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WHITECRAIGS 44 v ANNAN 3
5TH MAY 2010

This was the re-arranged last game of the season on Tuesday night which with a 7pm kick off which could have been a non event but was anything but despite the final scoreline. With a tight kickoff time Annan did very well to get everybody there.

The first half was mostly played in the Annan 22 but the defence was immense with tackling which set the pattern for most of the game. In fact for 25 minutes a combination of Annan defence and Whitecraigs handling errors kept the game with no score. Whitecraigs over elaborating (showboating) annoying the home support. They once had the ball over the line but were held up by Annan. Eventually the pressure told though with a number 8 pick up from the back of a scrum who found a gap to score. The conversion attempt missed.

The play was much the same until Annan broke forward and were awarded a penalty from the ensuing ruck which was converted by James Bigham to bring Annan back into the game after 35 minutes. Unfortunately just before half time after more pressure Annan lost another try to the number 8 – conversion attempt missed. Half time score Whitecraigs 10 Annan 3.

Right from the start of the second half Whitecraigs scored again, a hat trick for their number 8, a good try which was converted. Annan had their backs against the wall but never gave up. In fact the next 15 minutes were their best phase of the game with Whitecraigs pinned back in their own 22 but Annan couldn’t convert the pressure into points.

Eventually the Annan tackle count took its toll and Whitecraigs moved the ball well across their line to score 3 tries from pretty much the same move ending down the left wing two of which were converted.

Positives for Annan, superb tackling with good hits from every player and as usual attitude second to none. Callum Bell had some mazy fast runs, Craig McCann showed class having been out for so long. Credit to all the players.

Annan 1st XV: C Warrick, S Haren, J Crombie, J Nelson, C Nicholson, R Dunlop, D Barnes, C Bell, Graham Smith, A Jancey, J Bigham, Graeme Smith, D Wyllie, J Callaghan, G Forrest, C McCann, M Carpenter.

Footnote: Female supporters were wowed (or not) by the end of season charge led by Chocolate!

ANNAN 0 v DALZIEL 43
1ST MAY 2010

Already relegated Annan had only pride to play for on Tuesday 27th April 2010 in their last home league game against unbeaten Dalziel at Violetbank. Dalziel, although already promoted, still had the little matter of clinching the championship of Division 1 of the Scottish Hydro National Leagues.

The visitors came with a large and vociferous travelling support who had come to see their side claim the championship and whilst they were not to be disappointed their hosts made them fight for every point. In the first half Annan defended well but it was only a matter of time, 10 minutes in fact, before the well drilled visiting team broke the defensive line when Dalziel’s fullback Simpson chipped the ball over the home backline for their right winger Duguid to score. Eight minutes later, following some powerful forward play by the visitors the ball was fed to left winger Goldie who scored in the corner. Following some strong scrummaging on the Annan line the Dalziel No 8 broke left and released left winger Goldie to score again in the corner. With two of the tries converted Dalziel went into the half time break 17 – 0 in the lead.

The second half was much the same as the first with some heroic defence by the home team eventually breached by some fine attacking play by Dalziel whose back row were outstanding in attack mode. Another 4 tries followed with No 8 Simmonds, standoff McAulay, winger Goldie (his hat trick) and replacement Sloan all crossing the whitewash. Full back Simpson converted 3 of the tries to take the final score to Annan 0 Dalziel 43.

Although well beaten Annan can take some positives from their performance in that some of the younger players showed great promise with Callum Bell and Dwayne Barnes in the back row running and tackling their hearts out and young George Forrest making his 1st XV debut on the wing showing that the future of the club is assured.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, S Haren, J Nelson, G Hogg, C Nicholson, D Barnes, C Bell, Graham Smith, S McCann, J Bigham, A Jancey, D Wyllie, A Halliday, G Forrest, K Jones Replacements: R Dunlop, Graeme Smith, M Carpenter (all used)

LIVINGSTON 23 v ANNAN 14
24TH APRIL 2010

On a beautifully warm day with a dry hard pitch, Annan kicked off into what slight wind there was. Straight away Livingston cut through non existent defence and perhaps should have scored. Annan then got their act together and started to come more into the game but a number of missed tackles were making any territorial gains difficult to maintain.

Livingston scored the first try on twenty minutes when from their lineout on the five metre line, they peeled round the front, the Livingston hooker illegally drove the Annan defender into the maul (remember Garnock) which allowed space to score in the corner.

A further converted try and penalty took the half time score to 15 - 0 in a half which Annan were never really in.

The second half opened in much the same vain, but as Annan grew in confidence and started to throw the ball around, the momentum of the game changed. It was however Livingston who scored first, taking the score out to 20 -0.

At this time, due to injury to a Livingston prop, the scrums went to uncontested. In both games against Livingston this year this has happened due to them not fielding sufficient front row cover.

Annan by now were playing with a new found confidence and a good break by Callum Bell saw the young "winger" score under the posts, James Bigham supplied the extra points. Sustained pressure by Annan was beginning to tell on their opponents and when Annan were awarded a penalty on the "22", scrum half Scott McCann took a quick tap and scythed through to score without a hand being laid on him. Bigham again converted.

With 10 minutes to play, Annan were within six points of the home team and when Sean Haren latched onto a kick in the opposition half, the follow up support just failed to get to him quickly enough which resulted in a glorious match winning opportunity being lost.

In the end, Livingston were awarded a penalty almost on the full time whistle which took them clear to a 23-14 win.

A difficult game to summarise with really nothing but pride at stake but the Annan boys kept going to the end and there were, as there has been all season, glimmers of what might have been and indeed what they are capable of.

Annan team- C.Warrick, S.Haren, J.Crombie, C.Nicholson, G.Hogg, D.Barnes, B.Blowers, J.Nelson (capt) S.McCann, A.Jancey, D.Wyllie, A.Halliday, C.Bell, K.Jones Replacements -all used K. Watret, R. Dunlop, G.Smith.

EAST KILBRIDE 19 v ANNAN 12
3RD APRIL 2010

In a fixture played in extremely heavy conditions at Torrance House, Annan posted a fine performance for most of the match and will be disappointed at coming away with only a bonus point. After withstanding some early EK pressure, Annan gave away a needless penalty to find themselves 0-3 down but bounced back with some enterprising attacking play, with winger Andrew Jancey and centre Michael Griffin always in the thick of things and full back Alex Halliday eager to join the attacking line when the opportunity arose. Indeed, all of the adventurous rugby in this match was played by Annan. Plenty of opportunities created by Annan, including three penalties close to the EK line, but none being finished off.

Cruelly, not for the first time this season, Annan lost a try against the run of play in 35 minutes. East Kilbride took a scrum against the head and the ball was shipped wide for the winger to score in the corner. Two superb tries followed for Annan in the space of five minutes. A quick-thinking tap penalty by scrum half Scott McCann went to Halliday who created space with an electrifying burst and offloaded to Griffin whose quick hands put Jancey in at the corner. A try of real quality, which was matched by another gem of a score. Another tap penalty by McCann who dummied through the gap and passed to Halliday, providing Jancey with the pass. Jancey cut back inside to Halliday who touched down under the posts and Bigham converted. Half time score East Kilbride 8 Annan 12.

Annan thoroughly deserved their half time lead and had the psychological initiative at this point, despite everything not firing. The backs were alert and hungry, but once again a lot of lost line-out ball put the Violetbank team under unnecessary pressure, and this began to tell in the second half. The fluidity in play was less apparent and perhaps the turning point for EK was the introduction of player-coach Fraser Stott at scrum half. The former Glasgow professional and Scotland ‘A’ player may be in the twilight of his career, but he certainly knows how to control a game. Annan also started to make mistakes and lost a try from a pushover scrum. A late penalty took the score to 19-12 for the home side, with Annan ruing what might have been. It was a good performance for the most part by Annan and a losing bonus point was certainly no consolation for the effort put in. Despite having key players missing, they stuck to their task and produced a very creditable performance.

C Warrick, S Wyllie, A Jackson; B Blower, K Watret; D Barnes, S Haren, J Nelson; S McCann, J Bigham; A Jancey, M Griffin, D Wyllie, C Bell; A Halliday. Replacements – C Nicholson, R Dunlop, Graeme Smith

GREENOCK WANDERERS 34 v ANNAN 3
27TH MARCH 2010

Annan knew that this trip to Fort Matilda was going to be a tough Quarter Final tie in the Scottish Hydro National Shield competition, with Greenock Wanderers having already been crowned Champions of Division Two, where Annan will be playing their rugby next season. Unavailability and injuries forced the Violetbank side to make changes, but no excuses – Greenock Wanderers were the better side on the day and now have a home tie against high flying Dalziel in the semi finals.

Annan played with the wind in the first half and gained the early advantage through a penalty by stand off James Bigham. Annan were determined to build on this lead as they drove at the heart of the Greenock defence, but they were thwarted by resolute play from the home side. There were some good carries by Captain John Nelson and clever grubber kicks from scrum half Scott McCann, but the Greenock defence held firm and Annan just couldn’t find a way through. Given the weather conditions, it was clear that Annan required a healthy lead by half time. Alas, it was not to be. Indeed, Greenock were on the scoreboard after 30 minutes when stand off Devlin did the damage. He took the play into Annan territory and released Robb for a try in the corner. Wanderers led 5-3 at the break and Annan were ruing the chances that they had created but hadn’t finished off.

The second half belonged to Greenock, although the result was still in doubt with 15 minutes to go. In 55 minutes, Annan conceded a penalty and Devlin got a fortuitous bounce in off the upright and five minutes later that man Devlin, clearly the Man of the Match, finished off a handling move to score easily under the posts. At 3-15 Annan were still in with a shout. McCann was almost in for a try following a neat interception, Halliday covered the length of the pitch to “score”, but play was brought back for a penalty to Annan! That was, effectively, the end of the Annan threat. A touch down by Mooney in the corner, winger Tyler finishing off a fine handling move and an excellent solo try from Devlin sealing a good victory for Greenock.

After promising play for much of the game, the Annan heads went down in the last quarter. Greenock played a very tidy game and thoroughly deserved their win, but their performance was abetted by some sloppy Annan tackling, inadequate decision making and losing the ball in contact. They were always under pressure at the lineout and they didn’t really string the phases together as they are capable of.

One big plus to take from this game, however. The post-match analysis lasted half an hour in the dressing room, with everyone putting forward ideas – being constructive, being positive. Annan have lost a few players in the last couple of seasons and the younger players realise that they are on a steep learning curve and are determined to step up to the mark.

C Warrick, S Wyllie, J Crombie; B Blower, C Nicholson; C Bell, S Haren, J Nelson; S McCann, J Bigham; A Jancey, M Griffin, A Halliday, D Wyllie; K Jones. Replacements (all used) – G Hogg, D Barnes, J Callaghan.

RHC 39 v ANNAN 10
20TH MARCH 2010

Match Photos

Weather and pitch conditions in Edinburgh were perfect for this National One encounter, a game that Annan really had to win to have a realistic chance of beating the drop. An edgy opening quarter saw both sides making errors before Annan conceded a penalty on 10 minutes for straying offside and this was easily converted. Twenty minutes into the match and Annan gave away a soft try, poor tackling allowing the RHC stand off a straightforward score. Although Annan started to string together some good moves, they never really hit top gear and were frequently coming second in the crucial set pieces, losing their own lineout and scrums against the head. Nevertheless, they were still very much in the game and when Scott McCann gathered the ball in his own half and determinedly outran the RHC defence for a splendid score. That score and a couple of superb try-saving tackles from full back Kevin Jones gave the Violetbank side a much-needed lift. However, another penalty to RHC for offside brought the half-time score to 5-13.

There was still everything to play for and Annan knew they had to raise their game. This they failed to do in a second half which belonged to RHC, largely down to the Annan side being architects of their own undoing. There was a distinct lack of pace, they were slow at the breakdown and RHC recycled the ball much quicker. These factors, allied to missed tackles by Annan and losing the ball in contact contributed to RHC scoring a further four tries in the second half – one from a slack Annan pass, one which was held up and should not have been awarded and the other two where the away team simply ran out of cover.

Annan never gave up and pinned RHC into their own 22 for a 15 minute spell where they played some excellent rugby. If this had been replicated throughout the match, the score line could have been quite different. Annan did breach the RHC line twice in the second half, once where the referee deemed the ball to have been held up and an excellent try from Alex Halliday. McCann kicked ahead, Halliday took the bouncing ball at shoulder height and waltzed in for a classy score.

A disappointing day where any good work by Annan was undone by errors. A big improvement will be required this week in the SHE Shield Quarter Final away to Greenock Wanderers who have only lost one match all season and who knocked out National 1 side Livingston (away) in the last round.

C Warrick, S Wyllie, J Crombie; J Nelson, K Watret; C Bell, M Carpenter, G Smith; S McCann, J Bigham; A Jancey, M Griffin, A Halliday, D Wyllie; K Jones. Replacements (all used) – S Haren, D Barnes, C Nicholson.

ANNAN 30 v KILMARNOCK 7
13TH MARCH 2010

Match Photos/Video Highlights

Annan progressed to the quarter finals of the Scottish Hydro Shield competition on Saturday with a comprehensive victory over Kilmarnock. In the opening 10 minutes few would have thought the hosts would have won so convincingly in the end as the lively Kilmarnock backs caused the home defences all sorts of problems with some fine attacking moves from their backs. Luckily for Annan the quality of their build up to the attacks was thwarted by not so much the quality of the Annan defence but wrong decisions by the Kilmarnock playmakers.

Once Annan had soaked up the initial attacks by their visitors they set about making inroads into Kilmarnock territory and whilst it took some time to break down the stubborn visiting defences break through they did. In a bullocking run by lock Bruce Blower deep into the Kilmarnock 22 and from the ensuing ruck on the 5 metre line replacement lock Kieron Watret bulldozed over to score at the posts. His score was converted by stand off James Bigham. Keiron Watret was on hand several minutes later, when following a fine move up the left wing initiated by full back Kevin Jones and taken on by winger Andrew Jancey, he was on hand to scoop up the loose ball and score in the left corner. James Bigham landed a superbly struck conversion from the left touchline to take the score to Annan 14 Kilmarnock 0.

Annan continued to dominate territorially for the remainder of the half, containing some sporadic attacks from the visitors, and were rewarded with a penalty award when the Kilmarnock forwards transgressed at a ruck. James Bigham slotted the award between the posts making up for a miss minutes before. Half time score Annan 17 Kilmarnock 0.

In the 2nd half Annan continued to dominate and extended their lead with a further two well struck penalties by James Bigham to take their lead to 23 – 0. Kilmarnock got on the score board half way through the half when their centre danced and pirouetted through some hapless home defences to score a converted consolation try. Annan however were not finished and scored perhaps their best try of the season so far. Following a speculative kick out of defence by the visiting full back the ball was fielded by full back Kevin Jones who set off on one of his now trademark mazy runs out of defence. He then set up winger Andrew Jancey, after pulling in the Kilmarnock mid field defences, with a beautifully weighted pass to release him down the left wing. With a couple of men to beat Jancey outstripped then to score behind the posts and with Bigham adding the extras Annan were home and dry. Final Score Annan 30 Kilmarnock 7.

All in all a satisfactory result for Annan with their opposition sitting fourth in Division 2 where Annan are likely to be playing their rugby next season. In the set piece play Annan’s lineout work was solid but their scrummaging was a bit of a curate’s egg, good in parts with a couple of strikes against the head but lacking concentration at times allowing Kilmarnock to mete out similar results. In the loose the backrow of Euan Braid, Callum Bell and Graham Smith put in a solid performance. Euan Braid was unfortunate to receive two yellow cards during the game which meant Annan played the last 20 minutes down to 14 men. The Annan backs were well marshalled in defence and attack with the half back pairing of Scott McCann and James Bigham beginning to gell as a unit with the later improving with each outing and winger Andrew Jancey back to something like his old self with some sparkling runs.

Annan 1st XV: C Warrick, S Wyllie, J Crombie, J Nelson (C), B Blower, C Bell, E Braid, G Smith, S McCann, J Bigham, A Jancey, M Griffin, D Wyllie, J Callaghan, K Jones Replacements: A Jackson, S Haren, R Dunlop, K Watret (all used)

ANNAN 9 v LANGHOLM 6
6TH MARCH 2010

Annan just did enough to deserve the win over local rivals Langholm at the Everholm in a game in which neither side really looked like scoring a try. This was a somewhat subdued affair compared to some between the teams, and the result was decided by penalty kicks, and on this occasion Annan managed to keep the visitors away from their own 22 for much of the closing quarter to close out a narrow win.

With Violetbank still being unplayable, this game was played at the Everholm, where Annan had notched two of their three previous league wins. There must be something about the smaller pitch or the sticky surface that suits them as they went on to make it three wins from four at the original home of Annan rugby.

After Langholm made a whirlwind start, resulting in a missed penalty, they had a man yellow carded after 10 minutes, and the advantage swung to Annan. Holding on by Langholm gave Annan an easy penalty chance, which stand off James Bigham converted. Shortly after he doubled Annan’s tally when Langholm were found offside. A similar award to Langholm allowed Niall Cubbon to reduce the leeway to 6-3, but Bigham then converted another from wide left to restore Annan’s advantage. Cubbon punished a high Annan tackle just before half time to make the score 9-6 to Annan.

The second half was not short of effort by both sides, but defences were on top, and handling errors common. Annan did have a couple of good thrusts down the left from Andrew Jancey which might have benefited from more support. The most heartening thing about the last quarter was that Annan were able to keep the game well away from their own line, and on that basis they did not look like losing against a strangely lethargic Langholm.

This was a day for the forwards, and the Annan scrum and lineout were secure. Midfield defence was bolstered by the usual all action displays from flankers Braid and Bell, while their overall performance benefited from having again an experienced scrum half in Scott McCann, which in turn allowed stand off James Bigham to have a more assured game.

Annan team: C. Warrick, S. Wyllie, A. Jackson, J. Nelson, B. Blower, C. Bell, E. Braid, G. Smith, S. McCann, J. Bigham, A. Jancey, M. Griffin, A. Halliday, D. Wyllie, K. Jones, K. Watret, R. Dunlop, G. Lynch.

ANNAN 23 v NEWTON STEWART 20
6TH FEBRUARY 2010

Match Highlights

This was the first meeting between the 1st XVs of these two clubs, contesting the first round of the new Scottish Hydro Shield. With Annan bottom of National 1, and Newton Stewart in the lower reaches of Division 2, this was always likely to be a close affair, and so it turned out, the result in the balance until the end making for excitement in the second half that the general play scarcely deserved..

Annan got off to the worst possible start. The Annan kick off was misplaced, and from the resulting scrum on half way, the visitors rucked their way to the Annan 10 metre line, the scrum half appeared about to go left but changed his mind and fed right wing Ritchie who showed a real turn of pace to beat one man, kick ahead and win the race for the touch down. Stand off Armstrong converted well from wide for a 7-0 lead.

Annan worked their way into the visitors’ half, and in their best spell of the game, scored three tries in reply, all coming from close quarter work. Annan laid siege to the Newton Stewart line, and from a ruck Sean Haren drove over. The conversion was missed. Annan’s second try came from a five metre scrum on the visitors’line. Annan pushed Newton Stewart off the ball, and No 8 Graham Smith had an easy job in picking up and crossing near the posts. James Bigham made no mistake with the conversion. The third try came after a great break by centre Michael Griffin, and when a ruck formed on the Newton Stewart line, scrum half Andrew Jancey drove over.

Annan now had a 17-7 lead and for the first time this season had scored three tries, but Newton Stewart finished the half strongly, and after good pressure on the Annan line, during which Annan were forced into giving away two penalties, the pressure told and a wing forward was able to crash over. Stand off Armstrong again converted, and the half time whistle went with Annan lead cut to 17-14.

The first half had seen five tries, but the second half was a story of four penalties. Newton Stewart were first to draw blood, when an under pressure Annan strayed offside, allowing Armstrong to level the scores. Bigham restored Annan’s lead when Newton Stewart handled in a ruck. For some time the game became a midfield slog in which defences were on top. A series of rucks and mauls had the forwards working hard but rather diminished the spectacle. When in the closing stages Annan offended in another ruck, and Armstrong leveled the scores at 20-20, the spectre of extra time loomed. Thankfully, a rare Annan foray into the Newton Stewart 22 led to a penalty for not releasing, and in front of the posts Bigham kicked what proved to be the winner for Annan.

Not vintage Annan by any means, but credit to a hard working Newton Stewart side who played the basics pretty well but lacked that spark in attack. Annan also lacked the spark of brilliance, and coughed up too many turnovers. While some Annan players seemed a little below par, Haren, Braid and Jancey gave their usual hard working displays.

Annan team: Warrick, Haren, Jackson, Blower, Nelson, Watret, Barnes, Bell, Braid, Smith, Jancey, Bigham, Lynch, Griffin, Halliday, Dunlop, Jones,

ANNAN 20 v ELLON 32
23RD JANUARY 2010

Match Photos

Prior to the commencement of the match a minutes silence was held as a mark of respect and affection for Annan RFC founder member Scott Little and Bill McLaren ‘the voice of rugby’ who both died on 19th January.

With neither team having played since before Christmas (Annan on 12th December and Ellon on 5th December) this match had a beginning of the season feel about it with both teams taking time to adjust to playing again after the enforced break. Annan started brightly and had the better of the early exchanges as play was driven into the visitors’ 22 and the home sides’ pressure paid off when they were awarded a brace of penalties within minutes of each other. Unfortunately both were missed. However Annan did take the lead midway through the half when standoff James Bigham converted a penalty when the Ellon backs were caught offside at a ruck. Annan’s lead was short lived however as the visitors began to fight their way back into the game having worked their early start and long journey out of their legs. From a lineout following a penalty award the Ellon forwards battered away at the Annan line. Despite some solid defensive work by the home side the visitors’ efforts were eventually rewarded when their outside centre crashed over for a converted try.

Following the restart and a surging drive by the home forwards Annan lost possession of the ball at a ruck in the visitors’ 22 and the Ellon inside centre put in a huge clearance kick towards the corner flag. Annan winger Andrew Jancey kept the ball from rolling into touch and fed full back Kevin Jones who set off on one of his customary mazy counter attacks. When the move was halted just inside the Ellon half the ball was recycled and fed down the blind side of the ruck where No 8 Graham Smith set off down the touchline fending off the attentions of the Ellon defensive line. When eventually brought to halt he offloaded a delightful inside pass to hooker Sean Haren who outsprinted the last remnants of the visitors’ defences to score his first senior try and take Annan back into the lead. Annan’s lead was short lived however when from a surging piece of forward play Ellon’s No 8 drove over to score an unconverted try. Annan had their chances to retake the lead in the final minutes of the first half. Following a flowing backs move full back Jones chipped ahead and whilst unable to gather the ball he hacked the ball over the try line and seemed to have touched the ball down in the in goal area only to have the referee chalk the score off. Then in the final act of the half winger Jancey, on a run down the touch line, with only the full back to beat attempted to chip the ball over his head only to see the ball drift into touch. Half Time score Annan 8 Ellon 12

The first 20 minutes of the 2nd half will be one Annan will want to forget as Ellon dismantled Annan’s set piece scrum and lineout and scored three further tries, one converted and a penalty to take a 24 point lead. However although beaten the home side would not lie down and fought back in the last ten minutes with a couple of fine tries of their own. The first was scored by centre Michael Griffin who took a quick penalty award 5 metres from the Ellon line to crash over. James Bigham added the extra two points. In the final minutes of the match Annan broke out of defence and Captain John Nelson surged down the pitch and with the line in sight gratefully found full back Jones on his shoulder who received the pass to score and bring the final score to Annan 20 Ellon 32.

Whilst another defeat for Annan which takes them nearer to relegation this was an entertaining match from two sides trying to play open rugby. Ellon however were the bigger and fitter team and deserved their victory.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, S Haren, A Jackson, J Nelson (C), B Blower, C Bell, E Braid, G Smith, S McCann, J Bigham, A Jancey, M Griffin, A Halliday, D Wyllie, K Jones Replacements: C Muir, S Wyllie

ANNAN 10 v MURRAYFIELD WANDERERS 5
12TH DECEMBER 2009

Annan gave their loyal supporters an early Christmas present last Saturday, when they ground out a good win over mid-table Murrayfield Wanderers at Violetbank, their third win in their last three home games.

After heavy rain earlier in the week, the ground staff had done well to have the pitches playable for Saturday, but conditions were still very soft. Such might have been expected to suit bigger sides than Annan, but such was Annan’s work rate that they had the better of the whole game – the final score hardly reflecting their efforts.

Annan dominated the early stages, keeping play in the Wanderers half, but neither darts by the wingers, crash balls by the centres or drives round the fringes could prise open a tight defence. Annan had to be satisfied with a successful Halliday penalty to give them a 3-0 lead. Wanderers were little to be seen in attack, their efforts hampered by poor handling and aggressive Annan defence, so it was against the run of play when the visitors took the lead. From a lineout outside the Annan 22, Wanderers scrum half Johnstone provided the first moment of quality when he exploited a gap in the Annan defence to sprint into the Annan 22 and feed centre Hastie for the try. The conversion was unsuccessful, leaving Annan trailing by two points. The rest of the first half became a midfield slog on the heavy ground, neither side threatening the other’s line.

The second half continued where the first had left off. No one could fault the 30 players for effort, as both tried unsuccessfully to create something from the midfield battleground. Two penalty attempts by Annan missed the target, and two kicks to the corner failed to reach touch. It began to look as though a bonus point would be all Annan would get, until a moment of brilliance swung the game Annan’s way and allowed the support to vent their delight. From the halfway line outside centre Alex Halliday evaded his marker and set off towards the line. His support was outside on the right, but at the vital moment he cut through to the left, evaded a final tackle, and plunged over at the posts for one of the best individual tries seen at Violetbank in recent years. Converting his own try, Halliday gave Annan a 10-5 lead with five minutes remaining.

Those minutes were tense, but though Wanderers tried hard to breach the Annan defence, it held firm for a most satisfying win. Wanderers are the highest placed team to lose to Annan, who can now set their sights on any mid-table team. This week Annan visit RHC in Edinburgh, and the away win they need is not impossible.

Well done to all 18 Annan players and their coaches, who have improved the team’s play greatly since the season’s start, and good to see Bruce Blower back in action at Violetbank.

Annan team: C. Warrick, S. Haren, A. Jackson, G. Hogg, J. Nelson, E. Braid, C. Bell, G. Smith, S. McCann, J. Bigham, A. Jancey, M. Griffin, A. Halliday, D. Wyllie, K. Jones. Replacements – D. Barnes, B. Blower, G. Lynch.

LINLITHGOW 39 v ANNAN 10
5TH DECEMBER 2009

Following their win against Berwick, Annan were looking for their first result on the road against a Linlithgow outfit which had won comfortably at Violetbank back in September. It was recognised in advance that Linlithgow had a pretty hefty pack and that would be a major challenge. After a cat-and-mouse start to the game, Annan found themselves leaking points with regularity – and yes, it was the muscle of the Linlithgow forwards which was causing the damage. Early on, the home side were awarded a penalty, elected for the scrum and scored a pushover try with No. 8 Charlie Gillanders scoring and full back Matt Dixon converting. That set the pattern for the afternoon, with Linlithgow playing a fairly limited game but realising that Annan really didn’t have a way of stopping their steamroller scrum. Although Annan came into their own in the second half, they played some good rugby throughout and scrum half Scott McCann kept the side pressing forward with some fine kicking. Try number two for the Mains Park side came following some slack tackling in the Annan defence to allow Brown to breenge over the line. An inexplicable penalty award then stretched the lead to 15-0 and Annan were now playing catch-up. They weren’t getting enough ball and continuing to miss tackles. Two more tries ensued before half-time – one from a line-out take and drive and another from a pushover try from 5 metres. A long penalty from James Bigham reduced the deficit to 3-25 at half-time and a brief spell of pressure from Annan on the Linlithgow line came to nothing.

Annan upped their game in the second half and were almost immediately on the scoreboard. How often have we seen Kevin Jones score from an interception near his own line? He did it once again and showed his class by outstripping the Linlithgow defence to score one of his trademark tries – a great try converted by Bigham. At 10-25, Annan had their best spell of the game and started to play some excellent rugby. In fact, they matched the home side for skill mthroughout the second half and were very unlucky not to add to their tally, especially following a brilliant move which ended with Andrew Jancey being desperately tackled just short of the Linlithgow line. The last 15 minutes saw Linlithgow easing out of sight with two more tries, again from pushover scrums. No. 8 Gillanders bagged four tries in all and set the seal on a solid Linlithgow victory. It wasn’t pretty stuff, but it was effective. A rather cruel scoreline, given that Annan were the team trying to play a more expansive game – but the Linlithgow muscle won on the day! The Annan lads can be pleased with their second half performance – and in the backs McCann, Halliday, Jancey and Jones had every reason to be more than pleased with their showing.

Annan team: C Warrick, S Haren, J Crombie; J Nelson (c), G Hogg; C Bell, E Braid, G Smith; S McCann, J Bigham; D Wyllie, M Griffin, A Halliday, A Jancey; K Jones. Replacements (all used): D Barnes, B Blower, R Dunlop

ANNAN 16 v BERWICK 3
28TH NOVEMBER 2009

Match Photos

Although Violetbank was deemed playable on Friday and the weather forecast was for a dry night the deluge that fell in the early hours of Saturday morning resulted in this match being moved to the Everholm with Violetbank waterlogged. The conditions although soft underfoot were dry, sunny and windless and the rugby was highly entertaining for the good sized crowd of supporters who turned out for the 12 noon KO.

Annan started off with some excellent driving play which immediately rocked the visitors back into their 22 and within minutes of the start Annan were awarded a penalty when the Berwick forwards killed the ball in a ruck which centre Alex Halliday converted for 3 points. Berwick fought back and converted a penalty award of their own to tie the scores a 3 all. The home side piled on the pressure in the second quarter of the game and had some fine passages of play and came close on more than one occasion to crossing the try line. None more so when the home backs sliced through the Berwick defences and with winger Andrew Jancey looking certain to score he lost his footing on the soft ground. There were other chances but some wrong decisions meant the chances went a begging. Annan did however increase their lead by a further 3 points with a further penalty success by Alex Halliday to take the half time score to Annan 6 Berwick 3.

Annan continued to dominate the game in the second half with the backrow of Dwayne Barnes, Euan Braid and Graham Smith making life extremely difficult for the visitors to win ball in the loose. The Annan backs also proved more than capable of dealing with any attacking plays from their Berwick counterparts. Alex Halliday increased the home lead with a further penalty.

Half way through the half Annan got the try they deserved. From a ruck in midfield centre Halliday split the visiting defences and drove into the Berwick 22 and when stopped fed the ball along the backline to winger Andrew Jancey who outstripped his opposite number to score in the corner. Alex Halliday added the extra 2 points with a magnificent conversion from the touchline. Berwick were reduced to 14 men when the referee yellow carded one of their players for foul play perpetrated on Andrew Jancey in the act of scoring. Berwick, determined to get something out of the game, even if it was only a losing bonus point, threw everything at the home line. Annan however were just as determined to deny the visitors any scoring chances and put in a well disciplined defensive effort and despite all their efforts Berwick were unable to breach the whitewash. Final Score Annan 16 Berwick 3.

This was the best Annan performance of the season so far with the backrow outstanding as previously mentioned along with fine performances from centre Alex Halliday, lock Graham Hogg, scrum half Scott McCann and a mature performance from standoff James Bigham making his 1st team comeback after injury.

Annan 1st Team Squad: C Warrick, C Bell, J Crombie, J Nelson (Capt), G Hogg, D Barnes, E Braid, G Smith, S McCann, J Bigham, A Jancey, M Griffen, A Halliday, D Wyllie, K Jones. Replacements: K Watret, R Dunlop, E Currie, (all used)

EDINBURGH UNI 29 v ANNAN 6
14TH NOVEMBER 2009

This was a match which promised much for Annan but ultimately ended in great disappointment. At a blustery Peffermill Playing Fields, the Violetbank side opted to play with the elements in the first half and fired straight out of the blocks, taking the game to the University team and pinning them back in their own half. Annan really did hammer at the home defence and there were strong runs from number 8 Graham Smith and, in particular, from centre Michael Griffin who had his best game in a long time. Kevin Jones, too was always in the thick of things and a searing run almost brought a try.

All too frequently, though, the runners making the breaks lacked the necessary support. As the half went on, it seemed only a matter of time before Annan scored, such was their dominance. It certainly was exciting stuff as wave after wave of Annan pressure threatened the home line – so exciting at one point that the Annan President was sent to the technical area! The visitors did cross the line twice, but were pulled up for a forward pass and a knock on. Despite the incessant pressure, Annan failed to capitalise on having the lion’s share of possession and territorial advantage and frustrated the coaching staff and supporters by lacking composure at crucial moments and losing or dropping the ball in contact. The style of play was excellent, the execution of basics when it mattered most was disappointing.

With the students’ team rattled, Annan should really have built up a comfortable first half lead. In the end, all they had to show for their efforts was an Alex Halliday penalty and, totally against the run of play, Uni scored a try before the break following a slack tackle. This was converted, making the half-time score 7-3 to the home team.

The second half was always going to be difficult, with Annan having failed to capitalise on their undoubted first-half superiority and now playing into the wind and rain. It has to be said, too, that the University side had a strong defence and the threat was always there with their skilful backs. The Peffermill team scored with a penalty which was nullified by another successful Halliday penalty – scoreline 10-6. The University team ran in three tries as they wound their game up and Annan ran out of steam. They were well executed tries, two by powerful left-wing McTurk and one by stand-off McGhee, probably the best player on the pitch. Good tries though they were, questions have to be asked of the Annan tackling.

The proverbial game of two halves, with significant differences between the sides. Edinburgh University were patient, defended well and took their chances when they came. Annan lacked composure when in the driving seat, didn’t secure the ball at the vital moment and missed crucial tackles which, in the end, gave the Edinburgh outfit a comfortable-looking victory.

Big performances from Smith, Jones, Griffin, the ever-improving Callum Bell, scrum-half Keith Hogg and Scott McCann, the latter always keen to be in the thick of the action.

Team: C Warrick, S Haren, A Jackson; K Watret, J Nelson (c); C Bell, E Braid, G Smith; K Hogg, A Halliday; A Jancey, M Griffin, J Crowther, S McCann; K Jones. Replacements (all used): J Bigham, R Gracie, D Wyllie

ANNAN 17 v LIVINGSTON 3
7TH NOVEMBER 2009

Match Photos

The Everholm has featured large in Annan RFC history over the past decades but none more so than on Saturday. With both pitches at Violetbank deemed unplayable after the overnight downpour the game was moved to the Everholm where to the delight of the loyal Annan support, who turned out in remarkable numbers in the atrocious conditions, saw their team record their first win of the season in Division 1 of the Scottish Hydro National Leagues.

Despite having lost their last ten games there was a renewed confidence in the team after some heartening performances in the past few weeks albeit in defeat. In the opening moments both sides made some probing drives through their forwards testing their opponents defences. In one surge by the home forwards the ball was released to the backs and full back Kevin Jones, coming into the line, chipped the ball over the heads of the advancing Livingston defensive line and winger Scott McCann winning the race to touch down the ball was impeded by his opposite number. The referee, deciding that a try would have been scored, awarded a penalty try which Scott McCann converted and for the first time this season led in a game from the start.

For the next 15 minutes of the game the home side had the territorial advantage as they tried to build on their lead but were unable to breach the Livingston defences. In the second quarter it was Livingston who held the territorial advantage as they battered away at the Annan line. Despite Annan being down to 14 men, with Captain John Nelson being yellow carded, they were unable to breach a resolute home defence built around a terrific display by the Annan back row who put in a powerful display of disciplined defence. Although both sides were awarded kickable penalties neither were successful and with neither team able to breach the whitewash half time arrived with the score Annan 7 Livingston 0.

If the first half honours had been even the second half belonged to Annan. With the half only minutes old No8 Graham Smith picked up at the base of a scrum and drove up the blindside, fed the ball inside to scrum half Keith Hogg who, drawing the cover defences released winger Scott McCann who crashed over in the corner. He was unable to convert his try. Annan continued to dominate the game with the forwards, relishing their task in the dreadful conditions, driving play towards the Livingston line at every opportunity. Their efforts were duly rewarded when Graham Smith from a quickly taken penalty award drove towards the line only to be held up by some desperate visiting defence but was able to offload the ball to wing forward Callum Bell who breached the whitewash to score. The conversion was missed.

With a 17 point lead Annan rung the changes and gave their replacements a run out and as so often happens the opposition upped their game and the home defences were sorely tested in the final 10 minutes of the game. However the Annan defences held firm and the only reward Livingston gleaned for their efforts was a penalty to take the final score to Annan 17 Livingston 3. All in all this was a win that Annan richly deserved and whilst there were several areas of their game that the coaches will be looking at, none more so than the lineouts which were a bit of a disaster from the Annan perspective, this was a much more of a rounded team performance. The forwards in particular looked the part in the loose with Keith Hogg, back after injury, snapping at their heels at scrum half bringing out the best in their play. It was heartening to see No 8 Graham Smith back to something like his best with wing forwards Euan Braid and Callum Bell a constant thorn in the visitors side. Callum Bell who was called up to replace the injured Dwayne Barnes put in a sterling performance, capped by a fine try, was the sponsors Man of the Match.

Although this was a fine and much needed win for the Annan team it has to be tempered against the fact that Livingston were not the team they were even from the start of the season when they won 4 wins in a row and since them have not won a game. Annan, however, can now look forward to the second half of the season, starting this coming Saturday away to Edinburgh Uni, with some hope if they can replicate and build on last Saturday’s performance.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, S Haren, A Jackson, G Hogg, J Nelson, E Braid, C Bell, G Smith, K Hogg, A Halliday, A Jancey, M Griffen, J Crowther, S McCann, K Jones. Replacements: K Watret, Ryan Gracie, E Currie (all used)

DALZIEL 45 v ANNAN 0
31ST OCTOBER 2009

This was the proverbial game of two halves. At half-time Annan had battled to achieve a 0 – 0 score line and in the second half Dalziel ran in seven tries to gain an eventual 45 point margin of victory. There was a contrast between the attitude and execution of play displayed by the home side in either half but Annan’s play was marked throughout by a stout defence and need for heroic tackling. The men from Violetbank gained some favourable remarks from the home support for a gritty performance that should help to build confidence for the remainder of the season.

A catalogue of mistakes by the league-leaders, Dalziel, and a reluctance to spread the ball wide marked the pattern of the game for the first half. Their untidy playing style also contributed to frequent penalties which disrupted the flow of play. The heavier home pack won a lot of possession that was frequently wasted as a result of wrong choices and poor passing. However, Annan set up an aggressive defence which was underpinned by the work rate of the flankers Braid and Barnes. A foray into Dalziel territory after 25 minutes resulted in an Annan penalty attempt which drifted wide. At the same time the home team was refreshed by their first substitutions and the game settled back into a siege pattern. Annan came close with another penalty kick after 32 minutes and this sparked further substitutions by Dalziel. Just before half-time Ross Dunlop intercepted a loose pass near his own line to relieve a relentless bout of Dalziel pressure. The 0 – 0 score after 40 minutes was a fair reflection of the talent and effort displayed by the two sides, remarkable only for their opposite placings in the same league table.

At the start of the second half the superior driving power of the Dalziel pack was put to better use and Annan were under immediate pressure. The home side’s handling was much improved and 5 minutes from the restart they registered their first try from a set piece. The score rate was then maintained at a try every five minutes and Annan had to work hard to make the best of a meagre share of the possession. Under such pressure the character of the team was tested to the full and a lot of credit must go to the individual and collective spirit of the Annan side. At various times and despite limited opportunities Halliday, Griffen, Jones and Dunlop attempted to run the ball out of defence in an attempt to test their opposite number. Perhaps better retention of the ball in contact was required but their enterprise helped to reduce Dalziel’s own attacking options. When captain John Nelson was forced to retire just before the final whistle he may not have been exactly sure of his whereabouts but as he came to he would have been able to reflect on an honest team performance from which to build and progress.

Annan 1st XV: C Warwick, S Haren, A Jackson, G Hogg, K Watret, D Barnes, E Braid, J Nelson (Capt.), A Jancey, A Halliday, R Dunlop, M Griffen, E Currie, C Bell, K Jones.

ANNAN 18 v WHITECRAIGS 40
24TH OCTOBER 2009

Match Photos/Video Highlights

Whitecraigs arrived at Annan in second place in Scottish Hydro National One, so Annan knew this one was going to be tough. Conditions were very difficult underfoot as Whitecraigs began to apply early pressure.

For a ten-minute spell, the home side were on the back foot and there was a sense of inevitability about Whitecraig’s first score as their hooker drove over the line for a try following several good phases of play. However, Annan were in determined mood and came back with a bang. An excellent chip through from Michael Griffen saw Kevin Jones exploiting the space and winning the chase for a superb touchdown, with the Halliday conversion attempt unluckily hitting the post.

Annan were taking the game to Whitecraigs and playing with aggression and grit, epitomised by some sterling tackling and attacking play by youngsters Dwayne Barnes and Sean Haren. Midway through the first half with the score at 5-5, there was nothing between the teams at either end of the league table and Annan were playing with confidence and real spirit. It has to be said that the second Whitecraigs try came against the run of play. A chip through was picked up by the scrum half and fed to No. 8 Pollock who went in for a Whitecraig’s second try. Scott McCann narrowed the score to 8-10 with a long-range penalty and when McCann slotted his second penalty to put Annan in the lead at 11-10, an upset was on the cards and the crowd was loving it. Another McCann penalty effort went narrowly past and countered with a penalty of their own to take the lead at 11-13. Annan had certainly been the better team in the first forty minutes and it was a case of what might have been had they been successful with three earlier penalties and a conversion.

The second half started at a cracking pace and Whitecraigs nudged further ahead at 11-16 with a penalty. With weather conditions deteriorating, Whitecraigs began employing a very effective rolling maul which caused Annan problems and it was from one such move that their No. 5 stretched the lead with a try which was converted. At 11-23, Annan were far from out of it and another twist was to come in this exciting game. Kevi Jones, a class act throughout, intercepted on the five metre line and sprinted the length of the pitch, leaving the opposition backs in his wake, to dive in under the posts for an exciting score. McCann converted to bring the score to 18-23. However, a wayward penalty by Annan gifted a try to Whitecraigs No. 8 Pollock and the Glasgow side went into the final ten minutes with renewed confidence. They ran in a further two tries to take the score to 18-40.

Whitecraigs will certainly be in the mix at the end of the season, with a solid set of forwards and pace and skill in the half-backs and at full back. The young Annan side put in a Herculean effort and, apart from the last ten minutes, were every bit as good as their Glasgow counterparts. The Annan line-out was a bit scrappy, but virtually every other area of their play has to be commended – none more so than their fighting team spirit.

Annan team: C Warrick, S Haren, A Jackson; G Hogg, K Watret; C Bell, D Barnes, J Nelson (c); A Jancey, A Halliday; S McCann, M Griffin, D Wyllie, J Crowther; K Jones. Replacements (all used): A Rae, E Braid, R Gracie.

ELLON 39 v ANNAN 6
17TH OCTOBER 2009

Annan left on Friday evening for the long journey north to Aberdeen. At this time they travelled with sixteen players coming from various parts of the country. By Saturday morning this had changed due to unfortunate circumstances to fifteen players, a match rep/linesman and a coach.

This meant that those on the pitch had to put in a huge effort in what was always going to be a tough assignment. The game started very evenly and Annan were giving as good as they got for the first twenty minutes when Ellon eventually managed to score after some excellent driving play from their pack with a very dynamic back row to the fore. From then on, Ellon gradually started to dominate with their scrummage being quite destructive. Annan to their credit stuck to their task and a few players continued on the field and gave everything when if there had been replacements should have been allowed to retire.

Captain John Nelson once again lead from the front in his unaccustomed role of prop, Kieran Watret had a number of good pick ups from No 8 and the two wing forwards of Barnes and Braid were everywhere.

The backs when they got reasonable ball made good territorial ground from the boot of scrum half McCann and stand off Halliday, centre Griffen and full back Jones all had some telling breaks.

With 10 minutes to play, the score was 22-6 which would probably have been a better reflection on the game but 3 wrong decisions allowed Ellon to score 3 soft tries in the last 10 to take the score to 39-6.

This was a very entertaining and open game where once again Annan can be commended for trying to play rugby and never letting their heads go down. The atmosphere after the game was once again disappointment but there was something else. There is a growing confidence and a steely determination to come through this patch and prove a lot of doubters wrong and if the attitude shown at Ellon by these fifteen players is continued then there is no reason why they cannot once again be successful.

The Annan points came from the boot of Alex Halliday.

Annan - C Warrick, S Haren, J Nelson, G Hogg, C Nicholson, D Barnes, E Braid, K Watret, S McCann, A Halliday, G Lynch, M Griffen, D Wyllie, C Bell, K Jones.

ANNAN 7 v EAST KILBRIDE 27
10TH OCTOBER 2009

Video Highlights

There’s no doubt about it, life is tough for Annan right now as they go through a rebuilding process and that elusive first victory has yet to be achieved. East Kilbride visited Violetbank on Saturday and the chance was there for Annan to get off the mark. With only a few minutes on the clock, however, it was EK who struck first. Following four scrums close to the Annan line, scrum half Fraser Stott fed to centre Raikawaisa who scythed through for a score. Annan had a tendency to give away too many penalties in this game and the Lanarkshire side capitalised with two successful efforts by stand off Dalgliesh to take the score to 0-13. Annan were struggling to find a rhythm early on and then failed to capitalise when EK had a forward sin-binned for ten minutes for a technical offence.

The Annan backs moves were at their most fluent when full back Kevin Jones, who had an excellent game throughout, joined the line at pace and they began taking the game to EK. In a fifteen minute spell it was all Annan pressure, but they had nothing to show for it in terms of points despite camping themselves firmly in the East Kilbride half and mounting a lot of pressure on the EK defence. East Kilbride had the final say in the first half when their second row forward Dalgliesh drove over from a scrum. The half-time scoreline of 0-20 reflects Annan’s plight at the moment. They gave as good as they got for forty minutes, had more than their fair share of possession and pressure, but failed to take their chances and conceded scores at crucial moments.

To make matters worse, Annan conceded a try, again from a scrum, right at the beginning of the second half. All of a sudden, faint hopes had changed to mission impossible! Annan did play some good stuff throughout the second half, bolstered by bringing on Graeme Hogg and Ewan Braid who had been out through injury. When Braid burst through for Annan’s try, converted by Halliday, it was no less than the home side’s efforts had deserved. Good pressure from Annan, a loose ball fed from Bell to Braid, and there was no stopping the wiry flanker from twenty metres out.

Yes, there were too many penalties conceded, mainly for not releasing quickly enough in the tackle, and too many handling errors, but the Annan players battled well for each other and it wasn’t a bad performance. Special mention must go to the performances of Kevin Jones, Andrew Jancey, Graham Smith and Ewan Braid. The players are desperate to give the supporters something to cheer about, the hard work is there throughout the team, the morale is there – a few lucky breaks would be nice!

Annan Team: C Warrick, S Haren, J Gilmour; K Watret, R Dunlop; C Bell, J Nelson (c), G Smith; A Jancey, A Halliday; G Lynch, M Griffin, D Wyllie, E Currie; K Jones Replacements (all used) – G Hogg, E Braid, A Jackson

LANGHOLM 41 v ANNAN 8
3RD OCTOBER 2009

This was billed as a basement battle, but at a windy Milntown last Saturday, Langholm proved to have too much for a disappointing Annan team still looking for their first league points. Again, Annan kept battling to the end, but were unable to prevent Langholm scoring with regularity over the first 60 minutes.

Annan had the benefit of the wind in the first half, but it was Langholm who dominated from the start, and playing the right game under the conditions made it difficult for Annan to use the wind to mount any consistent pressure. Langholm opened the scoring with a penalty when Annan strayed offside, but on the quarter hour Alex Halliday was able to level things when Langholm were guilty of handling in a ruck. From that point, though, things went downhill for Annan. From a ruck inside the Annan 22, the Langholm left wing was put away , beating two defenders to touch down. A penalty success for the home side was followed by a second try, and the best of the game, when the Langholm hooker finished off a move started well inside their own half. On the stroke of half time Langholm again got over on the left, to provide a 21-3 half time lead.

Now with the wind in their faces, it looked as though Annan would be forced to defend their own line for 40 minutes, and certainly Langholm started off as they had finished the first half. A penalty for Langholm was followed by two quickfire tries, both converted, as the Annan defence creaked, and another penalty on 55 minutes brought the score to 41-3, still with 25 minutes remaining.

The final quarter of the game, including a spell when Annan were down to fourteen men, after Gavin Lynch was yellow carded, proved much more even, and became more of a midfield slog, with Annan managing to exert some pressure on the Langholm line. Earlier such rare moments of pressure had proved pointless, but right at the end Annan no 8 Graham Smith managed to barge over on the left to give the Annan support something to cheer about.

So there was no doubting the better side, Langholm playing with greater aggression and greater fluency than a rather disjointed Annan. However for Annan the scrum was strong and the lineout at least an area of parity – but in the loose and in attack Langholm took the prizes. Annan’s defence in midfield and out wide continues to be a problem, and even the reliable Kevin Jones could not plug all the gaps.

Not a good game for Annan then, but if they all keep working hard and for each other the breaks might come against East Kilbride.

Annan team: K. Jones; G. Lynch, D. Wyllie, M. Griffin, E. Currie; A. Halliday, A. Jancey; C. Warrick, S. Haren, J. Gilmour, K. Watret, G. Hogg, D. Barnes, J. Nelson, G. Smith. Replacements (all used) C. Bell, J. Bigham, R. Dunlop.

ANNAN 11 V RHC 29
26TH SEPTEMBER 2009

Match Photos

Annan were chasing their first win of the season, not made any easier by injuries to key players prior to selection. They started the game with a bang, playing some excellent rugby. The rucking was strong and Annan were keen to shift the ball across the backs at every opportunity. The first half was played at a cracking pace, with both teams intent on playing open rugby, but it was Annan who seemed the hungrier team, playing exciting rugby and RHC were frequently on the back foot. Annan’s tackling and cover were pretty solid and the set piece was generally good. Against the run of play, though, it was RHC who got the first score when their powerful prop Williamson drove over for a try. Kevin Jones always looked a threat as he weaved his way into the RHC defence, but wayward passes in the backs brought an end to a number of promising moves. The first half had certainly belonged to Annan, but they had nothing to show for their efforts. Their was a lack of penetration despite flowing backs play and RHC scored a second try, against the run of play it has to be said, when winger Morrison spotted a gap in the corner. Annan prop Colin Warrick did look to have scored a legitimate try, but the referee was unsighted. Annan had certainly looked the better team in the first 40 minutes and could well have capitalised when RHC were rocking on their heels had they played tighter, ten-man rugby rather than shifting the ball wide at every opportunity. Half-time 0-12.

With all to play for in the second half, Alex Halliday slotted an early penalty and Annan were applying the pressure once again. When Halliday put over his second place kick, the home crowd was buzzing as they sensed a turnaround in fortunes. What followed, was not in the script! The second half was a bit scrappier and one or two gaps were opening up. Just as Annan were thinking about winning the game, RHC scored a try on the left when their right winger switched wings to feed to Scott who scored in the corner. There was a feeling at this time that Annan were victims of their own desire to play expansive rugby. RHC scored two late tries, one from a cruel ricochet, and Alex Halliday scored a fine try for the home side.

The Annan forwards played well throughout, Kevin Jones had a great game at full back and the new half-back partnership of Jancey and Halliday showed a lot of promise, with Halliday in particular having an excellent match.

This was certainly Annan’s best performance of the season and it should give them confidence for this week’s crucial game at Langholm.

Annan Team: C Warrick, S Haren, J Gilmour; J Nelson (c), K Watret; R Dunlop, D Barnes, G Smith; A Jancey, A Halliday; E Currie, J Crowther, D Wyllie, G Lynch; K Jones. Replacements (all used) – M Griffin, C Bell, J Bigham

MURRAYFIELD WANDERERS 35 V ANNAN 8
19TH SEPTEMBER 2009

The clash of National 1’s two bottom clubs took place at Murrayfield last Saturday, and by the end Annan could not deny that Wanderers had deserved their win, though perhaps not the bonus point in a scoreline which rather flattered the home side.

Annan were glad to welcome back Kevin Jones and Graham Smith for this game, but were hampered by the fact that Ewan Braid, though present, was not fit enough to start, and with stand off Gavin Lynch not available Alex Halliday was at No 10 for the first time.

The first half settled into a pattern, but not one Annan would have chosen. Wanderers had nearly all the possession and territory, with Annan unable to build any momentum, and it was not surprising that the pressure would lead to infringements by Annan. An early penalty by home stand off Borland, was followed by another on 25 minutes to give the Wanderers a 6-0 lead. It began to look as though that might be the score at half time, as dogged Annan defence and errors by the home side were keeping Annan in the game. Before half time, however, Annan lost inside centre Jonathan Callaghan with a shoulder injury, requiring lock Ross Dunlop to move to the backs, and then Wanderers scored a try right on half time when lively scrum half Johnson put winger Walker in. The conversion failed, so Annan trailed 11-0 at the break.

Annan needed to get on the scoreboard early in the second half, but again it was Wanderers who built up a head of steam, and flanker Nutsford powered through a gap from a scrum in the Annan 22 for a converted try. On 50 minutes Annan’s Colin Warrick suffered a yellow card, and as often happens when short handed, Annan had their best spell. First Halliday succeeded with a penalty, and then Annan exerted pressure on the home line. The ball was moved quickly left from a ruck, and wing Ewan Currie had the space to score in the corner. At 18-8 down, there was hope Annan could get closer, but while the game became more open and exciting in the final quarter, it was Wanderers who went on to add three further tries, all coming from pressure in the Annan 22, as the home side threw the ball about with increasing abandon and confidence. With one conversion, the total of 35-8 was reached.

There could not be too many complaints about the result, even if the scoreline was galling. Annan simply did not gain or retain enough possession to pose a threat for long periods of the game. On a brighter note, the scrum definitely tightened up after Ryan Gracie went on, while Graham Smith was a dominant force in the lineout.

So, another defeat, but again the Annan team kept going to the end. No one on the field put in more tackles than Dwayne Barnes, and young hooker Sean Haren was also busy about the field. Alex Halliday coped intelligently with the unaccustomed position of stand off, while his partner at scrum half, Andrew Jancey is getting to grips with his new position. Annan will need to approach this part of the season one game at a time, seeking to iron out individual weaknesses and improve team work week by week.

One final comment. This grass pitch must be the best in Scotland at club level, maintained as it is by the SRU, while the neighbouring synthetic pitch saw two Wanderers games played one after the other. Some clubs don’t know their luck.

Annan team: J. Nelson, S. Haren, C. Warrick, R. Dunlop, K. Watret, D. Barnes, M. Carpenter, G. Smith; A. Jancey, A. Halliday; E. Currie, J. Callaghan, M. Griffin, D. Wyllie; K. Jones. Sub used R. Gracie.

ANNAN 7 V LINLITHGOW 44
12TH SEPTEMBER 2009

Match Photos/Video Highlights

Annan’s miserable start to their league campaign continued on Saturday with a six try to one demolition by Linlithgow at Violetbank in Division 1 of the S.H.E. National Leagues. The visitor’s victory was based on their forwards powerful display in particular their scrummaging which brought them 3 of their tries. There is little doubt that that the full scrummaging laws which were reintroduced this season have proved difficult for the Annan forwards to deal with.

From the kick off Annan were pinned back in their 22 and it only took Linlithgow 5 minutes to score the first of their tries. The visitors added a further try and a penalty before Annan managed to reply through an individual display of incisive running out of defence by full back Alex Halliday. Alex converted his own try to take Annan within striking distance of the visitors but Annan were unable to sustain any pressure in attack as possession was turned over on several occasions. Linlithgow increased their lead by a further penalty and a converted try to take the half time score to Annan 7 Linlithgow 25.

The second half was a difficult one for the home side as they had to defend their line for long periods and it was only a matter of time before the whitewash was breached with the visitors scoring 3 tries in the half. Final score Annan 7 Linlithgow 44.

Annan’s main problems were at the set piece where they were out scrummaged and dismantled in the lineout. In the loose they were turned over on numerous occasions and basically were forced to play on the back foot for most of the game. It was not all doom and gloom though with all of the players, especially the younger members of the team, giving of their best with flanker Dwayne Barnes, who tackled like a demon over the full 80 minutes, Annan’s standout player. It looks as if it could be a long season for the Annan players and supporters alike!

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, S Haren, J Nelson (C), R Dunlop, C Nicholson, P Carruthers, D Barnes, M Carpenter, A Jancey, G Lynch, E Currie, J Crowther, M Griffen, D Wyllie, A Halliday. Replacements: K Watret, J Bigham, C Bell (all used)

BERWICK 34 V ANNAN 0
5TH SEPTEMBER 2009

A much changed Annan 1st xv travelled to Berwick more in hope than expectation in Division 1 of the S.H.E. National Leagues and apart from the first twenty minutes when Annan gave as good as they got, the game was taken away from them by a dynamic, pacey, well drilled home side.

22-0 at half time was perhaps not a true reflection of the effort put in by the Annan team. The superior skills of the home side however along with the ability to take the ball at pace and get over the gain line meant that Annan were usually on the back foot and eventually no matter how heroic the defence, the pressure told.

The second half only yielded two scores which also said a great deal for the defence but a fair percentage of the pressure was self inflicted with the home side turning over a lot of ball in the loose.

Final score Berwick 34 Annan 0

Individually a number of players put in some good performances, none more so than Annan Academy captain Sean Haren who was making his first team debut. Thanks must go to Neil Moffat for travelling at the last moment and to Kieran Watret for agreeing to move forward into the front row. Michael Griffin again took the ball up well and Ross Dunlop is gaining experience with every game.

If the attitude shown by the players is continued, this slump in form will only be temporary and success is just around the corner.

Annan 1ST XV team: K Watret, S Haren, C Warrick, C Nicholson, R Dunlop, D Barnes, E Braid, J Nelson (capt) A Jancey, G Lynch, E Currie, M Griffin, S Wyllie, N Moffat, A. Halliday

ANNAN 6 V EDINBURGH UNI 35
29TH AUGUST 2009

Video Highlights

Not the start to the season that Annan were looking for. In fact a very disappointing result against a team which is usually at its weakest before the University term begins. Yet at half time the game, with Edinburgh leading 8-6, there were hopes that Annan could still find a rhythm that would bring a win. In the end it was visitors who seemed to grow in stature as the game progressed, and Annan – with a lot of defending to do – who lost their poise and shape.

This was a much changed Annan team from what supporters were used to, but a team which had shown some promise in the tournament games the previous week. The early pressure was from Annan, keeping possession, and tackling well to keep the students within their own half. Despite this the visitors’ midfield defence was giving nothing away, and Annan’s best chances came from penalty kicks to the corner. Unfortunately the ensuing lineouts failed to give the clean possession needed. After an Annan penalty attempt was missed, the students were successful with one of their own. Taking over the kicking duties, fullback Alex Halliday equalized, but mid way through the half the visiting backs found space on the left to cross for the first try. Annan attempted to retaliate, but could find no way through, and it was another Halliday penalty which reduced the University’s half time lead to 8-6.

The longer the second half went on the worse it got for Annan. Tackled which had previously been made began to slip, and the visiting backs began to threaten. The Annan pack was not playing well enough to dominate possession, and the ball was turned over too often on the ground. As frustration set in, the visitors moved out of sight. An early second half try by the backs was followed by three more later in the game, involving the centres and wings. A final flurry of Annan pressure came to nought.

The Annan scrum was a curate’s egg. One minute pushing the students off their ball, but then struggling with their own ball. The lineout was also inconsistent. Too much ball was given away in the loose. The backs shaped up in the first half, but found the sharper visitors a real handful in the second half, and began to lose their shape. There is work to be done this week before the trip to Berwick. Man of the match for Annan, chosen by the visitors, was Colin Warrick.

Annan team: J. Nelson, C. Bell, C. Warrick, R. Dunlop, G. Hogg, M. Carpenter, E. Braid, G. Smith, A. Jancey, G. Lynch, D. Wyllie, K. Hogg, M. Griffin, E. Currie, A. Halliday. Subs – J. Gilmour, C. Nicholson, J. Bigham.

VIOLETBANK TOURNAMENT
22ND AUGUST 2009

Match Photos

With weather of biblical proportions in the week preceding the event, Annan RFC’s ninth annual 15 aside Violetbank Trophy competition looked to be on the verge of cancellation. However the weather gods had not reckoned on the heroic efforts of the grounds staff who, by Saturday, had the Violetbank pitches in playable condition. With the added bonus of blue skies and sunshine all was set for a memorable contest between the eight teams taking part. The Annan organisers were left with a problem, however, when Langholm called off at noon unable to raise a team and, thankfully, Dumfries stepped into the breach at the last minute to fill the vacancy.

The tournament was played in two leagues with the winner of the leagues playing each other in the final. League A featured Annan, Netherhall, Penrith and Cambuslang and the hosts won all three of their games to claim their place in the final. The results were:

Annan 10 Netherhall 0 with tries from winger Alex Halliday and centre Michael Griffen.
Penrith 3 Cambuslang 0
Penrith 5 Netherhall 21
Annan 22 Cambuslang 7 with tries from full back Kevin Jones, winger Alex Halliday, hooker Paul Carruthers and a penalty and conversion by stand off Keith Hogg.
Annan 24 Penrith 5 with tries from Alex Halliday, lock Ross Dunlop, scrum half Andrew Jancey, No 8 Graham Smith with two conversions by Keith Hogg

League B featured Stewartry, Upper Eden, Wigton and Dumfries and it was Wigton who, winning all their games, claimed their place in the final to face hosts Annan. The results were:

Stewartry 3 Upper Eden 17
Stewartry 15 Wigton 19
Upper Eden 21 Dumfries 0
Upper Eden 5 Wigton 10
Stewartry 0 Dumfries 19
Wigton 17 Dumfries 12

Final Annan 8 Wigton 7

The final between Annan and Wigton was a close run affair with the Cumbrians looking the more experienced team and it was Wigton who scored first with a well worked score by their inside centre which they converted. Annan’s young team fought back and on a forward drive just before half time veteran prop James ‘Lecter’ Gilmour crashed over to score an unconverted try to take the half time score to Annan 5 Wigton 7.

In the second half Annan struggled to gain possession of the ball as Wigton played some fine controlled rugby but some exemplary defensive work from Annan kept them at bay. With time running out Annan mounted a concerted attack on the Wigton line but were unable to breach the whitewash. However in the dying seconds of the game stand off Keith Hogg received the ball from a ruck and, stepping back into the pocket, landed a drop goal as the final whistle sounded.

It was especially heartening for the Club’s coaches to see so many young players make their mark in their first 1st XV outings.

The Annan squad for the tournament was C. Warrick, C. Bell, S. Haren, P. Carruthers, J. Gilmour, J. Nelson (Capt), R. Dunlop, G. Hogg, K. Watret, C. Nicholson, D. Barnes, E. Braid, M. Carpenter, G. Smith, A. Jancey, K. Hogg, G. Lynch, D. Wyllie, M. Griffen, A. Halliday, J. Callaghan, K. Jones, A. Carlyle, W. Gray, E. Currie.

Annan’s Club Coach Paul Buckley had this to say about the tournament and his thought for the coming season ‘Against the odds, the sun shone on Violetbank to lift the spirits of the busy organisers and groundsmen. The teams also appeared to relish the brighter conditions and really got into the spirit of trying to play quick, expansive rugby when possible, adapting their playing tempo to get the most out of the 15min each way format.

Although not all of the teams had the luxury of a large squad, the sportsmanship shown by their counterparts meant that their spare players got a bonus game and teams were able to compete.

The Violetbank Tournament is an excellent opportunity for Coaches to let their teams loose, putting pre-season training into practice and working on their strengths and weaknesses before the season starts. This year Annan benefited from the depth of experience and ability in their senior squad who looked sharper, stronger and fitter as a result of their hard work through the pre-season programme. A number of players made debut appearances and performed well, getting themselves on the radar of the Senior Team Coaches for selection in the impending 09/10 season.

The strength of character, commitment and patience shown by the Annan players, during the many phases of play in those intensely exciting last few minutes of the Tournament Final, was commendable. To finish with a side step and drop goal from 25 metres in the closing seconds, after so many intense phases of play, and have the whole crowd roaring in support was a great advertisement for both teams playing and Annan Rugby Club's ability in putting such a great event together.

Our focus is back on the coming season and the challenges it will inevitably bring. The success of the Tournament should be the platform from which to develop our Club for the benefit of all its players, Junior and Senior, and to extend our support to develop rugby in our communities.’

The organisers would like to thank all the teams who participated but especially Dumfries who sent a team at such short notice and also the tournament sponsors T.N. Trawlers and Murray Bell.

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