Match reports for the 1st XV
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LEAGUE: HOME
Ardrossan RFC
Dalziel RFC
Duns RFC
Grangemouth RFC
Greenock Wanderers RFC
Hillfoots RFC
Langholm RFC
Perthshire RFC
Preston Lodge RFC
LEAGUE: AWAY
Ardrossan RFC
Dalziel RFC
Duns RFC
Grangemouth RFC
Greenock Wanderers RFC
Hillfoots RFC
Langholm RFC
Perthshire RFC
Preston Lodge RFC
CUP GAMES
Cartha RFC
Hawick YM RFC
Liberton RFC
Marr RFC
OTHER GAMES
Violetbank Shield
Chisholm Cup

LANGHOLM 18 V ANNAN 6
SATURDAY 15TH APRIL 2006

Going into this final BT National Division One fixture, the league positions of both clubs had already been determined, with Langholm finishing in third position and Annan ninth. Langholm certainly started off the stronger outfit and from an early drive, Annan were penalised for being offside but Cubbon missed his first attempt at goal. Annan had to make do without captain Carruthers for ten minutes following some ill-advised footwork but they managed to weather the storm during their captain’s absence as Langholm failed to capitalise on their numerical supremacy. Play from both sides was scrappy at this stage, but Langholm held the advantage in terms of possession and territorial advantage. First blood came to Langholm when Annan conceded a penalty 25 metres out and Niall Cubbon slotted it over assuredly. Annan’s penalty count against was needlessly high and contributed in part to the stop start nature of the game. Although the away side did have a good period of pressure shortly before half time, the first try of the match came from Langholm. Good line-out ball was fed to the scrum half who dummied through a gap to feed centre Michael Aston for an easy score. The conversion made the half-time score 10-0 in Langholm’s favour.

McCann pulled a penalty back for Annan before Langholm’s second try of the game. Keith Davidson did well to stay on his feet despite attention from three Annan players, the ball was ripped out and prop Steven Hotson drove over from close range. Successful penalties for both sides by McCann and Cubbon brought the final score to 18-6, but it is a match which will either be easily forgotten or remembered for the high unforced error count for both sides, with passes going astray and ball being dropped or knocked on frequently. For Annan, there were indeed some good passages of play but overall it was a case of what might have been had there been greater aggression at the breakdown and less looseness about their play. A deserved victory for Langholm and the end of a hard season for both clubs. Annan will shortly begin their preparations for next season, and the clear target for the playing squad will be to increase fitness levels, do a hard summer’s training and hit the ground running in August.

Annan Team: C Warrick (J Tinning), P Carruthers, S Kelly; G Hogg, J Nelson; W Henderson, N Moffat (P O’Donnell), G Smith; K Hogg, N Smith; B Hay, A Render, K Jones, M Griffin; C McCann. Sub not used – G Lynch

ANNAN 16 V PERTHSHIRE 17
SATURDAY 25TH MARCH 2006

There was much at stake in this final home National Division 1 fixture for both Annan and Perthshire. A win for the visitors would ensure the championship and promotion to Premier 3, while for Annan a defeat or a draw would ensure Division 2 rugby next season.

The result was in the balance right to the end, but Annan just could not get that final break which might have snatched the win, and Perthshire survived to collect the National Division 1 trophy, while for Annan defeat meant demotion to National 2.

The lead changed hands four times, reflecting the resilience and determination of both teams. After Perthshire had mounted an early move, looking sharp, Annan took a grip of the game to go ahead. After a couple of Annan thrusts had been repelled, the ball was fed back from a ruck on the Perthshire 22 to Annan stand off Niall Smith, who dropped a good goal to give Annan a 3-0 lead. Both teams tried to keep the ball alive, but defences were on top as the half neared its end, but Perthshire’s excellent stand off Jesse Westerlund dummied and shimmied his way through the Annan defence to score with the only real piece of individual brilliance seen on the day. Fullback Geraint O’Driscoll converted to give the visitors a 7-3 half time advantage.

The Perth support felt that now their team would be able to press home the advantage, but after again beginning sharply, it was Annan who struck again. A break up left touchline led saw Michael Griffin burst into the 22 feeding the ball to Joe Crowther who in turn offloaded the ball in the tackle to fullback Kevin Jones who was on hand to take the pass and dive over. With scrum half Craig McCann making an excellent job of the difficult conversion, Annan led 10-7. This was extended to 13-7 when McCann slotted a long penalty.

Perthshire began to dominate territorially, and only desperate defence kept them out. Eventually the Annan defence found itself overstretched on the left after Westerlund had cleverly switched play, and right wing Jamie Ridgeway got in at the corner. O’Driscoll made the conversion look easy, as Perthshire moved ahead 14-13. He was then successful with a penalty to stretch the Perth lead to 17-13.

Perthshire were unable to close the game out against great Annan defence, and another penalty success for McCann brought Annan back to within a point at 16-17. With time running out, both sets of supporters were on tenterhooks, and though Annan did manage one late breakout by Scott McCann, there was no one quick enough to capitalise on his kick ahead.

Congratulations to Perthshire on their championship, but Annan gave it their all in this game, a real team effort of which they can be proud. It was not this result which doomed Annan to relegation, as they have played well against some of the better teams, but rather some disappointing results against poorer opposition. Westerlund got “man of the match”, while for Annan there were a number of contenders with Graham Smith perhaps just shading it. One player who did give his all was Andy Render, playing probably his last home 1st XV game for Annan. One of Annan’s finest ever players, Andy has played in every division from Glasgow Division 2 to Premier 3, at hooker then later wing and centre. He will be impossible to replace, but one hopes Andy’s dedication and sportsmanship will be a model for younger players.

Annan team: K. Jones; B. Hay, J. Crowther, M. Griffin, A. Render; N. Smith, C. McCann; C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, S. Kelly, J. Nelson, G. Hogg, W. Henderson, N. Moffat, G. Smith. Replacements all used : A. Burnell, S. McCann, M. Scott.

HILLFOOTS 20 V ANNAN 3
SATURDAY 11TH FEBRUARY 2006

The stakes were high going into this NL1 basement battle with Annan walking a very fine tightrope in their bid to escape relegation. Hillfoots opted to play down the infamous Tillicoultry slope in the first half and it was clear from the outset that they were going to adopt their limited mauling game. Annan gave away a penalty and were 0-3 in arrears with only three minutes on the clock. However, getting into their stride, they played some brisk passing rugby and were coping well with the bulky Hillfoots pack. Throughout the first half, the only rugby was coming from Annan but they were thwarted time and again by a stuffy Hills defence. Annan’s cause was not aided by a 10th minute injury to winger Render, but they took the game to Hillfoots and were unlucky not to get the vital breakthrough, particularly after a good breaks by stand-off Smith. Hillfoots rarely threatened, but following a succession of scrums on the Annan 5 metre line, prop Penman drove over for a try. At 0-10 down at half time, Annan had competed well and had shown plenty of initiative playing up the slope. They were by far the more enterprising team at this stage.

Following the turn round, Annan were awarded an early penalty which scrum half McCann converted easily. What followed was certainly not in the Annan game plan. Instead of quick ball and taking advantage of kicking to the corners, Annan inexplicably limited themselves to a mauling game which played into Hillfoots’ hands. Hillfoots were adept at killing the ball and slowing the game down and Annan were sucked into the type of game which gave them few opportunities to exploit the obvious weaknesses of a team which relied on a rumbling, hefty pack which was revelling in the fact the game was frequently bogged down in scrappy midfield exchanges. This is not a criticism of Hillfoots, but rather a reflection of Annan’s shortcomings in decision making and not being able to change their game plan when the need arose. A line-out for Hills, resulting in a couple of drives for the line brought about a second try for the home team. An easy penalty after Annan were marched back an extra 10 yards sealed the Violetbank side’s fate and with the final score of 3-20, Annan were left reflecting on a game which had started so promisingly, but slipped away in that second half as Hillfoots locked them down. A number of Annan players performed well and none more so than No. 8 Graham Smith who put in a tremendous performance. What might have been was all down to second-half decision making!

Annan team: C Warrick (S Kelly), P Carruthers, D Irving, J Nelson, G Hogg, P O’Donnell, W Henderson, G Smith, C McCann, N Smith, A Render (D Wyllie), M Griffen, J Crowther, S McCann, K Jones. Unused Sub S Wyllie

ANNAN 7 V GRANGEMOUTH 3
SATURDAY 4TH FEBRUARY 2006

Annan’s hopes of avoiding relegation are still very much alive following this crucial win against mid-table Grangemouth. From the first whistle, Annan laid assault to the Grangemouth line and it was after sustained pressure from the forwards that Annan gained an early line-out. Clean ball taken by Billy Henderson, a good drive from the ensuing maul and there was Henderson in the thick of the action again as he was driven over by his fellow forwards for a morale boosting try. Craig McCann slotted the conversion – and there were only three minutes on the clock! Annan were certainly up for this game and prepared to take the play to the opposition. An excellent 30 metre breakaway by Graeme Smith deserved better support and Annan were ultimately penalised for not releasing in the ensuing ruck. There was a spell of enterprising play from the backs, well orchestrated by the half-back partnership of McCann and Niall Smith and the home side clearly had the better of the opening exchanges, but once again they were unable to translate their superiority into points. Grangemouth had only threatened once in the first 25 minutes and, fortunately for Annan, their opponents spoiled an enterprising piece of backs play with an abysmal attempt at a drop goal. Grangemouth rarely threatened again before the interval, yet despite another galloping foray by Smith who was stopped by a last-gasp tackle, and a mazy run by centre Griffin, Annan had nothing further to show for their efforts. A long penalty by McCann dropped just wide and short and shortly afterwards Annan were camped near the Grangemouth line, only to give away three penalties in quick succession, thus putting themselves under unnecessary pressure in their own 22. Annan were 7-0 up at the interval, but should really have had the game well and truly wrapped up by then. Sloppy handling at crucial moments affected Annan’s momentum and once again they had lacked that vital penetration to kill off a team when on top.

Although the underfoot conditions were far from ideal, the second half was a fairly dour affair. The passing from both sets of backs looked laboured and a lot of ball was spilled, with play becoming pretty scrappy at times. There were occasions where the opening was there, but neither side could seize that crucial breakthrough. Not many highlights in the second half, with defences on top, but Annan did have a couple of opportunities. From a scrum near the Grangemouth line, a dummy backs move allowed Craig McCann to dart up the blind side where he was tackled just short of the line in the corner. Annan did have a kickable penalty but opted for a punt to the corner where they lost the ensuing line-out. At the other end, there was a marvellous try-saving tackle by Render on the Grangemouth winger and, as the game entered the final quarter, Grangemouth were awarded a penalty for offside by Annan. With the successful conversion making the score 7-3, the game closed with the score being a lot closer than it need have been and Annan relieved to have taken a very valuable four points. There was certainly masses of effort from this Annan side, but they just lacked that killer instinct which would have finished Grangemouth off early doors!

Annan Team: C Warrick, P Carruthers, S Kelly(D Irving); G Hogg, J Nelson; P O’Donnell (C Moffat), W Henderson, G Smith; C McCann, N Smith; S McCann, M Griffin, J Crowther, A Render; K Jones (Sub not used – S Wyllie)

ANNAN 9 V ARDROSSAN 35
SATURDAY 28TH JANUARY 2006

Although at the end of the day this match will be remembered as a five try defeat by the third placed team in the league it will also be remembered that Annan had been in front for 60 minutes before the wheels came off their performance.

After some tentative probing drives by both teams, Annan on virtually their first foray into the Ardrossan 22 were awarded a penalty when the visiting forwards were penalized for killing the ball in a ruck. Scrum half Craig McCann slotted the award. Neither sets of forwards were able to gain the upper hand in the early stages and likewise neither sets of backs were unable to dominate the other. Ardrossan leveled the score at 3 all when they were awarded a penalty when the Annan backs were caught offside at a scrum. Annan continued to drive play into the visitor’s half and were rewarded with a further two penalty awards which Craig McCann converted to give Annan a 6 point lead at half time.

Annan made a good start to the second half but play often broke down as both sides seemed to adopt a frantic style of play. It was the visitors, however, who scored first when they were awarded a penalty when one of the Annan forwards handled in a ruck. Both teams continued to battle for possession and territory as the game was driven from end to end with both teams putting some tremendous defensive work on their respective lines. However, as the game entered the last quarter the signs were there for all to see as the visiting forwards slowly upped their game and squeezed the home forwards. From a lineout following a penalty award the Ardrossan forward machine ground into action as they powered over the Annan line to score an unconverted try. Minutes later the visiting forwards struck again in an identical move and they powered over for another unconverted try.

Then the wheels well and truly came off the Annan efforts when in the space of a few minutes the visitors scored a further two tries both of which were converted and Annan’s hopes of at least gaining a bonus point evaporated. However to their credit the Annan players battled away and laid siege to the Ardrossan line in an effort to salvage something from the game. Time and time again they drove for the line but were unable to unlock the stubborn visiting defenses. In the last attempt to score, as time ran out, the ball was knocked out of scrum half McCann’s hand at a ruck by an Ardrossan defender and as everyone waited for the referee’s whistle for the knock on the visiting livewire scrum half picked the ball up and sprinted the entire length of the field to score. The conversion was missed. This was the last action of the match. It was an exhausted and dispirited Annan squad which trudged from the field at the final whistle as they knew that the chasm of relegation had opened and they were no longer teetering on the edge but falling.

Whilst this was a spirited performance by the Annan squad they knew that they had been up against probably the best and most balanced set of forwards in this league who, while taking their time had slowly turned the game in their teams favour.

Once in the Clubhouse news filtered through about Duns having not been able to field a side against Langholm at Milntown and speculation was rife regarding what the SRU’s action may be in regard to this news. Irrespective of the final decision by the sports governing body the news lifted spirits in that there may be a glimmer of hope that relegation might not be a certainty after all. It all, as usual, lay at the teams door.

Annan Team: C Warrick, P Carruthers(Capt), D Irving (S Kelly), G Hogg, J Nelson, N Moffat B Blower), P O’Donnell, W Henderson, C McCann, N Smith, A Render, M Griffin, J Crowther, S McCann (R Copland), K Jones

ANNAN 17 V HAWICK YM 18
SATURDAY 21ST JANUARY 2006

With Annan struggling in National Division 1, this was a chance for Division 3 Hawick YM to gain some revenge in this Shield match for their two previous Cup defeats at Violetbank. This they managed after an exciting finish, but not without a touch of good fortune.

Aware, no doubt, that this could be a tricky game, Annan started briskly and kept the visitors in their own half. Using the forwards to drive the ball forward, they were rewarded with two penalties in this opening spell, both of which scrum half Craig McCann slotted with ease to give Annan a 6-0 lead. YM hit back almost immediately to show that Annan could not afford to take anything for granted. Annan dropped a ball inside their own half, which was quickly snaffled by YM and quick passing put the right wing Robertson in at the corner, with the Annan defence in disarray. Annan resumed their offence, and another offside decision against YM allowed McCann to extend Annan’s lead to 9-5.

On YM’s next visit to Annan’s 22 they again scored, this time fullback Welsh dancing through to the posts, allowing an easy conversion to give YM a lead of 9-12, followed not long after by a penalty against Annan for handling in the ruck, and 9-15.

With half time approaching Annan finished with a flourish. After some sustained pressure on the YM line the ball was moved from the scrum to the backs and a simple miss move saw fullback Kevin Jones enter the line at pace to score. The conversion was missed, but at 14-15 Annan had every chance.

Annan did not have long to wait to get back on top. This time YM handled in the ruck, and McCann made another good job of the kick to put Annan back in front by 17-15. The second half saw Annan with most of the possession and territorial advantage, and they seemed able to cope with anything that YM could throw at them, yet were lacking the power and pace to unlock a really stuffy YM defence. As the game neared its end Annan did not seem in any great danger, but an Annan player was deemed to be holding on on the ground just outside his own 22. This time stand off Renwick made a good job of the kick, to put YM back in front 17-18, with not long to go. YM tried to keep the game at the Annan end of the field, and almost succeeded. However this time Annan received a penalty for YM holding on, and loose YM tongues led to them being marched back 10 metres, well within McCann’s striking range. With what was to be the last kick of the match, the ball slid agonisingly wide and Annan were out of the Shield.

This was not too bad a performance from Annan. They had the possession and the territory, they were just not able to play the game at a faster pace than YM, who stuck to their task and made the most of their opportunities. The Violetbank pitch was as heavy as it has ever been, which did not help the cause, neither did a second half injury to No 8 Graham Smith. That said, either team could have won this match, and in the end it was not Annan’s day.

Annan team: C. Warrick, N. Moffat, D. Irving (A. Burnell), G. Hogg, J. Nelson, W. Henderson, P. O’Donnell, G. Smith (B. Blower), C. McCann, N. Smith, A. Render, J. Crowther, M. Griffin, A. Rae, K. Jones (S. McCann).

DUNS 31 V ANNAN 3
SATURDAY 14TH JANUARY 2006

This was a crunch game for both teams, fighting to pull clear of the relegation places. On the day it was Duns who deservedly took the honours and a bonus point, with Annan left wondering where it had all gone wrong.

From the kick off Duns took the game to Annan with commitment. Strong forward play produced good ruck ball in the Annan half, the ball was moved to the backs, and a good break by the centre put the winger in at the corner. A fine conversion gave Duns a 7-0 lead. Worse was to follow. Duns were looking the hungrier side, making ground and testing the Annan midfield defence, and they soon added to their tally. From a scrum five metres from the Annan line a loose ball appeared over the Annan line, Duns reacting first. Another good conversion and the home side led 14-0. Jolted into life Annan at last began to exert some pressure of their own, and twice they were unlucky near the Duns line, but as the game was to illustrate frequently this was not to be Annan’s day.

Next score, on the 20 minute mark, again went to Duns. Their backs broke through the tackle and were first to a kick ahead, though this time there was no conversion, and at 19-0 down Annan seemed out of it. Duns looked strong in most departments, particularly in the backs, who were giving Annan a torrid time, and at this point Annan suffered two injuries. Stand off Andrew White received a back injury going for a loose ball on the Duns line, while winger Andy Render suffered a couple of knocks. White had to go off almost immediately, Render not resuming after the break. Despite this Annan had a late flurry in the first half, one McCann penalty coming back off the post, but almost immediately after a second succeeded. Half time Duns 19-3 Annan.

The second half saw Niall Smith at stand off, with Joe Crowther coming in at centre, and young flanker Bruce Blower to the left wing. Annan made a better fist of the second half, kicking with the slight breeze and slightly down hill, but in retrospect the next score proved the killer. A Duns kick ahead appeared to have been gathered by Annan, but a pass in defence hit the post protector and was eagerly scooped up by Duns. The conversion made it 26-3, and a bonus point, for the home side. They could now relax and enjoy themselves while Annan had to force the game.

Annan had two late chances. Billy Henderson made a run deep into the Duns half, with support there, but when a final pass would have put Annan in, the two eager would-be try scorers fell over each other going for the pass. Again, Annan had drives to the line on the left, but on this occasion they just could not get over. The final score went to Duns. The left winger broke two tackles and kicked ahead, and with the Annan defence split, again Duns were first to the ball. Final score Duns 31-3 Annan.

This was about the worst result Annan could have imagined, after their two recent league wins, and it means that the fight to stay in Division 1 begins again. All credit to Duns, who looked a well balanced side and played to their strengths, but then better Annan sides than this have come a real cropper at the Hardens. A word for Bruce Blower, who was making his first 1st XV appearance in an unfamailiar position, and did all that could be expected of him. For the record, Annan’s remaining games are Ardrossan (H), Grangemouth (H), Hillfoots (A), Langholm (A) and Perthshire (H). Duns have Langholm (A), Perthshire (H), Dalziel (A) Hillfoots (A) and Preston Lodge (H).

Annan team: B. Hay; A. Rae, M. Griffin, N. Smith, A. Render; A. White, C. McCann; C. Warrick, N. Moffat, S. Kelly, G. Hogg, J. Nelson, W. Henderson, P. O’Donnell, G. Smith. Subs, all used, D. Irving, B. Blower, J. Crowther.

ANNAN 23 V GREENOCK WANDERERS 11
SATURDAY 7TH JANUARY 2006

After their disappointing performance the previous Saturday in the Chisholm Cup at Stewartry Annan knew that they would have to up their game if they were to secure a win on this vital fixture in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues against mid table Greenock Wanderers.

In the first quarter of the game the home side held the territorial and possession advantage as they took the game to their visitors. Twice winger Andy Render was denied a score, the first time by a forward pass when he looked to be clear and the second when he was deemed to have grounded the ball short of the line. On the second occasion the referee had been playing advantage and awarded a penalty which scrum half Craig McCann slotted. This score seemed to spur the visitors into action as they drove towards the Annan line on several occasions only to be repulsed by some aggressive home defences. Annan added to their lead when the Greenock standoff was penalised for not releasing the ball when tackled with Craig McCann slotting the three points with a finely taken kick.

Midway through the second quarter Annan scored the best try of the match when following a run out of defence full back Kevin Jones kicked ahead. His kick was fielded by the visiting standoff who lost possession of the ball when he was tap tackled by hooker Paul Carruthers the loose ball was scooped up by lock John Nelson and fed out to winger Andy Render, via the quick hands of prop Darren Irving and wing forward Billy Henderson, who nose dived in the corner to score. Craig McCann added the extra two points with a marvellous conversion from the touchline.

With half time looming Greenock were determined to reduce the points deficit and once again battered away at the Annan line. Initially their attacks were thwarted but eventually their forward drives sucked in the Annan cover defences and their full back scored at the corner flag. Annan continued to dominate in the dying moments of the half and went into the break 13 points to 5 in the lead.

Early in the second half Annan had a chance to increase their lead when they were the visitors were penalised for not releasing the ball in a ruck but Craig McCann’s attempt just faded past the upright. Annan had a fine period of play following a superb break by stand off Andrew White when they launched several attacks at the visitor’s line only to be thwarted on each occasion by excellent Greenock defence. Even when Annan were reduced to 14 men when wing forward Neil Moffat was sin binned for a late tackle they still had the balance of territory and possession. Midway through the half the visitors reduced the deficit by three points when they added a penalty when Annan were caught offside at a ruck. Craig McCann restored Annan’s 8 point lead when he struck a massive penalty from inside the half way line.

Annan increased their lead as full time loomed when following a superb line kick from inside his own half Craig McCann found touch 5 metres from the Greenock line. From the ensuing lineout Annan pinched the Greenock throw in and the home eight drove to the line with prop Colin Warrick credited with the try. Craig McCann added the conversion as the final whistle went.

This was a vital win for Annan which saw them rise up three places from the bottom of the league. All in all a fine team performance from the Annan team with the forwards in particular putting in one of their best and most consistent performances this season. Lock Graham Hogg had without doubt his best performance to date with some fine lineout play and some good dives in the loose. The home sides set piece play was much tighter than it has been of late and in the backs the new combination at half back with scrum half Craig McCann and standoff Andrew White looking a potent attacking force. Craig McCann was without doubt the man of the match (had there been an award) with his imperious display of place and line kicking.

Annan Team: C Warrick, Paul Carruthers, S Kelly (D Irving), G Hogg, J Nelson, W Henderson, P O’Donnell,( N Moffat) G Smith, C McCann, A White, B Hay (A Rae), N Smith, M Griffin, A Render, K Jones.

STEWARTRY 23 V ANNAN 0
SATURDAY 31ST DECEMBER 2005

The Peter Chisholm Memorial Cup was at stake in this New Year’s Eve fixture at the Greenlaw, providing the opportunity also for both clubs to forget temporarily their problems in the BT National Leagues. The first half belonged almost entirely to Stewartry as they played simple, no-frills rugby and retained possession for lengthy spells. In fact, almost the entire first period was spent in the Annan half of the pitch and it was no surprise when fullback McDonald, one of the best players on view, scored an easy try for the home side. A conversion and two further penalties took Stewartry into a comfortable 13-0 half-time lead. Stewartry had made all the running and looked easily the better team at this stage compared to a lacklustre Annan performance which lacked any bite, urgency or enterprise.

Annan did improve in the second half, making regular incursions into Stewartry territory, but a lack of composure and poor ball retention, combined with some excellent Stewartry defence meant that there was no way through for Annan . Lack of any bulk in the pack meant that Stewartry were able to outmuscle their opponents at the crucial moment. Stewartry rubbed salt into the wounds with a well-worked forwards move culminating in S Grieve peeling off to score under the posts. With the try converted and another successful penalty for winger Ashby, the final score was 23-0 in Stewartry’s favour. This was also the last game for Sam Roberts, who has been an excellent Club man and our best wishes go to Sam on his return to Shoalhaven.

Annan team – D Irving, P Carruthers, A Gunning; G Hogg, W Henderson; P O’Donnell, S Wyllie, G Smith; C McCann, N Smith; A Render, M Griffin, S Roberts, D Wyllie; A White

DALZIEL 8 V ANNAN 10
SATURDAY 17TH DECEMBER 2005

This was a Christmas cracker of a match at Dalziel Country Park with both sides committed to playing open, attractive rugby in bitterly cold conditions. It was Dalziel who started like a house on fire and with some dynamic driving forwards play, they pinned Annan back in their own half for the first 20 minutes. With only 12 minutes on the clock, the home side scored a fine try when they spun the ball wide after good work by the forwards, the fullback came into the line and fed winger McMillan who scored just left of the posts. Surprisingly, the conversion was missed but Dalziel stretched their lead to 8-0 shortly afterwards with a penalty. The Violetbank team had traveled to Motherwell with a determination to play their best rugby, given recent disappointments, and they came back at Dalziel as the first half wore on. A couple of unluckily missed penalties by fullback Andrew White were followed by a spell of pressure on the Dalziel 22 and, from a scrum, Keith Hogg fed to Michael Griffin who worked a scissors with No. 8 Graham Smith and it was Smith who made the try line for the crucial score, ably converted by White.

Although Dalziel had the better of the first half, it was clear that Annan were a much improved unit from that of late. With a half-time score line of 7-8, everything was to play for.

The second half was an intense, physical and highly entertaining affair. The game swung to and fro for a spell before Annan began to get on top. The support play at tackle and breakdown was at its best and their speed of thought and reaction had increased a number of notches from recent performances. At one point, a driving maul traveled 25 metres before the Annan forwards were held up on the line. With Dalziel beginning to lose a bit of composure, such was the intensity of Annan’s play, the away side grew in confidence. There was intelligent linking and interplay between forwards and backs , Annan were forcing Dalziel into making errors and from an excellent Andy White penalty Annan moved into a 10-8 lead.

Despite being the better and more determined side in the second half, that was the end of the scoring. Annan made life difficult for themselves by giving away three unnecessary penalties in the closing stages. Nail-biting stuff, but they held out for an excellent win, having kept the tempo up for the full 80 minutes. This is how Annan should strive to play in every match, maintaining pressure at every opportunity.

This was a fine team performance full of pace, commitment, aggressive play and self-belief. Much more of the same will be required in the New Year to ensure survival in National League One.

Team: C Warrick, P Carruthers, S Kelly (D Irving); J Nelson, G Hogg; W Henderson, N Moffat (P O'Donnell), G Smith; K Hogg (A Rae), N Smith; B Hay, M Griffin, S Roberts, A Render; A White

ANNAN 9 v PRESTON LODGE 17
SATURDAY 10TH DECEMBER 2005

This was a match which Annan really wanted to win in order to move away from the basement area of BT National League One. However, Preston Lodge were always going to be a tough nut to crack, lying in second position and pushing strongly for promotion.

In the early phases of the game, Annan really took the game to their opponents and applied constant pressure to the PL defence. Although the conditions were not conducive to flowing rugby, Annan created a number of scoring opportunities but just lacked that cutting edge to penetrate a resolute PL defence. With the Annan forwards in the ascendancy, the ball was spilled on the line when Annan looked sure to score. With most of the first-half pressure and territorial advantage going Annan’s way, and with the line-out operating well throughout the opening period, Preston Lodge looked nervous at the back but the breakthrough try failed to materialise.

Annan did take the lead at 6-0 with two well struck penalties by fullback Andrew White before PL clawed back three points at the other end with a penalty in one of their rare sorties into Annan territory. With Annan again driving forward, PL were penalised once more and White cracked over an excellent penalty from wide right to give Annan a 9-3 advantage. More Annan pressure ensued, with Griffin being forced into touch just short of the line and Andy White hitting the woodwork from a 40 metre penalty attempt. However, it was Preston Lodge who had the final say in the opening half. Annan were a man short with Moffat in the sin bin when PL took clean line-out ball, spun the ball along the backs and fullback Armstrong came into the line to score a try in the corner.

A half-time scoreline of 9-8 in Annan’s favour did not reflect the amount of possession and territorial advantage Annan had in the first half.

Preston Lodge now had the benefit of the wind at their backs and applied the pressure to an Annan side still reeling from losing a score in the dying seconds of the first period when they were clearly on top.

The second half was not a great spectacle and continuity of phases was at a premium from both teams. PL struck almost immediately with a penalty three minutes after the break and, battle as they did to get back into the match, Annan lost a bit of their shape. They did have two penalty attempts by White which missed narrowly in difficult conditions, but PL had most of the spoils as Annan seemed to run out of gas and stand-off Jones put over two penalties to give Preston Lodge a 17-9 victory. Annan’s cause had been further hampered when prop Warrick also paid a visit to the sin bin, but the most effective PL tactic in the second half had been their accurate touch kicking which didn’t allow Annan to run back at the PL defence.

A disappointing outcome after a bright start, with the players giving their all on a day when things didn’t quite go Annan’s way. The Man of the Match award by match sponsors APD went to Preston Lodge centre Graeme Paterson.

Annan team: C Warrick, P Carruthers, J Gilmour (D Irving); G Hogg, J Nelson; W Henderson, N Moffat (P O’Donnell), G Smith; A Rae, N Smith; B Hay (D Wyllie), S Roberts, M Griffin, A Render; A White

ANNAN 25 v CARTHA QUEENS PARK 31
SATURDAY 3RD DECEMBER 2005

A tremendous team effort from Annan came close to knocking high-flying Cartha out of the BT Cup last Saturday, but in the closing stages of a great game the visitors just found enough to get the crucial scores which takes them on to round 4.

The Annan team was led onto the field by Andy Render as a special mark of respect as Andy was making his 300th 1st XV appearance.

Cartha looked impressive in the warm up – big, fast and using impressive moves at pace. When they went ahead after a few minutes of early pressure, driving over from a five metre lineout, it seemed that Annan might be in for a difficult afternoon.

In fact Annan hit back almost immediately with a fine try of their own. Annan pinched a Cartha lineout ball in their 22, and moved the ball right. Left wing Andy Render came inside stand off Niall Smith and got through the gap. When tackled he popped the ball up to centre Sam Roberts, who drove over to level the scores at 5-5.

There followed a period of midfield struggle, before Cartha again exploited another penalty kick to the corner, this time the scrum half burrowing over at the left corner. A fine conversion made it 5-12 to the visitors. Worse was to come for Annan, when the Cartha No 4 was allowed to run through some dodgy tackling to score, and with another successful conversion, Cartha led 5-19.

Annan stepped up their game as half time loomed. Prop Angus Burnell ripped the ball from a maul on the Cartha line and crossed, only to find the referee had blown for a penalty to Annan. However, when Cartha were found guilty of crossing, scrum half Craig McCann was able to thump over a penalty for Annan, just before the whistle. Half time score Annan 8-19 Cartha.

Few in the small but enthusiastic crowd were prepared for what the second half had in store. Annan continued to give as good as they got. The forwards refused to be beaten, and the backs looked lively in attack and defended stoutly, and were rewarded as the game became more open. First Annan benefited from a Cartha foul within kicking distance allowing Craig McCann to bring Annan to 11-19. Then Cartha lost possession in the Annan 22, and quick hands put centre Michael Griffin away. Through the gap and past one tackle, he still had half the field to run to score at the posts. Craig McCann made no mistake with the conversion, and Annan were back in contention at 18-19.

Mid way through the second half, and Cartha were rattled, as Annan continued to pressure the ball, and another fine try by the backs put Annan into the lead for the first time. An Annan scrum outside the Cartha 22 saw Michael Griffin come inside his stand off to take the pass from McCann, and a huge gap opened in front of him allowing another run to the posts, and another conversion – in off the post. Annan’s lead of 25-19, with some fifteen minutes to go, just needed topping off with a further score, but to their credit Cartha just found enough to save the game.

Striving frantically to save the game, the Cartha fullback squeezed in at the right hand corner, and an excellent conversion from the touchline restored Cartha’s lead, 25-26. There was to be no fairytale ending for Annan as the final action saw the Cartha scrum half take a lineout ball near the Annan line and again get in at the corner. Final score Annan 25-31 Cartha.

Annan can take a lot of heart from this game, possibly their best display of the season. They matched their opponents in most aspects except bulk, and can be really proud of the three great tries they scored. While this was a great team effort, it was good to see Graham Smith adding oomph to the forward play, while for his two tries centre Michael Griffin will long remember this one.

Annan team: C. Warrick (A. Burnell), P. Carruthers, J. Gilmour (S. Kelly), J. Nelson, G. Hogg, W. Henderson, N. Moffat (P.O’Donnell), G. Smith; N. Smith, C. McCann; J. Crowther (D. Wyllie), S. Roberts, M. Griffin, A. Render; B. Hay.

PERTHSHIRE 31 v ANNAN 16
SATURDAY 12TH NOVEMBER 2005

Perthshire may be the leaders in National Division One, but it was Annan who produced most of the quality rugby at the North Inch. This was a really fighting performance from a team which displayed a high level of commitment from start to finish. Annan started the match aggressively and applied constant pressure to the Perthshire defence. However, a slack pass led to Perthshire breaking out from their 22 and a kick ahead resulted in a rather fortuitous try for the home side. Annan re-applied the pressure and pulled three points back with a McCann penalty. Once more, however, they were caught out by a kick ahead and chase which resulted in a second Perthshire try. At 12-3 down, Annan had been playing all the quality rugby and Perthshire had hardly had any possession. Another successful penalty by Craig McCann reduced the leeway but this was countered by an excellent try from Perthshire’s masterful stand off Westerlund. Following more attacking play from the away side, McCann slotted another penalty.The half-time score of 9-17 was certainly not a true reflection of play or territorial advantage. Annan were taking everything in the lineout, with Graham Smith outstanding, and forwards and backs were combining well to keep Perthshire on the back foot for most of the opening period.

Annan started off the second half well, but Westerlund once again showed his class when went on a jinking run and offloaded to the outside centre to score under the posts. Annan countered with an excellent try from prop Angus Burnell. Good lineout ball was fed to the Annan prop who drove low from 15 metres out and his strength took him through the Perthshire defence for a class score, converted by McCann. At 16-24, the feeling was that Annan could still do it, but some slack play led to another Perthshire score from a kick ahead. The final score was a cruel one for Annan who, apart from one or two moments of slackness, had produced their best display of the season. This was a tremendous spirited performance and every Annan player played his part in a game which could have swung either way. The running with ball in hand was excellent and the forwards provided the platform for the backs to shine. All players who took the field gave their all and were a credit to the jersey. Hopefully, Annan will now be able to claw their way up the table in the second half of the season. With a performance like this, anything is possible!

C Warrick (S Kelly), P Carruthers, A Burnell; G Hogg, J Nelson; N Moffat, W Henderson (P O'Donnell), G Smith; C McCann, N Smith; D Wyllie, M Griffin, S Roberts, A Render; K Jones (Replacement not used - S Wyllie. Thanks to Stewart for travelling at late notice)

MARR 9 v ANNAN 10
SATURDAY 5TH NOVEMBER 2005

With Annan in Division 1 and Marr in Division 5 West, the trip to Fullerton Park in Troon should have been a favourable draw for the away team. What happened on a bright but blustery afternoon was anything but. Marr started the game with the elements in their favour and along with a belief in themselves, took the game to Annan. Astute kicking by the home stand off and poor midfield defense by Annan allowed Marr to play in the Annan half with the resulting pressure creating numerous penalties for home side.

Ross Campbell the Marr full back missed an easy penalty kick after seven minutes before Annan managed their first foray towards the Marr line. A penalty to Annan dropped just short and Marr relieved the pressure. Annan were unable to gain real control in any part of the game. The lineout was under pressure, the loose was producing slow ball and the penalty count against was increasing. This resulted in John Nelson being “binned” for a repeated infringement. Down to fourteen men, Annan managed to hold on under pressure until half time and turned round 3-0 down.

Annan started the second half much more positively and started to gain some reasonable possession which resulted in more continuity. The problem again was the penalty count. Time and again the home side were allowed to clear their lines as Annan infringed. After twenty minutes, one of the few quality moves in the few quality moves in the game, resulted in Andy Render coming in off his wing to take the ball through the centre to score. Craig McCann added the conversion. This score lifted Annan and there were glimpses of good play but it was Marr who struck back with a penalty kick. Marr 6 Annan 7. The game see-sawed back and forward, Marr having a try disallowed, the two kickers swapping penalties and the game ended Marr 9 Annan 10. Annan got out of jail, but only just. The penalty count against was unacceptable and this put the whole team under pressure. More discipline added to the skill and enthusiasm will produce better days in the future.

Annan Team: C Warrick, P Carruthers (Capt), A Burnell, J Nelson, G Hogg, G McCall, S Roberts, G Smith, C McCann, N Smith, A Render, M Griffen, J Crowther, K Jones, A White, D Irving, N Moffat, P O’Donnell and B Hay.

ANNAN 0 V LANGHOLM 19
SATURDAY 29TH OCTOBER 2005

Annan were defeated by the better team on the day with Langholm making better use of their possession than the home team over the 80 minutes. Annan were punished for their poor lineout and loose play with the Langholm standoff making good use of his line kicking to keep the home team pinned in their own half for long periods of the game.

Annan’s midfield defence however was able to cope with the visiting backs attacks but there was a paucity of good back play from either teams and it was in the forwards that the difference between the teams was self evident. Langholm went 6 points ahead in the first half with two well taken penalties and although Annan had their chances to level the scores when awarded two penalties they were both at the limit of the home kicker.

In the second half Annan continued to battle away but the Langholm standoff as he had done in the first half kept the home side pinned in their own half with some excellent line kicking and with Annan failing to retain possession from their own lineouts the home line was put under severe pressure on several occasions. It was not long therefore before the home defences were broken and from a lineout drive the visiting forwards drove over to score. Langholm added another try from almost identical circumstances and a further penalty to take the final score to Annan 0 Langholm 19.

All in all this was not a great game to watch for the rugby purist but as a local derby it was exiting to watch for the large crowd who turned up to support their teams, perhaps the largest crowd seen at Violetbank since the last meeting of the clubs. Langholm will no doubt be in contention for a promotion spot this season whilst Annan will be battling against relegation. However there were several promising signs in this young Annan team with No 8 Graham Smith making a welcome return to the team after a two year absence after injury and prop Angus Burnell showing up well in only his second game for the 1st XV. In the backs standoff Niall Smith had a satisfactory game with centre Michael Griffen always causing problems for the Langholm defences and 16 year old full back Andrew White looking more assured with each 1st team performance.

Annan 1st Team: C Warrick, P Carruthers (Capt), J Gilmour, J Nelson, G Hogg, N Moffat, S Roberts, S Kelly, C McCann, N Smith, A Render, M Griffen, J Crowther, K Jones, A White Replacements: G McCall, A Burnell, G Smith (all used)

GRANGEMOUTH 17 V ANNAN 9
SATURDAY 22ND OCTOBER 2005

Annan travelled to Grangemouth on a grey dreich day which in some ways matched some of the rugby on display. Annan came away from Glensburgh with nothing but most definitely deserved something for their efforts where over the piece they had the balance of play albeit beaten by three tries and a conversion to three penalties.

In the opening quarter of the game Annan had to weather a Grangemouth onslaught on their line but the visiting defences held firm. In the second quarter the visitors began to find their feet and with some enterprising play between the backs and forwards made inroads into Grangemouth territory and took the lead when they were awarded a penalty when the home forwards handled in a ruck. Scrum half Craig McCann’s kick from just inside the 10 metre line just crept over the bar to give Annan the lead.

Annan continued to drive play into the home half but when they were penalised for an offside offence they found themselves having to defend their line from the ensuing lineout following the award. After clearing their line Annan again had to battle to keep their line intact following some fine driving play from the home forwards. Eventually the pressure told and Grangemouth scored just before half time when the ball was finally driven over the line for an unconverted try. Half Time score Grangemouth 5 Annan 3.

Annan were rocked within minutes of the restart when from a controversially won ball at a ruck the Grangemouth centre sprinted in to score in the corner. The try went unconverted. Annan hit back and managed to take play into the home 22 and again were awarded a penalty, slotted by Craig McCann, to reduce the points deficit to four. Annan were reduced to 14 men when flanker Sam Roberts was yellow carded for a repeated offence and that deficit was reduced to a single point when Annan were awarded another penalty again slotted by Craig McCann. As time ran out and Annan continued to strive for the elusive try it looked as if they would at least come away with a bonus point but the fates denied them even that as, in the dying moments of the game Grangemouth forwards scored another try from a lineout drive which they converted to take the final score to Grangemouth 17 Annan 9.

The plusses from the game for Annan were their performance in the lineout which although still far from perfect was much improved from previous weeks and bearing in mind that with several players had been called into the side following injury and illness in the squad. Sam Roberts was the outstanding player for Annan playing at open side flanker with fellow aussie Angus Burnell, playing his first game for the first XV, standing in for the ill James Gilmour, showing his potential.

In the backs the new halfback pairing of Craig McCann and Niall Smith whilst taking a little time to bed in looked the part by the end of the game.

Annan Team: C Warrick, P Carruthers (Capt), A Burnell, J Nelson, G Hogg, N Moffat, S Roberts, S Kelly, C McCann, N Smith, ,G Lynch, M Griffen, J Crowther, B Hay, K Jones. Replacements: D McKay, I Thorburn (not used) S Wyllie (used).

ARDROSSAN 37 V ANNAN 5
SATURDAY 15TH OCTOBER 2005

This was the proverbial game of two halves at Ardrossan’s Memorial Field in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues. Annan competed superbly in the first period but lost their way after half-time and, in the end, were well beaten by an impressive Ardrossan outfit who continue their march onwards at the top of the table.

The early exchanges were tough and uncompromising, with Annan more than holding their own. Some good touch kicking by McCann and Smith coupled with big-hitting tackles, particularly from Sam Roberts and Steve Kelly temporarily knocked Ardrossan out of their stride and it was 20 minutes before the first score, Annan conceding a penalty for offside and the home stand-off slotting the first three points of the day. Play was evenly balanced until a burst up the right wing by Finnegan exposed the Annan defence, the full back came into the line and scored an excellent try. Annan’s determination to get straight back into the game brought reward just before half time. Following a good run by Griffin, quick ball from a ruck was slickly handled across the back division. Full back Jones was in the line and he shipped the ball out to Andy Render who touched down brilliantly in the corner for one of Annan ’s best tries of the season. With a half-time score line of 11-5 in Ardrossan’s favour, Annan were still very much in the match but needed to go out and replicate their very good first half performance.

It was Ardrossan, though, who came out of the blocks more strongly and scored an early converted try to take the score to 18-5. After this, it was all downhill for Annan as the mistakes crept into their game. Too many balls were lost in contact, the line-out ceased to function and cohesion between backs and forwards just wasn’t there in the second period. Although Ardrossan went on to score three more tries before the end, it has to be said that two of these came from turnover ball. The coaches were naturally disappointed that Annan fell away in the second half after competing so well up to half time. All the hard work that had been done on the training ground counted for nothing as the work rate dipped in the second period, a period where Ardrossan really proved to be a well-balanced, physical and pacy outfit. Ardrossan will certainly take some stopping on this showing, but Annan now have to re-group and start proving that they can maintain concentration, keep their shape and display real work ethic for the full eighty minutes. Good individual performances from Alan Rae, Sam Roberts, Steve Kelly and Neil Moffat, but Annan will want to quickly forget that below-par second half performance.

Annan 1st Team: C Warrick, P Carruthers (Capt), J Gilmour, J Nelson, G Hogg, G McCall, P O’Donnell, S. Kelly, C McCann, A Rae, N Smith, S Roberts, K Jones, M Griffen, A Render. Replacements: W Henderson, N. Moffat, G Lynch (all used)

LIBERTON 0 V ANNAN 96
SATURDAY 8TH OCTOBER 2005

Photos from the Game

The early rounds of the BT Scottish Cup usually involve some high scoring wins, as teams from the District Leagues face opposition from the higher National Leagues. So it was at Kirkbrae where Edinburgh District side Liberton took on Annan from National 1, with Annan running in sixteen tries.

With some disappointments behind them, but with a welcome win over Duns the previous week, Annan were in no mood to be charitable as they sought to make their fitness and experience tell. The small band of Annan supporters did not have long to wait as Annan rattled in three early tries. Niall Smith was first over, driving through the defence on the left. He was followed by his fellow centre Sam Roberts who carved through on a long run, and then by lock John Nelson forcing his way over from a quick tap penalty. One conversion from Craig McCann gave Annan a 17-0 lead. Liberton were having difficulty matching Annan’s pace of thought and deed, and Annan were exploiting any gaps.

At this point Annan went off the boil for a spell, giving away four penalties in succession, allowing Liberton to make a couple of forays into the Annan half, and indeed to threaten the line once. That spell over, Annan resumed normal service, with another four tries before half time. Neil Moffat caught the defence out by taking a quick tap penalty and crossing unopposed, Andrew White got through a gap and a couple of tackles to score, Bruce Hay finished off a straightforward but effective backs move, and prop James Gilmour rounded off some further good interplay. With two further conversions from McCann, Annan led by 41-0 at the break.

It was expected that Liberton might tire during the second half, and so they did eventually, allowing Annan to run in three quick tries late in the game, but before that Annan had notched another six. Neil Moffat got two, a drive from a lineout and being on hand to take a winger’s pass showing his versatility, and also earning him the man of the match award. Sam Roberts again burst through the tackle to score, Craig McCann got two after effective back play. Bruce Hay got his second after a long run by Andrew White, and finally Steve Kelly got two, making his strength tell by driving over then crossing easily from his No 8 pick-up. McCann added four conversions, and Jason Vaughan one.

Though this was a very easy game for Annan, Liberton never stopped trying, eschewing a couple of kickable penalties in favour of going for the line. While one would expect all Annan players to do well in such a game, it was encouraging to see Paul O’Donnell taking some good lineout ball, where Annan have struggled in recent weeks, and to see the general air of confidence all round. Also refreshing was the chance to see some players getting a rare chance to score. Finally, a word of thanks to Jason Vaughan who played his last game for Annan here before heading back to Australia soon. He has been a fine ambassador for his club and country.

Annan team: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, J. Gilmour, J. Nelson, G. Hogg, G. McCall, N. Moffat, P. O’Donnell; K. Hogg, C. McCann; B. Hay, N. Smith, S. Roberts, J. Crowther; A. White. Replacements, all used, were S. Kelly, M. Griffin and J. Vaughan.

ANNAN 26 V DUNS 5
SATURDAY 1ST OCTOBER 2005

Photos from the Game

Annan at last broke their losing streak at Violetbank on Saturday with a workman like performance in this basement battle in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues against fellow league strugglers Duns. Both teams started brightly with each having chances in the opening spell to open their account. The Duns back line looked the more dangerous, in these opening skirmishes, than the home side’s, which took some time to find their rhythm. This was not entirely unexpected given the changes, due to injury, of the backline personnel. With a new halfback and centre partnerships and Colt Andrew White making his 1st team debut at fullback the backs could be excused for taking a little time to adjust to their new look.

It was the home side, however, who opened the scoring when from a forward drive into the Dun’s 22 they were awarded a penalty when the visiting forwards were penalised for handling in a ruck. Stand off Craig McCann slotted the award. It was not long however before Duns struck back when from a simple movement of the ball along their backline, allied with some poor home defensive work, their left winger scored in the corner. The conversion from the touchline was missed.

Neither team seemed able to stamp their authority on the game and although Annan’s lineout struggled to find any consistency throughout the entire 80 minutes their scrummage had the edge in the set piece. However it was from a lineout that Annan found their next score in that Duns were penalised for having too many bodies in the lineout and from the quickly taken free kick by captain Paul Carruthers and with prop Steve Kelly in close support to take the pop pass at speed play was driven deep into the Dun’s 22. From the ensuing ruck the ball was quickly recycled and fed along the back line for centre Sam Roberts to drive over and score. With Craig McCann adding the extra 2 points Annan edged into a 10-5 lead. Annan extended their lead minutes later when once again the Duns’ forwards were penalised for handling in a ruck and Craig McCann once again obliged with the boot to take the home side into a 13-5 lead at half time.

With the home back line beginning to find their rhythm, and standoff Craig McCann in particular beginning to control the game with some fine tactical kicking and astute decision making allied with the benefit of the wind in the second half Annan began to control the match. It was McCann who increased the home team’s lead when he slotted a penalty minutes after the restart when Duns were penalised for not releasing the ball in a ruck. It was Craig McCann again who, from quickly recycled ball at a ruck, put in a deftly flighted ball over the top of the advancing visiting defensive line and, with a wicked bounce beating the visiting full back, centre Sam Roberts was on hand to ground the ball for his second try. The conversion from the touchline was missed.

Although Annan were in now command Duns never gave up and continued to make good use of the possession they had and in truth had a couple of chances to reduce the score line but poor handling and some determined Annan defence kept them at bay. In fact it was Annan who had the last word when from a line out drive flanker Neil Moffat was credited with a try when he was driven over the line for the last score of the game as the conversion was missed. Final Score Annan 26 Duns 5.

Although no classic this was a satisfying result for Annan especially as it secured their first league win of the season. All in all there were also more positives than negatives on display which must be pleasing for the Annan coaches. In the forwards prop/No 8 Steve Kelly continues to impress with his all round play and flanker Gareth McCall had his best game so far in the Annan colours. In the backs, with all the enforced changes, it took some time for the different combinations to gel but converted centre Sam Roberts looked the part and brought his wing forward defensive skills to the position with some crunching defensive work over the piece. Colt Captain Andrew White, in his first game at full back, had a fine game and looked confident both in attack and defence which bodes well for the future. Craig McCann also looked the part at stand off and after a slow start, as he bedded into the position, ran the game for his backs.

Although a win Annan, which will obviously boost Annan’s confidence and settle a few nerves after the poor start to the season, Annan have some hard games coming up in the league with a visit to league leaders Ardrossan in a fortnights time and a visit to Grangemouth the week after before hosting local rivals Langholm at Violetbank at the end of the month.

For the record the Club’s Match Day Sponsors The British Nuclear Group voted Craig McCann as Annan’s Man of the Match and his opposite number Jamie Renton as the Duns Man of the Match.

Annan 1st Team: S Kelly, P Carruthers (Capt), J Gilmour, J Nelson, G Hogg, G McCall, N Moffat, P O’Donnell, K Hogg, C McCann, A Rae, N Smith, S Roberts, K Jones, A White Replacements: W Henderson, C Warrick (Both used) J Crowther (not used)

GREENOCK 39 V ANNAN 22
SATURDAY 24TH SEPTEMBER 2005

Annan started off playing aggressive rugby pinning Greenock back in their own half for first 20 minutes. Lack of composure and virtually no ball from the lineout, however, allowed the home team to relieve pressure on numerous occasions. In the opening minutes Annan were awarded a penalty for handling in the ruck and Craig McCann converted 35 metres out. A further penalty was missed from wide right on the ten metre line, before the Annan forwards stole a ball and Keith Hogg scored wide on the right with McCann adding the conversion.

In a rare excursion into the Annan half, the Greenock standoff scored a penalty from in front of the posts after Annan had handled in the ruck. Annan came straight back from the kick off and some dynamic driving play by the forwards was stopped short. Unfortunately prop Steve Kelly received a shredded lip during this foray and had to leave the field, replaced by Paul O’Donnell. From being in control Annan allowed Greenock back into the game. There were a number of turnovers and confidence began to grow in the home side.

Some needless penalties for handling in the ruck allowed the home stand off to convert a penalty, but worse was to come. After some excellent back play by Greenock, Annan conceded another penalty. Greenock took the penalty quickly, and with Annan slow to react, the home team scored in the corner. The conversion was successful.

From having been rarely in the game Greenock turned round 13-10 in front. An injury to Joe Crowther meant a change in the back line up for the second half, with Keith Hogg moving to centre and Alan Rae coming on at scrum half. The second half started as the first had finished with Greenock in the ascendancy.

Annan forwards were losing their way and the quality ball they had produced for the backs in the early exchanges dried up. Poor defense around the fringes allowed Greenock to score two tries, both converted. Billy Henderson was introduced, allowing Annan to win some possession at the front of the line-out, giving the backs some ball with which to attack. However it was Greenock who scored two further tries, one being a num¬ber eight pick up going through non-existent fringe defense

At 39-10 down Annan came storming back into the game and an excellent passing move put Kevin Jones in to score. But McCann could not convert. With Annan's confidence returning, the back division began to throw the ball around, and from a tap penalty Jones scored another try, which McCann converted. Jones was hurt in scoring, and with Michael Griffin struggling with a knee problem, the backs were once again shuffled. Keith Hogg returned to scrum half, Craig McCann went to stand off, Niall Smith to centre and Alan Rae to the wing. Gareth McCall returned to the field in the unac¬customed position of centre. Annan finished the game playing some lovely rugby, but it was all done too late and too far from the Greenock line.

Annan team: K. Jones; C. McCann, M. Griffin, J. Crowther, B. Hay; N. Smith, K. Hogg; C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, J. Gilmour, G. Hogg, J. Nelson, G. McCall, N. Moffat, S. Kelly. Replacements all used - A. Rae, P. O'Donnell, W. Henderson.

ANNAN 11 V DALZIEL 13
SATURDAY 17TH SEPTEMBER 2005

This was a game that Annan lost in the first 15 minutes of this Division One fixture of the BT National Leagues at Violetbank. In the opening seconds of the game, Annan were penalised, for blocking the jumper at the dropout, a decision which was gratefully accepted by the Dalziel kicker and Annan were three points down before they had even touched the ball. Annan battled away in the opening skirmishes but the visitors looked the more comfortable side on the ball and were recycling the ball much quicker than the home side at the rucks. The Annan scrum was also under pressure and from a well controlled rolling maul following a scrum the visiting forwards drove over beside the posts to score. With the try converted Dalziel had a healthy 10 point in as many minutes.

Annan to their credit fought their way back into the game and in the second quarter of the game slowly gained control. Although still struggling in the set piece scrum and with the lineout a bit of a lottery for both teams the home team began to exert pressure in the loose cleaning up most of the loose ball available. The Annan backs looked the more dangerous of the two sets on display and from a superb break up the middle by centre Michael Griffin, who slipped a couple of tackles, set up a ruck where the desperate visiting defences were penalised. With the penalty award driven into the corner the Annan forwards drove for the line and when stopped the ball was spun out left to the waiting backs where full back Kevin Jones coming into the line provided the extra man and with a fine scything run cut through the Dalziel defences to score.

Stand off Niall Smith was most unlucky with his conversion attempt which rebounded off the post. At this time it looked as if Annan had the upper hand and indeed they had and continued to drive towards the Dalziel line at every opportunity for the remainder of the half. They were rewarded for their efforts when they were awarded a penalty near the right touchline which Niall Smith converted with a fine kick. It was not all Annan at this time as Dalziel found some chinks in the Annan mid field defences and on two occasions only some fine last line defence from the home side stopped the visitors scoring. The half time score of Annan 8 Dalziel 10 probably reflected the balance of the game but the home supporters felt that their team could turn the game around in the second half.

In the second half Annan continued to display the attacking qualities they had shown in the latter stages of the first half and with their scrummaging getting stronger things looked good for the home support. Indeed Annan took a single point lead when they were awarded a penalty which Niall Smith gratefully accepted and converted into three points. The visitors, however, were not going to go down without a fight, and they launched attacks of their own into Annan territory and although the home defences stood firm they were penalised for being offside at a ruck and the Dalziel kicker slotted a difficult kick from the right hand touchline to retake the lead. With a slender two point deficit to make up Annan launched attack after attack on the visitors’ line. Stand off Niall Smith with a searing run cleaved through the visitors’ mid field defences and although stopped just short of the line managed to twist around and seemed to have grounded the ball over the line but the referee chalked the score off deeming the ball was not grounded properly.

Minutes later full back Kevin Jones, on a bust down the right touchline, put in a delightfully flighted kick over the top of the heads of the advancing Dalziel line and looked to have won the race to the line but was unable to ground the ball before it ran out of the dead ball area. Annan continued to batter away in the Dalziel 22 but an air of desperation was beginning to pervade Annan’s play and Niall Smith missed a penalty attempt and a drop goal which went tantalisingly close. Dalziel added to Annan’s sense of frustration with their ability to retain possession at vital times and soak up the pressure exerted by the home side. Annan had their chance to have the final say when they were awarded a penalty in the dying seconds of the game but with the pressure palpable to all the kick was missed. In truth the penalty should not have been required as Annan had enough chances to win the game but were unable yet again to convert the pressure into points. Final Score Annan 11 Dalziel 13

However disappointing this result was for Annan the plus points were there for all to see with several players beginning to shine. Steve Kelly, who joined the club at the beginning of the season, looked as if he was relishing his new role as a No 8 having played most of his rugby career as a prop with some devastating runs and drives. Flanker Gareth McCall who joined the club from Dumfries also has adapted well to Annan’s style of play and looks a real prospect again having played at prop at Colts level. Flanker Neil Moffat again proved to be a thorn in the side of the visiting mid field winning ball on the deck. In the backs the half back partnership of Keith Hogg and Niall Smith is beginning to gel once again and centre Michael Griffin and full back Kevin Jones proved to be real potent attacking forces.

All in all, although a disappointing result for the home team this was an enthralling match to watch made more exiting by the closeness of the score throughout most of the match.

Annan Team: C Warrick, P Carruthers (Capt), J Gilmour, J Nelson, G Hogg, P O’ Donnell, N Moffat, S Kelly, K Hogg, N Smith, A Render, M Griffen, J Crowther, C McCann, K Jones. Replacements: W Henderson, G McCall, B Hay (all used)

PRESTON LODGE 21 V ANNAN 8
SATURDAY 10TH SEPTEMBER 2005

Annan made a brisk start in this fixture in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues at Prestonpans and there was an early scoring chance for Bruce Hay who was stopped two metres short after a good move from the base of the scrum. The Annan backs were showing great promise in the first half and Joe Crowther, Andy Render and Kevin Jones all came close to scoring following some excellent moves involving slick handling. The Annan forwards were being penalised at regular intervals by the Argentinian referee and from one such penalty PL took a 3-0 lead. Annan’s try came following some wonderful close support running involving Andy Render and Niall Smith seeing the gaps and Sam Roberts was on hand to crash over for an excellent try. Annan were penalised for numbers in the lineout and a short period of subsequent PL pressure resulted in a converted try for Preston Lodge who led 10-5 at the break. Annan had played with shape and purpose in the first period and at that stage were clearly the better team despite being five points down. However, the scoring opportunities had been there but Annan had failed to grasp them at the crucial moments.

The second half was in complete contrast to the opening 40 minutes. Annan lost their shape and their discipline and the backs saw little of the ball. Pinned back in their own half for long periods, it was no surprise that Annan yielded under pressure from Preston Lodge. Nevertheless, it took a piece of individual skill from the PL full back who scored a fine try in the left corner following a kick on and catch. Two more penalties from PL and one in reply from Annan ended the game at 21-8. An enterprising first half for Annan gives hope for the weeks ahead, but it was alarming how they lost their way in the second period, with too many players losing the ball in contact and taking on ball individually and becoming isolated.

If Annan can play as they did in the first half, they should get back on track against Dalziel at Violetbank this Saturday.

Annan Team: C Warrick, P Carruthers, J Gilmour, G Hogg, J Nelson, S Roberts (J Vaughan), N Moffat, P O’Donnell (S Kelly), A Rae (C McCann), N Smith, A Render, J Crowther, M Griffen, B Hay, K Jones.

ANNAN 18 V HILLFOOTS 22
SATURDAY 3RD SEPTEMBER 2005

Although struggling against Hillfoots large experienced pack the young guns in Annan’s pack did remarkably well in defending their line when they were put under considerable pressure in the first half of this opening game in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues at Violetbank on Saturday. In the opening exchanges both sides looked nervous and the ball was spilt on numerous occasions in contact situations. Annan, apart from a lineout drive following penalty award from the Hill’s pack which the home defences managed to repel, had the better of the first 15 minutes. From turnover ball at a ruck Annan set up an attack but loose pass was intercepted by the Hillfoots centre who and ran it in for the first score under the posts. With the try converted Annan were 7 points to nil down. Ten minutes later Annan found themselves further behind when the home forwards were penalised at a ruck and the visiting kicker slotted the penalty. Ten minutes from the break, Hillfoots struck again when from another lineout following a penalty award their forwards drove for the line but again some stalwart home defence kept their drives at bay but when the ball was whipped out to the visiting right winger who scored in the a converted try in the corner. Annan had their chances to reduce the 17 point deficit when they were awarded two penalties but both attempts were missed. Half Time score Annan 0 Hillfoots 17.

Whatever the Annan coaches said to their charges at halt time certainly seemed to work as Annan restarted the second half with purpose and aggression and had Hillfoots pinned back in their 22 metres. The home side were spreading the ball wide and stretching the Hillfoot’s defences across the field. Centre Michael Griffen found some gaps in the visiting defences to score a try, converted by stand off Niall Smith. Annan’s second try came 5 minutes later and was almost a carbon copy of the first with Michael Griffen on a diagonal run and looked as if he was sure to be stopped but a missed tackle let him in for his second try. Niall Smith missed the conversion.

Annan now had the game firmly by the scruff of the neck as the visiting forwards visably tired. The home support didn't have long to wait for the next score, it came about the 21st minute Foot's were caught offside 15 metres out and in front of the posts Niall Smith kicked it and the score was 15-17, with 20 minutes on the clock. From a scrum just inside the visitor’s half their No 8 picked up and drove deep into the Annan 22 and from the Annan scrum which followed the Hill’s knockon in the ruck which Annan won but the with the ball coming back so slowly Nial Smith found his clearance kick charged down by the visiting openside wing forward who managed to scramble over to touch the ball down. Annan continued to hammer away at the visitor’s line and had a couple of chances to get more points but unfortunately were only successful with one penalty attempt to take the score to Annan 18 Hillfoots 22 as time ran out for the home side.

The plus points for Annan were that they were the fitter team over the 80 minutes but the lack of flair and purpose in the first half was their eventual undoing. There was a general feeling of déjà vu as the opening game last season against Greenock Wanderers at Violetbank saw the home team lose 31 -29. The difference being that in that game Annan saw a considerable lead at half time whittled away in the second half.

Annan Team: D Irving, P Carruthers, G Wylie, J Nelson, G Hogg, G McCall, N Moffat, P O’Donnell, A Rae, N Smith, A Render, J Crowther, M Griffen, B Hay, K Jones. Replacements: W Henderson, S Roberts, S Kelly (all used)

VIOLETBANK SHIELD
SATURDAY 20TH AUGUST 2005

Annan RFC hosted their most successful annual 15 a-side tournament, sponsored by M & S Engineering, to date on Saturday at a warm and sunny Violetbank. The tournament had an 8 team format for the first time with the teams split into two leagues.

LEAGUE A

In league A, consisting of Langholm, Stewartry, Hartlepool Rovers and Wigton, Langholm and Hartlepool Rovers had relatively easy victories in their opening matches against Stewartry (21 – 0) and Wigton (17 – 0) respectively. In their second round matches Langholm disposed of Wigton 43 -7 and Hartlepool Rovers beat a stuffy Stewartry side 19 – 7 to set up a league decider between the two. In a hard fought tousy match Langholm came out on top with a 15 – 7 victory to take them into the final.

LEAGUE B

In League B, consisting of Annan, Dumfries, Hamilton and Hawick Harlequins, saw the opening match feature recently promoted Dumfries and hosts Annan. Both teams had their moments in the first half with the territorial advantage evenly split. However Dumfries looked more comfortable on the ball than their hosts who looked somewhat nervy in the opening 15 minutes.

In the second half Dumfries upped their game and came near to scoring on a couple of occasions but some stalwart defence by Annan kept Dumfries from crossing the whitewash. Annan also had a couple of breakouts but again some cracking defensive work by Dumfries kept Annan at bay and the game ended in a 0 – 0 draw.

Hamilton in their opening game against Hawick Quins had a comparative easy victory scoring 3 tries and 2 penalties without reply. Final score Hamilton 21 Hawick Quins 0. Hamilton also beat Dumfries 12 – 8 in a finely balanced game scoring two tries to Dumfries’s one.

Annan’s second game saw Annan take on Hawick Quins in an entertaining encounter which saw prop James Gilmour score a fine try when he latched on to a loose ball to drive over the line. Stand off Craig McCann converted the try. In the second half prop Colin Warrick scored when from a lineout following a penalty award he burrowed over to score.

With both Annan and Hamilton unbeaten in League B the winner of the final league game was assured of a place in the final. In the opening skirmishes both sides had scoring chance but it was Annan, who in a breakout by No 8 Billy Henderson, who scored first. When tackled 10 metres out from the line he managed to off load the ball to wing forward Neil Moffat who recycled the ball through the backs for centre to score in the corner. Hamilton fought back and took the lead with a converted try just before half time. Annan, however, managed to snatch the lead back with a finely struck penalty by stand off Craig McCann.

In the second half Annan consolidated their lead with the best try of the match when from a Hawick scrum Annan stole the ball. The ball was fed through the hands of Barry Graham, Kevin Jones, Alan Rae, Neil Moffat and back to Barry Graham who scored. Craig McCann added the conversion. Despite some late pressure by Hamilton Annan held on to win 17 – 7 to take them into the final against local Division 1 rivals Langholm.

THE FINAL

Annan started well in the opening quarter and had some early pressure within the Langholm 22 using the high ball into the sun to good effect. However as the half wore on Langholm began to slowly gain the ascendancy and from a breakout from defence wing forward Kiore set up stand off Davidson to score under the posts.

From a promising attack Annan lost the ball in a tackle and from a speculative kick out of defence the ball bounced kindly for Langholm and stand off Davidson gathered the ball to stride into score to take the half time score to 14 – 0.

From the restart Annan reduced the points deficit with a finely struck dropped goal by Craig McCann. However Langholm confirmed their superiority when from a lineout it was that man Davidson who diagonally cleaved through the Annan mid field defence to score. Annan however stuck to their task and battled up field and from a lineout 5 metres from the line prop James Gilmour drove over to score a consolation try for the hosts. Final Score Langholm 19 Annan 8.

If there had been a Man of the Tournament Award there is little doubt that Langholm would have had two candidates in the frame wing forward R Kiore and stand off K Davidson.

All in all this was a satisfactory run out for the Annan squad. Although no where near firing on all cylinders the plus points was their scrummaging and in the later stages of the tournament their lineout began to operate efficiently. However the Annan coaches will be under no illusions that there is still a lot of work to be done with the start of the league season just over a week away.

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