McCann; A. Render (D. Wyllie), M. Griffin, K. Jones, C. McCann; N. Smith, K. Hogg; G. Wylie, P. Carruthers, D. Irving, W. Henderson, M. Newton, N. Moffat (S. Murray), J. Vaughan, S. Clanachan.

PRESTON LODGE 29 V ANNAN 15
SATURDAY 20TH NOVEMBER 2004

Annan’s cup run in Round 1 of the BT Shield came to an end on Saturday following a well-contested match at a bitterly cold Pennypit Park. The Annan young guns were forced to reshuffle their backs once again due to injury and unavailability, but the team did well against opposition from a league higher than themselves. It has to be said that Annan looked a bit sluggish in the early exchanges, but PL failed to capitalise on their early period of possession, including two missed penalty opportunities. However, they took the lead midway through the half when Annan lost their own lineout. The ball was played simply across the backs and the PL centre scored a straightforward try near the posts which was converted. Annan had a good spell of possession after this and interplays between backs and forwards was impressive.

Although Preston Lodge were having the greater share of play, Annan roared back into the frame when winger Craig McCann seized an opportunity from well inside his own half from a PL knock-on (good advantage played by the referee) to out-sprint the opposition defence to score an excellent try which was converted by brother Scott. Annan ’s confidence was in the ascendancy at this stage and PL were rattled when Annan took the lead before half time. Clean lineout ball from No 8 Stuart Clanachan was whipped out to Neil Moffat who took it at pace. Good driving and quick ruck ball was followed by excellent backs’ play and when centre Kevin Jones received, he took advantage of the three on two situation to swerve inside and score a classic try.

Annan ’s cause was not helped when prop Colin Warrick had to retire injured, but Annan were buoyed by their 12-7 half-time lead and went into the second half in confident mood. Preston Lodge, however, seemed to up their game in the second period and Annan were starved of possession for a good ten-fifteen minutes. The PL maul was causing Annan some problems and, despite some stout defensive work, their defence was breached after one such maul. The winger broke off, was stopped on the line, but a pick up and drive levelled the scores at 12-12. Shortly after this, PL were awarded a penalty after an inordinately lengthy period of advantage by the referee and they had their noses in front at 15-12.

Annan were on the defensive for large chunks of the second half and it was no real surprise that the defence buckled on two further occasions to make PL the winners, albeit unconvincingly, by 29-15. Michael Griffin did have a searing run late on which could have led to a score had the support been there, but alas it was not to be. Preston Lodge had the makings of a reasonable team and they did out-muscle Annan in the mauls, but they tended to over-elaborate in the backs. Annan didn’t fire on all cylinders but did make a real match of it. Unusually, the line-out did not function smoothly but to Annan ’s credit they battled all the way and forced PL into making numerous errors.

Another excellent game from captain Keith Hogg, the second row pairing of Henderson and Nelson caught the eye and young Scott McCann shows that he is now settling in nicely to his full back role. Back to league business, then, and three crucial games coming up against Ross High (a), Greenock Wanderers (a) and Ellon (h). These are all teams which Annan can beat and it would be nice to think that they could get some valuable points in the bag before travelling to Motherwell for the pre-Christmas clash with Dalziel.

Team: S McCann; M Pattinson (D Wyllie), M Griffin, K Jones, C McCann; K Hogg, N Smith; C Warrick (G Wylie), P Carruthers, D Irving; W Henderson, J Nelson; S Murray (J Vaughan), N Moffat, S Clanachan

ANNAN 39 V DUNS 12
SUNDAY 15TH NOVEMBER 2004

Annan recorded their biggest win of the season at Violetbank last Sunday, securing a bonus point in the process. It was a great second half performance which shattered Duns hopes and sent the Annan support away happy.

The first half was a closely contested affair, with the lead changing four times. If Annan had the bulk of possession and territory, Duns showed they could be dangerous given the chance.

Annan went ahead courtesy of a Scott McCann penalty, but a couple of minutes later, after Annan had failed to gather the Duns restart hick, Duns notched the first try. A kick through by stand off Martin caught Annan off guard and centre Renton got the ball first to give the visitors a 5-3 lead.

A sustained bout of Annan pressure led to a scrum in the Duns 22. Right wing Kevin Jones kicked ahead and the ever alert Neil Moffat got the touchdown, and Annan led 8-5. Duns then had their best period in the game, and their pressure was rewarded when Martin put in a high kick to the posts, and when the wicked bounce eluded the Annan defence Duns centre Davidson pounced eagerly. With the conversion Duns led 12-8.

Annan got back in front just before half time. A rare kick ahead by Stuart Clanachan saw the big No 8 first to the ball, and from the ensuing ruck prop Andrew Gunning dived over for his first senior try, and Annan led 12-12 at the break.

The second half belonged to Annan, and a purple patch led to four further tries. First, on 50 minutes, prop Colin Warrick burrowed over after pressure on the Duns line. Then ten minutes later wing forward Neil Moffat picked up and drove over for his second try, with centre Duncan Fisher converting. From a scrum five metres out a slick move put Stuart Clanachan in, with Duncan Fisher again converting. Annan’s final score came from centre Michael Griffen, following a charge by Stuart Clanachan and quick release from the ensuing ruck. Duncan Fisher’s conversion was the final score of the game.

Altogether a very satisfying afternoon for Annan, who cut out errors and kept trying to play the game at pace. Outstanding on the day were forwards John Nelson, Stuart Clanachan and Neil Moffat. New Oz recruit Jason Vaughan got a taste of the action late on.

Annan team: Colin Warrick, Paul Carruthers, Andrew Gunning, John Nelson, Billy Henderson, Neil Moffat, Stuart Murray, Stuart Clanachan, Keith Hogg (C), Niall Smith, Joe Crowther, Duncan Fisher, M Griffen, K Jones, Scott McCann Subs: Jack Tinning, J Vaughan, C McCann

ARDROSSAN 22 v ANNAN 8
SATURDAY 7TH NOVEMBER 2004

Annan went down to a disappointing defeat at Ardrossan by a try and penalty to three tries, two conversions and a penalty. In the end the home side deserved to win, out-muscling Annan in both forwards and backs, and in a match in which the finer aspects of rugby were in short supply, showed the greater cohesion and will to win in the all-important second half.

The first half was a dour affair. Starting brightly, Annan were awarded a penalty just outside the home 22, and fullback Scott McCann made no mistake. Ardrossan were soon on level terms, courtesy of a similar offside decision. There was no further scoring in the half, but Annan were on the defensive for the most part, having to repel determined driving by the home pack, and they did well to keep Ardrossan out. On 40 minutes occurred a bizarre incident. The referee awarded Annan a penalty in the Ardrossan half. McCann prepared to take the kick. At which point the referee, Matt Stevenson, changed the award - apparently because an Annan water carrier was walking across the pitch. One for the record books that.

There were high hopes amongst the small band of Annan supporters that the second half might be theirs. Annan now had the benefit of a slight slope and a slight breeze, and after five minutes of the half Ardrossan were reduced to 14 men when their No 6 was red-carded for kicking Paul Carruthers. Unfortunately this seemed to galvanise Ardrossan and induce a torpor in the Annan ranks. Annan began to kick away much of their possession into eager Ardrossan hands, forcing Annan to resume their defensive tackling.

No sooner had Ardrossan been reduced to 14 men, than they scored the games' first try. From inside his own 22 their No 8 picked up and ran through the Annan team into the Annan 22, where he offloaded to the No 12, who scored at the posts, and then converted. Annan were now down 3-10. That was it until 65 minutes, when again Ardrossan were able to move out of their own half to the Annan line. A series of rucks ended with the Ardrossan forwards driving over, and another conversion made it 3-17.

Ten minutes later Annan gave themselves a glimmer of hope of at least salvaging a bonus point. Centre Duncan Fisher made a rare break for Annan. He was brought down short, but a period of pressure on the Ardrossan line led to the ball being moved left, where lock Billy Henderson made the extra man and got in at the corner. Any Annan hopes were crushed a minute later when the Ardrossan left wing broke three tackles to storm up the left and score in the opposite corner.

Not a pretty game, but one in which Ardrossan's superior weight and strength won the day, allied to a below par performance from Annan in the second half. Annan's most successful area was again the lineout, but elsewhere, despite wholehearted efforts by individuals, it was a day to forget.

Annan team: S. McCann; C. McCann, K. Jones, D. Fisher, M. Griffin (J Crowther); N. Smith, K. Hogg; G. Wylie, P. Carruthers, C. Warrick, W. Henderson, J. Nelson, S. Murray (I Thorburn), N. Moffat, S. Clanachan. Subs not used - K. Nelson, M. Forbes.

ANNAN 6 V SELKIRK 19
SATURDAY 30TH OCTOBER 2004

Ten minutes into this BT Cup third round game Selkirk led 14-0, and a torrid afternoon seemed in prospect for Annan. In fact this was to be the only period of the game in which Selkirk were allowed the freedom of the park, and the remainder was something of a battle of attrition in which Selkirk became increasingly frustrated.

A good crowd saw Annan kick off. A Selkirk penalty was kicked to touch, their forwards drove on before releasing the backs, and a slick inside pass put right wing Murdoch in at the posts. Stand off Rutherford had an easy conversion. Before long Annan had conceded another score. Another lineout in Annan territory and the ball was again out to the backs, this time fullback Blair intruding to steam in at the posts. Rutherford again converting.

Instead of buckling, however, Annan began to win ball and the match became much more even, with Selkirk having to face pressure in their own 22. During one such spell a Selkirk offside allowed fullback Scott McCann to put Annan's first points on the board. What was to be Selkirk's final score came on the half hour. Selkirk made a mess of a lineout in the Annan 22, but Annan were unable to secure the loose ball. Quick Selkirk hands put winger Murdoch in on the left for his second try. A further Selkirk offside gave McCann his second penalty, to make it 6-19 at the break.

The second half became increasingly bad tempered. Though still having plenty of possession Selkirk appeared to lose the plot - perhaps finding the Annan forwards a tougher obstacle than they would have liked. Early in the half Selkirk No 7 Crockatt was red-carded by referee Martin Valentine for stamping, and he could have been followed by at least one team mate as Selkirk's frustration increased. Paul Minto had come on for Annan after 35 minutes, and the former Selkirk player's appearance not only stiffened Annan's defence but seemed to coincide with Selkirk's decline.

Annan did have their moments in the second half. Minto and stand off Niall Smith both had good breaks, and winger Kevin Jones a good run, but Annan did not have the pace, power or guile to break through a well organized defence. Centre Andy Render was replaced in the second half by Joe Crowther, who had earlier played for the 2nds at Stewartry, and props Grant Wylie and Jack Tinning were also used as rolling subs.

The most successful area of Annan's game was the lineout. Good throwing by hooker Paul Carruthers allowed Billy Henderson and Stuart Clanachan to secure their own ball, while they also made life difficult for the visitors.

In the end Annan could feel both satisfied and frustrated. Satisfied that they had recovered from a hesitant start to compete well against Premier 2 opposition, but frustrated that in the end Selkirk were no world beaters and there could have been an upset here. There were good performances in the Annan ranks, with Keith Hogg, Niall Smith, Stuart Clanachan and Paul Minto to the fore.

Annan now proceed to the Shield, where they will be joined by Langholm, Dumfries and Newton Stewart - but not by Stewartry. Congratulations to them on beating Kirkcaldy.

Annan team: S. McCann; K. Jones, D. Fisher, A. Render (J. Crowther), C. McCann; N. Smith, K. Hogg; C. Warrick (G. Wylie), P. Carruthers, D. living (J. Tinning), J. Nelson, W. Henderson, N. Moffat (P. Minto), S. Murray, S. Clanachan.

ANNAN 28 V HILLFOOTS 6
SATURDAY 23RD OCTOBER 2004

Annan got their league campaign back on track on Saturday with a four try to nil defeat of their visitors from Tillicoultry after their mauling by league leaders Hamilton the previous week.

This well deserved Annan victory was the proverbial curate’s egg – good in parts. Unfortunately the bad parts outweighed the good as the home side squandered several scoring chances with some inept handling. With Hillfoots tactics. built around their forwards who have an effective rolling mauling game plan. Annan took a long time to spread the ball wide in order to capitalise on their pace and talent in the backs. From the start the home side applied pressure in the ‘Foots 22 and were awarded a penalty in the opening minutes which full back Scott McCann narrowly missed. However it was only a matter of time before Annan got the score board ticking over. From loose play in the visitor’s 22 No 8 Stuart Clanachan broke free down the right flank of a ruck to score. The conversion was missed but Scott McCann was on target minutes later with a penalty award when the ‘Foots backs were caught offside at a ruck.

The visitors hut back with some pressure of their own as the drove play well into the Annan 22 and were awarded a penalty when a home forward was penalised for driving in from the side of a ruck. Both side traded a further penalty each. In the last minute of the half Annan were awarded a penalty inside the visitor’s 22 and instead of taking a shot at the posts went for a lineout instead. Against the effective defence of the ‘Foots forwards Annan’s take and drive was thwarted and the chance to stretch their lead to two scores was lost. Half time score Annan 11 Hillfoots 6.

In the second half Annan continued to exert periods of sustained pressure in the visitor’s half but were often as not were thwarted by some poor handling and ball retention. However the pressure exerted inevitably brought some dividends when the ball was spun to the wing with Michael Griffen, who is getting back to nearer his fitness level of last season, rounded his opposite number to cross the line to score. Annan’s third try was scored by the Club’s leading try scorer so far this season Stuart Clanachan who with a power of work to do drove through Hillfoot’s fringe defences and although stopped just short of the line stretched out to score.

Annan gained the excusive bonus points for four tries when with the visitor’s trying to break out of defence the ‘Foot’s standoff was caught in possession by centre Andy Render. The ball was dislodged and was snapped up by centre Duncan Fisher who outsprinted the flatfooted defence to score between the posts. Scott McCann added the conversion to take the final score to Annan 28 Hillfoots 6.

Whilst this was no vintage performance by the Annan team there were glimpses of the potential that exists in the team especially in the backs with the defensive organisation of centre Andy Render exemplary and the attacking flair of centre Duncan Fisher who has an eye for any attacking opportunity that presents itself. In the forwards prop Colin Warrick continues to impress with his driving play and No 8 Stuart Clanachan again in sparkling form.

HAMILTON 55 V ANNAN 23
SATURDAY 16TH OCTOBER 2004

At Laigh Bent last Saturday Annan found out why Hamilton are favourites to win National Division 1. The home outfit are a well balanced side with plenty of pace and experience behind the scrum. Their nine tries to two victory might seen like a fair howking for Annan, but the score does not reflect the effort Annan put into the game, nor the balance of territory and possession. What it does illustrate is Hamilton's ability to score from deep, and to take advantage of Annan's mistakes.

The first half began promisingly for Annan, as they rucked and drove upfield, keeping possession well. Hamilton were forced into transgressions, and were punished by stand off Scott McCann, who landed two early penalties. Hamilton then showed how dangerous they could be by scoring two tries born of Annan errors. First a penalty was kicked to the corner, and the forwards rumbled over from the lineout, then, when the Annan restart failed to make the ten metres, Hamilton ran the ball from the resulting scrum, broke through some iffy tackling, to score again. To their credit Annan redoubled their efforts, and a further McCann penalty was followed by a trademark Stuart Clanachan try. The big No 8 picked up in the Hamilton 22 and forced his way through indifferent defence to score near the posts. McCann's conversion gave Annan a 16-10 lead with half time beckoning, but again Hamilton ran in two quick tries to lead 24-16 at the break, and secure the bonus point.

The second half saw the Annan defence stretched at times. A further five second half tries - one a penalty try following a late tackle -again showed the home sides ability to capitalise on fankles in the Annan defence, or to break the tackle. Never a side to give up, Annan were rewarded when Stuart Clanachan got a second try mid way through the half, strolling over at the posts after selling a convincing dummy. Duncan Fisher converted.

There were positives from the Annan perspective. They continue to play the game at pace, and to move the ball whenever possible. There were encouraging displays from youngsters Craig McCann at fullback and John Nelson at lock, and the team is probably blessed with as many natural kickers as it has ever had in both McCanns, Fisher along with the injured Smith. On the other hand, against strong running Hamilton they were vulnerable and were outweighed if not outgunned up front. Fortunately they will not come up against better opposition in the league this year.

For the record/ stand off Scott McCann retired injured in the second half/ leading to a reshuffle of the backs. Barry Graham went on to scrum half/ Keith Hogg moved to wing/ Craig McCann to stand off and Kevin Jones to fullback, or so it seemed, though there were further refinements as the game moved towards its close. Grant Wylie replaced Colin Warrick and Graham Hogg replaced Neil Moffat

Annan team: C. McCann; K. Jones, D. Fisher, A. Render, M. Griffin, S. McCann, K. Hogg; C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, D. Irving, J. Nelson, W. Henderson, S. Murray, N. Moffat, S. Clanachan. Replacements -B. Graham, G. Wylie, G. Hogg, all used.

FORRESTER 5 V ANNAN 31
SATURDAY 9TH OCTOBER 2004

This fixture in the 2nd Round of the BT Cup was a potential banana skin for Annan with their hosts Forrester FP from Edinburgh having hit somewhat of a purple patch in recent times. Last season they were promoted as Champions of Division 5 (East) with an unbeaten run in the league and this season are also unbeaten in Division 4 with an impressive 0 points against record.

Annan travelled to Edinburgh with a couple of players missing from the selected lineup. With prop Darren Irving unavailable Grant Wylie was promoted from the subs bench as was Craig McCann with full back Mike Rennie similarly unavailable. The visitors started strongly and directly from the start drove play into the home half. Initially Forresters weathered the storm but within the first five minutes Annan struck when from a ruck in the home 22 the ball was slung out to centre Andy Render who on a diagonal run split the home midfield defence to score in the corner. Annan continued to dominate play, especially in the loose and in the lineout where the home side had a torrid afternoon. Solid defence from Forresters, which was only to be expected with their league defensive record, continued to thwart the concerted Annan attacks but 5 minutes from half time centre Andy Render struck again when from a ruck on the left scrum half Keith Hogg seeing a chink of space on the blind side of the ruck released his centre up the touch line. Render with the full back to beat sprinted into to score. This time standoff Scott McCann landed the conversion to take Annan into a halftime lead of 0-12.

In the second half with the ball being swung wide on numerous occasions the Annan pack began to exert considerable pressure on the home defences with the visiting back row driving play ever nearer the try line. Several attacks were thwarted, not by the home side but by the Annan forwards needlessly giving away penalties when the ball was secure. Despite Forresters stuffy defence it was only a matter of time before the whitewash was crossed. From a superb piece of back play winger Kevin Jones found himself with just enough space to turn his opposite number on the inside and the home fullback on the outside to score. Jones found himself in a similar situation minutes later and with slightly more work to cut inside the home mid field defences to score. The Annan forwards were not to be outdone and from a lineout 5 metres from the home line No 8 Stuart Clanachan, taking up the scrum half position, drove through the middle of the lineout to score. Scott McCann added the extra points to take Annan to a 31-0 lead. The home side were to have the last say however when they battled their way into the Annan 22 and were awarded a series of penalties from which their centre drove over to score. Final Score Forrester FP 5 Annan 31.

All in all this was a satisfying result and display from Annan against side who were well drilled with their No 8 and stand off, their best players on display, always causing problems with the ball in hand. Annan however were more powerful in most departments with wing forward Neil Moffat and lock John Nelson the standouts in the forwards with centres Andy Render and Duncan Smith and winger Kevin Jones the pick of the backs.

Annan Team: Colin Warrick, Paul Carruthers, Grant Wylie, John Nelson, Billy Henderson, Neil Moffat, Craig Moffat, Stuart Clanachan, Keith Hogg (C), Scott McCann, Kevin Jones, Andy Render, Duncan Fisher, Michael Griffen, Craig McCann Replacements: Stuart Murray, Andrew Gunning (both used)

KILMARNOCK 16 V ANNAN 0
SATURDAY 2ND OCTOBER 2004

Annan travelled to Bellsland on Saturday buoyed up by their performance at Violetbank on the previous Saturday only to put in a lacklustre performance against what has to be said was a disappointing Kilmarnock side.

Playing against the wind in the first half Annan started brightly enough but were driven back into their own half on numerous occasions when they lost possession or were turned over in the rucks. The home side capitalised on the visitors’ mistakes and were awarded two penalties in quick succession which their full back slotted over with ease. Annan on the other hand showed their naivety in not taking penalty points when on offer which would have kept them in contention. Kilmarnock in a period of concerted pressure following a poor dropout by Annan scored the only try of the game when from a ruck the ball was spun wind to their No 14 who scored a well taken try in the corner. The home fullback added the extra two points and added a further three points just before half time when the home side were awarded another penalty when the Annan backs were caught offside. Half time score Kilmarnock 16 Annan 0. All in all this was a poor performance by the Annan team made more so by the opposition being only marginally better. Annan must take points when they are on offer especially as there are bonus points available which might make all the difference at the end of the season.

Annan 1st Team Squad: Colin Warrick, Paul Carruthers, Darren Irving, John Nelson, Billy Henderson, Neil Moffat, Craig Moffat, Stuart Clanachan, Keith Hogg (C), Scott McCann, Kevin Jones, Andy Render, Duncan Fisher, Michael Griffen, Michael Rennie Replacements: Jack Tinning (used), Stuart Murray (used). Ally Muir (not used)

ANNAN 24 v DALZIEL 12
SATURDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER 2004

Annan racked up their first league win of the season in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues with a satisfying display against their visitors from Motherwell. Annan were forced to make some changes to the team as selected with Jack Tinning starting in place of Paul Carruthers who was injured in training during the week.

The visitors started the game quite promisingly, controlling the game and winning good, quick ruck ball to set their back division off on some dangerous looking runs but some sterling home defence snuffed out the initial enslaught. The visitors, however lost their early momentum and, with 14 minutes of the game gone, Annan with some fine rucking play drove play deep into the visiting 22and were rewarded for their enterprising play with a penalty which stand off Niall Smith slotted over , to take a 3 point lead.

Within minutes of the restart Annan scored a superb try when from a scrum in the Dalziel half No 6 Stuart Clanachan picked up at the base of the scrum and fed inside centre Duncan Fisher who scored beside the posts. With stand off Niall Smith picking up a knee injury in the move Duncan Fisher had to convert his own try to put Annan 10 – 0 up. Smith had to retire injured with full back Scott McCann moving into the stand off position and replacement Mike Rennie slotting into the full back role.

Annan, although struggling in the scrums against a heavier Dalziel pack, pressurised the visitors in the loose and with the home backs very much in their opposite numbers faces in defence Dalziel were forced into making some basic errors which led to several turnovers and penalty awards. Annan, however, were unable to capitalise on their pressure and with Annan’s Jack Tinning and a Dalziel flanker ‘sin binned’ for ten minutes for an ill tempered fracas on the ground, the remainder of the first half was a unglamorous affair with Annan holding on to their 10 -0 lead until the break.

In the second half Dalziel, like the first half, started brightly and 15 minutes into the half they scored a fine try when from a scrum in the home 22 their standoff put in a nicely balanced kick over the flat Annan defence allowing his winger, with the aid of a perfect bounce, to gather the ball and score in the corner. The Dalziel full back added the extras to bring the visitors firmly back into the game at 10-7. Dalziel’s fightback was short lived however. The Annan forwards, now controlling the game in the loose allied with some fine attacking play by their backs began to fine chinks in the visitors’ defences. From one of the attacks centre Andy Render split the Dalziel mid field defence with a superb angled run and set up centre Duncan Fisher who shrugged of the attentions of two of the Dalziel backs to score his second try in the corner. Scott McCann added the conversion with a majestic kick from the touchline. Minutes later the Annan backs once again carved their way through the Dalziel mid field with winger Michael Griffen side stepping his way over the line for a fine individual score. Scott McCann again added the conversion to take the home side into a 24-7 lead.

Dalziel to their credit did not give up and with some fine driving play by their forwards were unlucky not to score from a lineout take and drive when the referee was unsighted as the ball was driven over the Annan line. They were rewarded minutes later when their stand off scored a try from a fine piece of individual skill when he dummied two defenders to crash over the line to score to take the final score to Annan 24 Dalziel 12.

All in all this was a most satisfying result for Annan which will have settled the nerves after two close defeats. The plaudits belong to the Annan ‘young guns’ who put in some excellent performances from centre 16 year old Duncan Fisher, 17 year old stand off Scott McCann and 19 year old winger Michael Griffen. In the forwards hooker Jack Tinning belied his advancing years (32) and put in one of his best performances for some time with lock John Nelson and flanker Stuart Murray gaining invaluable experience with every outing. It was also good to see full back Michael Rennie in his first game of the season causing some damage with his breenging runs out of defence.

Annan Team Colin Warrick, Jack Tinning, Darren Irving, John Nelson, Billy Henderson, Stuart Murray, Neil Moffat, Stuart Clanachan, Keith Hogg (C), Niall Smith, Kevin Jones, Andy Render, Duncan Fisher, M Griffen, Scott McCann

Replacements: Stuart Wylie (not used), Michael Rennie (not used) Craig Moffat (used), Andrew Gunning (used)

MOFFAT 0 V ANNAN 110
SATURDAY 18TH SEPTEMBER 2004

With six divisions between the teams perhaps the final result was not entirely unexpected in this Round 1 fixture of the BT Cup but such is the romance of the cup competition that every team gets its chance to progress and upsets do happen. Unfortunately in this case it was not to be Moffat’s day on Saturday at the Holm.

In the first half Annan totally controlled the game with No 8 Stuart Clanachan scoring almost directly from the kickoff, and whilst Moffat defended gamely throughout the half they could not stop the driving play of the visiting forwards and the incisive direct running of the Annan backs with the result that Annan racked up 10 tries by half time (6 converted) to take the half time score to Moffat 0 Annan 62.

Moffat in the second half tightened up their defences somewhat, that fact allied to the visitors losing a little of their cohesiveness in attack led to a slightly scrappy half of rugby. Annan also began to lose a little of their shape as the efforts of the first half and changes to personnel (Annan giving all of their replacements a run out) took effect. However the visitors still managed to score a further 8 tries without reply.

Annan’s points scorers were No 8 Stuart Clanachan who set a new club record of 6 tries in a game, centre Duncan Fisher with a hat trick, winger Scott McCann (2), winger Kevin Jones (2), and prop Jack Tinning, wing forward Neil Moffat, centre Andy Render, lock Billy Henderson and standoff Niall Moffat all scoring one try apiece. Niall Smith converted 10 of the 18 tries.

Special mention must be made of the fact that Moffat never gave up and battled right to the end and were generous hosts in defeat to the visiting players and supporters. Annan now progress to the second round of the BT Cup.

ELLON 21 V ANNAN 15
SATURDAY 11TH SEPTEMBER 2004

Annan came away from the Meadows with a bonus point and somewhat disappointed not to have more to show for a truly sterling effort against a bigger and confident Ellon team in this Division 1 encounter of the BT National Leagues.

Annan had to withstand some early pressure, which they did with some great commitment and determination, however holding onto the ball on the ground gave the home side a successful penalty attempt to open the scoring. Annan worked themselves into the game, playing against a strong wind, and pressure in the Ellon 22 enabled standoff Niall Smith to slot an equaliser when Ellon were guilty of the same offence. Annan’s Paul O’Donnell, playing at open side flanker had not lasted long enough to see either of these score, going over on an ankle in the early exchanges. He was replaced by Lindsay Vevers.

Though Ellon had the better of the first half in territory and possession, Annan’s defence was secure, and they conceded only two more penalties to go into the break 9-3 down, and with every chance of a result with the wind in their favour in the second half.

Annan did begin the second half by probing down the lines without result, and Ellon replied by driving the ball on through their bulky forwards, then releasing the ball when they were in the Annan half. Again Annan’s defence was good, but with the home side trying to move the ball wide and run hard at the visiting defences scores looked possible. They came in the shape of two tries, one converted, mid way through the half. Both were the result of a runner breaking the tackle and finding close support. At 21-3 Ellon’s hopes of a try bonus must have been high.

The final quarter of the game belonged to Annan. Immediately from the restart, scrum half Keith Hogg caught the catcher. There was a knock on, and from the ensuing scrum Annan moved the ball left through Niall Smith. The forwards drove right up to the line and Keith Hogg gave a quick pass from the ruck for Niall Smith to dive over. The kick was missed, but as time began to run out, a Niall Smith break and a long pass put right-winger Kevin Jones into space, and he beat his man to score on the right. Niall Smith did well to convert the try, and at 21 –15 Annan sensed anxiety in the home ranks and the possibility of snatching a win. Time however ran out.

So Annan’s first trip to Ellon saw an enthralling match, which the home side perhaps just deserved to win, but Annan could look back with plenty of pride on their effort. Scum half Keith Hogg was the best player on view, popping up everywhere, especially to put in important tackles. Fine performances also came from Annan’s other experienced players in Niall Smith, Andy Render, Kevin Jones, Colin Warrick, Paul Carruthers, Mike Newton and Billy Henderson. The youngsters responded to this example and kept their concentration. So Craig and Scott McCann, Duncan Fisher, Darren Irving, John Nelson, Neil Moffat, Lindsay Vevers and Andrew Gunning all came through the test.

The Annan lineout was well served by Billy Henderson and Mike Newton, while the scrum secured their own ball against a much heavier pack of forwards. The pace of the backs and their generally sound handling, was enough to impress even the Ellon support. It was in pace that Ellon will have to step up a gear if they are to continue their promotion run.

No 8 Mike Newton was forced off near the end of the game with a collar bone injury and with Paul O’Donnell in plaster from a broken ankle Annan’s injury list is beginning to look somewhat worrying.

ANNAN 29 V GREENOCK WANDERERS 31
SATURDAY 4TH SEPTEMBER 2004

The pain etched on the Annan players faces as the final whistle was blown was heightened by the delight on their oppositions’ as Greenock Wanderers came from behind to win this highly entertaining game Division 1 of the BT National Leagues at Violetbank

It had all been so different in the first 40 minutes as the home side dominated the proceedings. Annan made several raids into the Wanderers 22 in the opening quarter but only desperate defence by the visitors and wrong options by the hosts kept the scoreboard blank. Annan did get some points on the score board when they were awarded a penalty which stand off Niall Smith converted which was cancelled out minutes later by a penalty award to the visitors which their South African standoff K Diffenthal converted. Niall Smith restored Annan’s lead to 3 points when awarded another penalty. Then from a penalty award stand off Niall Smith found touch within the visitors 22 and from the ensuing lineout the ball was spun out to Niall Smith who cut inside the Wanderers midfield defence to score between the posts. He also converted his try to take Annan into a healthy 10 point lead.

Annan increased their lead when from turnover ball No 8 Stuart Clanachan drove the ball well over the gain line and playing the ball out of the tackle he found stand off Niall Smith who set up his backs on a run for the line. Wing forward Billy Henderson was lurking in the back line breaking through a couple of tackles he was however brought down just short of the line but was able to stretch out to breach the whitewash to score. Although the conversion was missed Annan looked to going into the break some 15 points in the lead. Their visitors however had other ideas and when they were awarded a penalty well within range of their stand off he just off target but the ball was knocked back over the Annan line and from the ensuing 5 metre scrum Annan found themselves under some concerted Wanderers pressure. Although the home defences coped well their good work was undone when the visiting standoff flighted a fine cross kick found his winger albeit with the benefit of a fortunate bounce to send him in for a score. With the try converted Annan found their healthy lead reduced to 8 points which stand off Niall Smith increased to 11 with a well struck penalty just before half time. Half Time score Annan 21 Greenock Wanderers 10.

The home supporters, well pleased with their team’s first half performance hoped for more of the same in the second. Unfortunately what they saw was a game dominated by the opposition stand off Diffenthal who, using what wind there was kept Annan pinned in their 22 with some superb line kicking. Once again he put up a fine cross kick which with the benefit of a vicious bounce found his outside centre who, with the benefit of some ineffectual tackling was allowed to score in the corner. Diffenthal was now running the game and he was on hand to score a fine individual try which took the Wanderers into the lead for the first time in the game. He then proceeded to add a further 3 penalties to Annan’s one to take the score to Annan 24 Greenock Wanderers 32.

With ten minutes left of the game Annan set about rescuing the game and laid siege to the Wanderers line. From a scrum 5 metres from the visitor’s line No 8 Stuart Clanachan drove for the line and from the ruck formed when he went to ground prop Colin Warrick was on hand to burrow over the line to score. With 2 points the difference in the score the conversion was vital but unfortunately Niall Smith narrowly missed in his attempt. Although Annan continued to attack the visitor’s line the Wanderer’s defences held firm and Annan were left with a disappointing home defeat on the opening game of their league campaign.

Although this was a disappointing start Annan’s league campaign there was several plus points from this display from what was the youngest Annan 1st XV seen at Violetbank and hopefully much has been learned from the encounter.

Annan 1st XV Squad: Colin Warrick, Paul Carruthers, Paul O’Donnell, John Nelson, Michael Newton, Billy Henderson, Neil Moffat, Stuart Clanachan, Keith Hogg (C), Niall Smith, Douglas Paul, Andy Render, Kevin Jones, Duncan Fisher, Craig McCann Replacements: Craig Moffat, Grant Wylie, Scott McCann (all used)ƒ

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