THE MATCH REPORT PAGE

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LEAGUE: HOME
Cambuslang
Dalziel
East Kilbride
Edinburgh Uni
Falkirk
Garnock
Greenock Wands
Hillfoots/Alloa
Langholm
Preston Lodge
RHC
LEAGUE: AWAY
Cambuslang
Dalziel
East Kilbride
Edinburgh Uni
Falkirk
Garnock
Greenock Wands
Hillfoots/Alloa
Langholm
Preston Lodge
RHC
CUP GAMES
Dalziel
Jed-Forest
Gordonians
RHC
OTHER GAMES
Stewartry


EAST KILBRIDE 12 v ANNAN 31
SATURDAY 19TH APRIL 2008

What a hectic time is has been for Annan RFC with three re-arranged league games in a week ending with their last league game away to East Kilbride on Saturday in order to maintain their third place in the Division 1 of the National Leagues albeit perhaps temporarily. RHC are favourites to take the 3rd place as their outstanding game is against already relegated Greenock Wanderers. Irrespective of that result Annan are guaranteed their highest ever placing in the National Leagues at 4th.

Added to the hectic schedule was the game for the 2nd XV in the their last league game of the season against East Kilbride 2nds with the added drama of the losing team being relegated from Division 4(West). All in all last Saturday’s double fixture had all the ingredients of an exciting Saturday for the club.

Played in brilliant sunshine but with a biting north easterly wind blowing diagonally across the East Kilbride pitch Annan made a slow start playing into the wind and the home side’s forwards showed early on their favoured ploy i.e the driving maul which they used in the early stages to good effect putting the visitors under pressure. Their tactic did pay early dividends as they drove over to score an unconverted try. Annan were finding it difficult to get their hands on the ball as the East Kilbride forwards were very efficient at retaining possession. Annan did however manage to break their monopoly of possession when from a ball won in the loose centre Alex Dunbar broke away and leaving a trail of defenders in his wake score a fine try in the corner. Stand off Niall Smith added a fine conversion from the touchline to take Annan into a 2 point lead.

Annan’s lead was short lived as the home side returned to their limited but effective forward orientated play and from a lineout take and drive again crossed the whitewash to score. With the added conversion the home side had a 5 point lead. The Annan forwards, taking a leaf out of their hosts book, following an excellent line kick against the wind by stand off Smith, drove the ball from the lineout but lock Graham Hogg dropped the ball over the line in the act of scoring. Annan went into the half time break with a 5 point deficit. Half time score East Kilbride 12 Annan 7.

Now playing with the strong wind at their backs Annan set about with some purpose in the second half and scored the equalising score within minutes of the restart. From a quickly won ball from a turnover at a ruck the ball was spun wide through the backs to winger Andrew Jancey who went round his opposite number to score in the corner to tie the scores at 12 all with the conversion missed. By now the early efforts by the home forwards was beginning to show as they visibly wilted and the visiting forwards began to exert total control. Even when influential stand off Niall Smith had to leave the field with a nasty mouth injury to be replaced by Mark Clark, who moved to scrum half with Keith Hogg moving to the stand off, the changes were seamless as Annan continued to play a wide game which had the home defences in all sorts of trouble. From play in the open the ball found its way to prop Steve Kelly who broke through some ineffectual tackling to score. Mark Clark added the extra 2 points to take the visitors into a 7 point lead.

Annan were now in total control of the game and East Kilbride were having to defend desperately to stem the flow of Annan attacks. Eventually something had to give and centre Alex Dunbar scored one of his now trademark tries leaving a trail of would be tacklers sprawling in his wake. The final try was scored by winger Andrew Jancey in a carbon copy of his first and with Mark Clark adding the conversion the final score was East Kilbride 12 Annan 31.

Annan’s second half performance was one of the best seen this season and hopefully bodes well for next season. In the forwards the back row of Scott, Braid and Smith was immense with young prop Ryan Gracie having his game of the season. It was fitting that prop Steve Kelly scored a try in his last game before retiring from playing. He will be sorely missed from the Annan front row union. All of the backs played their part to the full but special mention must go to Keith Hogg who in the last week has played scrum half, centre, stand off and wing forward a truly versatile player!

All in all this has been a most satisfying week for the Annan club with a maximum 15 league points from three games with coaches, players and spectators alike finishing the season with smiles on their faces.

Annan 1st XV Squad: R Gracie, C Warrick, S Kelly, G Hogg, J Nelson, G Smith, E Braid, M Scott, K Hogg, N Smith ( M Clark), A Jancey, A Dunbar, M Griffin, A Halliday, K Jones Replacement: P Carruthers (not used).

ANNAN 22 v LANGHOLM 3
WEDNESDAY 16TH APRIL 2008

Match Photos/Match Highlights

This re-arranged Scottish Hydro Electric League Division One fixture was played last Wednesday evening at a sunny, but cold and blustery Violetbank. A meaningless end of season fixture? Try telling that to an Annan side which positively buzzed throughout, seeking a reverse in fortunes following their September defeat through at Milntown.

The early exchanges were even, but with 10 minutes on the clock, the Annan backs exploded into action. From a line-out and ensuing ruck, scrum-half Keith Hogg fed to Niall Smith and a perfectly weighted flip pass found Alex Dunbar who went past four players to score a trademark try under the posts, converted by Smith. Langholm went straight back into the attack and were awarded a penalty in front of the posts which was slotted with ease.

A lot of handling errors were being made by both sides, but the Annan backs were looking the sharper and a fantastic run by Dunbar, from a Smith pass, was thwarted just short of the Langholm line after he had beaten eight men, only to find his final pass intercepted by the Langholm hooker. Annan were really taking the game to Langholm at this stage but some excellent line-kicking by full-back Jardine relieved the pressure.

Langholm had a ten-minute spell in the Annan 22, but wrong options and solid Annan defence saw their chances come to nothing. Langholm’s cause was not helped when scrum-half Irving was pole-axed by an Annan clearance on the half-hour mark and Annan once again started to spin the ball wide at every opportunity.

A deft kick through by Niall Smith found full-back Kevin Jones on the left wing displaying further fine footwork with a clever little grubber kick inside which was pounced on by Bruce Blower for Annan’s second try. Annan led 12-3 at the break and were well worthy of their lead.

Annan set off at a lively pace in the second half with some good backs play and all round they seemed that bit sharper than their opponents. Annan’s third try came in 50 minutes. Michael Scott picked from the base of the scrum, replacement Mark Clark fed to Smith who sent Alex Halliday through the gap. Halliday smuggled the ball to Keith Hogg just short of the line and nobody deserved to score more than playmaker Hogg who had now moved to outside centre. Langholm were not done for yet and probing kicks by Davidson and Jardine took them back into Annan territory and kept them in the game.

Annan inflicted the killer blow when Langholm turned over ball at a ruck, Clark zipped the ball out to Halliday and the winger pinned back his ears to outstrip the Langholm defence for a brilliant 70 metre try.

Langholm may feel hard done to by not being awarded a try when a good drive and touch-down by their number 7 was deemed to be just short of the line. Langholm did have further sorties into Annan territory, but the home defence was resolute and in no mood to give anything away.

On the night, Annan were sharper in every department and thoroughly deserved their victory. The tackling was immense with all the forwards playing their part. Michael Scott and Ewan Braid covered every blade of grass, Alex Dunbar displayed real class and Keith Hogg was, quite simply, truly inspirational in everything he did. A very competent performance from the young Annan side who played with pace and passion throughout.

Annan team: C Warrick, P Carruthers, S Kelly (R Gracie); G Hogg, J Nelson (M Carpenter); B Blower, E Braid, M Scott; K Hogg, N Smith; A Jancey, A Dunbar, M Griffin (M Clark), A Halliday; K Jones

ANNAN 49 v CAMBUSLANG 7
SATURDAY 12TH APRIL 2008

Match Photos/Match Highlights

At a cold and damp Violetbank punctuated with snatches of watery sunshine Annan safely disposed of a lacklustre Cambuslang side by seven tries to one. Within a minute of the whistle Annan were in the lead. From the dropout the visiting No 4 drove through some poor home defences and made inroads into the Annan 22. The recycled ball was spun out to the backs but was intercepted by full back Kevin Jones who outsprinted his pursuers to score under the posts. Centre Craig McCann added the extra two points. Within minutes McCann slotted a further conversion, this time of his own try when following a ruck in the Cambuslang 22 the ball was fed to standoff Niall Smith who with a delightful delayed pass to Craig McCann who split the Cambuslang defences to score under the posts.

Unfortunately that was the end of the scoring in the first half as the visitors tightened up their game and with both sets of forwards playing the possession game the game became mired in drive and counter drive in the middle of the pitch punctuated with penalty awards and dropped passes. Half time score Annan 14 Cambuslang 0.

The second half, unlike the major part of the first, was an exciting affair with six tries scored between the combatants. The first came from a maul in the Cambuslang 22 when prop Steve Kelly burst out of the melee of bodies to crash over the line to score. Standoff Niall Smith added the conversion. Smith replaced McCann as kicker as he had in turn been replaced at centre by Alex Dunbar. McCann having sustained a hamstring injury.

Cambuslang replied minutes later with a try of their own. From a scrum just outside the home 22 the visiting standoff breenged through some ineffectual Annan tackling to score a converted try beside the posts. Unfortunately for the visitors this was to be their last attacking opportunity as Annan claimed control of the game.

In the space of 15 minutes centre Michael Griffin tore the heart out of the visitors as he scored a hat trick of tries. His first two came when he wriggled, pirouetted and squirmed through several tackles to score after some sterling work by his forwards provided some quality ball for the Annan backs. His third came when the Cambuslang centre, whose part was played on Saturday by the visitor’s coach, for the second time in the match found his laboured miss pass intercepted in his own 22. Griffin pounced on the misguided ball to scurry to the line to score. Standoff Smith added all three conversions to take the score to 42 – 7. Annan were not quite finished however with their bonus point win and kept their best effort to last. From ball won in a ruck in midfield the ball was spun through numerous pairs of hands with backs intermingling with forwards as the ball sped towards the Cambuslang line in Barbarian style. The final pass found scrum half Mark Clark who dived between the posts to score probably the best try seen a Violetbank this season. With Smith adding the extras this took the final score to Annan 49 Cambuslang 7 which was Annan’s highest winning margin at Violetbank this season.

Although the visitors were well below their best, by their own admission, with several players unavailable, and playing the full 80 minutes without the benefit of any replacements, they did not make things easy for Annan. Annan played with some aplomb, especially in the second half but will have to up their game for the visit of Langholm to Violetbank on Wednesday night.

The match was sponsored by William Henderson Building Contractor and the monies raised from the gate, sponsor’s donations and raffle on the day were donated to the the Ciaran Pryce Appeal. Ciaran, who is 15 years old, was playing for his school – Cathkin High School – on 6 October 2007 when he suffered a serious neck injury, which has left him as a tetraplegic (paralysed from the neck down with some use of his upper limbs). Ciaran was taken to the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, which houses The National Spinal Injuries Unit, where he is receiving the very best possible care. Ciaran also played rugby at Cambuslang Rugby Club.

Annan 1st XV Squad: R Gracie, P Carruthers (C), S Kelly, G Hogg, J Nelson, B Blower, E Braid, M Scott, K Hogg, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffen, A Halliday, K Jones Replacements: C Warrick, M Clark, A Dunbar (all used)

FALKIRK 33 v ANNAN 0
SATURDAY 5TH APRIL 2008

Photos From Game

Falkirk closed in on the championship of Division 1 with this bonus point win over Annan at Sunnyside on Saturday. They now only need three points from their visit to Edinburgh University to clinch things. Although they were worthy winners of this game, thanks to their big pack and strong running backs, Annan made the Falkirk support wait for the bonus win, and in the end the score was a bit flattering to the home side.

The biting cross-field wind favoured no particular side, and the firm surface made open rugby possible as the game got underway, with Falkirk probing for weaknesses and Annan coping well and kicking to relieve pressure. Falkirk’s first try came somewhat out of the blue. An Annan lineout on their 22 was knocked back, but was gathered by Falkirk wing forward Bob Wyllie who steamed through a startled defence to score at the posts. Mark McKenzie converted. This was not the prelude to a try bonanza, however, and solid Annan defence stifled all Falkirk’s ploys until the twentieth minute, when they got the chance to kick a penalty to the corner. The forward drive which followed was successful, the conversion was not, and Annan were 12-0 down. It remained that way until half time, with Annan tackling well, and also attempting to play open rugby, but not having the power to break the home defence. Annan came close in the late stages when Alex Halliday popped up on the left, but the ball was knocked on, and the pressure relieved.

The game settled into a similar pattern in the second half, with Falkirk attempting to run through Annan, but with Annan continuing to defend well and keeping their shape. Two tries brought the bonus point for Falkirk, and both came from loose balls in mid field. The first was scooped up by a Falkirk player, and though he was brought down short, support was on hand to score. The next was similar, this time Falkirk winning the ensuing ruck on the Annan line and driving over. Both were converted.

Annan proceeded to have their best period of the game, Michael Scott coming close, but they were destined not to score – good Falkirk defence and a referee who only gave Annan two penalties in the whole game saw to that. It was disappointing for Annan that Falkirk scored a last gasp try from a breakout, McKenzie’s conversion providing the 33-0 scoreline.

So, a sound defeat for Annan, but one in which they did not disgrace themselves against a physical side with a lot of sharpness about them. The Annan scrum was solid, and they handled the driving maul well – apart from that first half try. Unfortunately the same could not be said of the lineout, which was awful. In the loose, Michael Scott was always to the fore, and would be my man of the match for Annan, though several others were not far behind. Half backs Hogg and Smith put in a good shift, as did lock John Nelson. At the end of the day, Falkirk were the better side, but Annan probably deserved something for their efforts.

Annan team: R. Gracie, P. Carruthers, C. Warrick, G. Hogg, J. Nelson, B. Blower, M. Carpenter, M. Scott, K. Hogg, N. Smith, A. Jancey, C. McCann, M. Griffin, A. Halliday, K. Jones. Replacements used: S. Kelly, E. Braid.

EDINBURGH UNI 9 v ANNAN 59
SATURDAY 29TH MARCH 2008

Photos From Game

Annan maintained their hopes of a third-place finish on Saturday with this entertaining nine-try demolition of a spirited but limited Edinburgh University side at Peffermill. After struggling a bit to dispatch the students in the home fixture earlier in the season, Annan arrived at the University's impressive complex in the capital's southside expecting a tough examination but in the end passed with flying colours as they schooled their young hosts in the art of clinical finishing. Not for the first time in an away fixture, Annan started sluggishly and spent most of a scrappy opening 15 minutes in their own half. Two well-struck penalties gave the Uni a deserved six-point lead, although this should have been more as they spurned a golden try-scoring opportunity when the ball was spilled over the line.

Annan finally woke up and, with a combination of solid forward drives and astute kicking soon wrested control of the game. After an attempted pushover was held up, a simple backs move from the ensuing set scrum saw Michael Griffen pierce the Uni defence and run in close to the posts top get Annan off the mark, his fellow centre Craig McCann knocking over the conversion to put Annan in front. Six minutes later and the score was doubled as a trademark bullocking run from Colin Warrick took Annan to the verge of the Uni line. The veteran prop, who put in another ageless performance throughout, slipped the ball to scrum-half Keith Hogg, who made no mistake from a couple of yards out. McCann added the extra points but the home side cut the gap to 14-9 in the 27th minute with a fine 40-metre penalty and that's how the sides turned around at the interval.

Within two minutes of the restart Annan claimed a try which knocked the stuffing out of the students. Good control by the forwards saw them barge over in the right-hand corner, Ryan Gracie emerging last with the ball in hand, which McCann just failed to steer through the posts from the touchline. With a ten-point advantage the visitors began to cut loose and the backs came more into the game. After taking possession in the Uni 22 a flat pass by stand-off Niall Smith put flying winger Alex Halliday in the left-hand corner to wrap up the bonus point with half an hour to spare. On the hour mark a clever inside pass from McCann released loose forward Michael Scott to run in unopposed from 20 yards and touch down with an extravagant Superman dive, McCann converting.

With the students now visibly wilting and Annan exerting a firm grip on all facets of the game, a second pushover try, this time finished by Bruce Blower and again converted by McCann, took Annan to 40 points. Two minutes later McCann bamboozled the Uni defence with a right-to-left crossfield kick and Halliday showed a footballing touch Cristiano Ronaldo would have been proud of to dribble the ball over the line before diving on it. Again McCann converted.

With six minutes left Annan put together the score of the afternoon with a move started deep inside their own half by full-back Kevin Jones. He released McCann, who outpaced the Uni defence before slipping the ball to replacement Gavin Lynch, who travelled the remaining 25 yards to touch down. That burst of pace must have taken it out of McCann as he was wayward with the conversion for only the second time. Following that 80-metre score, the next and final Annan try came from the other end of the spectrum as Uni lost the ball behind their own line under pressure and stand-off Niall Smith was on hand to flop down for possibly the easiest try of his career.

All in all a very impressive away display by Annan, with omnipresent lock John Nelson a strong candidate for man of the match, but they can expect a far stiffer test this weekend when they face a daunting trip to title-chasing league leaders Falkirk.

Annan scorers: Try: Alex Halliday (2), Michael Griffen, Keith Hogg, Ryan Gracie, Michael Scott, Bruce Blower, Gavin Lynch, Niall Smith. Cons: Craig McCann (7)

Annan 1st XV Squad: R Gracie, P Carruthers (C), R Gracie, G Hogg, J Nelson, B Blower, M Carpenter, M Scott, K Hogg, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffen, A Halliday, K Jones, Replacements: S Kelly, G Lynch (Both used)

ANNAN 26 v HILLFOOTS 0
SATURDAY 22ND MARCH 2008

Video Highlights/Photos From Game

With promotion no longer on the cards for Annan and with the team well away from any relegation worries Annan’s sights are now firmly set on finishing as high as they can in Division 1 on the S.H.E. National Leagues. Third position is their aim but with RHC sitting in that spot some 10 points ahead of Annan, albeit Annan have two games in hand over them, the last six games of the league provide them with an exciting run in to the end of the season. Hillfoots/Alloa, with only two games left in the league, were motivated for different reasons. Defeat on Saturday at Violetbank meant Division 2 rugby for them next season.

At a bitterly cold and windy Violetbank, interspersed with snow flurries, Annan put in a solid if unspectacular performance against a determined Hillfoots/Alloa team. The home team started brightly and in the opening minutes almost scored when from a kick through by fullback Kevin Jones he was just beaten in the footrace to the line by the visiting fullback. The opening score was not long in coming however when Annan were awarded a penalty just outside the visitor’s 22 which was move 10 metres forward following an indiscreet comment to the referee. From the ensuing lineout and drive the ball released to standoff Niall Smith who with a delightfully delayed pass set inside centre Craig McCann in between the posts to score. Craig converted his own try to take Annan into a 7 point lead.

Annan were using the gusting wing to good effect with some fine line kicking by stand off Niall Smith which kept the visitors confined within their own half for long periods of the game. On one of their rare excursions into the Annan half full back Kevin Jones intercepted a loose pass between the Hillfoots/Alloa centres to sprint a full 80 metres to score despite the attentions of the visiting fullback and winger. Craig McCann again added the extra 2 points.

Hillfoots were a little unlucky not to open their scoring account minutes later when following a charge down of a kick out of defence their centre knocked the ball with the line at his mercy. It was a wayward kick out of defence bt the visiting full back which led to Annan’s third try. The kick was fielded infield by full back Kevin Jones who ran the ball back at the advancing Hillfoots defensive line and off loaded the ball to centre Michael Griffen who in turn released his winger Andrew Jancey who hared off up the touchline. With the deft chip ahead over the advancing Hillfoots fullback by Jancey taking a vicious bounce away from the advancing winger left winger Alex Halliday was on hand having come off his wing to pounce on the loose ball to score. Again McCann added the extra 2 points. Halliday almost added to his try tally just prior to half time when from some broken play the ball was swung left to Halliday but the referee deemed the pass to be forward. Half Time Score Annan 21 Hillfoots/Alloa 0.

The second half was a pretty unexciting affair for the spectators with both teams cancelling out any attacking moves for the most part and what rugby was on display was interspersed with a plethora of handling errors and needless penalties given away by both sides. Annan’s bonus point try came from a lineout drive from the 5 metre line with prop Colin Warrick being on hand to gain the credit for the touchdown. Craig McCann missed the conversion from near the touchline. The closing minutes of the half belonged to the visitors who battered away at the Annan line to no avail as the home defences stood firm. Final Score Annan 26 Hillfoots/Alloa 0

This was no classic performance by Annan as their game was a catalogue of handling errors and wrong options. The lineout, normally one of Annan’s strong points, was poor. However one cannot carp too much as this was one of Annan few 5 point victories this season. In the forwards no one crafted harder than wing forward Ewan Braid who earned the match day sponsor BIB Cochranes’s Man of The Match award.

Annan 1st XV Squad: R Gracie, P Carruthers (C), R Gracie, G Hogg, J Nelson, M Scott, E Braid, G Smith, K Hogg, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffen, A Halliday, K Jones. Replacements: M Carpenter, B Blower (both used)

RHC 23 v ANNAN 10
SATURDAY 15TH MARCH 2008

Both teams having played twice this season in the league and each having won one game apiece this S.H.E. Shield Round 2 fixture was the decider for the season.

Annan started brightly and looked dangerous in the opening exchanges and opened the scoring with barely five minutes played when they were awarded a penalty which Craig McCann slotted. The home side were stung into action and from a scrum in their own half the ball was swung wide and with some excellent handling by their back line their left winger scored an excellent converted in the corner. Annan probably had the balance of territory in the first quarter but were unable to break down an excellent home defence. RHC’s most potent attacking threat came from their two wingers who always looked dangerous when the ball reached them. RHC went further ahead when their standoff landed a fine drop goal following a series of rucks in the Annan 22. On the half hour mark RHC increased their scoreline when, following some woeful tackling by the visitors and with the Annan backs being pulled out of position, the home outside centre burst through the Annan defensive line to score a further converted try to take the half time score to RHC 17 Annan 3.

Within minutes of the restart Annan went further behind when RC were awarded a penalty. The home side were now beginning to dominate most facets of play. Annan made a couple of substitutions with prop Steve Kelly and wing forward David Wyllie added to the fray. With the fresh legs Annan began to make inroads into the home 22 and their efforts were rewarded when from a scrum the ball was spun wide and with full back Kevin Jones coming into the line he released winger Andrew Jancey who scored in the corner. Craig McCann added a difficult conversion to take Annan back into the game at 20 – 10.

Annan began to press the home line and looked threatening as the home side began to creak but handling errors in the cold conditions cost the visitors dear. Both Annan centres McCann and Griffen had their moments with the former almost through the RHC defensive line and the latter knocking on with the line at his mercy.

The last few minutes belonged to the home side as they fought their way into the Annan 22 and they were rewarded with a penalty which they duly converted to take the final score to RHC Cougars 23 Annan 10. The score was a fair reflection on the game with the Annan side looking a little jaded and lacking a cutting edge. Annan’s best player on the day was No8 Graham Smith who had some good driving runs over the 80 minutes.

So Annan’s Murrayfield dream is over for another season and it is now back to league rugby for the remainder of the season with 6 league games left to play.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers (C), R Gracie, G Hogg, J Nelson, B Blower, M.Scott, G Smith, K.Hogg, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffin, E. Braid, K Jones. Replacements: S. Kelly (used), D. Wyllie, W. Henderson

GORDONIANS 14 v ANNAN 17
SATURDAY 1ST MARCH 2008

Gordonians and Annan served up an exciting, if error strewn, 100 minutes of full blooded, passion filled rugby at Countesswells on Saturday in this Round 1 match in the SHE Shield. Gordonians currently play in Division 1 of the S.H.E. Caledonian League, where they currently are one game away from being crowned champions, and were certainly up for a tilt at a team some 3 leagues above them. And on a bright but extremely cold and windy day in Aberdeen they came within a whisker of sending Annan down the A90 with their tails between their legs.

The home side, playing with the strong cutting wind at their backs, started strongly and taking advantage of the elements kept play deep in the Annan half for the majority of the first half. Annan, it has to be said, seemed somewhat lethargic in the opening exchanges perhaps down to the early start and the 4 hour drive behind them. In fact one Annan worthy reckoned that they didn’t look as if they had just got off the bus but rather were still trying to get on it.

The home forwards, who were probably one of the best drilled outfits Annan has come up against this season, held sway in the half driving their visiting counterparts back on numerous occasions. From a lineout following a penalty award the home forwards drove Annan back to their own line and the ball was driven over for a score. A similar drive several minutes later resulted in a similar score and with both tries being converted by the Gordonian’s standoff Annan found themselves 14 points down. Annan had a chance to reduce the points deficit when winger Andrew Jancey made a fine break down the wing and when stopped popped the ball to supporting prop Ryan Gracie who unfortunately could not hold on to the ball with the line at his mercy. Annan were much relieved to hear the half time whistle without leaking another score with the score set at Gordonians 14 Annan 0.

As so often happens when the elements play a major part in a game this was the proverbial game of two halves. From the restart Annan exerted pressure through concerted forward drives, some judicious kicking for position and some powerful support play from the backs which resulted in the visitors slowly clawing their way back into the game. From 4 penalties awarded following some excellent driving play, when the home side transgressed at the rucks, centre Craig McCann was successful with three attempts to take the score to 14 – 9. Winger Andrew Jancey was most unlucky not to score, following a fine period of play down the blindside, when the final pop pass was adjudged to have gone forward. The try eventually came, however, when through some dynamic driving play from the forwards and powerful support play from the backs centre Michael Griffen burst through to score. With the conversion, which would have put Annan into a 2 point lead, missed the score was tied at 14 points apiece.

In the final act of the half Gordonians were awarded a penalty directly in front of the posts some 25 metres out. The home kicker who had been so precise with his earlier two conversions was most unlucky to see his attempt, in the difficult conditions, just drift past the right hand upright and the game headed for twenty minutes of extra time.

With Annan only travelling with one replacement, due to late call offs due to illness, there were several players, predominately in the forwards, who entered new territory! In the first 10 minutes Annan, with the wind advantage, were unable to make headway against a determined Gordonian’s defence. Neither team were able to break the deadlock in the first period of extra time. This stalemate was carried over to the second period and it looked as if the home side were heading for victory, as if the scores remained tied at the end of extra time the home side would win having outscored the visitors by two tries to one. In the final seconds of the game Annan had one last surge into the Gordonian’s half and were awarded a penalty some 40 metres out from the posts. In a brave decision Annan’s captain asked centre Craig McCann to attempt what looked an impossible task especially as the wind was still being troublesome. However as McCann took his kick the wind relented somewhat and his kick scraped over the upright by millimeters. Following the kick the referee blew for no side and Annan and their small band of travelling support breathed a huge collective sigh of relief.

It is quite apparent that Gordonians will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming seasons as they will without a doubt climb back to their rightful position in the Leagues. They have perhaps the best facilities in club rugby in Scotland and with their winning attitude there is no doubt Annan will be playing them in league rugby sooner rather than later.

Whilst not a classic performance from Annan there were several encouraging performances. Scrum half Mark Clark had another fine game especially as he was playing behind a retreating scrum on several occasions. Young prop Ryan Gracie showed that in the loose he is a force to be reckoned with but the plaudits must go to centre Craig McCann who had perhaps one of his best games in an Annan jersey and also managed to keep his nerve to land the massive winning penalty to take Annan through to the next round of the Shield tournament.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers (C), R Gracie, G Hogg, J Nelson, B Blower, E Braid, G Smith, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffen, K Hogg, K Jones Replacements: M Carpenter (used)

Annan have been drawn away in Round 2 of the SHE Shield against RHC (Royal High Corstorphine) in Edinburgh on Saturday 15th March.

ANNAN 7 v JED-FOREST 39
SATURDAY 16TH FEBRUARY 2008

This fourth-round Scottish Hydro Electric cup-tie was always going to be a stern test for the Annan side, with Jed-Forest sitting in 5th position in Premier Division Two, two leagues above Annan. Nevertheless, Annan gave a very good account of themselves, despite the rather cruel scoreline, and can be extremely proud of the way they played. The match was played at a tremendous tempo and Annan took the game to the visitors in the opening ten minutes, playing neat running rugby at pace. Their ball retention was superb and they had the better of the opening exchanges going forward and mopping up in defence where necessary. Nevertheless, it was Jed who took the lead from a neat line-out move and drive from five metres for No. 4 Patton to score. A second Jed try followed almost immediately afterwards with full back Walker feeding winger McFarlane for an excellent score. Exchanges before half time were relatively even, and C McCann missed a penalty narrowly for Annan, but it was obvious that Jed had quality backs whose pace, handling and alignment were extremely impressive and were always likely to threaten the Annan defence. Annan, too, were showing enterprise, and winger Jancey was rarely away from the thick of the action.

Jed began the second half on fire and began playing some excellent, flowing rugby, with full back Greg Walker always ready to join his the line. Some excellent Annan tackling kept Jed-Forest at bay, but it was only a matter of time before they increased their lead. Five minutes into the second period, Jed scored the first of three tries within ten minutes. A powerful burst down the left wing saw the Annan cover stretched and scrum-half Goodfellow powered his way over. Minutes later, slick passing by the backs led to Trotter feeding McCraw and there was simply no stopping the big winger on his way to the line. Possibly the best try of the game followed in the 55th minute when full back Walker’s quick hands in his own 22 fed speed merchant McCraw who went the whole length of the pitch for his second try. A cruel ten minutes for Annan, and many sides would have buckled at this point.

Annan stuck to their game plan and continued to play enterprising rugby. Indeed Andrew Jancey, who had a great game on the Annan right wing, might have gone in for a couple of scores had the passes gone to hand. However, it was Jed who turned the screw with two more tries. Trotter released replacement Gobby to score under the posts from a long way out and Roy McFarlane put the icing on the cake for Jed-Forest with an excellent winger’s try wide on the left after beating three men.

The final score, appropriately, went to Annan who had given their all and contributed immensely to this highly entertaining match. Although beginning to tire, they were determined to stage a grandstand finish – ending as they had started by having a real go at Jed. From a penalty, Annan elected for the scrum, the ball was fed to stand-off Niall Smith who chipped through the Jed defence and it was Smith who won the chase to the line to touch down first. McCann’s conversion ended the scoring.

Jed-Forest won well with some excellent backs play but this was a superb Annan performance. The forwards matched their counterparts and the final scoreline was a cruel reflection of Annan’s efforts. They deserved a lot more but could not break down a resolute Jed defence. Annan certainly won’t come up against such a well-oiled backs unit for the rest of the league campaign and, if they play with the pace and intensity displayed against Jed-Forest, their target of finishing third in National League One is a realistic one.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers (C), S Kelly, G Hogg, J Nelson, B Blower (M Carpenter), M Scott (E Braid), G Smith, K Hogg (M Clark), N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffen, A Halliday ( J Crowther), K Jones

GARNOCK 38 v ANNAN 3
SATURDAY 9TH FEBRUARY 2008

The buzzards which circled the Lochshore pitches on Annan’s arrival turned out to be something of a portent as Annan went down to their heaviest league defeat of the season. However congratulations must go to Garnock on a fine display, and on securing promotion to Premier 3 for next season. On this showing they will not be the worst team in that division. When you meet a team brimming with confidence, prepared to run at you hard at every opportunity, and with every player wanting to make a contribution, you are in for a hard game, and so it was for Annan. Annan kept on going to the end, and with no replacements available, that meant no rest periods for the forwards! The fact that Annan were without a couple of regulars should not be taken as an excuse, as it would have taken a top class performance all round to knock the hosts out of their stride, and Annan, while not playing badly, were not quite on top form on the day.

Annan got off to the worst possible start, when on Garnock’s first visit to the Annan 22, the forwards drove on and then stand off Gareth McCrorie evaded a tackle and drifted at pace over the line for a try converted by the evergreen Kurt Jacobson. Shortly after and under pressure, Annan conceded a penalty for holding on, converted by Jacobson. To complete Annan’s early misery, McCrorie struck again, this time running almost the width of the pitch before arcing round and over the line. Another conversion made it 17-0 to the hosts, and then later in the half some good handling in the Garnock backs put centre Chris Neill over, and yet another conversion made it 24-0 at half time. If this sounds like a Garnock report rather than an Annan one, that simply reflects the scoring in the first half. Annan did have their moments, and tried to play their normal open game, but could not break a solid Garnock defence. Garnock’s domination of the half had been aided by a strong crossfield wind favouring the team kicking “downhill”, and the boot of their stand off had used this to good advantage to keep Annan on the defensive. Perhaps things would change in the second half?

Annan did have more possession in the second half, and did try to use the wind, but their only success was a Craig McCann penalty. Too often Annan lost possession either by kicking it away, by errors or by indiscretions. Garnock for their part tried to keep the game in the Annan half to prevent Annan building the pressure. Garnock secured the all important fourth try when their forwards drove over at the posts, and at the death their replacement winger was on hand to exploit an overlap for the final try. Jacobson converted both. This came at a point when Annan centre Kevin Jones was in the sin bin. On reflection, this was probably a good test ahead of the visit of Jed-Forest this week, who will play with at least as much intensity as Garnock did. In that context, Annan can look back at secure set piece play from the pack, but will need to look out for the driving maul, and find a way through tight midfield defence.

Annan 1st team: K. Hogg; A. Halliday, K. Jones, C. McCann, A. Jancey; N. Smith, M. Clark; C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, S. Kelly, G. Hogg, J. Nelson, B. Blower, E. Braid, M. Scott. No Subs avaliable

ANNAN 14 v DALZIEL 5
SATURDAY 2ND FEBRUARY 2008

Video Highlights

It was thanks to a small band of Annan RFC stalwarts, who forked and rolled the wetter areas of the Violetbank pitch, that this 3rd round fixture in the S.H.E. Scottish Cup managed to be played. Annan had played their visitors from Motherwell twice already this season in the league and although Annan had won home and away both games had proved stern tests for the home team and so it proved again on Saturday.

It is said by some rugby pundits that defence wins games and certainly on Saturday, at a miserable cold and windy Violetbank, Annan proved the pundits correct. In the first 30 minutes of the game Annan were rarely in the visitors half as Dalziel held the territorial and possession advantage. Dalziel were unlucky not to open the scoring when from a drive towards the home line the visiting No3 broke off the maul and only a last ditch double tackle by Annan scrum half Mark Clark and wing forward Ewan Braid kept the Annan line intact.

From a Dalziel attack down the left touchline centre Alex Dunbar intercepted a loose pass out of a tackle and sprinted back along the touchline and looked certain to score but his kick ahead just touched the line and the chance was gone. Just as Annan seemed to be making headway in the terms of possession and territory their cause was not helped by the yellow carding of Annan No8 Graham Smith for retaliation. The numerical balance was restored a few minutes later when the Dalziel No 4 was yellow carded for holding back centre Craig McCann in a promising Annan attack down the left touchline. Annan were beginning to put together some better spells of play and from an attack centre Craig McCann put in a delightfully weighted kick towards the left corner flag where winger Alex Halliday had all the time in the world to catch the ball and fall over the line to score. Craig McCann slotted a difficult conversion from the left touchline against the wind to take Annan into a 7-0 lead at the half time break.

The second half was a more evenly contested with both teams coming close to scoring on a couple of occasions but it was Annan who scored the decisive try when replacement centre Michael Griffen charged down a kick out of defence by the visiting full back and won the race to the line. Craig McCann again added the conversion to take Annan into a 14-0 lead. Credit must be paid to both teams as they tried to play open flowing rugby in what was dreadful conditions as Violetbank began to turn into a mud bath. Dalziel had a fine spell in the middle of the half when they kept play in the Annan 22 aided and abetted by some penalties gifted by the home side. They were rewarded with a finely taken try following a lineout and drive over the home line to score. The conversion was missed. Dalziel, buoyed by the score, continued to try to make inroads into the Annan lead but were thwarted by some fine home defensive work and judicious use of the boot using the wind advantage to drive play back into the visiting half. Annan held on to their 9 point lead to go through to the 4th round of the cup where they will meet a Premiership side at Violetbank on 16th February.

Annan 1st Team Squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers (C), R Gracie, G Hogg, M.Scott, B Blower, E Braid, G Smith, M Clark, N Smith, C McCann, A Jancey, A Dunbar, A Halliday, K Jones, Replacements: J Nelson, M Griffen, N Moffat. (all used)

ANNAN 9 v RHC 12
SATURDAY 19TH JANUARY 2008

Despite Annan’s convincing victory over RHC in Edinburgh in October, this was never likely to be an easy game. RHC had some recent form, with wins over Hillfoots and Edinburgh University taking them to third in the table, while Annan had been sitting on their thumbs. Add to that the wet and soft pitch, more likely to suit RHC than Annan, who like to keep the game fluid, and you have a recipe for a real struggle. In the end, the game was a tense affair which Annan looked to have nicked, until an unfortunate ending.

Annan got off to the worst possible start in this Division 1 encounter of the S.H.E National Leagues. An RHC kick into the corner was pushed out by Annan, and from the resulting lineout RHC prop Hicks was driven over for a try. Stand off Maden converted well from the wide angle. Though RHC probably had the best of the first half in terms of possession and territory – Annan seemed to have difficulty in retaining possession – Annan did make the most of kickable penalties awarded for offside or holding on. Stand off Craig McCann, after missing his first effort, slotted two to bring Annan back to 6-7. RHC were unable to add to their tally thanks to sound Annan defence.

It was hoped that Annan would improve in the second half, and they did. A lively start brought them a penalty at the ruck deep in RHC territory, and McCann converted well to give Annan the lead for the first time. Annan continued to have the better of the game, running the ball when possible despite the conditions, looking for centres Dunbar and Griffin to make the vital break. They came close on a couple of occasions, but the RHC defence held firm.

With the game entering its final fifteen minutes it looked as though the stalemate would continue, and that Annan would get the win. Then disaster struck. A 22 drop out by Annan was kicked to the open side, but in the conditions did not have enough to carry the ball over RHC winger Henderson. With only his opposite number to beat, he was able to commit the defender and pass inside to centre Jones, who had a clear run in. The conversion was missed, but RHC found themselves ahead with minutes to go. Despite their efforts, Annan were unable to exert any pressure on the RHC line, as good line kicking kept Annan well away from the danger area, and Annan had to settle for a bonus point.

Best for Annan on the day was the back row, amongst the forwards, and the centres and fullback behind the scrum. The scrum did well against a larger pack, the lineout was adequate, and with the exception of the two try situations defence was sound.

Certainly Annan have played better this season, but they will surely rediscover their form if regular games can be played. This week at Falkirk the home side will be hot favourites, so Annan have less pressure and can go out to show what they can do. Disappointment with the RHC result illustrates how the standard of play and expectations have risen in recent years.

Annan team: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, S. Kelly, G. Hogg, B. Blower, M. Scott, E. Braid, G. Smith, M. Clark, C. McCann, A. Jancey, A. Dunbar, M. Griffin, A. Halliday, K. Jones. Replacements all used – R. Gracie, J. Nelson, J. Callaghan.

STEWARTRY 0 v ANNAN 36
SATURDAY 29TH DECEMBER 2007

Annan had the perfect end to 2007 with an emphatic 5 try victory over Stewartry to retain the Peter Chisholm Memorial Cup at the Greenlaw on Saturday. Annan played an open game which made for a display of high risk but entertaining rugby. There were lots of mistakes and wrong options but this was a game that Annan never looked like losing after winger Alex Dunbar went over for the first try after 10 minutes after a fine display of interplay between the backs and forwards. Centre Craig McCann added the conversion.

Annan by the second quarter of the game were in complete control and played most of this quarter in the home 22 but were denied on several occasions by some tenacious defence by the home side. However the home defences could only delay the inevitable for so long and from a scrum five metres from the line, with a slick planned move straight from the training field, No 8 Graham Smith crossed to score. Again Craig McCann added the extras. The only other score of the half came from the boot of McCann when Annan were awarded a penalty which he slotted with some ease against the wind to take the half time score to Stewartry 0 Annan 17.

Annan, playing with the advantage of the wind but by now playing into a lowering sun continued to dominate the territory and possession stakes in the 3rd quarter and from fine drive into the heart of the Stewartry midfield defences the ball was spun to the left wing where winger Andrew White plunged over to score. Stewartry did have a good spell of attacking play in the middle of the half when they reverted to a pick and drive tactic through their forwards which brought them considerable territorial advantage but the visiting defensive line stood strong and was not breached.

Lock Bruce Blower, who had one of his best games so far this season, was the next on the score sheet when he breenged over to score and was on the score sheet again minutes later when from a lineout take and drive wing forward Neil Moffat drove for the line and Bruce Blower was on his shoulder to drive the ball over the line when Moffat was held up short of the line. Craig McCann converted two of the tries to take the final score to Stewartry 0 Annan 36 which is Annan’s biggest winning margin over Stewartry.

All in all this was a match that Annan could have scored a few more tries if it hadn’t been for some poor handling and decision making but will have stood the team in good stead for this Saturday’s Division 1 game at Violetbank against Cambuslang.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers (C), S Kelly, B Blower, J Nelson, M Scott, N Moffat, G Smith, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, A Dunbar, A White, K Jones. Replacements: G Hogg, S McCann, D Fisher (all used)

DALZIEL 13 v ANNAN 18
SATURDAY 15TH DECEMBER 2007

With a run of 5 defeats in a row Dalziel were determined to stop the rot and came close on Saturday against an Annan team who hadn’t played a competitive game since 24th November in Division 1 of the Scottish Hydro Electric National Leagues. Annan looked a little off the pace in the early parts of this match at Dalziel Park on Saturday but did enough in the end to gain the victory.

Dalziel Park must be one of the best set ups in Scottish amateur rugby and on Saturday the pitch and the weather provided the stage for an exciting, if error strewn, fixture between these two old adversaries. From the kick off Dalziel set out their intentions to play a fast open game and in the initial seconds were faster in deed and action than their visitors. From an early drive the ball was set back to the home standoff who attempted a drop goal which was not far of the mark. From the 22 drop out Dalziel again launched an attack and from a ruck well inside the Annan half the ball squirted out the side of the ruck where winger Alex Dunbar was the quickest to react and he set off up the touchline to score a an unconverted try.

Dalziel’s response came minutes later when from a speculative kick out of defence the ball was knocked on in the Annan 22 and from the ensuing scrum the ball was spun out to the home outside centre who waltzed his way through some woeful Annan tackling to score. The try went unconverted and the score was tied at 5 points apiece. Play was taking place between the 22s as both teams probed the others defences trying to find an opening. The deadlock was broken when an Annan attack was stopped by a deliberate knock on and centre Craig McCann slotted the penalty award to take Annan back into the lead at 8-5. Dalziel however fought back and when they were awarded a penalty for killing the ball in a ruck the score was once again tied at 8 points apiece.

The home side then had one of their best spells in the game as the launched several attacks into the Annan 22 but Annan’s defences had tightened up from the opening quarter and kept the attacks at bay. From a home lineout in the Annan half hooker Paul Carruthers won a loose ball on the ground from the knockdown and set up a ruck from where the ball was spun out to outside centre Michael Griffen who set off towards the Dalziel line and to the joy of the Annan support spun out off several tackles to score a magnificent try which Craig McCann converted to take Annan into a 15 points to 8 lead which they held onto until the half time whistle.

From the kick off to the second half Annan were awarded a penalty when the Dalziel No 5 was yellow carded for some illegal footwork at the ruck. Craig McCann slotted the award to take the visitors into a healthy 18 -8 scoreline. Both teams continued to attack at every opportunity with both teams coming close to adding to their points tally but both sets of defences stood firm. Dalziel’s breakthrough came after they introduced three replacements and their attacks then became more potent and with 15 minutes to go they got their just reward when from a scrum in the 22 their full back, coming into the line, cracked the visiting defensive line to score. Luckily for Annan the conversion was missed and Annan held on to their tentative 5 point lead to win this exciting encounter at Dalziel Park. Final Score Dalziel 13 Annan 18. The Annan coaches, whilst happy with the win, will have enough food for thought over the festive break on several aspects of Annan’s play especially in the areas of ball retention at the point of contact and penalties conceded.

At this time with a break from league rugby until 5th January Annan must be well pleased with their 4th position in the league with two games in hand over the 3rd placed team East Kilbride who lead Annan by one point.

Annan 1st XV squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers (C) , S Kelly, B Blower, J Nelson, M Scott, N Moffat, G Smith, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffen, A Dunbar, K Jones Replacements: R Gracie, G Hogg, E Braid (all used)

ANNAN 22 v GREENOCK WANDERERS 8
SATURDAY 24TH NOVEMBER 2007

Although the Annan players and supporters left Violetbank at the end of Saturday’s game feeling a little deflated after their performance against bottom club Greenock Wanderers. On reflection however given the game was played in pretty awful conditions with a strong wing blowing across the heavy sodden pitch, interspersed with squally showers this was a better game than it first looked. There was the disappointment that once again Annan were unable to gain the 4th try bonus point but this disappointment must be balanced against the fact that Annan had won and scored 3 first class tries in the process.

Annan started the game with some fine driving play from the forwards and providing the backs with some quick clean ball to cut through the Wanderers defenses but a combination of poor handling and excellent defensive work by the visitors kept the home side short of the whitewash for the first ten minutes. The territorial pressure eventually told when from a lineout take and drive by prop Colin Warrick the ball was firstly taken on by centre Michael Griffin and then prop Steve Kelly and from the ensuing ruck in front of the posts the ball was spun out through he backs for winger Andrew Jancey to score in the corner. Centre Craig McCann saw his conversion attempt slide past the far upright.

Wanderers fought straight back with some fine interplay between their forwards and backs but Annan held them at bay. From one attack Annan intercepted the ball and drove play into the visitors half but the ball was pilfered at a ruck by Wanderers’ outside centre Clint Guyatt who outran the home cover defence to score in the corner. The conversion was missed and the score was tied at 5 points apiece. Play was concentrated between the 22s for some time as both teams tried to gain the upper hand. The balance of play however in this period fell to the hosts and their territorial advantage paid off when Craig McCann slotted a penalty award to take the score to 8-5 in Annan’s favour on the half hour mark.

Wanderers came close to scoring towards the end of the half when their left wing fielded a kick out of defence by scrum half Mark Clark and proceeded to cleave through the Annan mid field defenses only to hauled down short of the line. Annan managed to clear their lines when they were awarded a relieving penalty to finish the half with a tenuous 3 point lead at 8-5.

The opening minutes of the second half belonged almost entirely to the visitors as they attacked the Annan line and only some fine defensive work and relieving kicks out of defense kept the Annan line intact. Annan slowly worked their way back into the game and launched some attacks of their own and were awarded a penalty for their efforts which fell short of the posts. Annan’s captain hooker Paul Carruthers came close to scoring when from a driving piece of play scrum half Mark Clark popped the ball out of a tackle to the hooker who was just unable to control the ball a metre short of the line.

The home side continued to drive play into the visiting 22 and from a scrum, awarded after a Wanderers handling error, Annan No 8 Graham Smith, in a move straight from the training paddock, with the Wanderers defenses pulled apart by runners off the ball, drove over to score. Craig McCann made no mistake with the conversion to ease Annan into a 15-5 point lead. Two minutes later from a loose ball in midfield replacement winger Alex Dunbar ploughed through the Greenock defenses, offloaded the ball to scrum half Mark Clark, who returned the compliment to Alex Dunbar who in turn, with a delightful pop pass out of the tackle released Graham Smith to score his second try of the day. Craig McCann again added the extra 2 points.

With 25 minutes still to play the Annan supporters thought the 4th try would be a formality. However the visitors had other thoughts and the final quarter of the came belonged to them as they fought hard to salvage at least a bonus point of their own. The only reward for their efforts however was a penalty award which they converted to take the final score to Annan 22 Greenock Wanderers 8.

All in all this was a workmanlike performance from the Annan squad although it was one peppered with errors and a plethora of penalties. The latter must be of some concern to the Annan coaches as it has been a mark of Annan’s performances since the start of the season. On the plus side Annan’s No 8 Graham Smith must have had one of his best games of the season so far which is especially pleasing since his knee injury in the Violetbank tournament in August looked as if it may have ended his rugby career. In the backs Alex Dunbar back, playing in an unfamiliar role for him as winger, made some fine angled runs which had the Wanderers defenses at sixes and sevens. It was also pleasing to see lock/flanker Bruce Blower back after breaking a bone in his hand in the East Kilbride game.

Annan 1st XV squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers (C), S Kelly, M Carpenter, R Gracie, E Braid, M Scott, G Smith, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffen, J Callaghan, K Jones Replacements: J Nelson, A Dunbar, B Blower (all used)

ANNAN 15 v PRESTON LODGE 7
SATURDAY 17TH NOVEMBER 2007

This Division One fixture in the Scottish Hydro Electric Leagues was always going to be an intriguing one. Preston Lodge came to Violetbank on the back of an unexpected defeat at Edinburgh University the previous week and have had a fairly mixed season to date. Nevertheless, they defeated Annan in September at Pennypit Park and can be regarded as one of Annan's bogey teams, the Violetbank side having won only once in nine outings against the Midlothian team. Annan were still without locks John Nelson and Graeme Hogg, with Graham Smith and Michael Carpenter slotting into the 2h1 row berths. Alex Dunbar returned with a place on the bench.

Annan played into the wind in the first half and it was evident from the early stages that this was going to be a closely fought contest between two relatively evenly matched teams. PL came out of the starting blocks first and early thrusts were thwarted by two thumping tackles from replacement Carpenter. Annan did have a chance after only five minutes when centre McCann almost intercepted. It was cut and thrust between the two sides and Annan put the first score on the boards with fifteen minutes gone. With the home side sweeping forward, five rucks ensued and when the ball was eventually fed to outside centre Michael Griffin, he fought and wriggled through some desperate tackles for an excellent try which was not converted. Almost immediately afterwards, prop Colin Warrick was sin-binned and Preston Lodge were determined to capitalise on their numerical advantage. From a line-out on the Annan five metre line a clean take and drive resulted in a FL try which was converted by their stand-off to take them into a 7-5 lead. The contest ebbed and flowed but it was the Annan tackling which caught the eye, with more big hits coming in the early stages from Paul Carruthers and Andrew Jancey.

There certainly wasn't much between the teams in the first half and the contrasting styles were interesting. The Preston Lodge ball retention was very good, but their moves through their big forwards were often predictable and well read by the Annan defence. Annan, on the other hand, were tactically aware, sharper, quicker and looked more likely to score. Also, for some inexplicable reason, PL failed to take advantage of the wind and elected to keep the ball in hand. With a penalty by McCann going wide, the half-time score read Annan 5 Preston Lodge 7.

The second half started promisingly for the home side and Griffin just missed out on a foot race to the line and was unlucky not to get the touch-down. Five minutes into the half, and taking everyone unawares, Craig McCann scored with an outrageous drop-goal from 45 metres in blustery conditions – a fantastic strike from mid-left of the pitch and one of the best drop-goals ever seen at Violetbank. Annan were now pinning PL back in their own 22 with good touch-kicking from Niall Smith and McCann and it wasn't long before that man Griffin got his second try. A Preston Lodge maul was driven back, the ball squirted out on the Annan side, scrum half Mark Clark picked up and made a good break, fed to Griffin and the pacy Annan centre made the gap and went past three players to sprint in for his second try, converted by McCann.

This took the score to 15-7 in Annan's favour. The end of the scoring, but far from the end of a tough, physical encounter. Kevin Jones almost got an interception on half way, Alex Dunbar went on a couple of his trademark mazy runs and nearly capitalised on a PL defensive scramble before the ball was cleared, but it was mainly lengthy spells of Preston Lodge possession which Annan had to cope with. The away team battered away at Annan, but the home defence was rock solid and PL, running out of ideas, just couldn't find a way through. After one five-minute spell camped on the Annan line, they spun the ball wide only for the winger to be met by Alex Dunbar who bundled him into touch with a superb try-saving tackle.

There were a lot of tired bodies in both camps at the final whistle but, not for the first time, the Annan, defence was awesome and, in attack, they made quick ground by creating space, using fast ball and moving the PL forwards around the park.

This was a great team performance, with special mention going to the replacement second row of Graham Smith and Michael Carpenter who did masses of unglamorous work and put themselves about with some Herculean tackles. Annan's fitness, pace and work ethic are producing the goods, especially against bigger packs, and this bard-fought victory keeps them in 3rd place behind Falkirk and Garnock.

Annan Team: C Warrick, P Carruthers (C) , S Kelly, M Carpenter, G Smith; E Braid, N Moffat, M Scott; M Clark. N Smith; J Callaghan, C.McCann, M Griffin, A Jancey; K Jones Replacements: R Gracie, A. Dunbar (both used), G Lynch (not used)

HILLFOOTS/ALLOA 12 v ANNAN 26
SATURDAY 10TH NOVEMBER 2007

Photos From Game

Annan travelled to Tillicoultry on Saturday to take on a team who they had never beaten on their own turf and came away with a 4 try to 2 victory in Division One of the S.H.E. National leagues. Annan were without lock John Nelson and centre Alex Dunbar who were late call offs due to illness and injury respectively and had to leave with only one replacement. The number on replacement’s bench was doubled when Annan’s Vice President (Rugby) veteran Colin McCann made himself available!

Annan started off, playing down the slope and into a strengthening wind, with purpose, and on the ten minute mark had taken the lead with a breathtaking try. Play was driven up the centre of the pitch and from a ruck on the Hillfoot’s 22, in a mesmerizing passage of inter-passing between forwards and backs, No 8 Michael Scott crashed over to score. Centre Craig McCann added the conversion to take the visitors into a 7 point lead.

Annan continued to dominate in the loose and it was only a matter of time before the home line was breached again. This time, in an attack down the right wing, Michael Scott was on hand, after picking up the ball at ruck he drove on and when tackled popped a pass, as he went to ground, to scrum half Mark Clark. Mark, with quite a bit to do, found a gap in the Hillfoots’ defenses to score in the corner. Craig McCann was unable to tame the gusting wind to land the conversion.

This score seemed to spur the home side into action and they pinned Annan back into their half with some sustained attacking play. Initially the visiting defenses stood firm but on the half hour mark Hillfoots were awarded a penalty on the 5 metre line which was quickly taken and the Hillfoots’ tight head crashed over to score. With his try converted Annan went into the half time break 12 points to 7 up. Although a slender lead the travelling support were confident that Annan could add to their lead with the benefit of the wind at their backs in the second half. And so it proved as Annan’s stand off Niall Smith and centre Craig McCann used the wind, when given the opportunity, to turn the home forwards with some excellent line kicking. From a period of sustained attacking play in the Hillfoots’ 22 Annan were rewarded a penalty which was quickly tapped and prop Steve Kelly crashed over from two metres out. Craig McCann added the extra two points.

Annan kept their foot on the pedal and continued to attack the home line but the Hillfoots’ defenses stood firm. The Annan support were most relieved when Annan’s most potent attacking force full back Kevin Jones, who had been left injured on the pitch following a heavy tackle, was restored to action following ministrations by the Annan physio, much to the audible relief of replacement Colin McCann who had started to strip for action. Minutes later it was the same Kevin Jones who retrieved the ball from a kick out of defence by the home full back and evading several despairing tackles sidestepped his way to score behind the posts to give Annan their bonus point try. Craig McCann again added the extras.

For the last ten minutes of the game it was all Hillfoots as with the game won Annan visibly relaxed The home side were rewarded for their efforts when from a catch and drive from a lineout following a penalty award. The ball was quickly recycled from a ruck and fed to their backs for their standoff to cross the line and score.

All in all this was a fine performance from the Annan squad with an impressive win away from home especially considering the enforced changes in the forwards. The forwards deserve special mention as despite the aforementioned changes with several players playing in unaccustomed positions, held more than their own in the set piece and were imperious in the lineout and the loose. In the backs special mention is due to both wingers Andrew Jancey and Johnny Callaghan whose defensive work was exemplary.

Annan 1st XV squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers (Capt), S Kelly, R Fulton, G Smith, E Braid, N Moffat, M Scott, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffen, J Callaghan, K Jones Replacements: R Gracie (used) Colin McCann (not used)

ANNAN 0 v FALKIRK 24
SATURDAY 3RD NOVEMBER 2007

With Annan going into this Division 1 game in the S.H.E. National Leagues against unbeaten league leaders Falkirk on the back of their previous week’s fine display away at RHC Cougars and also having been one of only two teams to beat their visitors in the previous season’s league campaign the faithful Annan support were expecting a cracker of a game at Violetbank. Instead they got a bit of a damp squib!

Annan looked a very nervous team in the opening minutes and while it took Falkirk some time to settle they always looked more comfortable on the ball than their hosts and it has to be said only some terrific defence by the home squad kept the visitors at bay. Annan were making too many unforced errors and the experienced, streetwise, battle hardened Falkirk backrow snapped up any loose ball and plundered possession from any isolated ball carrier. Despite the amount of possession the visitors found it hard to penetrate the home defensive line and it was into the second quarter before Falkirk breached the Annan whitewash. From a lineout on the Annan 5 metre line, following a penalty award, Falkirk drove the ball over the line with a text book driving maul to score an unconverted try. They followed this up with a similar move 10 minutes from half time to take them into a 10 -0 lead. Annan had a chance to open their account when after a period of pressure in the visitor’s 22 they were awarded a penalty which centre Craig McCann, who the previous week had been so prolific, missed. Half Time score Annan 0 Falkirk 10.

There was genuine belief around the touchlines, from the Annan support, that Falkirk’s 10 point lead was not unassailable and Annan set out in the second half to try and make inroads into the Falkirk lead. They indeed had some fine passages of play but when the line beckoned they seemed to lack patience and invariably lost possession on were penalised for a technical infringement. As Annan’s frustration mounted so did the penalty count and firstly Captain Paul Carruthers was yellow carded for a late tackle and then wing forward Michael Scott was similarly yellow carded for retaliatory action. In the second ten minute period when down to 14 men Annan conceded a further two tries both of which were converted to give Falkirk the full 5 point victory. Annan finished on the attack and looked certain to score but the ball was spilt with the line beckoning.

All in all a disappointing day at the office for Annan and one that showed that no matter the quality of the rugby played a team cannot afford to give away the number of penalties Annan did on Saturday and also expect to play attacking or indeed effective defensive rugby when you are down to 14 men for a quarter of the match. There were some good points however with centre Alex Dunbar proving a bit of a handful to the visitors defences and again wing forward Michael Scott a thorn in the side of the visitors.

Annan 1st XV squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers (Capt), S Kelly, J Nelson, G Hogg, M Scott, E Braid, G Smith, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, A Dunbar, M Griffen, J Callaghan Replacements: M Carpenter, N Moffat (Both used)

RHC 8 v ANNAN 21
SATURDAY 27TH OCTOBER 2007

Annan’s small band of supporters travelled more in hope than expectation to the leafy suburbs of Edinburgh’s North side for this National League Division One encounter with RHC Cougars. With the home side coming into the game off the back of an eleven try demolition of previous weeks opponents Preston Lodge, who earlier this season had bested the away side, and a strong wind at their backs this young Annan team looked to be in for a long hard afternoon. Things however don’t always go the way of the formbook, and the Annan boys produced arguably their best performance of the season so far to move above their opponents and into third place in the league.

The game started as predicted with a period of pressure from the home side who decided to forgo pinning Annan back in their own 22 with the boot and ran the ball at every opportunity. Annan easily repulsed these limited attacks before breaking out of defence with a sweeping move of their own in which winger Andrew Jancey was stopped just short of the home sides try line. RHC cleared their lines from the resultant penalty and worked back up to the Annan 22. This respite proved to be short lived as Annan scored what is fast becoming their trademark style try with a passage of play involving upwards of 10 players finished off by powerhouse centre Alex Dunbar. Centre Craig McCann, who seems to have found his kicking boots, converted.

The away team were now taking control of the game, and a rampaging run by No8 Graham Smith was held up over the line after a 35-metre dash from the base of a scrum. RHC managed to hit back with a well-taken penalty just before half time to peg the score back to 3-7.

If the Cougars thought they had worked their way into the game, they were to be rudely awoken as veteran prop Steve Kelly charged over from a neatly worked free kick five metres from the home side’s line. Craig McCann once again slotted the conversion. H/T score RHC 3 Annan 14.

The second half was a somewhat quieter affair than the first with standoff Niall Smith, centre Craig McCann, and even Alex Dunbar controlling the game with deft kicks to the corners pinning the home side deep in their own half for long periods. The stalemate was broken by another score after the ball was adjudged to have gone dead in goal at the Annan end. The 22 dropout was kicked long by standoff Niall Smith and chased by fullback Kevin Jones who dotted down his own fly hack ahead. McCann easily converted to take the score to 21-3 in Annan’s favour. Hard work by the Cougars ensued as they tried to gain a foothold in the game, but without much invention in their play it was an uphill struggle. They were however, eventually rewarded with a consolation try after a period of forward pressure. The conversion was missed by the home standoff to cap a performance he’ll not wish to remember. Final score RHC Cougars 8 Annan 21.

Annan went into this game with two enforced changes in their backrow where Bruce Blower out with an injured hand was replaced by the bundle of aggression that is Euan Braid, and Michael Scott off representing Scotland at Rugby League opened up a place for Neil Moffat. Substitutes Ryan Gracie, Ray Fulton and Johnny Callaghan all contributed well when called upon and young Mark Clark continues to impress at scrum half behind a well-drilled pack, but man of the match was openside Neil Moffat who showed how the position should be played with some outstanding link play.

Annan 1st XV squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers (Capt), S Kelly, J Nelson, G Hogg, E Braid, N Moffat, G Smith, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, A Dunbar, M Griffen, K Jones Replacements: R Gracie, J Callaghan, R Fulton (all used)

ANNAN 39 v EAST KILBRIDE 7
SATURDAY 20TH OCTOBER 2007

Photos From Game/Video Highlights

With East Kilbride sitting, prior to this match, in 3rd place in Division 1 of the S.H.E National Leagues Annan knew they would be in for a tough game at sunny Violetbank on Saturday and so it turned out to be despite the score line suggesting otherwise. With Annan having to wear their change strip of royal blue and gold it took some time for the Annan faithful to come to terms with the change and some found themselves cheering the visitors on in the opening minutes.

From the start Annan’s attacking intentions were clear - to keep the ball away from the much vaunted East Kilbride pack as much as possible. In the opening attack set up initially, by a sniping run down the blindside by scrum half Mark Clark, Annan were rewarded with a penalty which centre Craig McCann duly slotted to give Annan a 3 point lead in as many minutes. Some cut and thrust rugby followed as both teams tried to gain the upper hand with the rugby being played in the middle half of the pitch. Annan eventually broke loose when from a scrum in the middle of the pitch the ball was slung wide and full back Kevin Jones, coming into the attacking line, slotted a grubber kick through the advancing East Kilbride defensive line. He was just beaten to the ball short of the line and from the ensuing ruck the visiting fullback cleared his lines with a kick to touch, which because of the narrow angle, took the lineout to the 5 metre line. From the catch and drive prop Steve Kelly was driven over to score. The conversion was missed. There followed a period of play where the visitors held the territorial advantage as they drove Annan back into their 22 and only some terrific defensive play by the home side thwarted several promising East Kilbride attacks. The siege was eventually lifted when Annan were awarded a penalty which drove play deep into the visitor’s half. From a ruck in the 22 centre Craig McCann put in a finely balanced cross kick which winger Alex Halliday caught in full flight to score in the corner. Craig McCann added the extras courtesy of an in off the upright. East Kilbride had a chance to make inroads into the Annan 15 point lead when they were awarded a penalty within kickable range but their kicker was unsuccessful with his attempt.

Annan again fought their way back into the visitor’s half with some good solid rucking play and a darting run by full back Kevin Jones set up a ruck from which the ball was whipped out to lock John Nelson, who with a superb run through the middle of the visiting defences and looking as if he would score himself instead flipped be ball to flanker Michael Scott who scored behind the posts. Craig McCann again added the extra points and Annan were in a commanding 22 point to nil lead. The score again spurred on the visitor’s who once again laid siege to the Annan line and once again the home defences stood firm and were relieved to hear the half time whistle to allow themselves some recovery time. Half Time score Annan 22 East Kilbride 0.

In the opening minutes of the second half Annan took the game to their visitor’s in search for the illusive 4th bonus point try but although playing some fine attacking rugby their only reward was a penalty slotted by Craig McCann. In truth the middle part of the half, territorially, belonged to East Kilbride who kept possession and battered away at the Annan line. They were eventually rewarded with a try when their outside centre glided over to score a converted try. During this period Annan were down to 10 men with prop Colin Warrick being yellow carded for an off the ball incident. The visitors continued to dominate territorially after their try and only some excellent defensive work stopped them scoring again.

It was the home side who had the better of the last 10 minutes of the game however when from a ruck following a take against the head at a scrum centre Craig McCann lofted a kick to the corner and with winger Alex Halliday taken out off the ball as he was winning the race to the touchdown the referee awarded a penalty try and Annan had at last their illusive 4th bonus point try. Craig McCann added the extra points.

Almost from the restart Annan were again on the scoreboard. From a scrum just inside the East Kilbride half No 8 Graham Smith picked up the ball at the base of the scrum and raced to the line without a hand being laid on him for a marvellous try which Craig McCann again converted. East Kilbride again responded by driving play towards the Annan line and indeed their No 8 was most unlucky not to breach the whitewash when he went on a breenging run only being stopped by a crunching tackle by Mark Clark. Annan managed to hold out for the final whistle and record an exciting win against a team who before the match were four places above them in the league.

As stated at the beginning of this report the score line belied the quality of the East Kilbride side who over the piece held the balance of territory and possession but it was Annan who made the better use of their territory and possession over the 80 minutes.

In the forwards again the Annan backrow stood out with No 8 Graham Smith looking as if he is back to his old self after injury. The often unsung second row partnership of Graham Hogg and John Nelson again put in a solid shift at the coal face. In the backs standoff Niall Smith was outstanding with centre Craig McCann’s kicking from hand setting up two of the tries worthy of special mention. The only downside of Saturday’s performance being the injury to wing forward Bruce Blower who looks to have broken a bone in his hand.

Annan 1st XV squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers (Capt), S Kelly, J Nelson, G Hogg, B Blower, M Scott, G Smith, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffen, A Halliday, K Jones Replacements: R Gracie, E Braid, A Dunbar (all used)

CAMBUSLANG 13 v ANNAN 17
SATURDAY 13TH OCTOBER 2007

Annan travelled to a sunny Coats Park on Saturday to take on Cambuslang in their seventh league game in Division 1 of the S.H.E. National Leagues. The last meeting between the two clubs was on 17th April 2004 with Cambuslang handing out a 43 – 0 drubbing to Annan in their last appearance in Premier 3. Only four of Saturday’s team played in that game.

Annan started the brighter of the two teams with the visitor’s driving play deep into the home half from the kickoff. Annan were awarded a penalty when the Cambuslang forwards transgressed at a ruck. From the ensuing lineout the Annan forwards drove for the line with prop Colin Warrick driven over for the score. Centre Craig McCann landed a fine conversion from the right side of the pitch for Annan to take a 7 point lead in as many minutes. After the previous Saturday’s disastrous start at Violetbank when Dalziel started in the same fashion the Annan travelling support were confident that their side would build on their teams’ good beginnings. Not so! For the remainder of the half Annan allowed the home side to dictate play and when vital possession was secured it was given away cheaply by some poor decision making, turnovers or knock-on’s. As the half progressed Cambuslang slowly ate into the visitors’ lead, firstly with two penalty awards and then late on in the half they scored a try through their backs, aided and abetted by some poor Annan defensive work. With the try converted Anna turned around 13 points to 7 in arrears.

From the restart a revitalised Annan played some fine rugby with good handling between forwards and backs and although some errors were made the balance of play lay with the visitors in the third quarter. The breakthrough came 10 minutes into the half when as play was driven into the Cambuslang 22 the visiting forwards took control and drove the ball towards the home line with wing forward Bruce Blower breaking away from the maul to score in the corner. The conversion was missed and Annan were one point behind their hosts at 13 – 12. Annan continued to hold the balance of play as the home forwards seemed to run out of steam with Annan dominating the set piece taking several strikes against the head in the scrums and ruling the sky in the lineouts. From one attack centre Craig McCann probed the advancing home defences with a finely weighted grubber kick which he slotted between the advancing outside centre and winger which centre Michael Griffen touched down to score. With the conversion again missed Annan went into the final 10 minutes of the game with a slender 4 point lead.

For that final 10 minutes the home team found their second wind and laid siege to the Annan line but, luckily for the visitors, they made just too many mistakes to take advantage of their territorial advantage. Annan were instrumental in the many mistakes made by Cambuslang as their defence was terrific as the tackled everything that moved. To the huge relief of the Annan supporters and team Annan held out to win. The only downside being that once again Annan had failed to accrue a bonus point for a 4 try win which had looked on the cards during the game.

This was a vital away win for the Annan squad in a league which, apart from the two unbeaten teams at the top Garnock and Falkirk, any team can win on the day home or away. For Annan the forwards laid the foundation for the win in their set piece play with the defensive efforts of the whole team in the latter stages quite outstanding.

Annan Squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers (Capt), S Kelly, J Nelson, G Hogg, B Blower, E Braid, M Scott, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffen, A Halliday, K Jones Replacements: G Smith, G Wyllie, (both used)

ANNAN 22 v DALZIEL 10
SATURDAY 6TH OCTOBER 2007

Photos From Game

On Saturday Annan played host to 4th placed Dalziel in Division 1 of the S.H.E National Leagues and despite a dreadful start came back to win an exciting and enthralling game at a sunny Violetbank.

In the opening minutes Annan found themselves 7 points down when, from a lineout on the 22 following a penalty award, they were driven back the full 22 metres by a superbly controlled Dalziel maul for them to cross the whitewash for a converted try. Annan were under the cosh for most of the 1st quarter as the visitors controlled the game through their forwards with some fine driving play. Fortunately Annan by this time had regrouped and by some tenacious defence thwarted several drives to the line. Annan were penalised several times in this period, two of the awards were in kickable positions but the visiting kicker was only successful with one to take Dalziel into a 10 point lead.

In the 2nd quarter Annan began to gain the upper hand with some fine forward driving play of their own allied with some sparking handling by the backs which began to open up the Dalziel defences. From a penalty award just inside the visiting half centre Michael Griffin took a quick tap, passed to the ever alert No 7 Ewan Braid who made inroads into the visiting 22 where, from the ensuing ruck, scrum half Mark Clark supplied stand off Niall Smith with quick ball who returned the favour with a delightful inside pass to the scrum half who sprinted in to score between the posts. Centre Craig McCann added the extras to take Annan within 3 points of their visitors. On the stroke of half time Craig McCann brought the scores level when he converted a penalty award. Half time score Annan 10 Dalziel 10.

In the second half, the visiting forwards having put a great effort into their first half display began to visibly wilt allowing their hosts to gain the upper hand in the set piece play. Annan were now playing with the sun on their backs and played some exciting possession rugby with the backs making some fine angled runs in attack. Annan harassed their visitors with some ‘in their face’ defence which allowed them to turn over ball on several occasions.

Annan’s second try was reminiscent of Dalziel’s try in the first half. From a penalty award Annan decided to forgo a kick at goal and instead went for a kick to the corner. From the ensuing lineout the initial drive was halted some 3 metres short of the line but from the ruck prop Steve Kelly picked up and drove over the line to score. The conversion was missed. Annan were by now in complete command and continued to take play deep into the Dalziel half but stalwart defence by the visiting team thwarted the attacks on numerous occasions. Eventually however those defences were breached when in an almost carbon copy of Steve Kelly’s try Annan again drove from a lineout following a penalty award which was again stopped metres from the line. This time however the ball was whipped out to stand off Niall Smith who although stopped short of the line stretched over the line to score. Craig McCann this time added the extra two points. Annan, realising time was short continued to attack in the hope of adding the bonus point 4th try but time ran out and the whistle sounded for no side and Annan had completed a good days work in obtaining four valuable points.

Despite the worrying opening spell this was a better performance by the Annan squad following their disappointing 2nd half display against Langholm the previous week. Both forwards and backs had excellent games with the Annan backrow of Blower, Braid and Scott the pick of the bunch.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers (Capt), S Kelly, J Nelson, G Hogg, B Blower, E Braid, M Scott, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffen, A Halliday, K Jones Replacements: R Gracie, G Smith (both used), J Callaghan (not used)

LANGHOLM 27 v ANNAN 17
SATURDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER 2007

Annan started this local derby in great form. The first ten minutes belonged to the visitors with Langholm being forced back by decisive powerful running by both the Annan forwards and backs. Annan missed a long range penalty before on a rare occasion towards the Annan line Langholm also missed. On 12 minutes the pressure told. From a scrum ten metres out the ball was fed right and Alex Dunbar went over to score. Craig McCann added the conversion.

Keith Davidson the Langholm stand off had some nice breaks and deft kicks to relieve the pressure but it was only delaying the inevitable. The Annan forwards were in charge and were producing quality ball for the backs and Langholm did well to repel the attacks. On twenty eight minutes, from a lineout, good quality ball was fed to Dunbar who punched through the middle and when he was stopped the ball was fed right where Mike Scott crashed over to score. McCann added the extras.

With the half coming to an end, McCann made a clean break down the blind side, fed inside to Jones who cut left and fired a long pass to Callaghan. Unfortunately the winger couldn't hold on to the ball and the chance was lost. The last play of the half resulted in Langholm being awarded a penalty which was taken and the half ended on Langholm 3 Annan 14.

Annan were worthy leaders at this stage as Langholm did not have an answer to the dynamic running of the backs and the aggressive driving play of the forwards. The second half started poorly for Annan with the kick off being knocked on. From the resulting pressure, Annan were off side and Jardine made no mistake with the kick. Langholm were a changed team now and were gaining the upperhand at the breakdown. This resulted in a try and a penalty in quick succession taking the score to Langholm 16 Annan 14.

A long distance McCann penalty put Annan back infront but that was as good as it got for Annan. The Langholm forwards were producing quality ball for the backs and Davidson was using his cultured left boot to pin Annan back. A penalty, a drop goal and a try followed to seal the win. In an attempt to salvage a bonus point, a late McCann penalty went wide. Final score Langholm 27 Annan 17

To use a well worn cliche, this was definitely a game of two halves. In the first, Annan played some lovely rugby and the intensity was something that the home team was struggling to cope with. The second was a different story with the Langholm forwards denying Annan the quality ball they enjoyed in the first. The number of turn overs Annan gave up in the second half also made life very difficult.

Overall Langholm deserved their win for their second half performance but Annan can take positives from their first half display. The last few games between these two teams have been dour forward battles, but this was an open game with both teams willing to move the ball. The return match at Violetbank should be worth waiting for.

For the record, on sixty five minutes Kevin Jones left the field with a damaged shoulder with Alex Halliday coming on to the wing and Andrew Jancey moving to full back. Late on Graham Smith came on, returning from injury to replace John Nelson and Ryan Gracie replaced Colin Warrick. Near the end Alex Dunbar also limped off with an ankle injury.

Annan : C. Warrick, P Carruthers, S Kelly, G Hogg, J Nelson, E Braid, B Blowers, M Scott, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, A Dunbar, J Callaghan, K Jones Replacements all used : G Smith, A Halliday R Gracie.

ANNAN 20 v GARNOCK 23
SATURDAY 22ND SEPTEMBER 2007

Photos From Game/Video Highlights

Although disappointed at seeing their team beaten in the final minute of the game most Annan supporters left Violetbank at the end of the game with a sense of optimism for the rest of the season. They had seen the leaders in Division 1 of the S.H.E. National Leagues given the fright of their lives by an Annan team playing with pace and no little skill for the entire 80 minutes and for long periods outplaying their opponents.

Annan started the game with purpose and immediately took the game to their visitors with some fine driving play by both forwards and backs combining well in attack. It was the visitors however who took an early lead in the 5th minute when they were awarded a penalty when the home forwards were caught handling at a ruck. Both teams had their moments in the first quarter of the game and it took Annan 18 minutes to level the score with centre Craig McCann slotting a penalty award when the Garnock backs were adjudged offside. Both teams defences were sorely tested as each strived to breach each others lines. It was the visitors however who showed why they top the league when their lively scrum half McCrorie jinked his way to the line for an unconverted try. Annan were rocked minutes later when the same player again breached the Annan defensive line with a deft chip ahead which he gathered and scored, this time the score was converted to give the visitors a 15 - 3 lead. Annan however regrouped and set about reducing the points deficit by driving play deep into the Garnock half and their pressure eventually told when from a driving maul scrum half Mark Clark released standoff Niall Smith and the ball was quickly fed through the hand of centre Alex Dunbar and scrum half Mark Clark who with a beautifully weighted pass set centre Craig McCann clear for a run to the line to score. McCann also added the extra points to take the halt time score to Annan 10 Garnock 15.

The second half started in similar fashion to the first with Annan again taking the game to their visitors and the Annan faithful did not have long to wait for something to cheer. From a lineout on the left the ball was swept across field and full back Kevin Jones coming into the line at speed set up winger Andrew Jancey who when tackled on the touchline got the ball back to Kevin Jones who scored. With hardly time to draw breath Annan scored again. From the restart the ball was kicked dead and from the resulting scrum on the half way line the ball was again swept right with full back Kevin Jones again scything through the Garnock defences. This time however he was stopped but was able to pop the ball up to wing forward Ewan Braid out of the tackle who scored to the right of the posts. Unfortunately both tries were unconverted to take the score to Annan 20 Garnock 15.

The visitors, realising they were on the verge of their first league defeat of the season, launched several attacks on the Annan line but were repulsed by some terrific defensive work by the home team. They were rewarded for their efforts however when they reduced their points deficit by three points when awarded a penalty in front of the posts. With the points difference reduced to just two points and little time left on the clock Garnock threw every thing at Annan and in the final minute of the game they got the result they wanted. Annan gave away a penalty in mid field and from the resultant lineout lineout 5 metres from the Annan line the ball was taken of the top and the Garnock prop swept round the front of the line to drive over to score the decisive score. What was so galling for the Annan side was the score came from an illegal move which unfortunately was missed by the referee. As the Garnock hooker threw the ball into the lineout he then drove Annan hooker Paul Carruthers, who was guarding the 5 metre channel, into the maul allowing free passage for his prop to score. But these things happen in the game and Annan had lost a game which they perhaps deserved to win. They had however a bonus point for their efforts which to the Annan squad as they left the field probably felt scant reward for their efforts.

This was a cracker of a game of rugby played in the main in a great spirit and if Annan can keep up this standard for the rest of the season they will certainly be playing Division 1 rugby again next year. In the forwards the back row again had a fine game and in the backs scrum half Mark Clark and full back Kevin Jones again stood out but all in all this was an excellent team performance.

Annan 1st XV: C Warrick, P Carruthers (Capt), S Kelly, J Nelson, G Hogg, B Blower, E Braid, M Scott, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, A Dunbar, J Callaghan, K Jones Replacements: G Wyllie, N Moffat, A Halliday (All used)

GREENOCK WANDERERS 6 v ANNAN 7
SATURDAY 15TH SEPTEMBER 2007

Photos From Game

Annan came away with a win on the road in a game played in miserable conditions at Fort Matilda on Saturday. The game unfortunately was a dour affair played out in an incessant drizzle and gusting wind. Both teams had their moments in the first half but both teams seemed to be having problems coming to terms with the conditions. The Annan forwards had some fine driving moments in the loose but seemed to have problems in their set piece play both in the scrum and especially in the lineout which has been one of the teams stronger set piece plays of late. Both possession and territory were evenly split between the teams in the first 40 minutes with Greenock holding sway at half time thanks to a penalty award duly converted in the 10th minute of the game conceded by the visiting forwards who were adjudged to have handled in a ruck.

Almost from the restart Annan went further behind when their hosts were awarded a further penalty for a forwards transgression at a ruck. However with the wind at their backs in the second half Annan used the elements intelligently with stand off Niall Smith driving the ball into the corner on numerous occasions. Unfortunately with Annan’s lineout functioning poorly throughout the game they were unable to capitalize on their territorial supremacy.

The turning point of the match came on 55 minutes when a catch and drive from a lineout near to the Greenock line following a penalty award Annan scrum half Mark Clark burrowing over for a try. Stand off Niall Smith converted and Annan had snatched the lead 7-6. Greenock fought back with some enterprising play and were awarded a series of penalties as Annan stymied their attacks. Three of the penalty awards were well within kicking range but much to the anguish of the large home support and to the delight of the small Annan contingent the Wanderers kicker had left his kicking boots at home and all three were missed.

Annan had several opportunities to increase their lead with centre Craig McCann just missing out with two awkward penalty awards, one shaving the upright and the second hitting the post. Indeed as the game drew to a close it was Annan that looked most likely to add to their tally and a fine move gave winger Andrew Jancey space on the left for what appeared to be a cruise into the line but the Wanderers outside centre bundled the ball carrier into touch. With that final flurry the referee blew for no side and a thankful Annan team and travelling support breathed a mighty sigh of relief.

Not one of Annan better performances with the backs lacking a cutting edge and the forwards struggling in certain aspects of their set piece play with the lineout of particular concern. Again too many penalties were conceded which if the Wanderers kicker had been on song would have resulted in a defeat. Any way a win in a win no matter how ugly it appeared but Annan will have to up their game this coming Saturday when league leaders Garnock come to town.

Annan 1st XV: C Warrick, P Carruthers (Capt), R Gracie, J Nelson, G Hogg, B Blower, E Braid, M Scott, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, A Dunbar, J Callaghan, K Jones Replacements: N Moffat, M Griffen (all used)

PRESTON LODGE 31 v ANNAN 6
SATURDAY 8TH SEPTEMBER 2007

After the previous weeks solid win over Edinburgh University at Violetbank Annan travelled to Prestonpans in optimistic mood on Saturday, and although they were without a couple of regulars due to injury they looked to build on their performance. In the first half they looked as if they were doing just that taking the game to PL at every opportunity. Despite missing a penalty awarded in the opening minutes when the home backs were penalised for encroaching at a lineout full back Craig McCann was on target 5 minutes later when the Pl backs were again penalised for being offside. The home side levelled the scores when Annan were penalised for not rolling away at a ruck but the visitors restored their lead when Craig McCann landed a further penalty awarded when the home forwards were caught handling in a ruck.

Although Annan probably had the balance of possession and territory in the first half it was the home side who scored the only try of the half when from a lineout following a penalty award the ball was spun to the outside centre Dixon to score. With the conversion added the home team went in to the interval with a 4 point lead at 10 – 6.

Annan had every reason to feel confident that they could overhaul their hosts after their first half display but it was the hosts who upped their game and in the second half Annan had to play most of the game on the back foot as PL out rucked and generally out muscled the visitors in most facets of play. PL extended their lead when they slotted a further penalty which hit the bar and flopped over. PL were now dominating the game and Annan concede a further two penalties which were converted to take the home side into a 19 -6 lead.

Annan’s defence, which had been reasonably solid for most of the game, was breached twice in the final quarter of the game. In both instances the tries originated from 5 metre lineouts following penalty awards. The Pl forwards drove from both lineouts to score and with one converted the final score read Preston Lodge 31 Annan 6.

All in all this was a disappointing result for the young Annan squad especially the high penalty count against them and the number of turnovers at rucks. These matters will no doubt will be the focus of the Annan coaches in the coming days.

Annan 1st Team: C Warrick, P Carruthers (Capt), G Wyllie, J Nelson, G Hogg, B Blower, E Braid, M Scott, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, M Griffen, J Callaghan, G Lynch, C McCann Replacements: R Gracie, N Moffat (Both used)

ANNAN 22 v EDINBURGH UNI 0
SATURDAY 1ST SEPTEMBER 2007

Photos From Game

Annan opened their Division 1 account with a solid if uninspiring win over Edinburgh University at Violetbank on Saturday in Division 1 of the S.H.E. National Leagues. With the visitors to Violetbank notoriously slow starters in the league due to the fact that they are never at full strength until their term starts later in the month and Annan without several 1st team players due to unavailability, add into the mix the first league game of the season, and you have a recipe for an exciting error strewn game played at an electric pace by two extremely youthful teams.

Annan started the game with some assured play driving play time and time again deep into the visitors’ 22 but time and time again poor handling and knock ons deprived the home team of a score when it looked easier to score than not. On a couple of occasions Annan were unable to convert pressure into points when awarded penalties but it was only a matter of time before the pressure did tell, and from a series of rucks in the University 22 scrum half Mark Clark snipped round the side of a ruck to dart into score his first National League try. Stand off Craig McCann added the extra 2 points. Although the home side continued to hold the balance of the play they were unable to breach the visiting defences for the remainder of the half but did increase their lead thanks to a penalty slotted by McCann to take the half time score to Annan 10 Edinburgh University 0.

In the second half Annan continued to dominate possession and territory but again struggled to turn pressure into points. Annan were camped on the university line for long periods but ‘white line fever’ seemed to take hold of the team as they struggled to breach the whitewash. It was prop Steve Kelly who eventually breached the line when, with the visitors trying to break out of defence, the ball was knocked forward in the tackle and Steve hacked on the loose ball over the line and with remarkable speed for a prop won the footrace to touch the ball down despite the attentions of a couple of university backs.

In the final minutes of the game, with the visitors on a rare excursion within the Annan 22, replacement winger Gavin Lynch intercepted a loose pass and set off on a race to the line. He made it to the 22 but as he was being overhauled by the university scrum half he managed to get a pass away to winger Michael Griffen who scored under the posts. With Craig McCann slotting the conversion to take the score to Annan 22 Edinburgh University the referee blew for no-side and Annan had opened their Division 1 account with a win.

All in all this was a workmanlike, if uninspiring win, by Annan. The Annan coaches will be well pleased with the teams overall fitness and general set piece play but must be concerned with the number of penalties conceded and the amount of ball turned over by the opposition at the point of contact.

The Annan back row of Bruce Blower, Michael Scott and Euan Braid were outstanding with the latter the University coach’s man of the match.

Annan Team: C Warrick (Capt), S Wyllie, S Kelly, J Nelson, G Hogg, B Blower, E Braid, M Scott, M Clark, C McCann, A Jancey, J Callaghan, A Dunbar, M Griffen, K. Hogg. Replacements: R Gracie, G Lynch, M Carpenter (all used)

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