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ANNAN 64 v WETHERBY 5
17TH MARCH 2012

After a disappointing end to the league season, this friendly afforded Annan players a chance to relax and enjoy themselves. The Wetherby touring party consisted mainly of veterans and young players, who were eventually outgunned by a large Annan squad of some 22 players – a mixture of 1st and 2nd XV players.

Almost from the kick off Annan scored. Kevin Jones made a break up the right, and Willie Gray was on hand to finish off. Craig McCann dropped the conversion from well out. One hoped that it wasn’t going to be that easy for Annan – and it wasn’t. It was Wetherby who scored next, their fullback cutting through. The game then slowed down amid some scrappy play by both sides and plenty whistle, until Kevin Jones again broke loose on the left to score at the posts. Annan then added three more tries before the break, Colin Warrick (or one of the other forwards !) drove over, and Sean Haren and David Wyllie added the others.

Kevin Jones was first to score in the second half, and as the visitors tired – not surprising after a night out in Dumfries – further tries were added by Ross Dunlop, Sean Haren, Craig Wilson, Ali Jackson and Callum Bell. Craig McCann had seven conversions in all. Big Michael Thompson did not feature on the scorers list, but his “Big Run” in the second half was a highlight – sadly he was brought down on the 5 metre line.

In these days of tense league rugby it was good to see everyone relaxed and enjoying the game. By the way, it is not only the Scotland team who suffer injuries in the warm-up. Callum Nicholson did.

Annan squad: C. Warrick, C. Bell, J. Nelson, R. Craig, G. Hogg, M. Thompson, A. Jackson, M. Carpenter, C. McCann, D. Wyllie, W. Gray, R. Dunlop, G. Smith, S. Broatch, K. Jones, I. Thorburn, W. Henderson, A. Halliday, G. Williamson, A. Muir, C. Wilson, S. Haren.

GHK 57 v ANNAN 8
10TH MARCH 2012

Annan travelled to Old Anniesland to face an unbeaten GHK in the last league game of the season with a side showing a few changes from the previous game. Annan started brightly and had most of the early possession with good driving play from the forwards. This pressure brought an early penalty when GHK were penalised for handling in the ruck which Craig McCann duly converted with a fine kick into the wind.

From the restart GHK mounted their first real period of pressure which Annan defended well but eventually gave away a scrum from which GHK scored when their fullback cut through the Annan defence to score a try wide on the right. The conversion was missed. From this point GHK seemed to gain confidence and their speedy backs, particularly their fullback were a constant threat, scoring a further four similar tries, two from the fullback and one each from No 11 and No 13. During this spell Annan had reasonable possession but much of their effort was undone with unforced handing errors resulting in turnover ball.

Just before half time Annan mounted an attack with a trademark run from Kevin Jones from inside his own half with the offload being moved across the line to Ross Dunlop who broke a GHK tackle to score a fine try. The conversion was missed. Half time GHK 36 Annan 8.

In the second half, far from being disheartened, Annan dominated possession for long periods but were unable to convert pressure into points. The best chance came when after several phases of forward play No 8 Keiron Watret was driven over the line but the ball was adjudged to be held up. The difference between the sides was best shown by the fact that GHK added three breakaway tries despite their lack of possession – a fourth for the full back and one each for the left wing and outside centre. Final score GHK 57 Annan 8.

Regardless of the score line Annan can take a few positives from this game. As usual the commitment was excellent for the whole 80 minutes, the forwards had the better of the set piece, both lineout and scrum and there were some good attacking moves which unfortunately were often spoiled by careless mistakes. Ultimately the speedy GHK back line was just a bit too difficult to deal with on the day.

Annan 1st XV Squad: J Nelson, C Warwick, R Gracie, M Thomas, M Thompson, S Livingston, A Jackson, K Watret, A Jancey, C McCann, A Copeland, J Bigham, R Dunlop, B Jamieson, K Jones. Replacements: S Clark, E Currie, G Smith (all used).

ANNAN 5 v IRVINE 47
3RD MARCH 2012

Forget the score this was, whilst a heavy defeat, a game that the Annan young guns played with considerable commitment and never say die attitude putting together some fine attacking moves over the 80 minutes. Their undoing however was the experience and lightening responses of the visitors who turned every Annan mistake into an attacking opportunity.

Annan started brightly with some solid driving play from the forwards but when an up and under was fielded by the visiting standoff he set his back line off and with the Irvine fullback coming into the line at pace he broke through a couple of tackles to score to the left of the posts. The try was converted by the Irvine no 10. To Annan’s credit they stormed back up the pitch from the restart with a darting run from full back Kevin Jones. When halted, Irvine were penalised in the ensuing ruck for not releasing in the tackle. From the following lineout lock Kieren Watret drove for the line and from the ruck he set up the ball was whipped out along the Annan back line with winger Andy Copland able to squeeze in to score in the corner. Stand off Craig McCann’s conversion fell short of the posts. In the scoring stakes that was as good as it got for Annan and the visitors ran in a further four tries before half time with the Irvine fullback getting his hat trick, and a try apiece from their No 13 and No 7 taking the half time score to Annan 5 Irvine 33.

In the second half Annan battled away and played most of the game in the Irvine half as they endeavoured to add to their points tally but they were denied on numerous occasions by resolute defence from the Irvine team. On the rare occasions when the visitors broke into the Annan half they scored two further tries, a fourth for their full back and one for their replacement centre to take the final score to Annan 5 Irvine 47.

All in all a disappointing result for the Annan squad in their last home league game of the season against what was in all probability the best team Annan have played in this league campaign. There were, however, definite positives to be taken from the game with Annan’s set piece solid in lineout and scrum. Also their attacking displays showed definite promise. It was, however, their defensive frailties which was their undoing allied with their inability to retain, on numerous occasions, possession in contact situations. Those mistakes cost them dear with the ever alert Irvine attack recycling the ball at speed creating problems for the Annan defences.

This league fixture was sponsored by Annan Ladies and the match ball by Thomson Roddick

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, C Bell, R Gracie, K Watret, R Craig, S Livingstone, R Dunlop, M Carpenter, A Jancey, C McCann, A Copeland, J Bigham, D Wyllie, B Jamieson, K Jones Replacements: J Nelson, G Hogg, G Smith(all used)

STEWARTRY 13 v ANNAN 3
18TH FEBRUARY 2012

Match Photos

With precious league points and the Chisholm Cup up for grabs, this was an important game for Annan. With the Annan line-up having an unfamiliar look to it, this clash at the Greenlaw between local rivals was always likely to be a close affair.

Following a pretty drab first ten minutes, the home side nudged ahead with a penalty when Annan were caught offside. As Annan got into their stride, it was clear that they were prepared to spin the ball wide to test the Stewartry defence and this was the catalyst for a good spell of play with full back Kevin Jones producing some sparkling runs which really should have led to at least one try had the support play been better. The backs looked lively and played the game at pace, but Stewartry dug in with resolute defence, without really producing much in the way of attack. Very much against the run of play, the Castle Douglas side scored a rather fortuitous try. A loose ball was hacked through and following a couple of phases, the Stewartry forward rumbled over for a try which was excellently converted by their stand off. The Violetbank side had a claim for a try following a crossfield kick by McCann and a chase for the touchdown in the corner, but referee Wilson deemed it a no score. Annan did pull three points back with a penalty from Craig McCann for a half-time scoreline of 3-10.

Annan had played reasonably well in the first half and, with the breeze at their backs, it looked odds on that they would capitalise on their promising start. However, the second half played out with not a lot of attractive rugby for the supporters of either side and with Stewartry playing forwards-oriented possession rugby – certainly not pretty to watch, but very effective! With Annan missing the bulk of Nelson, Gracie and Watret in the forwards, Stewartry clearly had the upper hand in that department and they denied Annan the opportunity to mount any meaningful attacks. Blood injuries to Bell, Dunlop and Warrick and the early departures of the latter and full back Jones were a real blow for the Violetbank side and they struggled to keep their shape and were clearly outmuscled in the scrums. Too many balls were lost in contact and more than a fair share of penalties conceded by the away side. To cap a day of woe for Annan, Stewartry converted a late penalty to deny the Violetbank side a losing bonus point.

A disappointing result for Annan, which now sees them as relegation candidates, but all credit to Stewartry who played to their strengths with a forwards game, keeping possession for large chunks of the second half and ultimately deserving their win.

Annan Team: C Warrick, C Bell, A Jackson, G Hogg, R Craig; D Barnes, S Livingston, M Carpenter; J Bigham, C McCann (c); A Copland, R Dunlop, D Wyllie, B Jamieson; K Jones. Replacements (all used): S Wyllie, S Clarke, C Nicholson

NEWTON STEWART 13 v ANNAN 3
28TH JANUARY 2012

Both these teams have been showing much improved form recently, after finishing in the bottom two places in National 2 last season. However the windy and wet conditions and a muddy pitch meant we were unlikely to see much of the fast flowing rugby seen at Violetbank the previous week. In the end the home side won a well contested game, and denied Annan a bonus point at the death.

The narrow Bladnoch pitch and the conditions made life difficult for the backs, neither set being able to achieve the breakthrough, though the home backs were perhaps the more threatening. The Annan backs had something of an off day, the pick being scrum half Jancey, while stand off McCann looked lively in the first half, but less effective towards the end.

The result of this game therefore was going to come down to the forwards, and in this department the home pack just had the edge. Annan were the heavier, which told in the scrum, but Newton looked the livelier.

Newton started at a brisk pace, putting Annan under pressure in the 22, and although they were kept at bay, they did secure a penalty when Annan strayed offside for a 3-0 lead. Annan then had a good spell of pressure of their own. Twice penalties were kicked to the right corner, and twice Annan laid siege to the Newton line – on both occasions five or more phases of Annan possession resulted. That Annan failed to score was down to solid defence, and errors by Annan at key times. The remainder of the first half was a midfield slog in some driving rain.

Annan fell further behind at the start of the second half, and in galling circumstances. Awarded a penalty, Newton kicked to touch as Annan had done in the first half. After driving to the Annan line, the ball was moved a few yards out allowing a forward to cross for the game’s only try. The conversion was good, and Annan trailed 10-0. As so often happens, this score was followed by one for the other side, in this case Annan being awarded a penalty for an infringement in the maul. Craig McCann made a good job of the kick, to bring Annan into range at 10-3.

It was this point that one would have hoped Annan could kick on to better things, but it was not to be. Most of the final quarter was played in the Annan half. Twice Newton missed penalty attempts, but sensing victory the home side kept Annan under pressure, resulting in some rather scrappy Annan defence. A last minute penalty to Newton in the Annan 22 was goaled and Annan were denied the bonus point.

No classic this, but a hard slog on a poor pitch against a side well organised, solid in defence, and good at scoring in pressure situations on the line, something they have managed in their last three games against Annan. Annan will be hoping for better weather and a better pitch in Glasgow this week, but will also need to be sharp from the word go.

Annan team: C. Warrick, C. Bell, J. Nelson, R. Craig, K. Watret, S.Livingstone, R. Dunlop, M. Carpenter, A. Jancey, C. McCann, A. Copland, J. Bigham, M. Griffin, D. Wyllie, K.Jones. Subs used D. Barnes, B. Jamieson, M. Thompson.

ANNAN 39 v WAYSIDERS 5
14TH JANUARY 2012

Match Photos

This RBS West Division One fixture between second bottom club Waysiders/Drumpellier and third bottom Annan was always going to be a crucial one for both teams and, at the end of the eighty minutes Annan opened up a 15 gap between themselves and their Coatbridge rivals following a sparkling display of rugby and scoring six tries into the bargain.

In the first period, Annan camped themselves in the Waysiders half and were playing high tempo rugby. Straight from the kick off, McCann chipped through and Griffin was just beaten to the touchdown by alert WD defence. Good yards were made by forwards Nelson, Jackson and Gracie before the early breakthrough came – and a delightful try it was, too. Stand-off McCann, looking to play the ball wide, threw a couple of dummies and weaved his way over the line.

This was just the start Annan needed to settle any nerves. In the first quarter, Waysiders were never at the races. With good service from scrum half Jancey, and with forwards and backs interlinking well and running good angles, Annan were playing all the rugby and keeping the Coatbridge outfit on the back foot. Full back Kevin Jones had a couple of searing runs down the touchline and the team play was exciting the home supporters as the WD defence appeared to be becoming desperate. The visitors did have a couple of brief incursions into the Annan half but failed to make any inroads.

The adventurous, pacy, handling rugby was coming from a fired-up Annan XV and they were to be rewarded with another try before half time. A ruck ball popped up to McCann and he darted round the blind side for a classy second score. Half time score 10-0 and the real talking point was why Annan were not much further ahead. Perhaps in their adventurous play they were being a bit over-elaborate, or maybe Waysiders had thrown everything into heroic defence. The visitors certainly looked a tired outfit as the half-time whistle blew.

The break must have rejuvenated WD, for they proceeded to have a purple patch for the first ten minutes of the second period. Their big pack kept possession and rumbled through umpteen phases close to the Annan line before the No. 8 squeezed over for a try. With all that Annan had produced in the way of running rugby, it was a surreal scoreline at 10-5. The match still had to be won despite Annan’s clear dominance. A penalty by McCann stretched the lead to 13-5 and this was the signal for the Violetbank side to step up a couple of gears and regain their first half ascendency.

Against a visibly tiring WD, an Annan scrum shunted them backwards and, after several phases of forwards pick and drives, Jancey fed to McCann and the ball went through the hands of Jackson to Bigham for a superb try, converted by McCann. Annan kept up the pace as Waysiders struggled to stem the tide. A forwards drive from eight metres out resulted in prop Colin Warrick burrowing over to stretch the lead to 25-5 and give Annan the much sought-after bonus point for four tries.

In the last 15 minutes Annan were rampant and two more tries were to ensue. A lovely McCann kick through to the left corner was snapped up by the ever-alert full back Jones and the try was converted by McCann. The last try was a beauty, too. A breakthrough by Jonny Callaghan had the WD defence all at sea and he perpetrated the perfect offload in the tackle to let Callum Bell in for an exciting sixth try.

A great day for the home team, whose fitness and creativity produced a sparkling all-round performance. Following their recent good form, all worries of relegation are now virtually dispelled and hopes of finishing mid-table now a realistic aim. All eighteen players were heros, but few could argue with the sponsor’s man of the match choice, stand off and captain Craig McCann who read the game superbly, got his back line moving at every opportunity and scored 19 points just for good measure.

Annan Team: C Warrick, C Bell, R Gracie; G Hogg, J Nelson; S Livingstone, A Jackson, M Carpenter; A Jancey, C McCann (c); A Copland, D Wyllie, M Griffin, J Callaghan; K Jones. Replacements (all used): K Watret, R Dunlop, J Bigham

GLASGOW ACCIES 8 v ANNAN 13
3RD DECEMBER 2011

This away day victory was as good as any Annan have produced in recent seasons and reinforced the feeling that the Violetbank side’s fortunes are beginning to turn. The conditions at New Anniesland for this RBS West Division One fixture were pretty dire, but Accies have one of the best playing surfaces in the country and the result was a remarkably open game of rugby, with both sides keen to play the ball through the backs when the opportunity arose.

The first fifteen minutes were pretty even, with the two teams playing running rugby. Ryan Gracie and Ali Jackson set the tone by putting in some big hits and unsettling the home side, but it was Accies who took the lead with a penalty after Annan had strayed offside. The remainder of the first half was played at a cracking pace and Accies nudged further ahead when scrum half Beattie noticed a gap following a scrum and nipped in for a try. Surprisingly, the conversion was missed and Annan went back hard at Accies, playing adventurous rugby - at times a wee bit too adventurous when they were still in their own 22!

Nevertheless, their endeavours paid off shortly before half time with a sparkling try. After soaking up three phases of Accies pressure, they won turnover ball and rampaged into the Accies half with virtually the whole pack involved and the bullocking Gracie to the fore in several of the 12 phases of play. Stand off McCann floated out a long pass, missing out the centres, and there was full back Kevin Jones in the wing position to seal a superb score. Craig McCann slotted the conversion from just inside the touchline, taking the half time score to 7-8.

Annan had played exceptionally well in the first half, snuffing out the danger of the lively Accies backs and getting on top in the forwards. In the second half, playing with the elements, Annan pinned Accies back in their own half time and again and full credit to the home defence for keeping the hungry Annan side at bay. A cracking penalty by McCann from just inside the opposition half put Annan in the lead and McCann sealed it with a masterful drop goal. Annan were clearly the better side in the second half, but Accies did have one late flurry which kept the Annan supporters on their toes until the final whistle.

A great all-round performance, with backs and forwards interlinking well and every player stepping up to the line. The tackling and ball carrying was immense and, in both of these respects, Ali Jackson and Ryan Gracie were quite simply immense. It was good to see John Nelson back after a lengthy lay off through injury and he put in a great shift. Michael Griffin and Johnny Callaghan shone in the backs, but it was one of those days where it almost seems unfair to single out individuals. It was good to see young Bruce Jamieson getting 20 minutes on his debut and he showed a fair turn of pace, putting in a couple of good tackles in the process.

Yes, an excellent victory for Annan whose next match is not until January 14th due to the Scottish Rugby winter shutdown.

Annan Team: C Warrick, C Bell, R Gracie; G Hogg, J Nelson ; D Barnes, A Jackson, M Carpenter; A Jancey, C McCann (c); A Copland, M Griffin, D Wyllie, J Callaghan; K Jones. Replacements (all used): K Watret, S Livingstone, B Jamieson

ANNAN 15 v ALLAN GLENS 15
26TH NOVEMBER 2011

Match Report: Alex 'Willix' Halliday.

Annan welcomed Allan Glens to Violetbank for this RBS West Division 1 tie which was always going to be a close encounter. With Allan Glens only 2 places above Annan in the league table, this had the makings of a good game with both sides keen to play quick running rugby.

Unfortunately, the conditions weren’t favourable for either side with a wet, windy day which was always going to provide the spectators with a game of 2 halves. With the wind in Annan’s face in the first half, the home side were forces to play a tight game. Immediately from the kick off, Ali Jackson showed what was required of the forward pack, with a strong carry into the wind, his first of many for the day. Annan couldn’t hold the visitors out for long though, as a pushover try from a line out allowed the away side to take the early advantage making the score 7-0.

Annan began to get into some sort of rhythm following this, with a good kick through from Griffin giving his side some good field position. Glen’s were penalized for an infringement at a ruck and McCann slotted the penalty to make the score 7-3.

Allan Glens started to use the conditions to their advantage by kicking the ball into Annan territory. A mistake by the Annan backs allowed the Glens backs to hack the ball through and their winger to dive on the ball to score the try. The conversion was missed leaving the half time score left 12-3.

As the Glens pack started to tire in the second half, Annan used every opportunity to turn their opponents round and kick them deep into their half. 2 penalties in the first 10mins of the half in front of the sticks gave McCann a chance to close the gap which he did with ease making the score 12-9.

Glens rarely threatened in the second half, with perhaps their best chance coming when the ball was kicked through for the speedy winger to chase. Callaghan won the race to the ball though and the attack was halted until a silly penalty for hands in the ruck allowed Allan Glens to extend their lead to 15-9.

With 20 minutes to go, Annan started to tighten up their defence, and with strong tackling by Griffin, Barnes and Jackson , the home side were playing mostly in the opposition half. McCann slotted another penalty to close the gap to 3 points with 10 minutes to play. An audacious cross field kick attempt by Annan with 5 minutes to go put Glens under pressure and with Jancey and Griffin chasing the kick, the Glens winger made a superb take in his in goal area to prevent Annan from scoring a try.

Annan were able to gain another penalty in the closing stages of the game and McCann kicked it to leave the final score 15-15.

This was a hard fought 2 points for each sides, with the conditions playing a big part in how the game played out. In the forwards, Gracie carried well for Annan and Barnes and Jackson were superb in defence. In the backs, McCann controlled the game from 10 for the home side and Griffin continued more of the form which he has been building the last couple of weeks with powerful runs and big hits in defence. Callaghan was solid at full back in the absence of Kev Jones.

Annan’s best players were Michael Griffin, Ali Jackson and Craig McCann.

Annan Team: C Warwick, C Bell, R Gracie, G Hogg, M Thompson, D Barnes, A Jackson, M Carpenter, J Bigham, C McCann, A Copeland, D Wyllie, M Griffin, A Jancey, J Callaghan. Subs (all used): J Nelson, S Wyllie, S Livingstone.

ANNAN 24 v EAST KILBRIDE 12
19TH NOVEMBER 2011

Annan gained a deserved win on Saturday against a stuffy East Kilbride side at a sunny Violetbank. Whilst this was no classic with Annan in particular guilty of some sloppy handling, especially in the backs, the spectators witnessed three excellent tries all scored by the backs in the second half.

Annan started well and in the opening minutes drove play deep into the visitor’s half and took the lead with a Craig McCann penalty strike. The penalty awarded for illegal handling in a ruck. The visitors however struck back almost immediately with a penalty strike of their own through the unerring boot of their fullback Callum Blackwood. Although Annan had most of the possession and territory in the first half it was the visitors who kept the score board ticking over as Blackwood added a further two penalties following some indisciplined play by their hosts before Annan clawed the deficit back with two penalties of their own through standoff McCann to tie the scores at half time at 9 points all. Annan had their moments in the first half to score a couple of tries, one from some fine driving play and interplay between backs and forwards only to be denied at the last moment by some inept handling and the other when the ball was driven over the line the referee deemed the ball held up.

The second half belonged to the hosts as the dominated most facets of play gaining parity in the scrums after a shaky start in the first half. However it was the visitors who scored first with another penalty award to regain the lead at 9-12. Craig McCann was most unlucky not to score when, following a handling mistake by his opposite number in the East Kilbride 22 he set off on a darting run for the line, evading some rather lack lustre tackling. When stopped inches short of the line he rolled over to touch the ball down. However the referee ruled that the ball was held up and disallowed the score. Annan were not to undone however and from the ensuing scrum the ball was whipped out to winger Jonny Callaghan who scored in the corner. The conversion was missed.

Annan continued to dominate with some solid driving play by the forwards with lock Robert Craig to the fore ably assisted by the back row of Michael Carpenter, Dwayne Barnes and Ali Jackson. On several occasions Annan were denied by some stuffy defensive work by their visitors with Robert Craig denied a try on the line when once again the ball was held up. A half charge down of a desperate kick out of defence provided the chance for Annan to counter attack and McCann with a deft kick over the heads of the East Kilbride defensive line found full back Kevin Jones out on the right wing who caught the ball and scored in the corner. The try was again not converted.

Annan kept the pressure on the visitors and on a rare attack into the Annan half centre Michael Griffin intercepted a loose pass and sprinted to the line to score. This time the conversion hit the post. The visiting No 14 was yellow carded for his over robust tackle on Griffin. Annan continued to battle away in an attempt to gain the fourth try and the bonus point and Robert Craig with the line at his mercy had the best chance but was unable to control the ball.

All in all a satisfying win for the home side against a rather limited East Kilbride side who were hampered with injuries and unavailabilities. It is to be hoped that they can keep the momentum going for this coming Saturday’s encounter with Allan Glens at Violetbank.

Annan 1st XV: C Warrick, C Bell, R Gracie, G Hogg, R Craig, A Jackson, D Barnes, M Carpenter, J Bigham, C McCann, A Jancey, D Wyllie, M Griffin, J Callaghan, K Jones

Replacements: K Watret, S Livingstone, A Copland (all used)

MARR 45 v ANNAN 10
12TH NOVEMBER 2011

This was always going to be tough fixture for Annan, with Marr currently riding high at the top end of the table. Marr, who had pace and ability throughout their line up, got off to a flying start when weak Annan tackling allowed winger Bickerstaff to score with a run from half way. This really set the pattern for the rest of the game. Annan really were masters of their own downfall a catalogue of missed tackles and poor cover allowing Marr to take the game by the scruff of the neck.

Annan did have some good phases of play, with the backs linking up well. Jones came close with a lovely chip and chase and McCann put Annan back in the game at 3-5 with a well-executed penalty. Marr’s second try came in twenty minutes when the lively Bickerstaff was in again following more missed tackles by the Violetbank side. A fortuitous try from a wild pass let Marr in for a third try soon afterwards and the game was slipping away fast from Annan. Two further tries before half time, one from Annan losing their own scrum, and Marr had a 31-3 advantage at the break.

If weak tackling was the main problem in the first half, the coaches must have got that point over during the half-time “chat”. The Annan backs were very much in the game and they produced some admirable moves. After good work by the forwards, Annan were awarded a penalty try which was converted by McCann. Although Marr scored a further two tries, credit has to be given to a battling Annan side for their second half performance. It’s just a pity Marr were out of sight by half time thanks, mainly, to sloppy Annan tackling which simply must improve if they are to move up the table.

A first half to forget, a second half which should inspire confidence as Annan prepare to face East Kilbride at Violetbank this Saturday. Marr were a good side all round, with an excellent back row and real pace in the backs. For Annan, Ryan Gracie showed up well in the loose and there were good performances from Callaghan and Jancey in particular.

Annan Team: C Warrick, J Crombie, R Gracie; R Craig, M Thomas; D Barnes, C Bell, M Carpenter; J Bigham, C McCann (c); J Callaghan, D Wyllie, M Griffin, A Jancey; K Jones.

Replacements used – A Copland, M Thompson. Not used – N Smith

IRVINE 58 v ANNAN 10
5TH NOVEMBER 2011

This was a match, and a result, that Annan would do well to consign rapidly to the history books and move on. In RBS West One, Irvine had racked up some hefty scores prior to this match and are now serious contenders at the top of the table. Annan were hit by late call-offs and injuries and there were hitches in the pre-match preparations. What followed was a very convincing victory for the Ayrshire side who were rarely troubled by the Violetbank outfit. Annan were outplayed in every aspect of the game. The scrum was pushed back throughout the eighty minutes, the lineout malfunctioned and they really had no answer to the lively, pacy Irvine backs who were as good as any encountered so far this season.

The game got off to the worst possible start when a fortunate ricochet was scooped up Irvine full back Davies for a try in the corner, converted by stand off Hobson. The tries then followed in quick succession. A pushover scrum saw No. 8 Ruchin Filander crash over and straight from the kick off Filander went on a burst and fed to his winger for another score. Fifteen minutes gone and Annan were already 21-0 down.

Annan did put together some good phases of play and in one move the ball was fed neatly across the backs, McCann and Wyllie went on the loop and Jancey scored a fine try. Poor tackling led to two further tries by Irvine before half time by their hooker Docherty and that man Davies again. Half time Irvine 35 Annan 5.

Four further tries by Irvine in the second half, two of them pretty soft towards the end, completed a good day at the office for the home team but Annan fought to the end and managed another score when Kieron Watret went on a drive, well supported by his forwards, to score Annan’s second try.

On the day, Irvine were a class act and Annan really weren’t at the races. Full back Davies, with four tries and a superb all-round performance, was a class above, as was No. 8 Filander. Their half backs controlled the game well and their pack quite simply outmuscled a reshuffled Annan pack.

When the Annan squad is 5-6 players short of their full complement and come up against a side as good as Irvine, then they are always going to be up against it.

This weekend sees a return visit to Ayrshire against 2nd place Marr. Another tough one and Annan will really have to dig in to get anything from this one. Still, the spirit is good and if they can improve the set pieces and tackling, who knows?

Annan Team – C Warrick, C Bell, G Hunt; R Craig, K Watret; D Barnes, S Livingstone, R Dunlop; J Bigham, C McCann (c); W Gray, D Wyllie, M Griffin, A Jancey; J Callaghan.

Replacements (not used) – G Smith, A Copland, N Moffat

ANNAN 0 v KILMARNOCK 30
29TH OCTOBER 2011

This second round match of the RBS Shield was played at a cold, windy and wet Violetbank on Saturday. Kilmarnock who currently sit fifth in National 1 with a game in hand are some 14 places above their host in the Scottish rugby setup.

In the first half Annan battled to make headway against the elements and a well organised and drilled Kilmarnock outfit. They showed up well in the first quarter of the match in open play but early signs of problems in the set piece meant that they forays into the visitor’s half were rare events. First blood went to the visitors however when Annan were penalised for holding on in a ruck and the Kilmarnock stand off Sturgeon duly slotted the award. Not only were Annan struggling in the scrums and lineouts but lack of composure in rucks and mauls meant that the home backs rarely received quick clean ball to mount attacks. However they spurned kicking any penalty awards choosing instead to run at the opposition.

Using the wind to their advantage the visitors mounted several attacks in the Annan 22 and from one attack set up by a mazy run from the Kilmarnock fullback Johnston the ball was recycled following a ruck when he was tackled short of the line wing forward Hendry crashed over to score between the posts. Sturgeon was on target with the conversion. Kilmarnock had several chances to extend their lead but stout Annan defensive work kept the line intact until 5 minutes from half time when ing forward Hendry was once again on hand to score his second try of the day after some fine driving play by the visiting forwards. Kilmarnock extended their lead by a further three points when awarded a penalty when Annan were caught entering the ruck from the side. Annan had a fine spell of attacking rugby in the last 10 minutes of the first half. Firstly the backs launched an attack up the left touchline with full back Kevin Jones coming into the line but the attack was snuffed out just short of the line. The forwards then had their chance when from a lineout following a penalty award the catch and drive ploy worked well with the ball mauled for 15 metres with prop Colin Warrick seeming to ground the ball cleanly over the line. The referee saw it differently and deemed the ball was held up and the chance was lost. Half Time score Annan 0 Kilmarnock 18.

Any thoughts that Annan had of launching a quick attack at the restart were thwarted when from a ruck following the restart the visiting stand off Sturgeon opened up the home defences with an outrageous dummy and sprinted 75 metres to score. Annan’s defences were once again found wanting minutes later when winger Milligan sprinted in to score between the posts following some fine handling by the visiting backs. With the conversion this ended the scoring at 0-30. Annan continued to battle towards the Kilmarnock line with winger Jonny Callaghan coming the closest following a flowing move down the right flank. Unfortunately the last pass was deemed forward.

All in all Kilmarnock were worthy winners even if the 30 point gap appeared a little harsh on the efforts put in by the Annan squad. However it is difficult to argue with the result as Annan struggled in the set piece play with the lineout in particular a bit of a disaster area no doubt an area the Annan coaches will be looking to improve on at training.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, C Bell, R Gracie, R Craig, G Hogg, D Barnes, A Jackson, R Dunlop, J Bigham, C McCann, J Callaghan, D Wyllie, M Griffin, G Smith, K Jones. Replacements: G Hunt, S Clarke, S Livingston (all used)

ANNAN 15 v STEWARTRY 14
22ND OCTOBER 2011

This RBS West One match between old local rivals was always going to be crucial as both teams sought to move away from basement. Derbies between Annan and Stewartry are always full-blown affairs, sometimes unpredictable, always tense and rarely uninteresting. This one was certainly no different in these respects!

As they have often done this season, Annan came fast out of the blocks and dominated Stewartry in the early exchanges. A bullocking run by Gracie set the tone and there were great carries by Dunlop, Warrick, Carpenter and Craig – good, aggressive rugby but lacking that crucial composure, and this was to set the tone for much of the match. Two early penalties to Annan didn’t trouble the scoreboard, but they kept pressing and for most of the first half there was only one team in it. Despite being in the driving seat, Annan made frequent handling errors and conceded more penalties than they should have. Nevertheless, stand off McCann began to get into his kicking rhythm as Annan kept up the pressure. His two successful penalties had Annan 6-0 ahead after ten minutes and Annan were playing the game at a high tempo with Stewartry on the back foot. It was fast and furious stuff at times and backs Griffin and Callaghan were making inroads, only for moves to break down at the last moment. Annan were dominating the scrums and it was good to see a referee allowing enthusiastic (but fair!) rucking by both sides. Thirty-five minutes gone and McCann slotted yet another kick to take Annan to a 9-0 lead at the interval – not the commanding lead that Annan should have had, but taking wrong options had been partly to blame for this.

Two minutes in to the second half, Stewartry were penalised, harshly, for not releasing. Annan opted for touch trather than the points and the opportunity for points was lost as they tried to drive over the line, losing the ball in contact. Nevertheless, another penalty by McCann stretched the lead to 12-0 and Annan looked as if they were heading for a comfortable win. But wait a minute….you couldn’t have written the script for the last half hour! The Stewartry forwards, who had been largely anonymous up to this point, almost drove over the Annan line. They then took clean ball from a five metre line-out and drove over for an unlikely score. Annan then began conceding too many penalties and it was no surprise when Stewartry full back Fenwick narrowed the gap to 12-8. Stewartry certainly sensed an upset and, with Annan second row Craig in the sin bin, they had their tails up as young Dwayne Barnes put in a try-saving tackle.

McCann tried to steady the ship with some astute touch kicking but everyone realised that this was a game that was going to the wire. Thrills, spills and errors galore were the order of the day before Fenwick kicked another penalty to bring the score back to 12-11. Could Annan hold on – or get another score? Stewartry took t he initiative when Annan were penalised for dropping the scrum and now led 14-12. With time fast running out, a rush of blood to the head saw Annan take a tap penalty instead of going for the posts. Annan were throwing everything into it now as it looked as if Stewartry were going to hold on to their slender lead. And then came the final twist – Annan were awarded a penalty in the last minute of the game, just inside the 10 metre line wide left and McCann produced probably the kick of his career to give Annan a last-gasp victory.

A Jekyll and Hyde performance from Annan – great forwards play, excellent scrummaging, a lot of poor handling, conceding penalties for a range of offences – but they showed grit and determination when all looked lost! Good all-round performances from Jackson, Carpenter and Warrick, but Man of the Match was the outstanding Robert Craig – but he did have the benefit of that ten minute rest!

Annan Team: C Warrick, S Wyllie, R Gracie; G Hogg, R Craig;R Dunlop, A Jackson, M Carpenter; J Bigham, C McCann (c); W Gray, D Wyllie, M Griffin, J Callaghan; K Jones. Replacements : D Barnes, J Crombie, S Clarke

ANNAN 14 v GHK 28
15TH OCTOBER 2011

GHK came to Annan as unbeaten leaders of West 1, with a formidable points differential, and although they took the spoils in this game, it was far from the script as far as they were concerned. What we had was a fine open game of rugby in which Annan were unlucky to emerge without any points.

The game started at a fast pace, with Annan generally having the better of things, as the visitors took time to settle. From one of their forays into the GHK 22, the ball was fed back from a scrum for stand off Craig McCann to slot a tidy drop goal. This gave Annan a 3-0 lead which they held for some time. GHK had offered no concerted threat to the Annan line, their only ploys being a couple of kicks to the goal area which were easily dealt with. However GHK fullback Herron picked up an Annan kick in his own half, ran past three Annan players into the Annan half, his pace helping then to wrongfoot the last line of defence to score at the posts. No 12 Fleming converted. If this was unfortunate for Annan worse was to follow. Annan fielded a high kick on the right, but the inside pass was intercepted by Fleming, who had an unopposed run to the posts, and then converted for a 14-3 lead.

At this point the game might have run away from Annan, but they stuck to their task, and were rewarded first when GHK drove over the top of a ruck, allowing McCann to add three points. Then, a good Annan drive into the GHK 22 brought another penalty, this time kicked to touch. From the lineout a ruck formed on the GHK line, and Keiron Watret drove over. This brought the half time score to 11-14 to GHK.

Annan resumed where they had left off, and further pressure enabled McCann to level the score with his second penalty. The game entered a crucial phase, the advantage swinging to and from, but two penalties to GHK for offside saw Fleming ease GHK to 20-14. Annan still had chances. Taking the ball deep into the GHK 22, the ball only had to be moved right for an almost certain try, but the crucial pass went behind the player. Play moved over to the left corner where Michael Griffin was just bundled into touch at the corner flag. It was less then Annan deserved when a penalty resulted in hooker Stewart Wyllie being yellow carded, and three more points for GHK.

The final GHK score could also have been avoided. Annan, in final minute desperation, ran a tap penalty in their own 22. The ball squirted loose after a tackle, and was an easy pick up and try for GHK. So no points for Annan, but full marks for effort. For most of the game it would have been difficult to guess which was top team in the league, but at the end of the day GHK possessed two backs just that bit sharper in Herron and Fleming. That aside there was nothing between the teams. Bigham continues to improve at scrum half, and made a useful partnership with McCann. It was also good to see Ryan Gracie approaching his form of yesteryear. Ali Jackson was sponsor Cochran Ltd’s man of the match for Annan.

Annan team: C. Warrick, S. Wyllie, R. Gracie, G. Hogg, R. Craig, R. Dunlop, A. Jackson, M. Carpenter, J. Bigham, C. McCann, A. Copland, D. Wyllie, M. Griffin, J. Callaghan, K. Jones, D. Barnes, K. Watret, S. Clark.

ANNAN 12 v NEWTON STEWART 8
8TH OCTOBER 2011

Match Photos

This RBS West One fixture between two Dumfries and Galloway teams desperately needing points turned out to be a close affair in the end, but supporters of both sides will look back on a match which lacked excitement and was a pretty dour affair at times. Annan were forced to ring the changes in selection, having a number of injuries and unavailabilities and it was perhaps this factor that led to some disjointed play.

Craig McCann slotted a couple of good penalties to give Annan a 6-0 lead, but then a moment of slackness in defence allowed the Bladnoch team back into things. A high ball was guddled close to the Annan line and the Newton Stewart winger dribbled over to pounce on the touchdown. Two further penalties by McCann before half time took Annan into a 12-8 lead and that completed the scoring.

Conditions were far from ideal and it was mainly a battle of the forwards, with Annan having the upper hand in the scrum and, it has to be said, their line-out was much improved on recent weeks. There was, though, a lack of penetration in the backs and scoring opportunities were rare. Indeed, both sets of backs were guilty of cutting back inside where the wider ball seemed to be the best option.

Nevertheless, Annan picked up four vital league points and will be happy at having got a win on a day where everyone worked extremely hard to ensure victory against a stuffy Newton Stewart side. Spectators’ jitters were not appeased towards the end when, for some unfathomable reason, the referee added an extra eight minutes!

An important win, though, and with players back in the coming weeks it is surely just a matter of time before Annan start producing the all-important tries.

Annan Team: C Warrick, S Wyllie, R Gracie; G Hogg, K Watret; R Craig, R Dunlop, M Carpenter; J Bigham, C McCann (c); A Copland, D Wyllie, M Griffin, J Callaghan; K Jones. Replacements: S Livingstone, A Jackson, S Clarke.

WAYSIDERS 20 v ANNAN 20
1ST OCTOBER 2011

This was an encounter which contained all the ingredients to entertain and enthuse the supporters. The mixture included surprise, intrigue, variety, humour and even a case of mistaken identity. The action was fast and furious from the start. Almost before the pea had stopped vibrating in the referee’s whistle the home side claimed a try under the posts. This was surprising because it was not entirely clear whether all the combatants (certainly not the supporters) had realised the game had started. One consolation was that the conversion was judged not to have been successful.

The restart allowed Annan to cross into the WD half and for the next thirty-two minutes the contest was fought mostly in that area. Annan pressure invariably disrupted WD’s first phase possession while penalties and frequent breakdowns interrupted the flow of the game. The heavy wet pitch and a constant drizzle of rain were contributors to the lack of fluid running rugby in the first half. Kicking – both positional and from the tee - was also more of a challenge under these conditions. McCann succeeded with two awkward penalty conversions in the first thirty minutes. The WD reply was a single penalty and a converted try which was their reward for only a couple of forays into the visitors’ half. Annan had meantime lost John Nelson to injury but remarkably, possession and territory were both significantly in their favour. The half-time score (15 – 6) was, therefore, intriguing and possibly a surprise to both sets of supporters. It certainly did not reflect the undoubted effort of McCann’s men.

At the resumption Annan resumed the attack and the next period of play was characterised by individual effort going unrewarded mainly for lack of close support. The wet conditions and slippery ball required greater urgency from all players in support of the ball carriers. This was not always evident and as a result ground and possession was often given up just when the visitor’s threatened to break the WD defence. Scoring opportunities were squandered as a result.

Second half scores for Annan came from a further three penalties and a fine try in the 52nd minute. The touchdown followed several phases of play and an effective rumble over the line. This was a just reward for the hard work of the scorer, Michael Carpenter, who had consistently spearheaded the Annan forward attacks. WD managed another try and the shared points at the end of the contest was either a steal or ‘about right’ depending on which end of the M74 you called home.

Oh, and the mistaken identity? This occurred when the referee proffered a yellow card to Michael Griffin for an alleged vigorous rucking offence. The real perpetrator, however, managed to stay on the pitch. It’s all part of the game isn’t it?

Annan 1st XV: C Warrick, S Wyllie, R Craig, G Hogg, J Nelson, A Jackson, R Dunlop, M Carpenter, J Bigham, C McCann, A Copland, D Wyllie, M Griffen, S Clarke, K Jones. Replacements: R Gracie, G Smith, J Callaghan (all used)

ANNAN 13 v MARR 57
10TH SEPTEMEBR 2011

Not the way Annan were hoping to start their home league campaign, going down to one of their heaviest league defeats. It remains to be seen where Marr will finish the season, but on this display they should be among the top contenders for promotion. The word before the game was that Marr had a big pack, there was no mention of the backs, and yet it was the visiting backs who did most of the damage here.

After a bright start by Annan, pressure resulting in a Craig McCann penalty, the visitors quickly showed that they were quick and focused behind the scrum. Two tries, one from the left wing and one from the right, provided a warning to Annan that poor defending would be punished. Before half time, a penalty, when Annan strayed offside and a drive over from a lineout – together with three conversions, gave the visitors a 24-3 lead.

Annan’s only real chance was that the benefit of the wind, and a faster and more aggressive game, might lead to a change of fortune in the second half. Marr quickly put that notion to bed with an early try, and two more, all converted, put the game beyond Annan. Two of those tries came from deep and all from the backs, asking more questions of the Annan defence.

There was something to cheer for Annan, when centre David Wyllie spotted a rare gap in the Marr line, surged through before passing to James Bigham who put Craig McCann in to score. Again, however, Marr showed pace with two late tries, one converted, to rack up their final points. It was to be Annan who had the final score, No 8 Michael Carpenter crossing from a 5 metre scrum – just reward for a hard working display.

Annan did have a decent share of possession in the game, but lacked the pace and guile to trouble a well organized defence, and in attempting to play an open game were playing to Marr’s strength. The Annan forwards battled well , but the lineout was not at all secure. All in all, Marr had more pace and experience than Annan, who will have to learn to play within their limitations.

Annan team: C. Warrick, S. Wyllie, A. Gunning, J. Nelson, R. Craig, C. Bell, D. Barnes, M. Carpenter, A. Jancey, C. McCann, A. Copland, D. Wyllie, R. Dunlop, G. Smith, J. Bigham. Subs used – K. Watret, W. Gray, S. Clark.

EAST KILBRIDE 17 v ANNAN 11
3RD SEPTEMBER 2011

Annan returned to Lanarkshire on Saturday confident of repeating last week’s victory but this was not to be against a determined East Kilbride side.

Annan kicked off into a slight breeze and started well with good driving play by the forwards. East Kilbride weathered this early pressure and took the lead against the run of play. Several penalties lost Annan field position and from a lineout close to the line drove over for a converted try.

After another penalty for not releasing the home side repeated the manoeuvre but this time the defence held firm. A mix up in midfield then led to an East Kilbride break but a dangerous situation was saved by a forward pass Annan regained the initiative with good scrummaging and after good work by Robert Craig were awarded a penalty converted by Craig McCann. A move from a scrum on halfway led to a good run by Graeme Smith who was tackled into touch just short of their line. Annan kept the pressure on and a neat drop goal by McCann further reduced the leeway. Unfortunately straight from the kickoff a needless offside gifted EK a simple penalty to leave the half time score 10-6

Early in the second half Annan nearly had an opening when a clever kick by Andrew Jancey just evaded Kevin Jones in the EK 22. The game then became a stop start affair with mistakes and penalties preventing any continuity. EK then got the decisive score - from a scrum on half way a defensive lapse allowed the EK full back a clear run to the posts.

Annan now looked disjointed and struggled to penetrate a determined EK defence. However a counterattack by Jones yielded a penalty which Annan elected to run. After 2 quick rucks Ryan Gracie breached the gain line in midfield and a rare fast recycle created an overlap on the left for Willie Gray to score an unconverted try.

More mistakes from the restart put Annan back under pressure and were fortunate that an attempted drop goal by EK hit the post.

There was no further scoring and the game ended 17-11 to the home side. This was a scrappy game dominated by mistakes that EK just about deserved to win.

Annan will be relatively pleased with a losing bonus point away from home but they will also know that they can play a lot better

Team C Warrick, S Wylie, A Gunning, J Nelson, R Craig, C Bell, D Barnes, R Dunlop, A Jancey, C McCann ( Capt) A Copland, J Bigham, D Wylie, G Smith, K Jones, Subs ( All Used) R Gracie, A Jackson, W Gray.

EAST KILBRIDE 13 v ANNAN 22
27TH AUGUST 2011

In the Preliminary Round (West) of the National Shield competition, Annan traveled to East Kilbride with some new team permutations and ultimately came away with a much-deserved win. The margin between the teams could, and should, have been greater but nevertheless this was a satisfactory performance from the Violetbank side and provides a measure of what is required in the season ahead.

It was all EK possession for the first five minutes, but Annan started the scoreboard ticking over when, from a ruck, stand off Craig McCann struck over a neat drop goal which was to signal the beginning of a spell of dominance from Annan. Good, aggressive play was forcing errors from the home team and a 40 yard penalty from McCann extended the lead. In an exciting passage of play beginning in their own 22, Annan could well have crossed the whitewash when an excellent passage of play involving McCann, Dunlop and Jones led to the latter being narrowly denied by a try-saving tackle on the line. More Annan pressure ensued and a McCann penalty took the score to 9-0. The teams swopped penalties to take the score at half-time to 12-3 in Annan’s favour. At this point, Annan were looking good and it was felt that it was only a matter of time before the crucial tries came. The Annan rucking was good, the scrum was solid and it was evident that their fitness level was higher than the home side.

In the second half, Annan continued to play the better, more adventurous rugby. An exchange of penalties brought the score to 15-6 before full-back Kevin Jones snatched one of his trademark interceptions in his own 22 and ran the length of the pitch to touch down under the posts. The conversion by McCann put Annan comfortably in the driving seat at 22-6. East Kilbride were clearly rattled at this stage and were resorting to underhand tactics out of view of the referee. The game boiled over at one point, with an interesting exchange between the two packs. Unfortunately for Annan, the only player singled out by the referee was Robert Craig who spent ten minutes in the bin. Annan weathered this period well and their defence was superb. In the closing minutes, EK scored a consolation try, and a good one at that, with a cross kick missed by the away defence and well taken by the winger who crossed to touch down.

This was a good performance by Annan, with lots of plusses. Excellent tackling, solid defence, aggressive forwards play and great team spirit. Andrew Gunning steadied the scrum, Robert Craig and Dwayne Barnes made a big impact when they came on, Jancey and new captain McCann formed a pleasing half-back partnership, David Wyllie continues to improve in the centre and Man of the Match Kevin Jones oozed class throughout.

A well-deserved victory which now sees Annan at home to Kilmarnock in the next round on 29th October, but meantime it’s back to the start of the league campaign this Saturday – away to East Kilbride!

Annan Team: C Warrick, S Wyllie, A Gunning; G Hogg, J Nelson; C Bell, A Jackson, M Carpenter; A Jancey, C McCann (c); A Copland, D Wyllie, R Dunlop, G Smith; K Jones. Replacements (all used): D Barnes, R Craig, W Gray

VIOLETBANK TOURNAMENT
20TH AUGUST 2011

On a glorious August Saturday rugby enthusiasts at Violetbank were treated to an afternoon of exiting rugby fare as eight teams battled it out in order to lift the Violetbank Trophy. The teams were drawn in two leagues with the two league winners playing each other in the final.

In League A comprising Dumfries, Newton Stewart, Peebles and Upper Eden, Peebles powered their way to the final with wins over Dumfries 8-6, Newton Stewart 17-0 and Upper Eden 26-0. Other results from league A: Newton Stewart 5 Upper Eden 10; Upper Eden 0 Dumfries 29; Newton Stewart 0 Dumfries 19.

In League B comprising Acton Nomads, Annan, Kirby Lonsdale and Stewartry, Kirby Lonsdale fought their way to the final with wins over Stewartry 26-8, Acton Nomads 31-0 and Annan 14-12. Other Results Annan 52 Acton Nomads 0; Annan 16 Stewartry 14; Stewartry 10 Acton Nomads 7.

The Annan coaches were able to try out various combinations in order to find the best mix and must have been relatively satisfied with their team’s performances. In their first game against Acton Nomads Annan powered to a convincing win with a hat trick from full back Kevin Jones and further tries from wing forward Callum Bell, centre Graeme Smith, prop Andrew Gunning, centre David Wyllie and No8 Ross Dunlop. Captain Craig McCann added six conversions.

In their second game Annan against Stewartry, despite having the bulk of possession and territory had to come from behind in the dying seconds of the game with a penalty to win the game. Annan had lead throughout most of the game with tries from centre Graeme Smith, and prop Andrew Gunning and a penalty from stand off Craig McCann before Stewartry hit back with a try on either side of the half time break. With both tries converted Stewartry lead 14-13 before Craig McCann landed a penalty in the final seconds to secure the win.

In their final game Annan had arguably their best performance of the day especially in their second half performance. Against a big, strong, aggressive Kirby Lonsdale team Annan had a tough first half especially in the forwards and found themselves 7 nil down at half time and went further behind to another converted try (14 nil) before the Annan fightback began when firstly prop Colin Warrick powered over the line from a lineout to be followed minutes later by a terrific breenging run from wing forward Callum Bell to score. With only one of the tries converted the final score was Annan 12 Kirby Lonsdale 14.

In the final between Peebles and Kirby Lonsdale played in persistent rain Premier 2 side Peebles powered to a fine win over the robust Kirby Lonsdale side by three tries to nil. It was not as one sided as the score suggests as the Cumbrians’ had lots of territorial advantage and possession but were unable to break down an excellently organised defence. Final Score Peebles 17 Kirby Lonsdale 0.

The après rugby celebrations carried on well into the night with several of the clubs involved staying on well into the evening enjoying the live music in the marquee from ‘More from Jim’.

Annan RFC Squad: C Warrick, S Wyllie, A Gunning, J Nelson, G Hogg, A Jackson, C Bell, D Barnes, M Carpenter, R Craig, R Dunlop, S Haren, A Jancey, C McCann, A Copland, M Griffin, D Wyllie, G Smith, K Jones, W Gray, S Cark, S Walden, G Hunt, A Carlyle, A Rae

LANGHOLM 24 v ANNAN 12
13TH AUGUST 2011

Match Report: Alex 'Willix' Halliday.

Annan began their preparations for the new season with a tricky tie away to Border rivals Langholm at Milntown. The game was split into thirds to allow both teams to catch their breath and take full advantage of the rotations of their squads.

From the first kick off, Annan recovered the ball and shipped it to the newly appointed captain McCann. He put boot to ball and hoisted up a high kick, and with Annan’s eager team chasing the ball, the Langholm number 10 caught the ball and had nowhere to go when David Wyllie put in a crunching tackle resulting in their man staying on the ground. With 5 minutes of time played, Annan made their first break through centre Michael Griffin. He seemed to waltz through the Langholm defence but he was then confronted by the Langholm fullback. Unfortunately from this play Annan lost possession of the ball as Langholm were quicker to the breakdown. They passed the ball wide and began a counter attack down the wing, and with their winger looking like he had a clear 40m run to the line. It took a brilliant low covering tackle from Adam Torbett to ensure the scoreline didn’t swing in Langholm’s favour. The deadlock was broken just 5 minutes later though, when a Langholm turnover on the halfway line allowed them to, once again, pass the ball out wide. The support was onhand this time and the Langholm hooker touched down in the corner. The resulting conversion was missed leaving the score 5-0 to the home side.

It didn’t stay 5-0 for long, as a series of penalties allowed Annan into the opposition 22. The Annan pack took their opportunity to overpower the Langholm scrum and push them over their own try line for Carpenter to score. The conversion was unsuccessful leaving the score 5-5.

Soon after, a break by the energetic Langholm hooker presented them with a chance to regain their lead. The ball was passed inside to the scrum half who had only 5 metres to run the ball in under the sticks, but Andy Copeland made a brilliant try saving tackle to keep the Muckletoon side out.

As play continued, both sides were keen to test each other out wide. Annan stand off McCann threw a lovely miss pass out to Smith on the wing, who then bounced off 2 tacklers before presenting the ball back. With the Langholm backs scrambled, a deft chip over the ruck area allowed Annan back into the opposition half. The pressure then made all the difference when McCann spun the ball out wide to Torbett who took on one defender before chipping the ball over the Langholm winger. He was then taken out and Annan were awarded a penalty. They retained possession from the line out and a simple catch and drive resulted in Annan’s Colin Warwick crashing over for Annan’s second try. McCann then made a brilliant touchline conversion to make the score 12-5 in Annan’s favour.

Just before the end of the third, Langholm were able to score after a series of pick and goes through their big ball carrying number 8. Conversion successful left the score 12-12 at the end of the first third.

The break allowed Annan to make 3 changes to their pack, with Bell, Hogg and Barnes replaced by Watret, Jackson and Dunlop, with the latter moving to his preferred position of number 8.

In the second third, Annan were focused on making good ground on the pitch with breaks from Bigham and Jancey giving them good field position. It was all undone though as a missed tackle down the flanks allowed the Langholm winger to make a break. He chipped the ball over the Annan backs with the covering players unable to recover the ball as it slipped and skidded on the surface, he was able to flop on the ball over the try line to make the score 17-12 in Langholms favour. There would be no more scores in the second third, thanks to the excellent work rate and tackling by Jackson and Carpenter.

The final third began with Dunlop and Nelson carrying the ball well at the same frantic pace of the first two thirds. With not long left to go in the match, Langholm tried to extend their lead when the shipped the ball out wide. The ball only got as far as the Langholm outside centre when he was halted by a ferocious double tackle by Smith and Jackson. Soon after the Langholm side drove into the Annan 22 and from the resulting rucks they were able to gain some hard fought for yards when Langholm’s replacement 9 was able to get over the line. He appeared to be held up but the try was given, and converted, to leave the final score 24-12 to the home side.

With the Annan tournament next week as final preparation before the league games begin, Annan will be very encouraged by this performance. The scrums looked strong and with the addition of Gunning for the coming season, the Annan scrums will no doubt improve from last season. Colin Warwick carried ball well and the back row boys ran and tackled from whistle to whistle. Jancey’s passing was excellent, and McCann’s clearing kicks were impressive. With Michael Griffin back this season, Annan will be looking forward to more powerful running like he displayed whilst on the pitch. Annan’s back 3 were in brilliant form, with Torbett keen to get involved making several good runs, Copeland showing his capabilities in both attack and defence, and Wyllie putting in an excellent all round shift.

Annan’s best players were David Wyllie, Andy Copeland, Michael Carpenter and Colin Warwick.

Annan Team: C Warwick, S Wyllie, A Gunning, G Hogg, J Nelson, D Barnes, C Bell, M Carpenter, A Jancey, C McCann, A Torbett, J Bigham, M Griffin, A Copeland, D Wyllie. Subs (all used): A Jackson, R Dunlop, K Watret, G Smith.

linebreak