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Violetbank Tourny

ANNAN 15 v DUMFRIES 19
9TH MAY 2009

Match Photos/Video Highlights

Nearly two months after the scheduled completion of their fixtures, Annan and Dumfries played out the final scenario of their Scottish Hydro Electric Division One campaigns in an interesting local derby at Violetbank. Dumfries arrived already promoted into Premier 3 and Annan had done enough in recent weeks to secure their survival in National One with an away victory at Cambuslang and a draw at East Kilbride. There was, however, the AA MacPherson Memorial Trophy at stake and a good crowd was in attendance for the last game of a long season.

With barely time to blink, Dumfries had scored a try. The Annan forwards failed to gather a Hiddleston kick-off, scrum half Brown scooped up the loose ball and fed through quick hands for winger Farquhar to touch down in the corner. Only fifteen seconds on the clock! Two minutes later and Niall Smith fired home the first of his penalties to make the score 3-5. Annan began driving into the heart of the Dumfries defence, with Number 8 John Nelson to the fore, and were awarded a second penalty which Smith drilled through the wind to give Annan a 6-5 lead. The first half belonged very much to the home side, with Annan looking sharper than their Park Farm opponents and they also had the lion’s share of possession, with the forwards being on top in the loose.

The scoreboard ticked over with penalties to both teams for unnecessary infringements, Hiddleston slotting two for Dumfries and Smith responding with another for Annan. Dumfries led 11-9 at half time, with Annan ruing the fact that they could not convert pressure into try-scoring opportunities.

The second half became a more scrappy affair as the weather deteriorated. The atrocious conditions caused both teams to make mistakes and Annan seemed to have lost a bit of their first half fluidity. Not only that, the wind had now dropped, nullifying Annan’s advantage. The killer blow came when a brisk move down the right by Dumfries saw Annan run out of cover defence and Farquhar again scored in the corner. Smith narrowed the gap to 12-16 with another penalty, Hiddleston extended the Dumfries lead with a penalty of his own and the Annan stand off had the final say when he converted his fifth penalty of the afternoon to make the final score 15-19.

Niall Smith was the Magnox North “Man of the Match”, not only for his kicking but for keeping the team going forward at Dumfries for the whole match. Kevin Jones caught everything and made big yards, John Nelson was excellent in his new No. 8 role and Ewan Braid had another super game. A good performance by Annan, but another couple of moments of slackness had cost them dearly.

Annan Team: C Warrick, P Carruthers (c), M Carpenter; G Hogg, W Henderson; D Barnes, E Braid, J Nelson; A Jancey, N Smith (S Haren); A Copland (S Haren)(C Bell), M Griffin, A Halliday, G Lynch; K Jones.

CAMBUSLANG 14 v ANNAN 16
2ND MAY 2009

Match Photos

Annan traveled up to Cambuslang knowing that this was likely to be a make or break game for the season, and in the first half the nerves certainly showed. However, in the end they ground out a well deserved win which should guarantee 1st Division rugby next season.

Sunshine and a breeze greeted the teams at Coats Park, but the game got off to a nervy start with both teams probably more afraid of making a mistake than playing exciting rugby. Annan had the better of early possession, but were in generous mood, losing the ball frequently in the loose or making errors at crucial times. Eventually, on 20 minutes, Annan were awarded a penalty in front of the posts when Cambus went over the top, and Niall Smith converted. Annan had no time to savour their lead, as the Cambus right winger was able to run in from half way, past ineffectual tackling, to score under the posts. The conversion put Annan behind 3-7, and so it remained at half time. Annan did have one chance to pull back, but a Smith penalty from half way bounced back from the cross bar.

It was all or nothing for Annan in the second half, and they just did enough to warrant the win. Early in the second half Annan worked the ball into the Cambuslang half, and after a series of rucks near the line, the ball was moved left to centre Michael Griffin who somehow got through a gap and had a clear run to the posts. Smith’s conversion gave Annan a 10-7 lead. With Annan enjoying the better possession, Cambuslang were caught offside outside their 22, and Smith extended Annan’s lead to 13-7, but Cambuslang took the lead again when their left winger again exposed Annan defensive frailities and ran up the wing and round to the posts. The conversion put Annan down 13-14. Again Cambus strayed offside within their own half, and Smith was able to restore Annan’s lead at 16-14. For Annan supporters the rest of the game was spent looking at the clock, and as full time approached, Cambuslang had their only real pressure on the Annan line. Fortunately they were penalized for holding on, and after quick consultation with the referee, Smith put the ball in touch and the game was over.

This was a nervy game all round, but on the strength of their second half performance Annan certainly deserved to win over a stuffy Cambuslang side. In a game where everyone had to play their part, well done to Michael Griffin for his try, and to Niall Smith for his winning kicks. Next week Dumfries visit Annan for the last game of the season, and will prove a much tougher handful.

Annan team: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, M. Carpenter, G. Hogg, J. Nelson, D. Barnes, E. Braid, G. Smith, A. Jancey, N. Smith, A. Copland, M. Griffin, A. Halliday, J. Bigham, K. Jones. Replacements used G. Lynch, C. Bell.

ANNAN 0 v HOWE OF FIFE 38
25TH APRIL 2009

On Saturday, at Violetbank, Annan played host to Division 1 champions Howe of Fife who showed, in their 1st half display just why they are undefeated over the last two seasons. Their fast attacking brand of rugby was probably the best display by a National League team seen at Violetbank. It has to be said in mitigation that the home team looked a little jaded after their efforts in their mid week game against Langholm and at times in the 1st half were left chasing shadows. Howe scored 5 tries, converting 3, before half time taking the half time score to Annan 0 Howe of Fife 31.

The omens were not looking good for the home side for a second half comeback but with a backs to the wall approach to their defensive requirements and the aid of the most horrendous weather conditions ever experienced at Violetbank which saw thunder, lighting, torrential rain and hale sweep across the pitch for most of the half Annan kept their visitors at bay. One lapse in their defenses did see Howe score the only points on the half with a converted try to take the final score to Annan 0 Howe of Fife 38.

All in all this was a game which Annan were not expected to win given their visitors’ considerable reputation and the home side found it difficult to deal with a back row which were able to hoover up any loose ball and had an unerring ability to turn over ball at rucks. The only parity Annan had was in the set piece play, but even there the scrums and lineouts creaked under the visitors’ pressure. There is little doubt that Howe will have any difficulty maintaining their standing in Premier 3 next season and in fact it will be most surprising if they are not standing on the brink of Premier 2 rugby this time next season.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers, (C), M Carpenter, G Hogg, J Nelson, E Braid, D Barnes, G Smith, A Jancey, N Smith, A Copland, M Scott, M Griffen, S Wyllie, K Jones Replacements: C Bell, J Bigham, A Halliday.

LANGHOLM 18 v ANNAN 7
22ND APRIL 2009

A re-arranged midweek league fixture at Milntown saw Annan begin the game in adventurous fashion and taking the game to the home side. Annan had the better of the opening exchanges and scored a wonderful try when stand off Niall Smith chipped through for full back Kevin Jones to join the line at speed and touch down with ease. That set the scene for a period of good Annan pressure play, but Langholm's Colin Jardine pulled back three points with a penalty before half time.

Langholm came into the game strongly in the second half and the difference between the teams was scrum half David Irving who scored two good tries, with a Cubbon penalty taking the final score to 18-7 to the home time. A good team effort from Annan, although some wrong options and slack tackling led to Langholm ultimately holding the upper hand in a match which Annan in the first half had looked promising.

EAST KILBRIDE 29 v ANNAN 29
18TH APRIL 2009

Match Photos

Annan travelled to Torrance House on Saturday to take on East Kilbride who are one place above them in Division 1 of the S.H.E. National Leagues. On a fine sunny afternoon both teams provided the supporters with a display of end to end rugby which although full of errors was nevertheless an exciting contest.

Annan started the brighter of the two teams and within 10 minutes were rewarded with the opening score. From a tap penalty in the East Kilbride 22 centre Alex Halliday broke through the first line of defence fed the ball to winger Andy Copland who when tackled went to ground and from the ensuing ruck scrum half Andrew Jancey saw a huge gap in the home defences and broke for the line and scored between the posts. Stand off Niall Smith added the extra points. Annan continued to press the home defences but were unable to make the vital breakthrough. In the second quarter it was the home side who had the bulk of the possession and following a successful penalty award they were awarded a penalty try following a drive by the home forwards which was stopped just short of the line. The visiting cover defence was again breached just before half time when in a sweeping move the ball was fed along the home back line with their winger scoring in the right corner. An excellent conversion from the touchline took the home side in to the half time break with a healthy 17-7 lead.

After the restart Annan were guilty of a lack of discipline and gave away a plethora of penalties but it was the visitors who benefited from a penalty award which Niall Smith landed to reduce the points deficit to 7. Annan then had a bit of a purple patch when firstly on the hour mark Andrew Jancey charged down a kick, gathered the ball and made an electrifying break towards the home line. When he was about to be overhauled he passed to young hooker Callum Bell who completed the move with a fine try made more special for Callum as it was his first 1st XV try. The visitors then re-took the lead when from a ruck following a lineout Niall Smith fed his inside centre Alex Halliday who in turn fed outside centre Michael Griffen who burst through to score beside the post which took the score to East Kilbride 17 Annan 22.

The home side then had a little purple patch of their own when following a defensive muddle in the Annan 22, when the visiting backs tried to run the ball out of defence the ball was turned over and the hosts scored in the corner to take the score to 22 all. The visiting defences were again caught out and East Kilbride ran in a further converted try to take the score to 29-22. With the clock running down Annan made one last surging drive towards the home line and in the dying seconds of the game centre Michael Griffen found himself driven over to score. Niall Smith then landed a magnificent touchline conversion to tie the game. With both teams scoring 4 tries each team earned 3 points for their battling draw.

All in all this was another improved performance by the Annan 1st XV and another 3 points towards warding off the relegation threat which has been hanging over the club in recent months. Annan are now 11 points clear of 2nd bottom club Cambuslang. Both Clubs have 4 games left to play with Annan having to play Langholm (A) (Wed 22nd April), Howe of Fife (H) (Sat 25th April), Cambuslang (A) Sat 2nd May and Dumfries (H) 9th May.

Annan 1st XV: C Warrick, C Bell, M Carpenter, G Hogg, J Nelson, E Braid, D Barnes, G Smith, A Jancey, N Smith, S Wyllie, A Halliday, M Griffen, A Copland, K Jones. Replacements: M Scott.

ANNAN 19 v BERWICK 25
11TH APRIL 2009

Match Photos/Video Highlights

With unavailability and injuries upsetting Annan’s pre-match plans, this was always going to be a big test for the Violetbank side in their quest for points in the basement area of National Division One. It was clear from the kick-off, though, that Annan were up for this challenge against a powerful looking Berwick side. Straight away, they were driving at the heart of the visitors’ defence and recycling the ball well, leading to an early penalty which was narrowly missed by stand off Smith.

Both sides were committed to fast, attacking rugby and full back Copland went on a great burst but was held up over the line. The Annan forwards were getting to the breakdown at pace, scrum half Jancey was sniping at the opposition and Annan were playing with more panache and determination than of late. Berwick it was, though, who started the scoreboard ticking over. Following a penalty which hit the post, their stand off scored with a drop goal.

The lively Berwick backs were well shackled most of the time by an excellent Annan defence, but Annan hit a bad patch in the closing ten minutes of the first half. With full back Copland unlucky to find himself in the sin bin for a technical infringement, Berwick ran in three quick tries – all on the Annan right wing. First, the visitors’ centre Young exploited gaps to allow winger Douglas, who always looked a class act, to touch down in the corner. Despite Niall Smith hauling back three points from a penalty, Annan were caught flat-footed again when left wing Douglas sold a dummy and carved his way through the Annan defence for an excellent score. Soon after, slick interpassing and a couple of missed tackles let full back Hill in for Berwick’s third try. Annan were far from down and out and made their intentions clear after the break, with Graham Smith charging 30 yards towards the Berwick line and Andrew Jancey could well have scored shortly afterwards. The Violetbank side were dealt a cruel blow when full back Hill latched on to a pass from half way to outstrip the Annan defence for Berwick’s fourth try fifteen minutes after the restart. With Annan 22 points adrift, even the most optimistic were not prepared for the battling performance to follow. The game was being played at a cracking pace and when Niall Smith went on a great run, the support runners weren’t there so it was left to the classy stand off to take it on himself and score a wonderful try with four Berwick defenders failing to stop him. His conversion and a subsequent penalty narrowed the gap to just six points and the scene was set for a nail-biting finale. Annan threw everything at Berwick and, had they not knocked on just short of the Berwick line in the final move of the match, they could have squeezed a result.

This was a tremendous game of rugby played at a cracking pace and every Annan player deserves credit, none more so than Andy Render and Neil Halliday who stepped into the breach in Annan’s hour of need. The forwards were immense and set the tone by playing with a determination and passion which was a credit to the jersey. In the backs, Andy Copland was frequently in the thick of the action but it was stand off Niall Smith, the sponsors’ man of the match, who controlled play admirably with astute touch kicking and, of course, scored all the Annan points.

A vital bonus point gained by Annan, then, and five tough league matches coming up where more of Saturday’s battling qualities will be required in large measure.

Annan Squad: C Warrick, C Bell, M Carpenter, G Hogg, J Nelson, E Braid, D Barnes, G Smith, A Jancey, N Smith, A Render, S Wyllie, D Wyllie, J Bigham, A Copland. Replacements: N Halliday, A Halliday

ANNAN 13 v GLASGOW ACCIES 22
4TH APRIL 2009

Match Photos

Annan’s dismal run of results continued with this defeat in the Scottish Hydro Electric Shield second round match at Violetbank. Not that the result was a huge surprise, with Annan third bottom of National 1 and Accies fourth top of National 2, but the result was nevertheless disappointing for players and spectators in the way that the game unfolded.

In a well contested first half Annan appeared to have just about got the measure of a lively Accies team, without ever dominating, changing round with a 13-5 advantage, and hopes were raised by a good third quarter performance. However a brace of tries in as many minutes by the speedy Accies backs turned the game on its head, raised confidence in the visitors’ ranks and just about ended any hopes Annan had of getting a result. Just before the final whistle Accies ran in a further try to seal a win which, while well deserved in the end, had not looked likely twenty minutes earlier.

Annan played towards the pavilion in the first half, with the benefit of a diagonal wind, and quickly capitalized when Accies were penalized for not releasing, Craig McCann slotting the penalty. A second but more difficult attempt was missed, before the Accies backs showed how dangerous they could be. They burst through the midfield and speedy lock Cruz Kawakameni looked to have scored, but a forward pass was called. Enjoying a good spell, Accies scored shortly after. Moving up the left side, Kawakameni again got away, and put winger Ross Chassells away to score in the corner, and Annan were 5-3 down. Annan continued to have plenty of possession in the first half, but their reshaped back line struggled to find any gaps in a resolute defence. It was left to the forwards, and old campaigner Colin Warrick, to put Annan ahead again. A series of rucks on the Accies line eventually yielded a try for Warrick, who burrowed over as he used to do so often in the past. McCann’s conversion was good, and Annan led 10-5. Annan were unlucky not to score again as they applied pressure, but a further penalty success by McCann near half time gave Annan a 13-5 advantage at the break.

With the visitors now benefiting from the cross wind, the third quarter saw the game swing to and fro, Annan’s best chance being a McCann penalty which hit the post, but midway through the half came that double whammy for Annan. Accies burst down the blind side into the Annan 22, and that man Kawakameni – a real thorn in Annan flesh – took the pass to score. The conversion was missed, but shortly after centre Taylor punished ineffectual tackling to score another. This time the conversion was made, and Accies had a lead of 17-13. With the new lease of life provided by events, and against a tiring Annan, there was some hard defending to do for the home side, but just before the end the Accies centres again got clean through, this time at the posts. Though the conversion was missed, the game was up for Annan.

Not a good day for Annan then, and it will be Glasgow Accies who make the journey to Premier 2 Peebles in the next round. The game went in the end to the team with the greater pace, punch and fitness. Annan now have only one target for the rest of the season, survival in National Division 1. This Saturday Berwick are the visitors to Violetbank, Annan’s best chance of a home win of the three remaining home games.

Annan team: K. Jones; A. Copland, A. Halliday, A. Jancey, M. Griffin; N. Smith, C. McCann; C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, M. Carpenter, G. Hogg, J. Nelson, D. Barnes, E. Braid, G. Smith. Subs – S. Wyllie, J. Bigham, R. Gracie, C. Bell.

DALZIEL 31 v ANNAN 19
28TH MARCH 2009

Annan faced a tough trip to Dalziel on Saturday, with the Lanarkshire side lying in third place in National One and still in the mix for the chase for the second promotion place. Annan were hampered by the unavailability of four players, but were nevertheless determined to get the results going their way after a recent shaky run. The early periods of play looked promising for the visitors, with Annan playing solid, controlled possession rugby and tackling resolutely in defence. The scoreboard ticked over in Annan’s favour for most of the first half, with the home side being pressured into conceding penalties. Annan were up in the faces of the Dalziel side and their misdemeanours at rucks and on the offside line were punished by the boot of scrum half Craig McCann who slotted four penalties in the opening half hour to give Annan a heartening 12-0 lead. With Graham Smith and Ewan Braid making an impact at the breakdown, there was a strong sense of optimism in the Annan ranks and a burst by Michael Scott almost led to a try, with the ball being knocked on not far short of the Dalziel line. Had Annan scored at this point, the ultimate result may well have been a lot different. However, Dalziel fought back and following a line-out on halfway a series of mauls led to the ball being taken on by their No. 8 and released to winger Czarnoki who scored under the posts.

A penalty to Dalziel early in the second period gave the home side a slender 13-12 lead, but Annan were still very much in the game. It was an evenly matched third quarter and Annan had competed excellently for 60 minutes before Dalziel’s superior fitness began to tell as their forwards surged over the Annan line for a try which was disputed because of a possible double movement. However, 20-12 it was and Annan were now chasing the game. A soft try followed which was eminently avoidable. Full back Simpson kicked through and it looked like an easy clean-up job for the Annan backs in attendance. Unbelievably, they were caught napping and Duguid nipped in to get an unlikely touchdown. With Dalziel now chasing the all important bonus point, they stepped up a notch, prop Lewis burst three tackles and found full back Simpson who raced in under the posts. In the closing minutes, Annan produced a first class try when Alex Halliday gathered the ball in his own 22, covered almost the entire length of the pitch and fed winger Andrew Jancey for an excellent score converted by McCann.

In the end, Annan’s efforts were not enough despite having played well three quarters of the match. Lack of match sharpness and falling off tackles contributed to Annan’s downfall, as did a malfunctioning lineout, but they can take heart from this fighting performance where they really played for the jersey and for each other. The shape of play was a huge improvement on the disappointing performance against Edinburgh University and Annan can take great heart from that.

Annan team – C Warrick, C Bell, M Carpenter; J Nelson, G Hogg; C Muir, E Braid, G Smith; C McCann, N Smith; A Jancey, M Scott (C), A Halliday, J Bigham (M Griffin); A Copland.

ANNAN 0 v EDINBURGH UNI 13
21ST MARCH 2009

Match Photos

With Annan sitting precariously close to the relegation zone a win was essential to ease the worries and although Annan took a simple direct approach to the game they were unable to break down a determined and well organised University defence. In the early exchanges the home forwards drove time and time again into the heart of the visitor’s defences but their efforts were undone on several occasions when the ball was spread wide as the visiting backrow, in the main, read and destroyed their host’s attacking moves. The visitors with ball in hand were a potent attacking force and it took some stalwart and determined defensive work from Annan to blunt the University forays into the home 22. Annan’s defensive wall looked to be impenetrable but on the one occasion the defensive line was stretched and a nicely timed inside break by the visiting inside centre set up his outside centre for an easy run in to score a converted try.

Annan continued to strive to drive play into the visitor’s half but time and time again their efforts were thwarted by the well organised defence of the visitors. Annan’s lack of a cutting edge in attack was glaringly exposed as the visitors easily dealt with the home attacking threats. Annan had a chance to reduce the deficit when awarded a penalty but scrum half Craig McCann’s attempt went tantalisingly outside the upright. The only other score of the half went to the visitors when they were awarded a penalty when the home backs were caught offside at a ruck. Half time score Annan 0 Edinburgh University 10.

The second half proved to be a mirror image of the first without the try as both combatants nullified each others’ attacks. In fact the half became a bit of a defensive masterclass by both teams. The visitors did extend their lead by a further 3 points when awarded a further penalty for an Annan discretion at a ruck which took the final score to Annan 0 Edinburgh University 13.

All in all this was a disappointing result for the Annan side which, with results elsewhere not going Annan’s way, has left the club with a bit of a hill to climb to ensure that Division 1 rugby remains at Violetbank next season. Over the piece Annan showed glimpses of what they were capable off but also exposed their lack of cutting edge in attack. Annan now have 7 games left in the league 6 of which are against teams who are above them so they have an immense amount of work to do in the next couple of months.

Annan 1st XV: C Warrick, P Carruthers (C), R Gracie, J Nelson, G Hogg, D Barnes, E Braid, M Carpenter, C McCann, N Smith, A Jancey, M Griffin, S Wyllie, J Bigham, K Jones. Replacements: D Wyllie, C Muir, A Copland

EDINBURGH UNI 44 v ANNAN 0
7TH MARCH 2009

When things go wrong, sometimes they go horribly wrong. This was indeed a game that Annan will want to forget quickly and get back on track for the remainder of the league campaign. Annan’s pre-match plans were disrupted by injuries and illness which meant they were without Niall Smith, Graeme Hogg and Graham Smith and when young scrum half Mark Clark left the pitch after only four minutes with a dislocated shoulder, the omens were not good and further injuries meant that Callum Muir and Colin McCann were pressed into service for most of the match.

The University team was full of pace and their strong-running backs certainly knew how to exploit the gaps that opened up frequently in the Annan defence. There were four tries for the home side in a first half where Annan competed well but were guilty of slack tackling and marking. At half time Annan were 0-24 down and left with a mountain to climb. Strange to say, though, Annan actually played well for large chunks of the match. Michael Scott was always in the thick of the action, there were good carries again from Ryan Gracie and Callum Muir fitted in well.

The team can certainly not be faulted for lack of effort, but all too often ball was coughed up and tackles missed which the students took full advantage of. A further two tries and a drop goal put the seal on a comfortable victory for the University side and sent Annan homewards licking their wounds.

Stand off McGhee was outstanding for the University team along with No. 8 Jamie Clegg and full back Jamie Niblock who scored a hat trick of tries. Certainly a day to forget for Annan, but they can take heart from the fact that they were competitive for much of the match and all of the forwards put in a good shift. Annan could well have scored at least three tries of their own, but lacked composure at the crucial moment. Missed tackles and questionable marking in defence was their downfall and that can only improve, given that defence has been one of Annan’s strong points for much of the season.

Team: C Warrick (Colin McCann), P Carruthers, R Gracie; J Nelson, M Carpenter; D Barnes, E Braid, M Scott; M Clark (C Muir), C McCann; J Bigham, M Griffin, A Halliday, A Jancey; K Jones.

ANNAN 38 v PRESTON LODGE 3
1ST MARCH 2009

Match Photos/Match Highlights

After a good win at Caithness the previous week in the Shield, Annan hoped to record a much needed league win over bottom club Preston Lodge – indeed a win for Annan was essential, and a bonus point highly desirable. In the end Annan achieved both, with something to spare, and although there were mistakes there were also glimpses of the open and fluid play that has been a hallmark of Annan in recent seasons.

The first few minutes of this game gave little indication of what was to come, as Annan lost their first three lineouts, gave away penalties and found themselves three points down – PL capitalizing on an Annan offside. However Annan quickly settled, and took the lead when stand off Niall Smith charged down a PL clearance and gathered to slide in at the posts. Craig McCann had an easy job with the conversion. The Annan pressure continued, forcing PL into conceding penalties for not rolling away or for offside, and McCann put over two good kicks to give Annan a 13-3 lead, then another to further stretch the lead. Annan’s second try came from scrum half Mark Clark. Hooker Paul Carruthers broke away from a ruck and set off through a defensive gap a mile wide, before Clark took over to finish. McCann successfully converted, and Annan had the game wrapped up at 23-3 at half time.

Though the game was won, the bonus point was not. Though three further tries ensured the bonus eventually, Annan’s anxiety to keep the ball alive and spread play to the wings led to some handling errors and wrong options, so that it was with some relief that Annan got the fourth try. Fullback Kevin Jones it was who got the third, following up a chip by Mark Clark into the PL goal area he beat the defence to the touch. After what seemed like an age, but probably was not, it fell to young Dwayne Barnes to score the fourth – charging down an attempted clearance, and with the presence of mind on falling to the ground to reach over his shoulder, grab the ball and place it firmly over the line. With the pressure off, Alex Halliday got the final try, put clear when the ball was safely put through the hands to the right.

Second half conversion attempts all slid wide. As the game moved to its end, one felt Annan could have scored almost at will, PL having spent their energy in second half defence – and credit to them for battling to the end.

Encouraging signs, then for Annan, but not all teams will be as generous as Preston Lodge. If some of the looser play can be cut out, and the lineout improved, Annan can approach their remaining games with confidence, beginning this week at Edinburgh University – a much improved side from last season.

For Annan there was injury to Graeme Hogg in the first half, Michael Carpenter substituting, while Stewart Wyllie replaced Alex Halliday late on. Well done John Nelson for taking on the role of Annan’s big man, and to the back row for their tireless work. Behind the scrum old hands Smith and Jones were reliable as ever.

Annan team: K. Jones; J. Bigham, A. Halliday, C. McCann, A. Jancey; N. Smith, M. Clark; C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, R. Gracie, J. Nelson, G. Hogg, D. Barnes, E. Braid, M. Scott, M. Carpenter, S. Wyllie, C. Bell.

CAITHNESS 6 v ANNAN 13
21ST FEBRUARY 2009

Match Photos

Facing the most northerly club on the Scottish mainland, Annan knew that this encounter at Thurso in the Scottish Hydro Electric National Shield competition would be a difficult one, with the home side having recently lost narrowly to Premier Two table-toppers Dundee High School FP and having a very impressive home record in National League Division Two. With Annan really firing in the pre-match warm up, it was surprising that the forwards turned in an under-par performance in the first half, making basic unforced mistakes, taking wrong options and allowing Caithness into the game. It has to be said, too, that the line-out was not functioning well and all of these factors allowed Caithness to get into the game.

Nevertheless, Annan drew first blood with an excellently worked try on 25 minutes. A quick free kick from scrum half Clark and a bullocking 20 yard run by lock John Nelson who was stopped just short of the whitewash led to the ball being recycled and swiftly dispatched across the back line for winger Alex Halliday to touch down in the corner. Annan were unable to capitalise on this lead and Caithness managed to narrow the lead before half time with a penalty from full back Mackay easily slotted when Annan had strayed needlessly offside in their own 22 metres. At 5-3 in the lead at the halfway mark, Annan did not look entirely comfortable and Caithness had grounds for optimism.

The half-time team talk had the desired effect and the Annan performance was much improved in the second period. The continuity play was effective and they put together some impressive passages of play. One such sortie into Caithness territory saw play going through ten phases, before the ball was killed on the Caithness line, leading to their replacement being sin binned and McCann firing over the resultant penalty to stretch the lead to 8-3. A try at this point would have been a much fairer end-result for Annan’s pressure. One of the interesting tussles in this match was that of the scrum halves. Kris Hamilton of Caithness was recently selected for the Scotland Under 19 squad, but it was his Annan opposite number Mark Clark who caught the eye with his sharpness and darting breaks and he was at the heart of the best of the Annan moves. Caithness reduced the deficit to 8-6 when Annan gave away another silly penalty and they must have fancied their chances given the tightness of the scoreline.

With the Annan defence resolute, the match was decided by an interception try from substitute James Bigham who just had the necessary gas to reach the opposition line. Caithness threw everything at Annan in a desperate late challenge, but the Annan defensive work was top class. Dwayne Barnes had another fine match with some scything tackles, there were good carries by prop Ryan Gracie, Niall Smith marshalled the back line and tackled superbly and Michael Scott led his troops admirably. In the end, a good result for Annan after and a 700 mile round trip was rewarded with progress into the next round of the National Shield competition on April 4th.

Annnan team: M Carpenter, C Warrick, R Gracie; J Nelson (C Bell), G Hogg; D Barnes, E Braid, M Scott (c); A Halliday, C McCann, M Griffin (J Bigham), A Jancey; K Jones. Sub not used – E Currie

ANNAN 9 v MURRAYFIELD WANDERERS 16
14TH FEBRUARY 2009

This was Annan’s first league game in Division 1 of the S.H.E. National Leagues since 22nd November and it was against Murryfield Wanderers who beat them away 17-3 a fortnight ago on 31st January. Annan were hoping for a more successful outcome at home.

Murrayfield Wanderers started briskly and had Annan defending their territory for most of the first quarter of the game. Pressure, however, brought a number of penalties for the visitors of which two were converted to give Murrayfield a 6 point lead.

Annan began to get into the game and had the better of the second quarter and it was their turn to put pressure into points with the visitors forced to give a way a string of penalties. Centre Craig McCann slotted three of the awards to give Annan a 9-6 lead. Annan game close to scoring towards the end of the half when centre Michael Griffen was brought down a metre short of the line but Annan lost the advantage when he was penalised for not releasing the ball. Half time score Annan 9 Murrayfield Wanderers 6.

Annan’s hopes of early points in the second half came to nothing. Though the game continued to be closely contested, Annan were unable to mount any serious threat to the Wanderers line and it was the visitors who scored the only try of the game when their centre found a gap in Annan’s midfield defence and when tackled offloaded a neat pass to his winger who ran in behind the posts to score making the conversion a formality. At 13 – 9 down there was plenty of time for Annan to salvage the game. However the match petered out in a midfield struggle with the only further points coming from a Wanderer’s penalty.

Annan were disappointed to lose this home game, albeit gaining a losing bonus point, but there were signs of the rustiness inevitable after such a fractured winter programme.

Annan team: C Warrick, P Carruthers, R Gracie, G Hogg, J Nelson, B Barnes, E Braid, M Scott, M Clark, N Smith, J Bigham, C McCann, M Griffen, A Jancey, K Jones. Repacements: M Carpenter, A Copland, S Wyllie (all used)

MURRAYFIELD WANDERERS 17 v ANNAN 3
31ST JANUARY 2009

Match Photos

This was Annan’s first league match since November 22nd due to match cancellations and, with Murrayfield pitches under renovation, both teams were transported out to Dalkeith for this fixture. Although underfoot conditions were perfect, conditions were difficult with a strong, icily cold wind blowing down the pitch. Annan opted to play into the elements in the first half and their tactics were spot on against a powerful looking Murrayfield unit.

With the ball in hand, Annan played tightly controlled possession rugby and thwarted the home side with tremendous tackling at the first line of defence. With patient build-ups, Annan created scoring chances and as the half wore on, looked the likeliest to score, not least when winger Jancey went on a searing run before being stopped short. It was Murrayfield, though, who drew first blood on 30 minutes when Gillies burst through and offloaded to lock Sutherland for Murrayfield’s first try which was converted. Annan were playing impressive rugby at this point and, after driving time and again into the Murrayfield 22, concerted pressure on the home line led to scrum half Mark Clark getting the touch down, only for the referee to be unsighted.

Half-time score 0-7, and Annan had played excellently in the first half, soaking up all the Murrayfield pressure and hitting them on the counterbreak. Annan were confident of grinding out a positive result after the break, but the script did not go entirely to plan. With the wind at their backs, Annan had a real go at Murrayfield whose defence was resolute and when their No. 4 Gillies received the ball from a scrum and ploughed in for Murrayfield’s second try, Annan were going to need considerable composure to claw the points back. A long range penalty from McCann brought the score to 3-12, but Annan tended to stand off their opponents when up-in-their-faces tactics were required against the strong Murrayfield pack. Refereeing inconsistencies didn’t help, but Annan seemed to lack the necessary sharpness in the last 20 minutes and slow ball from rucks did not help their cause. A late 70 metres try from home centre Richards was a cruel blow and at 17-3 down all that Annan could realistically hope for was a losing bonus point. They threw everything at the Murrayfield defence and Graham Smith would certainly have scored had he not had a head-high pass to contend with.

A disappointing defeat after playing so well for most of the game, but once the match sharpness is back Annan should start to pick up points again. There were a number of good performances in the Annan jersey, none more so than from debut boy Dwayne Barnes who had an outstanding game and whose tackling was immense. This week Dumfries – it should be a cracker!

ANNAN 13 v CURRIE 69
10TH JANUARY 2009

Match Photos

The gloom & doom merchants will make much of the size of Annan’s defeat in this Round 4 of the S.H.E. Cup and although the hosts were well beaten in the end it took their Premier 1 visitors some 65 minutes to create clear water between the two sides.

Playing in near gale conditions Annan spent the first 5 minutes of the match unable to get their hands on the ball as Currie drove play deep into Annan’s 22 and it was only stalwart defence by the home team that kept their visitors from initially crossing the whitewash. The inevitable happened, however, when from a well organised series of pick and drives the visiting tight head prop Cox crashed over to score a converted try. Annan fought back, using the wind advantage, and from a penalty award in the Currie 22 centre Craig McCann slotted the award to keep Annan in contention. Currie extended their lead when from another well crafted series of rucks their forwards drove over to score an unconverted try. Annan again worked their way back into the visitor’s 22 where their efforts were again rewarded with a well struck penalty by Craig McCann to keep the home side well in contention at 6 – 12. Annan had their best spell mid way through the first half as they battled to cross the whitewash and on a couple of occasions came close but some great work by the visitor’s defences kept their line intact. It was Currie who scored next when their hard working outside centre Smith broke through the Annan defensive line and sprinted in to score. Smith converted his own try.

Undaunted, Annan kept to their task, playing their rugby in up in the faces of their visitors and knocked the visitors back towards their own goal line on several occasions. In a sustained period of possession the Annan forwards rucked their way towards the Currie line, recycled the ball well and eventually all their hard work paid off when Annan’s No 8 Michael Scott crashed in under the posts and McCann added the extras to take the score to 13-19. Craig McCann had the chance with two difficult long range penalty awards before half time to level the scores but both well struck attempts just failed. Half time score Annan 13 Currie 19

With the strengthening wind at their backs in the second half Currie spurned the obvious advantages of kicking for position and instead kept to their running game but resolute Annan defences kept the attacks at bay. Currie’s reporter described the home team’s defensive efforts as such ‘Annan appeared to have players everywhere as they put up a defensive wall of which Hadrian would have been proud.’ However Annan’s heroic efforts were breached after 65 minutes when the Currie forwards drove over to score. This score seemed to act as a catalyst to the visitors as they ran in a further seven tries four of which were converted by centre Smith. Annan to their credit battled away to the end but their energy sapping exploits had taken its toll and it was an exhausted but proud team which Captain Paul Carruthers led off the pitch at the final whistle. Annan now progress to the first round off the Shield competition.

Annan 1st XV: C Warrick, P Carruthers (C), R Gracie, G Hogg, M Carpenter, G Smith, E Braid, M Scott, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffen, J Bigham, K Jones. Replacements: D Barnes, Alex Halliday, S Murray (all used)

BRAIDHOLM 7 v ANNAN 30
20TH DECEMBER 2008

Annan would have expected to romp home in this SHE Cup third round tie, as they had done in the past against the likes of Strathclyde University, Moffat, Westdyce and Liberton. In fact they had to work hard to put the West Division 2 side out. This was due to a mixture of factors – a rusty and lacklustre display from Annan and a better than expected standard from the home side. However any criticisms of the Annan performance should be set against a day of shocks for National 1 sides. Preston Lodge went out at North Berwick, Edinburgh University went down at home to Portobello, and high-flying Dumfries scraped home at GHK. A number of other games were postponed.

The day did not go to plan from the off. Graham Smith and Alex Halliday were unavailable. The game was switched from Braidholm to Auldhouse , (Hutchesons Grammar School grounds), there was no access to the pavilion until 1.30 and the game kicked off 30 minutes late at 2pm. Nevertheless Annan seemed to ease into the game well, and with the Braidholm players straying offside in defence Craig McCann was able to slot two early penalties to give Annan a 6-0 lead. This was extended by Annan’s first try. A fine kick through by Niall Smith put a defender under pressure on his line. Kevin Jones appeared to be impeded going for the touch down, but no penalty try decision was necessary when winger James Bigham, up in support, was first to the loose ball. The conversion was missed, but at 11-0 the Annan support hoped for more quick points.

These did not come, as Braidwood matched Annan in most phases of play. They were a mixture of experienced forwards and young backs, with good performances at half back and left wing – their biggest threat. The game settled into a fairly even contest, but Annan struck again before the break. A lineout in the home 22 saw the ball whipped out to stand off Smith, whose short pass put McCann through a gap to the posts, who then converted with ease to give Annan an 18-0 half time lead.

Braidholm did even better in the second half, and put Annan under pressure at times. A mixture of good defence by Annan and handling errors by the home side prevented any score. Annan two further tries came from rather rare forays into the home half. No 8 Michael Scott got the first, probably the best try of the game, after interplay between Smith, Scott, Mark Clark and Scott again. If that one had come from half way, the final try was more straightforward. A tap penalty in the home 22 saw the ball moved quickly left and wing Andrew Jancey had space to get over in the corner. McCann converted well to make it 30-0, and that looked to be that. However with the last move of the game Braidholm got the reward their display deserved as their No 13 got through a gap and past tackles to score at the posts, allowing an easy conversion.

So not a vintage display from Annan, but at least a passage to round 4 and a visit from Currie from Premier 1. Annan will have to be much sharper for that game, doing their best to sort out lineout and scrummage gremlins, while any missed tackles are sure to be punished. For the record captain Paul Carruthers was yellow-carded near the end for an illegal tackle.

Annan team: A. Gunning, P. Carruthers, R. Gracie, J. Nelson, G. Hogg, M. Carpenter, E. Braid, M. Scott, M. Clark, N. Smith, A. Jancey, C. McCann, M. Griffin, J. Bigham (S. Murray), K. Jones.

ANNAN 33 v RHC 12
22ND NOVEMBER 2008

Video Highlights

After a few disappointing defeats to middle of the table teams, Annan rediscovered their early season form against third top RHC on Saturday, and posted their best ever win over the Edinburgh side.

It was clear from the early exchanges that Annan were up for this game. On a pitch less wet than in previous weeks, Annan opened at a pace which RHC found uncomfortable, and the visitors found themselves under pressure in their own danger zone for long periods. The Annan pressure brought two early penalty scores from centre Craig McCann. Against what is said to be the biggest pack of forwards in the league, Annan were certainly playing an open game, switching the play from one side of the field to the other, under the controlling influence of stand off Niall Smith.

Annan’s first try came from lock John Nelson. A good thrust up the right, and the ball was moved quickly left. Centre Michael Griffin took the ball close to the RHC line, and Nelson was on hand to pick up and drive over. Annan continued to test the RHC defence, and a second try was not long coming. Again the ball was taken up the right side, then moved quickly to the backs out left, where fullback Kevin Jones, coming into the line at pace, sped through a gap to the line. Annan’s next score was a successful penalty from McCann. Running hard up the left touch, wing Andrew Jancey kicked ahead and was late tackled. This resulted in Annan’s penalty and a yellow card for RHC. Annan crossed again in the first half, their pace and support play responsible. Wing James Bigham broke through the middle but was brought down short, but the ever alert Michael Scott was there to pick up and cross unopposed. McCann’s conversion made it 26-0 for Annan at half time.

Could it continue in the second half. Initially it did. A kick ahead into the RHC 22 was followed up quickly by the Annan attack, and when the defending players were unable to clear, the ball fell to Michael Scott who put flanker Graham Smith clear for the bonus try. McCann again converted, to give Annan an impregnable 33-0 lead.

Whether Annan eased off at this point, or RHC found a new determination, the remainder of the second half was much more even, and RHC managed to score two tries of their own. Keeping the ball tight when in the Annan 22, both were close range efforts from the forwards. The first came from loose head Hicks, who drove over from a ruck on the Annan line, while the second – late in the game – followed a series of drives on the Annan line. One of these was converted. In truth the second half was a fractured affair dominated by the whistle and featuring a couple of handbag incidents, but Annan did have chances too later in the game, though handling and passing let them down.

Annan could feel well satisfied with their performance. The forwards coped well against big opponents. The scrum was solid, taking one against the head. The lineout, while not perfect, supplied some good ball. The half backs Clark and Smith played with confidence, and the backs looked as though they were enjoying themselves again. This result should allow Annan to travel to East Kilbride with some confidence, even though it is only three weeks since they lost to the Lanarkshire side at Violetbank.

Match sponsors BIB Cochran man of the match went to Niall Smith, and the Annan team was:

K. Jones; J. Bigham (A. Halliday), M. Griffin, C. McCann, A. Jancey; N. Smith, M. Clark; C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, R. Gracie (A. Gunning), J. Nelson, G. Hogg, G. Smith (M. Carpenter), E. Braid, M. Scott.

ANNAN 6 v EAST KILBRIDE 17
16TH NOVEMBER 2008

Match Photos

What a difference a few months make! In the final game of last season, Annan travelled up to East Kilbride and played the opposition off the park with a display of scintillating power rugby played at pace and with no little measure of skill. Following Saturday’s defeat to a fairly ordinary East Kilbride team, Annan now find themselves third from bottom of National League One, having registered wins against only three sides – Cambuslang and Preston Lodge, who continue to occupy the bottom two places, and Langholm, where the margin was 9-8 to the Violetbank team.

Annan have not suddenly become a bad team, but when the going gets tough you sometimes wonder when the breaks are going to come. Annan started the game against East Kilbride in lively fashion and had the bulk of possession. In fact, for lengthy spells, EK were never in the Annan half. What did impress throughout the match was Annan’s set pieces. The scrum was solid and the lineout was a vast improvement on recent weeks. For a fair amount of the first half, Annan looked the stronger team, but with wrong options and slowing the ball down when it was not to our advantage, the pressure came to nothing. Against the run of play, following a good break by East Kilbride centre Simpson, and a missed tackle, winger MacDonald nipped in for the first try. A penalty by full back Craig McCann on 35 minutes was all that Annan had to show for their first half efforts and just on half-time, defensive slackness allowed second row McNiven to come through the middle of a ruck and, meeting no resistance, he touched down for a simple score. At 3-12 down, it was disappointing that Annan had had a relatively good first 20 minutes and the allowed EK to take the ascendancy.

The second half was disappointing from an Annan point of view and there seemed to be a lack of cohesion. The flowing backs play that we all know is a trademark when things are going well was noticeably absent. Following a second penalty by McCann, there were breaks – notably from Jancey, Griffin, McCann and Halliday – but they were individual bursts and the backs were not really functioning well as a unit. With more good work by the EK centres, and more missed tackles by Annan, the visitors sealed it with a third try, a late spell of Annan pressure coming to nothing.

There was a flatness of performance from Annan, too many unforced errors when there was no pressure, very little quick ball wayward passes – all of which contributed to a defeat which was disappointing. One big plus was the performance of young prop Ryan Gracie who is beginning to play with a maturity of performance way beyond his years.

Annan team: C Warrick, P Carruthers, R Gracie; G Hogg, J Nelson; M Carpenter, E Braid, M Scott; G Hogg, N Smith; A Jancey, M Griffin, A Halliday, J Bigham; C McCann Replacements: (all used) G Smith, A Copland, A Gunning

ANNAN 3 v DALZIEL 17
8TH NOVEMBER 2008

Match Photos/Video Highlights

Annan’s losing run continued on Saturday when they fell to Dalziel at Violetbank in Division 1 of the S.H.E. National Leagues. The match was moved to Annan’s second pitch at Violetbank with the main pitch left waterlogged after Friday night’s deluge. With the wind at their backs Annan started the match brightly and for the first quarter of the match the visitors were seldom allowed out of their half. The home side had a golden chance to open their account in the opening minutes when the ball was spread wide and full back Kevin Jones opened up the Dalziel defences with a finely timed run and with winger Andrew Jancey with a clear run to the line the ball was knocked on. Although Annan had the bulk of territorial advantage in the opening quarter all they had to show for it was a penalty slotted by centre Craig McCann. Dalziel, however, had settled to their task and slowly began to gain the upper hand especially in open play where their ever alert backrow began to exert pressure on any loose ball. Whilst Annan tried to keep the visitors pinned in their 22 using the wind to their advantage Dalziel patiently drove play back into the Annan half with some fine controlled driving play through their forwards. Their efforts were rewarded when Annan were penalised at a ruck for over robust play and the visitor’s, aided by the home side being marched back ten metres for some ill chosen words of advice to the referee. The award was put over by wing forward Hill to level the scores at 3 all.

Dalziel continued to dominate through their forwards but were thwarted in their efforts to increase their scoring by some determined and well organised defences by the home side and the score remained tied at 3 all at half time.

After the break the visitors had the majority of possession but play which was becoming bogged down as the teams slogged it out in the centre of the park. Dalziel began to drive play into the Annan half using the wind. From a clearance kick out of defence Annan were undone when from their lineout the ball was overthrown and the visiting No 8 Simmons drove round the rear of the lineout and after setting up a series of rucks driving towards the Annan line replacement hooker Wylie was driven over to score. The conversion was added by Hill.

Annan were now living on scraps as the visitors were controlling most facets of the play. Annan’s cause was not helped as they seemed unable to hold onto the ball giving away what little possession they had with dropped passes, knock ons and turnovers at the breakdown. Dalziel added to their lead when they were awarded a further penalty. The final nail in the proverbial coffin for Annan, came when from another lost lineout the visiting back row, in a superb move drove through the wilting home defences for the Dalziel No 8 Simmons to score between the posts Hill again converted to take the final score to Annan 3 Dalziel 17.

Last season Annan had held the indian sign over Dalziel with three wins out of three, two in the league and one in the cup, but it was evident from Saturdays performance who had travelled forward. Annan looked bereft of ideas on Saturday and lacked any sort of spark in their play something the Annan coaches and players will have to look to if they are not to find themselves battling to keep out of the relegation zone.

Annan 1st XV squad: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers (C), R Gracie, J. Nelson, G Hogg, M. Carpenter, E. Braid, M. Scott, M Clark, N. Smith, A. Jancey, C. McCann, M. Griffin, A. Halliday, K. Jones Replacements: A Gunning, A Copland (all used)

HOWE OF FIFE 55 v ANNAN 6
1ST NOVEMBER 2008

The game started on a bright dry afternoon, with Annan playing down the slope. The Annan game plan was to put early pressure on the home team and attempt to disrupt their possession. This worked reasonably well but it was not long before the talented home backs, spun the ball wide and after only five minutes, Annan found themselves seven points down.

Annan then had perhaps their best period of the game where they came away with three points from a penalty after the Howe forwards were offside at a ruck. The rest of the first half was played at a furious pace with Annan attempting to continue to pressure the home side at source.

At regular intervals however when the pressure dropped even a fraction, the home side countered with pace, determination and skill that is rarely seen at this level. With Annan being awarded a penalty right on the stroke of half time for a high tackle, the score was 19 - 6.

The second half followed much the same pattern with the home side scoring at regular intervals. One of the tries however which came from a quickly taken penalty, seemed to be at least a metre in touch.

Howe were now flying with pace from all around the team, especially from the back three, and number 6 Fedo was causing havoc with his explosive speed and power. The home defence was extremely strong and although when Annan did win ball, especially from the lineout, the attacks came to nothing. Final score Howe of Fife 55 Annan 6

A hard day at the office but the Annan side to their credit kept battling to the final whistle but were well beaten on the day.

Not many sides will come away from Cupar with even a bonus point if Howe keep playing this expansive, dynamic rugby which any home or neutral spectator would find extremely pleasing to watch.

Annan C Warrick, P Carruthers, R Gracie, J Nelson, G Smith, E Braid, M Carpenter, M Smith, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffin, K Jones. Replacements - All Used A Gunning, J Bigham, B Blower.

DUMFRIES 24 v ANNAN 10
18TH OCTOBER 2008

Match Photos/Video Highlights

A bumper crowd turned up at Park Farm on Saturday for this historic clash between local rivals Dumfries and Annan in Division 1 of the S.H.E. National Leagues. This was the first ever meeting between the two sides on league business and Annan were keen to get back on track after their defeat at Berwick.

Both sides started brightly at a dry but blusterly Park Farm and an opportunist drop goal attempt by Annan stand off Niall Smith went narrowly past the right upright in the opening minutes. Annan, however, were on the receiving end of a good Dumfries score after only seven minutes when a couple of neat offloads found centre Dobui who nipped in at the corner for a good try.

A long range penalty attempt by centre Craig McCann just failed to narrow the gap and strong Dumfries tackling continued to repel Annan’s attacks. Towards the end of the first quarter, Annan were guilty of losing possession with some loose passes. The home side looked more composed and were certainly much more composed in their set piece play. A mazy run by the home full back Steele should have been rewarded with try but he decided to offload at the crucial moment instead of going over himself. Scrum half Birdsall slotted a penalty immediately following the missed opportunity in front of the posts to put Dumfries into a 8-0 lead.

Annan centre Craig McCann clawed back 3 points but this was followed by more Dumfries pressure which Annan thwarted. A quickly taken tap penalty on the Annan 22 led to an Annan break-out with good handling and centre Michael Griffen just failed to breach the try line in the corner. Dumfries were penalised and from the ensuing tap penalty Annan set up a ruck and the ball was swung along the backs to full back Kevin Jones who cut back inside for an excellent try converted by Craig McCann. At 10-8 in the lead Annan had their tails up and looked threatening. However, it was Dumfries who completed the first half scoring with a penalty from Birdsall to put the home side into a 11-10 lead.

The second half started pretty scrappily but after ten minutes Birdsall stroked over another penalty award to put the home side 14-10 up. Annan were moving the ball through the hands but lack of composure was not helping their cause, with a number of poor decisions and dropped balls. Midway through the half, Dumfries had a spell of pressure on the Annan line when, after several phases of driving play from their forwards and good re-cycling of the ball, they forced their way over the Annan line, with lock Stanley claiming the score. The try was converted by Birdsall and Dumfries were now 21-10 in the lead and Annan had it all to do. With the Dumfries forwards beginning to take charge of proceedings, the home side were awarded a further penalty easily converted by Birdsall to take the final score to Dumfries 24 Annan 10 and on this showing Dumfries thoroughly deserved their victory.

Mistakes and lack of composure on the ball cost Annan dear in this match and left Dumfries with the ‘bragging rights’ at least until 7th February when the two sides meet at Violetbank.

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

BERWICK 37 v ANNAN 8
4TH OCTOBER 2008

Having had purple patches in their recent wins over Preston Lodge and Cambuslang, Annan found the tables turned at Scremerston on Saturday. A blistering first 20 minutes by the home side had Annan struggling to get into the game, and to all intents and purposes the game was gone from Annan before half time. With more of the wind in their favour in the second period, Annan tried hard to reduce the deficit, but came up against strong Berwick defence.

After the heavy rain further west, it a relief to find Berwick dry, and the pitch at Scremerston in good condition, making an open game possible, and the small band of Annan supporters hoped that Annan might be able to post a first National League win in Northumberland. They did not have long to wait to find that this was going to be a difficult task. Kicking with the benefit of the cross wind, Berwick started at pace. Gathering their own kick off they drove into the Annan half, and when their centre made a break in the Annan defence on the left, the winger was put in at the corner. Centre Hackett converted. Keeping Annan on the back foot, Berwick were soon able to extend their lead when Hackett converted a penalty for holding on in the ruck. The same player, a real thorn in the Annan side, then doubled the Berwick lead to 20-0. First he was on hand to pick up a kick through which stopped just short of the Annan try line, leading to some hesitancy in Annan’s defence. His conversion was followed by another successful penalty, again for holding on by Annan. Yet another penalty success when Annan transgressed at ruck made it 23-0, and to rub it in Berwick wing Gilchrist gathered another kick ahead for a try wide on the right – which Hackett proceded to convert for 30-0.

To their credit Annan immediately replied with perhaps the best try of the match. Fullback Kevin Jones caught the ball in his own half, dummied to kick, and set off through the Berwick ranks. A pass to the supporting Craig McCann and a flick on to right wing Andrew Jancey put the latter in at the corner. The conversion failed, but at least Annan had replied before half time. Score 30-5.

Annan had not experienced such a blitz in a while, with Berwick quicker in thought and deed, and with confidence in the home ranks high, everything they tried had come off, aided by the odd favourable bounce. Surely the second half would be better for Annan.

Annan were indeed more like their old selves in the second half. They gained more possession, and kicked for position when appropriate. An early penalty success for Craig McCann – following a long range near miss - made it 30-8, but that was to be all Annan could muster on the day. The scoring was completed late on as the Berwick left wing gathered another kick through – and Hackett again converted, for a final score of 37-8.

As the Berwick support said after, it was not a 37-8 game, and there will be many others in which things won’t go just as favourably for Berwick or unfavourably for Annan. However, it has to be admitted that the Berwick backs looked sharp, and their breakaway forwards put more pressure than usual on Annan half backs Clark and Smith. Their defence when Annan were on the attack in the second half was also strong and well organized. In an Annan side which kept plugging away, the ref’s man of the match was Michael Scott.

Annan team: K. Jones; A. Jancey, M. Griffin, C. McCann, A. Halliday; N. Smith, M. Clark; C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, A. Gunning, J. Neslon, G. Smith, B. Blower, E. Braid, M. Scott. Replacements used – J. Bigham, C. Bell, R. Gracie.

ANNAN 47 v CAMBUSLANG 7
27TH SEPTEMBER 2008

Video Highlights

In perfect conditions for rugby at Violetbank on Saturday Annan continued where they had finished the previous week against Preston Lodge, for the first half at least, with a powerful display of running rugby. Right from the start the home side set out their stall and playing the ball wide at every opportunity had the visiting Cambuslang defence stretched on several occasions. The game was only 4 minutes old when from a scrum in the Cambuslang 22 Annan’s No 8 Michael Scott set off on a storming run through the visiting cover defences and when stopped the ball was re-cycled and moved through the backs and eventually moved back inside to Michael Scott who drove over the line to score. Centre Craig McCann converted the score. The visitors fought back and for the next 10 minutes had the bulk of the possession as play was centred in the middle of the pitch. The stalemate was broken when from a series of driving rucks down the right touchline by the home forwards the ball was swung along the backline to find lock Graham Smith lurking in the outside centre slot who cleaved an opening through the advancing visitors’ defensive line and with the line at his mercy unselfishly released the ball to winger Andrew Jancey to score. The conversion was missed.

Two minutes later full back Kevin Jones latched on to a loose ball in the Annan 22 and burst down the right wing finding lock Graham Smith who in turn released the ball to winger James Bigham. When the winger was tackled he found scrum half Mark Clark on his inside. The scrum half outstripped the shredded Cambuslang defences to score a peach of a try. Craig McCann added the extra points to take the home side into a 19-0 lead.

Annan’s bonus point try was scored by scrum half Mark Clark half way through the half when from a lineout he slipped inside the visiting cover defence and set off on a darting run to the line to score a fine individual score. Craig McCann again added the extras. A minute later the scoreboard was ticking over again when from a turnover full back Kevin Jones cleaved through the visiting defences to score a converted try. Annan last try of the half was a ‘barbarian’ type try. With the ball run out the home 22 almost every member of the team was involved in a sweeping move down the field. Lock Graham Smith once again was at the heart of the move cutting through the Cambuslang defences with a breenging run and when stopped released No 8 Michael Scott to score. With Craig McCann converted the try to take the half time score to Annan 40 Cambuslang 0.

Perhaps it was a combination of Annan taking their collective foot of the pedal and Cambuslang upping their game but the 2nd half, whilst promising much based on Annan’s 1st half performance, became a bit of a non event. The highlight for the home team was a fine individual try by winger Andrew Jancey who outstripped his opposite number and the visiting fullback to score a converted try. Cambuslang scored a consolation try by their inside centre Ally Menzies which was much deserved on their 2nd half efforts. Full time score Annan 47 Cambuslang 7.

All in all this was a fine win for the Annan squad with the Annan forwards deserving a collective pat on the back for their efforts in providing their backs with a plethora of quality ball none more so than the backrow of Michael Carpenter, Euan Braid and Michael Scott. In the backs full back Kevin Jones, scrum half Mark Clark and standoff Niall Smith are deserving of special mention with the latter’s kicking outstanding.

On a note of interest how many of the spectators noticed that the Cambuslang touch judge was none other than SRU President Jim Stevenson a former Cambuslang President and supporting from the touch line was former SFA Chief Executive Jim Farry a former Cambuslang player.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, P Carruthers, A Gunning; J Nelson, G Smith; M Carpenter, E Braid, M Scott; M Clark, N Smith; A Jancey, C McCann, A Halliday, J Bigham; K Jones Replacements: B Blower, C Bell, R Gracie (all used)

PRESTON LODGE 27 v ANNAN 57
20TH SEPTEMBER 2008

Prior to Saturday’s visit to Prestonpans, Annan had never beaten Preston Lodge away from home. To return to base with seven tries and a bonus point in the bag was a tremendous feeling indeed. The game started at a cracking pace and Annan took only three minutes to post their first statement of intent. With some excellent rucking and movement through four phases, the ball was fed to centre Craig McCann who saw the gap and jinked in for the first try. From the restart, there were sniping runs from Michael Scott and Mark Clark and only five minutes later from a scrum, Andrew Gunning burst through and fed to Niall Smith who was tackled on the 22 metre line. There was scrum-half Clark with a razor-sharp pick-up and he nipped in for Annan’s second try.

Annan looked as if they were going to coast their way to victory, but PL dug in and following slack tackling in the Annan defence their stand-off Patterson pulled the score back to 7-14 with a converted try. McCann, who was to have a superb afternoon with the boot, added a penalty from 25 metres to his two earlier conversions. PL replied with a penalty to narrow the score to 10-17. The crowd hardly had time to draw breath in the first half and Annan were soon on the rampage again and Kevin Jones set off on a mazy run, fed to stand-off Smith, Halliday cut inside and fed to second-row Graham Smith who had a clear run in to the line.

Only 20 minutes gone and the scoreline was PL 10 Annan 24. The home side slotted a penalty when Annan were caught offside and there was a further try to come on the half-hour mark which was eminently avoidable. Following a loose Annan pass, PL centre Kinross hacked the ball ahead and won the chase to the line for a morale-boosting score. A 30 metre penalty from McCann again extended the visitors’ lead, but the Preston Lodge crowd went wild when the home side scored again just before half time. Missed tackles in defence allowed centre Kinross to breach the Annan wall for his second try.

Half-time scores of 27-27 are pretty rare occurrences, but that was the incredible scoreline at Pennypit Park. Annan had played some marvellous running rugby in the first half and really ought to have had the game all but sewn up. However, lapses in concentration allowed PL to exploit gaps and handed them a lifeline.

The aim in the second half was to lock the game down and Annan executed the game plan to perfection. They eliminated the mistakes and turned the second 40 into a masterclass. The forwards took the game by the throat and set up the platform for the backs to play with pace and flair. Preston Lodge, quite simply, could not live with the speed and handling of the Annan back line which was absolutely flying.

Following an early line-out, the ball was spun out to centre Michael Griffin who broke tackles with some strong running to score under the posts. Griffin was causing havoc in the PL defence and, after nearly scoring in the corner, it wasn’t long before he grabbed his double with some great footwork which left the PL defence flat-footed. Annan were well and truly in the driving seat now and with 15 minutes left they held a commanding 44-27 lead.

The best try of the game came from sparkling backs play with the ball travelling the width of the park through fast hands for winger Halliday to score in the corner. Just to rub it in, stand-off Smith scored with a clever intercept. Seven tries and 22 points from the boot of Craig McCann!

A good day at the office for Annan who were slicker, more imaginative and certainly fitter than their opponents and revelled in playing fast, incisive, top-of-the ground rugby. A special mention to referee Stephen Hart from Edinburgh who had a real feel for the game and allowed both teams to play entertaining rugby.

Annan team: C Warrick, P Carruthers, A Gunning; J Nelson, G Smith; M Carpenter (C Bell), E Braid, M Scott; M Clark, N Smith; A Jancey (J Bigham), C McCann, M Griffin, A Halliday; K Jones

ANNAN v LANGHOLM
13TH SEPTEMBER 2008

Match Photos/Video Highlights

This was no classic but the large support that turned up on Saturday at Violetbank were treated to full bloodied game of local derby rugby. Although the game was strewn with errors with the home side looking somewhat rusty, which was perhaps to be expected this fixture being their first competitive game for a fortnight, both side made the best of the difficult underfoot conditions. Langholm, with the wind at their backs in the fist half, made good use of the conditions with some excellent line kicking which kept the home side pinned in their 22 in the opening minutes. From a lineout 5 metres from the Annan line the ball was overthrown and picked off by the visitors. From the ensuing series of rucks and driving mauls the ball was whipped along the Langholm back line and the visiting fullback coming into the line crossed the line to score an excellent try. The conversion was missed.

Annan raised their game and for long periods the game was played in the centre of the pitch as both teams attempted to gain the upper hand. On numerous occasions poor handling let the home side down which along with some poor tactical kicking from hand allowed the visitors to drive Annan back into their own half. Annan’s pressure eventually told and they were awarded a penalty when a Langholm forward failed to roll away following a tackle. Centre Craig McCann slotted the penalty to reduce the Langholm lead to 2 points.

Langholm had the opportunity to increase their lead when awarded a penalty just to the left of the posts but the kick by their fullback just drifted past the upright. However several minutes later Annan conceded a further penalty when they were caught offside at a drop out. This time the Langholm standoff was successful with the kick. The visitors had a further chance to increase their lead when awarded a further penalty just before half time but again missed. Half time score Annan 3 Langholm 8.

In the second half Annan used the lessening wind to keep play in the visitor’s half and were a little unlucky on a couple of occasions not to breach the whitewash. Unfortunately poor handling and poor decision making let the home side down on numerous occasions. In the conditions prevailing sometimes the simple play would have paid dividends instead of the overplayed long pass. However the pressure on the visiting side began to tell and Annan were awarded a penalty when the Langholm forwards were penalised for diving over at a ruck and Craig McCann reduced Langholm’s lead to 2 points.

Although the home side continued to press for the vital winning score the Langholm defences stood firm. As the clock wound down it looked as if Annan were going to have to settle for a losing bonus point when a a moment of madness a Langholm forward cost his side the game. Langholm were penalised on the half way line for not rolling away after a tackle and a Langholm forward kicked the ball away in frustration. The referee punished this indiscretion by marching the penalty a further 10 metres nearer the Langholm line. Whilst Craig McCann may have struggled in the underfoot conditions to reach the posts from the original penalty he made no mistake with his closer attempt and slotted the award between the posts. This was the last act of the game as the whistle blew for no side and it was a relieved Annan side which left the pitch happy to have their first league win under their belts.

All in all Annan probably just about deserved their win as they, in the second half, had the balance of territorial advantage and possession. Annan Captain Paul Carruthers said after the game ‘ the game didn’t go as planned but the boys got stuck in and although it was not pretty and we made way too many mistakes it was a win in the end and it’s always good to get a win against these boys .‘ His comments were echoed by Club President Don Barty ‘this was a good win although we just scraped in at the end – I am really pleased we got the four points as the boys worked really hard against a superb Langholm defence’

Annan 1st XV team: C Warrick, P Carruthers (C), A Gunning, J Nelson, G Smith, M Carpenter, E Braid, M Scott, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffin, A Copland, A Halliday. Replacements: J Bigham, B Blower, N Moffat. (all used)

RHC v ANNAN
30TH AUGUST 2008

RHC kicked off this first league match of the new season on a very still, close afternoon in the leafy suburbs of Edinburgh. Straight from the start it was clear that both teams were there to play open rugby. Annan had the upper hand in the first exchanges and had the home team pinned in their own half and may have taken the lead but a penalty kick from 30m out and 5m from touch went just wide. On their first real possession, the RHC right winger slipped out of a tackle and ran deep into the Annan half. Two phases later and the home stand off was given the space to be successful with a drop goal.

Annan were straight back onto the offensive but on a number of occasions just failed to breach the home defence and indeed it was the home side who went further ahead with a penalty after the referee gave Annan offside at a ruck. On 37 minutes however Annan were once again on the attack and good pressure on the home stand off led to a poor kick which was gathered by Craig McCann who fired a long pass to full back Kevin Jones to create a 2 to 1 overlap. The defender was drawn and Andrew Jancey was put clear to score in the corner. Half time score RHC 6 Annan 5

The second half started with the home side upping their play and putting pressure on the Annan team whose defence was solid until a quick movement from right to left by the RHC backs created a score in the corner. For the next 20minutes the play tended to be in mid field with neither side gaining much advantage with each team having spells of dynamic aggressive play. RHC had one further chance at a penalty after Mark Clark was penalised for allegedly pulling back the opposition scrum half but this was missed. In the last ten minutes Annan came back into the game and exerted some real pressure on the home line but a couple of unforced errors allowed RHC to clear their lines. Final score RHC 11 Annan 5.

A losing bonus point was scant reward for the effort and commitment put in By Annan who worked tirelessly all day. This was a very entertaining game to watch and bodes well for the rest of the season.

Callum Bell and James Bigham both playing their first games at this level put in good performances and Andrew Copland on the wing tackled well. Everyone else played their part and as the match sharpness improves this team should be able to score points.

Team : C Warrick, P Carruthers, R Gracie, J Nelson, G Hogg, E Braid, C Bell(W Henderson), M Scott, M Clark, N Smith, A Jancey, C McCann, M Griffin, A Copland, K Jones, G Lynch.

VIOLETBANK TOURNAMENT
16TH AUGUST 2008

Match Photos/Video Highlights

Despite worries earlier in the week that the Violetbank Tournament might fall foul of the atrocious weather conditions the tournament organisers breathed a huge sigh of relief on Saturday that despite the weather forecast the entire day’s play took place in fine dry conditions.

With 3 teams calling off the original 8 team format was re-arranged to a 6 team format with Penrith added to the mix. The tournament was set up as a two league system with Group A consisting of Annan, Dumfries and Penrith and Group B Netherhall, Newton Stewart and Upper Eden.

First up in Group A was Dumfries and Penrith and in Group B Netherhall and Upper Eden. Dumfries put in a powerful performance against Penrith demolishing the Cumbrians 52 -3 with some fast flowing rugby. In The other 1st round game in Group B Upper Eden came away with a close 7 – 3 win over fellow Cumbrians Netherhall.

Annan’s first game was against the powerful looking Dumfries squad and in a tense first half both teams put in some determined defensive work to deny each other an opportunity to score. The second half unfolded in similar fashion until Annan centre Michael Griffin shook off a couple of tackles to bust up the left wing. He was tackled just short of the line but managed to pop the ball up to wing forward Euan Braid who crashed over to score the only points of the game. Dumfries battered away at the Annan line in an effort to snatch victory but the Annan defences stood firm and denied Dumfries a score. Final score Annan 5 Dumfries 0.

In Group B Newton Stewart in their first game beat Netherhall 17 – 10 to effectively take Netherhall out of the equation for the final. And in their second game Newton Stewart saw off Upper Eden 17 – 14 in a tense affair to take them to the final.

In Group A Annan had to beat Penrith to reach the final and after taking some time to settle against the Cumbrians, who were in no mood to repeat their performance against Dumfries, Annan eventually stretched away to a 29 – 10 win despite a late come back by Penrith. This win set up a Annan v Newton Stewart final.

Before the final there was a no little matter of the 2nd and 3rd place cross group games. The two second placed teams in each league Dumfries and Upper Eden battled it out with Dumfries winning 29 – 7 and in the 3rd placed playoff Penrith saw off Upper Eden 17 – 7.

The final was a tense affair with Newton Stewart’s powerful forwards giving the young lightweight Annan pack some problems throughout the game. Winger Andrew Jancey broke the deadlock when he latched onto a loose ball to sprint in behind the posts to make the conversion easier for stand off Niall Smith. Half time score Annan 7 Newton Stewart 0. The second half saw Annan having to defend their line on several occasions. It was only a matter of time though before Newton Stewart scored when from a lineout 5 metres from the Annan line the Newton Stewart forwards powered over to score in the corner. With the conversion missed and time running out Annan ran out winners only for the second time in their own tournament.

It was especially heartening for the Club’s coaches to see so many young players make their mark in their first 1st XV outings. Annan Club President Don Barty said “" This was a useful pre-season workout for all the teams concerned and, obviously, we are very happy to have won our own Violetbank Shield. Annan had six regular first-team players missing and it was really pleasing to see our fringe players slotting in to coach Paul Buckley's game plans. With a bit more hard work over the next couple of weeks, both the 1st XV and 2nd XV should be in fine fettle for the start of their respective league campaigns."

The Tournament was sponsored by TN Trawlers and Murray Bell.

Annan now have one more outing before their league campaign start on 30th August with their away game to RHC in Edinburgh which is a trial game against Carlisle next Wednesday (27th August) evening at Warwick Road.

Season tickets for the 2008/09 season are now on sale at the Annan clubhouse 17 Bank Street at a cost of £20 which is a saving of around £20.

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