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STEWARTRY 27 V ANNAN 42
11TH MAY 2013

Match Highlights / Match Photos

Match Report by Ian 'Grumpy' Gilmour

Annan have shown many qualities this season, fitness, pace and an ability to score tries amongst others, but in this great game they showed further attributes – a gritty determination and will to win in coming back from first half set-backs. Certainly the game did not all go Annans way in the first half, as Stewartry strove to get revenge for the mauling they received at Violetbank a few weeks ago, but in the end Annan showed that they were worthy champions as they recorded their 22nd win from 22 games.

Thoughts prior to kick off were –what effect would the strong wind have on the game?. Would Annan be up for another game, having won the championship? With an outside chance of second place in the league, would Stewartry be able to dent Annans proud record?.

The opening exchanges seemed to suggest they might. Stewartry were very much up for the game, and with the wind at their backs, they had Annan on the back foot. However even the most pessimistic of Annan fans – and there were a good many through for this game – could hardly have predicted what happened in the first quarter. Using their favourite pick and drive,Stewartry laid siege to the Annan line. A try, converted, followed, then another, from the backs at close range, also converted, and then a third, to put Stewartry 19-0 up with some 20 minutes played. How would Annan respond to this unfamiliar situation?

Annan had scarcely been in the Stewartry half, but in the second quarter they made increasing raids into opposition territory, and were rewarded with two fine tries as first Sean Haren and then Callum Bell drove over. Craig McCann converted the first. Sandwiched between these tries was a successful Stewartry penalty, to give a half time score of 22-12 to the home side. Much better for Annan than had seemed likely at one time, and possibly crucial to the outcome.

What Annan needed with the benefit of the wind, was an early second half score. They got it in fine style. From a ruck in the Stewartry 22, McCann went first left, then right, and good hands in the backs allowed hooker Callum Bell to scuttle in at the corner for his second score, Annans third. From this moment on Annan looked certainties to win this one. Annan now showed the confidence that their season has engendered, and excellent play put fullback Kevin Jones away for the bonus try, which McCann converted to put Annan ahead for the first time. As Stewartry became increasingly frustrated, McCann was able to knock over two penalties in quick succession to extend Annans lead to 30-22, one of these a great touchline job.

With everything going their way,Annan added two further excellent tries. An attack at pace into the Stewartry 22, a typical McCann long pass out left, and Sean Haren was on hand to score. The last Annan score went to the season’s leading try scorer Alex Halliday, and it was a cracker. Getting the ball in his own half, Halliday jinked or bullied his way to the Stewartry line, and when tackled, was strong enough (aided by David Wyllie!) to get the touch down. McCann converted. Stewartry,however, did have the final say, with a try on the right, but that was at the death.

Annan can thank their pace and fitness again for this win, and their relentless hounding of their opponents, with the back row prominent. The handling by the backs continues to astonish those used to wayward passes and dropped balls,and the ace in the pack, as it were, is Craig McCann.

So Annan closed out a remarkable season, and thoroughly deserved their celebrations that night. The coaches have managed to weld together a fine team, all eager to play and to score. It will be tougher in West 1 next season, and there will be areas to work on, but in the meantime, thanks for the memories.

Annan team: C. Warrick, C. Bell,C. Nicholson, G. Hogg, M. Thompson, D. Barnes, S. Livingstone, S.Haren, A. Rae, C. McCann, G. Smith, J. Bigham, A. Halliday, D.Wyllie, K. Jones. Replacements (all used) J. Nelson, M. Carpenter, K.Watret, A. Jancey.

Referee was Rab McHenry, retiring after this game. Rab, from Dumfries, has been one of the country’s leading refs, and will be a loss to the game.

ANNAN 32 v CARRICK 5
27TH APRIL 2013

Match Highlights / Match Photos

If anyone imagined that Annan might ease up after wrapping up the league title, these thoughts were quickly dispelled as the Violetbank side put in yet another impressive performance against Carrick in the last home match of the season in RBS West Division Two. Twenty-one matches played and Annan still have a proud, unblemished record – and they bagged another bonus point with a good win against a very competent opponents.

Carrick lie in 4th place in the league and Annan’s was the only scalp they hadn’t claimed in this season’s campaign. Although a very strong, well-drilled outfit, most of the early exchanges took place in the away team’s half with Annan keen once again to play fast, running rugby. Carrick did have their fair share of possession, but they were unable to penetrate a solid Annan defence. In addition, the Ayrshire backs lacked the pace to match their Annan counterparts whose enterprising moves were orchestrated by stand off McCann.

The Carrick forwards were a pretty tough, uncompromising unit and they had to be on their mettle as Annan strived to make that first important breakthrough. A number of forays close to the visitors’ line almost brought tries, including a kick ahead and chase by full back Jones which just bounced the wrong way at the last second. Halliday, then Smith were almost in for scores and Warrick thought he had touched down only for the referee to award a penalty to Carrick for an infringement.

When Carrick did have the ball, they were retaining possession well but making little leeway with the Violetbank men constantly in their faces. It took Annan thirty minutes to get their first score, but it was well worth waiting for. A long pass by McCann found Halliday who created the angle for Wyllie to slip it to full back Kevin Jones who touched down in the corner. McCann’s conversation attempt from wide was unlucky to hit the woodwork. Carrick then laid siege to the Annan line but were thwarted by immense Annan defence.

Half-time score 5-0 and, although Annan had dominated for long spells, the anticipated scores hadn’t materialised. But this is a side which plays for the full eighty minutes and, as in previous weeks, the crucial scores came in the second period after wearing the opposition down and continuing to play at a pace which is difficult to match.

Craig McCann slotted a long penalty from out on the left to stretch the lead and that was followed by a McCann try created by the forwards. A great drive by the big men sucked in players and quick ball out to the Annan captain allowed him to dart in from the wing position to score.

Top try scorer Alex Halliday was in on the act next. He scooped up a loose ball and instead of his usual weaving past players, he broke through three tackles in determined fashion to plunge over the line. An excellent conversion from McCann took the score to 20-0 and Annan were now chasing the try which would bring the bonus point. However, it was Carrick’s turn to put some points on the board first when their No. 8 breenged over following a spell of good forwards play.

Prop Kieron Watret had some good carries throughout, but none better than that which brought the big fellow an outstanding score. From 25 metres out he had it all to do, but he powered his way to the line through four defenders for a try which had the Annan crowd on its feet and which ensured the five points. Craig McCann’s smooth conversion was the prelude for the captain himself to play out the last act of the game in some style. The quick-thinking stand off took a tap penalty, saw the gaps down the touchline and waltzed in unopposed.

This was an excellent victory for Annan against very tough opposition and it was a consummate team performance into the bargain. Great forwards play, with Sean Haren once more outstanding, and the backs in full flow with Craig McCann calling the shots and Kevin Jones linking up with the line at every opportunity. It’s been an exciting time at Violetbank this season and one more game remains to conclude the league campaign – away to Stewartry on May 11th.

Annan Team: C Warrick, C Bell, K Watret; G Hogg, M Thompson; D Barnes, S Haren, A Jackson; A Rae, C McCann (c); D Wyllie, J Bigham, A Halliday, G Smith; K Jones.

Replacements (all used): S Livingstone, M Carpenter, A Jancey, M Griffin, R Glass.

ANNAN 82 v CUMBERNAULD 8
20TH APRIL 2013

Match Highlights / Match Photos

Annan supporters might have been forgiven for wondering if the team, having won promotion and the league title in the space of seven days, would require motivation for this re-arranged game against 8th placed Cumbernauld – they needn’t have worried as the home team put in a masterful performance scoring 12 tries in this RBS Regional West 2 league match.

On a sunny afternoon at Violetbank with a gusting wind blowing the length of the pitch the hosts set out their stall in the opening minutes when, despite losing the first scrum against the head, full back Kevin Jones fielded the visitor’s kick out of defence and set out on one of his customary mazy runs taking play well into the Cumbernauld half. When he was stopped the ball was recycled quickly to centre Alex Halliday who stormed over the line to score in the 3rd minute of the game. The try was converted by stand off Craig McCann.

With Annan’s scrummage under pressure from the well drilled visiting eight it was no surprise when they were penalised for driving in on the hooker. With the award well within the range of the visiting kicker he drilled the ball though the uprights. Annan’s response was swift and again it was full back Jones who instigated the attack but this time it was lock Michael Thompson who, from the half way line set of on a breenging run for the line reminding quite a few watching of the late Bill McLaren’s description of Doddie Weir on a similar charge as being like ‘a startled giraffe’. His charge was stopped just short of the line but he was able to stretch out to place the ball on the line. McCann was again on form to add the extra two points.

The pace of the game was just too much for the visitors and tries came at regular intervals for the home team. Following a lightning break by hooker Callum Bell centre Halliday was on hand to take the scoring pass from scrum half Alan Rae. McCann missed the conversion - his only miss of the day! The visitors were spurned into action and through their forwards they had their best period of the game pressurising the home line. The Annan defence was sound and they managed to turn over the ball at a ruck only for the ball to squirt out of the side of the pile up and the alert visiting inside centre dived on the loose ball to score. From the restart Annan once again piled on the pressure and it was that man Halliday who split the the Cumbernauld defence with a powerful run to score his hat-trick under the posts. McCann converted. Halliday added his fourth before half time following another quick break out by hooker Bell who provided the scoring pass. McCann’s extras brought the half time score to 33-8.

With the wind at their backs in the second half standoff McCann used the elements to keep the pressure on the visitors with some exquisite line kicking and up and unders. One of his finely crafted kicks over the upcoming defensive visitor’s line found hooker Bell on the wing who was able to stroll in unopposed in the corner. McCann’s conversion went over from the touchline in off the upright. Wing forward Sean Haren was next on the score sheet following a quickly taken penalty when the ball was fed wide. By this time play was only going one way as the visitors visibly tired and winger Graeme Smith scored next when full back Jones made another fine break and unselfishly fed Smith to score a converted try. Jones was on hand to score the next when he came into the attacking line to score another converted score. It was Jones again who, minutes later, was on hand to take the scoring pass from centre Halliday who once again had burst through the line. McCann added to his tally again. Lock John Nelson found himself on the end of a sweeping backs move to score the penultimate converted try before fittingly the final try fell to Captain McCann who took a quick tap penalty, leaving the despairing visiting defence flatfooted to score between the posts. His conversion of his try was the last act of the game. Final Score Annan 82 Cumbernauld 8.

This was a highly entertaining game of rugby and despite the scoreline the visitors competed right up to the final whistle. They had just come up against a team which is full of confidence in their own abilities. Every one of the twelve tries was a joy to watch and it would be difficult to say which was the best but the most memorable one must be Michael Thompson’s galloping charge to score in the first half which brought the biggest cheer of the day. With two games left to play Annan’s quest for an unbeaten league season is still on track.

Annan 1st XV Squad: Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, C Bell, C Nicholson, M Thompson, G Hogg, S Livingstone, S Haren, A Jackson, A Rae, C McCann, G Smith, J Bigham, A Halliday, D Wyllie, K Jones. Replacements: D Barnes, J Nelson, K Watret, R Glass, W Gray (all used)

CAMBUSLANG 18 V ANNAN 72
13TH APRIL 2013

Annan travelled to Cambuslang for this RBS West Division Two match on the back of a convincing seven try demolition of Stewartry last week and, with Lenzie losing at home to Carrick, it meant that the Violetbank side wrapped up the title at Coats Park with a stunning eleven try performance which brought them their nineteenth consecutive league win.

Following a brisk start by Cambuslang, Annan were quick to get points on the board. A mere five minutes gone and effective mopping-up work by Michael Thompson allowed Craig McCann to slip the ball to Sean Haren. The young flanker found the gaps and powered his way from forty metres out to score the opener. A penalty by Cambuslang stand off Jones was countered by one from the visitors' McCann to take the score to 8-3 in Annan's favour.

The first quarter had been a good, hard contest with solid tackling from both teams. Annan were getting on top with some enterprising backs play but it took until the 30 minute mark for the score line to start swinging decisively Annan's way. Cambuslang camped themselves near the Annan line and, as has happened so often before, a pass was intercepted by the alert Kevin Jones and the full back covered the length of the pitch to touch down. McCann stretched the lead to 15-3 with the conversion, but Cambuslang retaliated with another penalty from Euan Jones to narrow the gap.

This was the signal for Annan to forge ahead in style with two well-taken tries in the closing minutes of the first half. Good work by Haren, Rae and Halliday up the left saw the ball shipped inside to centre James Bigham who waltzed past three defenders for a classy try. Another great attack and a blistering run by Kevin Jones allowed Alex Halliday to somehow see gaps no-one else did and he squeezed through the Cambuslang defence for his first try. A further two conversions by McCann and the first half ended with Annan 29-6 to the good.

There had been mistakes in the first period due to a bothersome breeze and some carelessness, but the Annan backs had played with panache. The forwards, too, had put in an excellent shift against a very combative Cambuslang eight and it was noticeable that the scrummaging was much improved.

Immediately after the break, Cambuslang reminded the away side of the threat they still posed when a moment of defensive slackness from Annan cost them a try. A throw to the front of the line-out allowed hooker Millar to burst through a gap to score. Shortly afterwards, Annan had stretched their lead once again. A loose ball on the ground was hoovered up up Haren and good hands from Halliday and McCann allowed winger Graeme Smith in for a deserved try, again converted by McCann. It was poor tackling by Annan which allowed stand off Jones to score a try which he converted, taking the score to 36-18 in Annan's favour.

From here on in, it was one-way traffic as the Violetbank side gave a masterclass in try scoring.

Six touchdowns in the final quarter had the Cambuslang support rubbing their eyes in disbelief and the Annan contingent in raptures.

First, Bigham did the necessary spadework for burly prop Nicholson, who crashed over from close in, McCann and Wyllie put Halliday in at the right corner and Smith and Bell linked well to provide Halliday with his third try - and the scores kept on coming! The big fellows decided to get in on the act. John Nelson and Graham Hogg, not noted for their try-scoring prowess, delighted their teammates with two excellent tries, both set up by sparkling backs play.And it was that man Halliday who showed why he is Annan's leading try scorer by completing the rout as he sailed in for the final try of the day, his fourth.

Eleven tries and seventeen points from the boot of Captain Craig McCann and Annan had accomplished their biggest win of the season. As news filtered through of Lenzie's defeat, the celebrations began. It must have been a sweet moment for all of the playing squad who have worked so hard this season and also for coaches Neil Moffat and Niall Smith, and physio Marion Hamilton. It was a superb all-round performance, with a special mention for Man of the Match Sean Haren, four-try Alex Halliday and teenager Ryan Glass who came through his front-row baptism with great credit.

Annan now have three matches remaining, and their aim is quite simple - to keep on winning by playing enterprising, open rugby. Two home matches this week and next, against Cumbernauld and Carrick, are followed by the last game of the season away to Stewartry on May 11th.

Annan Team: C Warrick, C Bell, C Nicholson; M Thompson, G Hogg; J Nelson, S Haren, A Jackson; A Jancey, C McCann (c); D Wyllie, J Bigham, A Halliday, A Rae; K Jones. Replacements (all used): D Barnes, G Smith, R Glass, M Griffin, S Livingstone.

ANNAN 46 v STEWARTRY 8
6TH APRIL 2013

Ahead of this clash with local rivals Stewartry, there was a certain degree of apprehension in the Annan camp, given the many close tussles between the two teams over the years. Everything was at stake in this RBS West Division 2 fixture, with Stewartry still in with an outside chance of being promoted. The Chisholm Cup was also up for grabs, this trophy being competed for annually by the two Clubs in memory of past Annan President Peter Chisholm. However, it was the Violetbank side who emerged with the honours, and in stylish fashion too, as they powered their way to an emphatic victory with a seven try blitz which left their opponents reeling.

The firm playing surface suited Annan's style perfectly as they set out to play open, running rugby. Neither side gave much away in the opening exchanges, but the contrast in styles was evident. Stewartry were happy to keep the ball in the forwards, whereas Annan sought a more adventurous style of play and were keen to throw the ball around. Full back Kevin Jones was in the thick of most of Annan's attacking movements and his pace was causing problems. But where the Annan backs were playing as a cohesive unit, Stewartry's breakout threats came mainly from impressive full back Muir, whose mazy runs frequently led to him being isolated.

Following a spell where Stewartry kicked away a lot of possession, and spurned a good penalty opportunity, it was Annan who got the scoreboard ticking with an excellently worked try. Following some good rucking drives, Warrick brought Bigham into play and he fed back row Ali Jackson who went in at the corner. With the difficult conversion missed, Annan continued to play the game at pace but it was Stewartry who drew level as they attacked the Annan line. Opting for a scrum at a penalty, their pack had the edge over Annan and drove over for their No. 8 to score. Surprisingly, the conversion attempt went wide.

Stand off Craig McCann was getting his backs moving at every opportunity and only desperate tackling by Stewartry prevented Jones from scoring as he ghosted past players on a couple of occasions. All of the backs were linking well at this stage but they would have to wait until the second half to receive their just rewards. It was a piece of quick thinking which put Annan back ahead. A ruck almost on the Stewartry line, the ball gathered by Andrew Jancey, a quick look to both sides before the No. 9 took route one and sniped over for a typical scrum half try. McCann converted to take the home side into a 12-5 half-time lead.

It had been an entertaining first half, with Annan playing with style and pace, and Stewartry always a threat when rucking or mauling close to the Annan line. If the first half had been exciting for the Annan supporters, they hadn't anticipated the points rush which was about to materialise. It didn't happen immediately, though. Craig McCann's deft drop goal was countered by a Stewartry penalty which brought the score to 15-8 in the home side's favour.

Annan reserved their best for the final half hour. With Stewartry beginning to feel the pressure, and the Annan backs flying, a further five tries ensued. McCann, Jones, Halliday and Wyllie combined well with the latter being driven over by his forwards. McCann converted, stretching Annan's lead to 22-8. The bonus point try arrived shortly afterwards. Forwards and backs linked in an exciting handling move and centre Alex Halliday weaved his way past two Stewartry defenders to score with exaggerated celebration. Again, McCann added the extras.

Annan’s ball handling was a joy to watch and, by this stage, they were oozing confidence. Another run by Halliday, after a feed by McCann, saw him chipping ahead and, following a cruel bounce for the Stewartry defence, David Wyllie pounced for his second try. Almost all the backs were involed in Annan's sixth try as Jones scampered in for a well deserved score, converted from wide by McCann. Annan were now in complete control at 41-8 and the scoring was rounded off on the final whistle as Halliday and Graeme Smith drove on, Halliday regained the ball, slipped it to wing forward Stewart Livingstone who touched down for an unconverted score.

So, Annan clinched promotion in style with a superb all-round performance. The forwards certainly played their part, but the backs were outstanding with assured handling, good running angles and playing at a pace which Stewartry just couldn't handle. Sponsors APD and Magnox chose David Wyllie as the Annan Man of the Match and scrum half Farquhar from Stewartry for their award. Match Day mascot was 5-year-old Danny Bell.

Annan now have four games left, and the Championship could be theirs over the next couple of weeks, but first up is a tough away fixture this week at Cambuslang. If you want to see some exciting rugby, Violetbank is the place to be on April 20th and 27th when Annan play their final two home fixtures against Cumbernauld and Carrick.

Annan Team: C Warrick, C Bell, C Nicholson; G Hogg, M Thompson; S Haren, A Jackson, J Nelson; A Jancey, C McCann (c); D Wyllie, J Bigham, A Halliday. A Rae; K Jones.

Replacements (all used): G Smith, S Wyllie, K Watret, S Livingstone.

STRATHENDRICK 6 v ANNAN 18
30TH MARCH 2013

Match Photos

Annan travelled to Fintry last Saturday wary of the fact that their hosts, although well beaten at Violetbank a fortnight previously, have a reputation of being an entirely different team at Ruth Menzies Field and so it proved to be. On a firm dry, albeit undulating, pitch and in conditions perfectly suited to running rugby both teams set about providing their supporters with an exciting display of open attacking rugby.

With both sides showing determined defence, snuffing out attacks and counter attacks it took 35 minutes of the first half before the deadlock was broken. The hosts were penalised for a dangerous tackle on Annan wing forward Dwayne Barnes and stand off Craig McCann stroked over the award. On the stroke of half time McCann was again on target, when the Strathendrick forwards were penalised for handling in a ruck. Half Time score Strathendrick 0 Annan 6.

Annan started the second half in determined fashion and within five minutes of the restart had scored their first try. From a ruck in the home half scrum half James Bigham broke from the base of the ruck and made an excellent break and sent his backs into action with hooker Callum Bell popping up on the wing to outflank the home defence for a score in the corner. McCann was unable to convert the score from the difficult angle on the touchline.

Strathendrick hit back with some fine driving play through their experienced forwards and were rewarded with a brace of penalties in the space of five minutes when, on both occasions the award was for handling in the ruck. The home full back Sam Greenock slotted both with ease to take his side within a score of Annan’s lead.

The contrasting attacking styles of both sides made this an intriguing and exciting contest and with ten minutes to go the visiting forwards went on a pick and drive rumble. Wing forward Sean Haren made the break for the line and with some deft footwork and with some hard work to do crashed over the line to score just to the right of the posts. McCann added the extras to take the score to Strathendrick 6 Annan 18.

In the final minutes of the game the hosts laid siege to the Annan line in an attempt to at least gain a bonus point for their efforts but the visitors showed that defences win games with a quite heroic toe to toe defensive battle with their hosts. Final score Strathendrick 6 Annan 18.

This was an other excellent win for Annan on the road against a determined and skilful Strathendrick side. In the forwards the back row again put in a terrific shift with hooker Callum Bell and lock Michael Thompson combining beautifully to dominate the lineout throughout the game. The backs which had had to be rearranged, with scrum half Jancey (work) and centre Jonny Callaghan (injury) unavailable, never missed a beat with James Bigham and Michael Griffin filling the respective positions flawlessly.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, C Bell, C Nicholson, M Thompson, G Hogg, D Barnes, S Haren, A Jackson, J Bigham, C McCann, A Rae, M Griffin, A Halliday, D Wyllie, K Jones. Replacements: J Nelson (used), A Copland, G Smith

ANNAN 43 v STRATHENDRICK 0
16TH MARCH 2013

Match Highlights / Match Photos

Annan continued in their winning ways with a seven try demolition of 6th placed Strathendrick in this West 2 league match in the RBS Regional Leagues at Violetbank on Saturday. The visitors from Fintry appear to have a different away team to their home version when you look at their results, notably beating second placed Stewartry a fortnight ago after succumbing to a heavy defeat earlier in the season at the Greenlaw. A point which, hopefully, will not be lost on Annan when they play them at Fintry in a fortnights time.

On Saturday Violetbank was breezy with the top surface, after the rain on top of the frozen surface, extremely soft but perfectly playable. Straight from the whistle Annan took the game directly to their visitors and it wasn’t long before the hosts had the score board ticking over. Following a miskick out of their own 22 by their fullback, which went backwards, the ball was won on the ground by wing forward Sean Haren, who set up a ruck and the ball was quickly recycled through the backs for full back Kevin Jones to take the pass on the wing to score. The conversion was missed. Full back Jones was on hand minutes later when from a quickly taken tap penalty by standoff Craig McCann and a lightning break by centre Alex Halliday, Jones again coming into the back line left the visiting defence floundering to score behind the posts. McCann added the extra two points.

Annan were in complete control in most facets of the game, apart from the set piece scum where the visiting experienced front five had their opposite numbers under pressure in the earlier exchanges, and should have converted more of their chances throughout the game but several players spurned overlaps and numerical advantage to take the play a step too far on several occasions. Annan, however, added to their try tally before half time when, after a break up the right of the pitch the ball was driven by the forwards towards the line drawing in Strathendrick’s fringe defences and standoff McCann floated a long miss pass across the pitch to centre Jonny Callaghan who with a deft inside pop pass found centre Halliday who had a clear run into score. McCann again added the extra two points to take the half time score to Annan 19 Strathendrick 0.

Annan continued to control the game in the second half and only desperate defensive work kept the hosts at bay in the early part of the half as Annan battered away at the visitor’s line with the home forwards in the driving seat in the loose. However, Annan were not going to be denied their bonus point try and from a quickly taken tap penalty centre Halliday, seeing the Strathendrick back line advancing put boot to ball with a deft grubber kick through the advancing line and winger Alan Rae was on hand to win the race to the line for the touchdown.

With backs having scored all of the tries so far the Annan forwards were not going to be outdone, having provided excellent ball for them throughout the game. From a lineout take and drive by prop Colin Warrick the ball was recycled from a ruck to wing forward Haren who, with still a lot to do, powered over the line to score. McCann again added the extras. Full back Kevin Jones again got his now customary hat trick when from a scrum the ball was simply passed along the backline and Jones popped up in the wing position to score a simple try behind the posts. McCann again converted the try. Annan’s last try was scored by centre Halliday who following a break he chipped the ball over the head of the advancing defence and hacked the ball on and won the race to the line to score to take the final score to Annan 43 Strathendrick 0.

This was a comprehensive win for Annan against, albeit, a weakened Strathendrick side who had no replacements with them. However to their credit they battled to the final whistle but it has to be said that they never once threatened the Annan line and were rarely in the home 22. The Annan backrow of Haren, Barnes and Jackson were the pick of the Annan forwards with McCann, Jones and Halliday the standouts in the backs.

Annan 1st XV Squad: Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, C Bell, S Wyllie, M Thompson, G Hogg, D Barnes, S Haren, A Jackson, A Jancey, C McCann, J Bigham, J Callaghan, A Halliday, A Rae, K Jones Replacements: C Nicholson, K Watret, J Nelson, D Wyllie, S Livingstone (all used)

STRATHAVEN 10 v ANNAN 25
2ND MARCH 2013

Match Photos

Annan went into this West Two RBS fixture at Whiteshawgate knowing that Strathaven had put up a feisty performance at Violetbank the previous week and that they would have to be on their mettle to hang on to their unbeaten league record.

Annan made their intentions clear by by attacking straight from the kick-off, but it was Strathaven who provided the early shock score. Following a breakaway move after only 5 minutes, some slack defensive tackling allowed the outside centre in for a rather soft try.

Annan exerted pressure on the Strathaven defence before being awarded a penalty, which McCann slotted to reduce the leeway. Although a bit harum scarum at times, it was developing into a good game of attacking rugby, with both teams keen to move the ball around.

Annan were unlucky when a try was chalked off for a marginal forward pass. It was ding dong stuff and there was plenty of good rugby on view for both sets of supporters, but Annan were gaining in confidence and showing that bit more aggression than their hosts.

The away team suffered a blow with full back Kevin Jones retiring injured on the half hour mark, but shortly afterwards Craig McCann nailed his second penalty to take Annan into a 6-5 lead. Replacement James Bigham was quickly in the thick of the action. He made an excellent line break and, after a couple of phases of play just short of the Strataven line, the ball reached McCann who floated a long pass to Jonny Callaghan who outstripped the defence to score an excellent try. McCann converted and this gave Annan a 13-5 advantage at half time.

The second half began in similar fashion to the first period, with Annan attacking at every opportunity. Adventurous rugby certainly, but containing too many careless offloads.

The wake-up call came in the 48th minute, when several sloppy tackles allowed the Strathaven No. 6 in to score a well-taken, but eminently avoidable, try. This narrowed the lead to just three points and Annan had to start showing a bit more composure. Annan managed to stretch their lead 10 minutes later with a well-worked score.

Good work by Hogg and Haren initially led to McCann feeding hooker Callum Bell who nipped in at the corner. An excellent conversion by McCann took the score to 18-10. But Strathaven were far from finished and it was end to end, entertaining stuff - and highly competitive.

Scrum half Jancey touched the ball down in 65 minutes, but the score was rightly disallowed for a double movement. Annan's last try contained a mixture of skill and good fortune. Some pretty hairy passing was on view until the ball reached centre Alex Halliday who danced through the Strathaven defence for an exquisite try. McCann added the extras and that was that!

A good win on the road, and Annan's hard work paid off to take them back to the top of the league. Play was a bit too frantic at times, but Annan do play high risk attacking rugby. A good team performance, with McCann pulling the strings in the backs.

The Annan workrate caught the eye, with big shifts put in by Callaghan, Sean Haren and Ali Jackson. The next four weeks will define Annan's season with home and away matches against both Strathendrick and Stewartry, but meantime they can enjoy their deserved top of the table status.

Annan Team: C Warrick, C Bell, S Wyllie; M Thompson, G Hogg; D Barnes, S Hare, A Jackson; A Jancey, C McCann (c); A Rae, J Callaghan, A Halliday, D Wyllie; K Jones.

Replacements used: J Bigham, J Nelson, S Livingstone

ANNAN 38 v STRATHAVEN 19
23RD FEBRUARY 2013

Match Photos / Match Highlights

Annan maintained their unbeaten run in the RBS West 2 Regional league but were made to work extremely hard for their victory by a hardworking and well drilled Strathaven side whose efforts belied their position in the league.

Both teams started brightly on a fine day for running rugby at Violetbank and for the supporters it looked as if Annan were going to run away with the fixture when they were nineteen points up in as many minutes! Full back Kevin Jones scored three tries in that period and each one was as good as any seen at Violetbank in recent years.

His first came from a penalty award which led to a lineout just inside the visitor’s half. The ball was spun out through the backs with Jones coming into the line on the wing to stride over to score. Standoff Craig McCann added the conversion. His second came from a drive from the home forwards and quick ball from the ensuing ruck which was again spun through the backs. Jones came into the line to receive a deft inside pass from centre David Wyllie to score - again McCann added the extras. His third came from a kick out of defence by the visiting fullback which he gathered and with some deft footwork he side stepped and pirouetted his way over the line. The conversation was missed.

Unfortunately thinking the game was won Annan seemed to relax and let their visitors back into the game. A period of sustained pressure by Strathaven in the Annan 22 brought its reward when Annan ran out of defensive numbers and the Strathaven winger scored in the corner. The visitors continued to put some excellent phases of play together and from a turned over ball at a ruck in their own 22 their full back ran through some hapless tackles to score a fine individual try on the stroke of half time and take the half time score to Annan 19 Strathaven 12.

Annan started the second half realising that they had a game on their hands and immediately, with a series of driving plays took play into the visitor’s half. The visiting forwards were penalised for a ruck offense and from the ensuing lineout the take and drive was converted to a try by prop Colin Warrick to earn the home side their bonus point try. McCann added the conversion. The visitors were not to be outdone as they immediately hit back and scored a superb try of their own when their centre cleaved his way, aided in no small measure by a plethora of missed tackles, through the traffic to score a converted try to take the score to 26-19.

Although the visitors continued to battle away their efforts had taken its toll and Annan controlled the last quarter of the game and scored a further two tries. The first by No 8 Ali Jackson, following some skilful backs play, he found himself on the wing and crashed over to score in the corner. The last try was scored by prop Keiron Watret when following a sweeping move by the backs he was on hand to receive the scoring pass from scrum half Andrew Jancey. The conversion by McCann concluded the scoring. Final Score Annan 38 Strathaven 19

Whilst this was a fine win by the Annan side there were several aspects of the game that the Annan coaches will no doubt be addressing at training this week. The Annan scrum struggled throughout the game albeit towards the end they were gaining parity as the visiting eight tired. Bearing in mind that the 19 points scored against them on Saturday is the highest number of points leaked by Annan in the league this season their defensive work, which has been exemplary all season, was at times on Saturday well below par. With this Saturday’s fixture the rearranged return match against Strathaven it is to be hoped that lessons will be learned.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, C Bell, K Watret, M Thompson, G Hogg, D Barnes, S Haren, M Carpenter, A Jancey, C McCann, G Smith, J Bigham, A Halliday, D Wyllie, K Jones. Replacements: J Nelson, A Jackson, A Rae, E Braid (all used) C Nicholson

ANNAN 34 v CLYDEBANK 0
16TH FEBRUARY 2013

Annan notched up another bonus point win against a resolute Clydebank side, to maintain their 100% record in the RBS West League 2 on a dreich, drizzly day at Violetbank. The pitch had recovered well from the midweek snow but conditions underfoot were still very heavy.

Annan went straight on the offensive and from a lineout drive Sean Haren scored the opening, unconverted try. Annan‘s high tempo game was going well and they almost scored again immediately afterwards. Clydebank then fed off a couple of midfield handling errors and had pressure in the Annan 22 which was defended well.

Kevin Jones then fielded a kick ahead and counter attacked in typical fashion beating 4 defenders before releasing Alex Halliday who finished well from 30 metres. Annan then went further ahead when from good phase play, a switch of direction and sniping run by Halliday opened up the defence for a James Bigham score which he converted himself. Bigham then kicked a nicely struck penalty

Annan were dominating the game territorially but Clydebank were proving very competitive in the forward exchanges and Annan’s usual cohesion was being further disrupted by frequent penalty concessions at the breakdown.

Half time: Annan 20 v Clydebank 0

The second half continued in similar fashion with the play being constantly disrupted by minor errors & infringements. Annan were unable to get their normal game going and, indeed had to defend their line vigorously after a series of penalties to Clydebank. Jones then counter attacked again from his own 22 but Clydebank scrambled back well in defence to prevent a try.

The breakdown continued to be a problem area with Annan being penalised incessantly and this prevented them from exerting any territorial pressure on Clydebank. Injuries and substitutions also contributed to the stop start nature of the game.

With 10 mins to go, the crowd heaved a collective sigh of relief as Jones was impeded chasing a kick over the Clydebank try line and the referee awarded a penalty try converted by Bigham. This gave Annan the bonus point. Annan’s defence continued to be strong and aggressive and was rewarded with a loose ball that Halliday snapped up and sped 80 metres to score the final try again converted by Bigham.

Final score: Annan 34 v Clydebank 0

Annan will be happy with the result but not the performance. Admittedly conditions were not conducive to their usual fast multiphase game, and they undoubtedly fell foul of the referee in the tackle area. The defence was excellent, however, and they will be pleased with the opposition zero score.

Clydebank belied their position in the league with a determined, organised performance. Against a lesser defence they would have scored several tries.

For Annan the back row again excelled, in defence particularly and Sean Haren was a deserved man of the match. Scrum and lineout were good with Kieron Watret putting in a good shift at prop. James Bigham also slotted in well in the injured Craig McCann’s dual roles of playmaker and kicker

Kevin Jones, as usual, counterattacked with panache and Alex Halliday looked sharp throughout and took his tries well.

Match Sponsors were H & I Engineering and the Mascot for the Day was John Mackay of Newington Primary school.

Annan Team: C Warrick (C), C Bell, K Watret; G Hogg, M Thompson; D Barnes, S Haren, A Jackson; A Jancey, J Bigham; G Smith, J Callaghan, A Halliday, D Wyllie; K Jones: Subs Used, J Nelson, S Wyllie. Sub Not Used: C McCann.

LENZIE 10 v ANNAN 12
26TH JANUARY 2013

Match Photos

With both teams fighting for points in the promotion chase, this RBS West Two fixture at Viewfield was always going to be a tense affair. In the end, Annan just edged it in the dramatic closing minutes to keep their promotion prospects very much alive.

Annan looked hungry ion the opening stages and looked the more composed team, forcing Lenzie into making mistakes but lacking the penetration to break down the resolute home defence. Nevertheless, a McCann penalty put Annan in the lead after 15 minutes. Lenzie had a period of sustained pressure and Kevin Jones had to use all of his pace to make a brilliant tackle in the corner to prevent a certain score. Lenzie’s forwards were beginning to get the upper hand and they scored from a pushover try on the half hour mark by No. 8 Ross Queenan. Luckily for Annan, the conversion was missed and Craig McCann put the away side back into the lead before half time with an excellently struck kick. The score line at the interval speaks volumes, 6-5 in an incredibly tense affair.

Annan stretched their lead to 9-5 in the 50th minute with a raking long penalty from the McCann boot, but Lenzie were far from finished. Their forwards battered away at the Annan defence and following pressure on the Annan line, winger Knight went in at the corner for a good score. With Lenzie leading 10-9 with ten minutes to go, the home side continued to press for another score, but it was the composure of stand off McCann which won the day for Annan as, once more, he slotted a perfect penalty to seal an important victory.

Both teams deserve credit in this top-of-the-table clash and Lenzie can feel a wee bit aggrieved that their two tries weren’t enough to see them through. If Lenzie had had a decent kicker, it could well have been a different story. So Annan continue their winning ways – even if it was by the skin of their teeth!

Annan Team: C Warrick, C Bell, C Nicholson; M Thompson, G Hogg; D Barnes, S Haren, K Watret; A Jancey, C McCann (c); G Smith, J Callaghan, A Halliday, D Wyllie; K Jones.

Replacements used – A Rae, A Jackson, S Livingstone, E Braid, S Wyllie, M Carpenter

MCLAREN 3 v ANNAN 45
12TH JANUARY 2013

Match Photos

With McLaren's Callander home pitch out of action for the season, Annan travelled to Dunblane to fulfil this all-important RBS West Division 2 fixture and returned home with a bonus point in the bag following a convincing seven try display which put them back on top of the league.

During the opening exchanges, Annan set out their stall by playing expansive rugby but mistakes were in evidence and tackling not at its sharpest. Nevertheless, they had points on the board after only eight minutes. From a 10 metre line out, Thompson took cleanly, Warrick drove to just short of the line and Kieron Watret's bulk enabled him to breenge over for an excellent try.

Annan were forcing McLaren on to the back foot and the pressure paid off when a nifty interception by stand off McCann was slipped out to Haren who fed centre Alex Halliday and a score under the posts ensued. Haren was to the fore again on the half hour mark. After sucking opposition players in to a ruck, the Annan No. 7 supplied McCann who put Halliday in once more, the latter weaving past a couple of men and dummying in the process.

Three conversions from captain McCann and Annan were 21-3 up at the interval. Errors were still evident and the away side were guilty of giving away silly penalties, but this was a solid platform to build on.

Annan got off to the best possible start in the second half. With only two minutes gone, following some excellent passages of backs play, hooker Bell broke a couple of tackles to sprint in for a touchdown. This was the try Annan needed to break McLaren who, despite the score line, had played some very good rugby with some feisty tackling and good running in the back division.

Annan certainly had to be on their mettle and responded with three further tries. With fifty five minutes on the clock, and after both Livingstone and Thompson had been stopped just short of the McLaren line, the ball was picked up up a razor sharp Haren who bagged a much deserved try.

Annan's sixth try was the pick of the bunch. Bigham fielded a loose kick and fed to Callaghan who set off on an excellent run before feeding an inch-perfect pass inside to full back Jones for a classy score.

Callaghan himself scored Annan's final try following good hands by Bigham and Jamieson - and that was that. Seven excellent tries, five of them converted by McCann and Annan remain unbeaten half way through their league campaign.

This was an excellent score line against a very competent McLaren side and every Annan player deserves credit. Singling out individual performances on a day like this is not easy, but McCann got his backs moving well and Alex Halliday's brace of tries takes him to a tally of thirteen for the season. In the forwards, the galloping runs and line-out work of Michael Thompson caught the eye and Sean Haren was, quite simply, outstanding and the best player on the park. It was good, too, to see young Ryan Glass blooded for the last ten minutes his first appearance with the Annan 1st XV since he ran out as the Club mascot at Murrayfield in the 2003 BT Bowl Final!

Annan's mid term report, then, is highly favourable but a lot of hard games lie ahead in the push for promotion. Annan Team: C Warrick, C Bell, D Nicholson; G Hogg, M Thompson; S Wyllie, S Haren,K Watret; J Bigham, C McCann (c); G Smith, J Callaghan, A Halliday, D Wyllie; K Jones. Repalcements (all used): A Jancey, B Jamieson, R Glass, S Livingstone, A Rae

Match Report by Don Barty

ANNAN 36 v WAYSIDERS 0
5TH JANUARY 2013

Match Photos/Match Highlights

The rains relented sufficiently for the first game to be played at Violetbank for six weeks. Annan did not play at anywhere near their best but were still far too good for a spirited but limited Waysiders XV and continued their 100% record in the RBS West 2 League

W-D were unable to field a complete front row so scrums were uncontested throughout. Apart from the heavy pitch, conditions were good, with Annan playing into a mild breeze and low sun in the first half.

Annan were on top from the outset and from a tap penalty, good handling led to an opening unconverted try by Kevin Jones. Play then became very disjointed with little flow partly as a result of unforced errors from both sides but also because of the referee's reluctance, throughout, to apply the advantage rule.

Annan increased their lead, when from a lineout steal and good phase play David Wyllie forced his way over at the posts for a try converted by Craig McCann.

Almost immediately from the kickoff Annan kicked a penalty to the corner and from the lineout Colin Warrick was driven over for his trademark try.

Annan then released their grip on the game and were particularly lax at the breakdown conceding several turnovers and but for a smart covering tackle by Ali Jackson would have lost a try.

Annan then broke out from defence and after good handling by the backs, Graeme Smith scored in the corner, well converted by Craig McCann.

Half time Annan 24 W-D 0.

Most of the Annan support expected their team to run away with the game in the 2nd half but this was not to be, and a combination of spirited defence and poor execution meant that only two tries were scored. Craig McCann showed great awareness in taking a quick tap penalty to score under the posts, and Sean Haren reacted sharply to a lineout knockdown to score in the corner.

Annan completely dominated the second half but did not control the breakdown effectively, and made too many unforced errors. This resulted in a very stop-start game and try scoring opportunities being missed.

On the positive side the lineout worked really well with Michael Thompson yet again dominant and with Dwayne Barnes also making important steals.

The coaches will be pleased to have got another game, and bonus point win, under their belts after the long layoff and will be hoping that the weather does not interfere too much in the important coming weeks.

Annan Team C Warrick, S Wyllie, C Nicholson, G Hogg, M Thompson, D Barnes, S Haren, A Jackson: J Bigham, C McCann (C) : G Smith, D Wyllie, A Halliday, K Jones: Subs used M Carpenter, B Jamieson. J Callaghan.

WIGTOWNSHIRE 3 v ANNAN 21
29TH DECEMBER 2012

After an enforced 5 week layoff due to weather, the excesses of the festive season and a home side determined to eradicate memories of the 71-0 drubbing at Violetbank Annan found this fixture a daunting prospect and a potential banana skin at London Road Playing Fields. With the pitch in perfect condition and the added bonus of some sunshine the match bore more than a passing resemblance to a start of the season fixture.

In the opening quarter Annan struggled to impose themselves on their hosts who were quicker in deed and thought, especially in the loose. The 'Shire back row in particular were making things difficult for the visitors at the breakdown, turning over ball on numerous occasions and with Annan struggling at scrummaging things were looking a little ominous for the visitors. It was therefore somewhat against the run of play when Annan broke out from their own 22 after a home attack broke down. The ball passed through several pairs of hands before full back Kevin Jones wove some of his sleight of foot magic to dance over to score between the posts. Standoff Craig McCann added the conversion. A few minutes later, 'Shire were awarded a penalty when Annan were caught offside and Annan's lead was reduced by 3 points. Annan were beginning to exert some pressure in the home 22 and were awarded a succession of penalties which were kicked into the corners. From one of the take and drives Annan looked to have driven over to score but the referee deemed the ball held up. The Annan backs were beginning to dominate with centre Alex Halliday and winger Graeme Smith coming close on a couple of occasions. Annan we not to be denied however and on the stroke of half time, following some excellent driving play by the forwards the ball was released to hooker Callum Bell who scored wide out. Again Craig McCann added the conversion to take the half time score to Wigtownshire 3 Annan 14.

The second half was a similar affair to the first with the exception of the Annan scrum which gained parity and even took a couple of stricken against the head. 'Shire had several periods of pressure in the Annan 22 but Annan' resilient defence kept the line intact. From an Annan attack the forwards once again drove over the line only to be denied when the ball was held up. From the ensuing 5 metre scrum the ball was worked to the backs and centre Alex Halliday, drawing his opposite number, found his winger Alan Rae with a beautifully flighted pass to send him over to score. Craig McCann converted from the touch line to take the final score to Wigtownshire 3 Annan 21.

Banana skin averted and Annan finish the year the only unbeaten team in RBS Regional League West 2 and in 2nd top spot to Stewartry but with 3 games in hand over the leaders.

Annan Team: C Warrick, C Bell, C Nicholson, G Hogg, M Thompson, S Wyllie, D Barnes, A Jackson, J Bigham, C McCann, G Smith, A Halliday, D Wyllie, A Rae, K Jones.

Replacements: A Copeland, B Jamieson, K Watret (all used)

ANNAN 17 v LENZIE 0
24TH NOVEMBER 2012

Match Photos/Match Highlights

That this rearranged fixture went ahead, after the horrendous weather during the week, was all down to the hard work of Annan's groundsman and a hardy band of volunteers. Although less than a perfect playing surface for the two top teams in the RBS Regional League West 2 both teams provided a fine display of committed uncompromising rugby.

The early momentum lay with the visitors who, through their powerful pack, made inroads into the Annan 22 and were unlucky not to take the lead when a penalty award came back off the upright. The Annan scrum was under severe pressure at this time but some magnificent defensive work by the hosts kept Lenzie at bay time after time as they laid siege to the Annan line. Despite Annan's problems at the scrummage their lineout more than made up for and provided a rich seam of possession. Annan took the lead when awarded a penalty when the visiting backs were caught offside at a ruck which Captain Craig McCann slotted, making amends for an earlier miss.

Annan worked their way back into the game and when Lenzie were penalised for not rolling away following a fine bit of driving play by the home forwards Craig McCann landed his kick on the 5 metre line to give his team an attacking platform from the ensuing lineout. Prop Colin Warrick provided, albeit aided and abetted by his forwards, one of his now trademark tries as he was driven over the line to score. Craig McCann added the afters and Annan were in a ten point lead which they held onto until half time.

The second half belonged to the home side as they kept play in the Lenzie half, for the most part, by virtue of some astute territorial kicking by stand off McCann allied with some fine driving play by the home forwards and attacking play by the backs. With a sense of frustration evident in the visitor's play errors began to appear in their play and as their forwards visably tired the Annan scrum began to gain parity.

In one rare excursion into the Annan 22 Lenzie were awarded a penalty which was missed and there was a sense as the visitor's heads went down that the game was Annan's. This was reinforced from the restart when the ball was run back into the Annan half and centre Michael Griffin intercepted a loose pass and set off for the line. He timed his pass, after drawing the last remaining defender, perfectly to centre Alex Halliday who sprinted over to score. Craig McCann again added the extra two points to take Annan into a comfortable 17-0 lead. Alex Halliday had the opportunity to add to his try tally minutes later when Michael Griffin again provided the pass but with the line at his mercy he lost his footing in the slippery underfoot condition and was caught.

Given the conditions this was one of Annan finest performances this season with every player playing their part. Their overall defensive performance, when under the cosh in the first half was exemplary and at the end of the game they looked the fitter team. While no player can be singled out for praise, as this was a consummate team performance, the Annan back row of Dwayne Barnes, Ewan Braid and Ali Jackson were outstanding as a unit. The Man of the Match was awarded to Sean Harren.

Annan 1st XV Squad: : C Warrick, S Harren, C Nicholson, M Thompson, G Hogg, D Barnes, E Braid, A Jackson, A Jancey, C McCann, G Smith, J Callaghan, A Halliday, D Wyllie, K Jones Replacements, M Griffin, A Rae, C Bell, S Wyllie, M Carpenter

KILMARNOCK 21 v ANNAN 19
10TH NOVEMBER 2012

Annan travelled to Kilmarnock for this RBS West Regional Shield game confident that they could claim another scalp from the league above. Unfortunately they came up just short, and were undone by a slow start in an entertaining game played in atrocious conditions

Annan kicked off and almost immediately conceded a converted try as Kilmarnock exploited gaps in the blind side defence. The home side then got a further unconverted try and penalty to go 15-0 up after 15 minutes play. Annan then started to come to terms with the sodden pitch and pouring rain and Craig McCann reduced the leeway with an excellent penalty fro m 40 metres on the half hour mark.

Immediately from the kick off, a good kick by James Bigham and great pressure from the backs resulted in a breakaway try in the corner, well finished by Graeme Smith.

Both sides were now playing open rugby which belied the conditions, and Annan were lucky when after a break by the opposing stand off, the scoring pass went astray. At the other end a great break by Alex Halliday was thwarted by a last ditch tackle.

Michael Thompson was making a lot of lineout steals and from one of these Kilmarnock conceded a penalty which McCann converted to make the half time score 15-11

Another torrential downpour during the interval made conditions even worse but to their credit the players still continued to run the ball, but were met with excellent defence by both teams. Excellent driving play and ball retention by the Annan forwards yielded another successful penalty by McCann to reduce the lead to one point.

The Kilmarnock stand off, who was impressive throughout, then made another break through the middle but an excellent tackle by Halliday prevented a try. Annan were penalised at the ensuing scrum and the kick was successful to increase the home sides advantage once again. Kilmarnock then had a period of dominance with their bigger pack using pick and drive tactics and while the defence held firm Annan conceded another penalty to take the score to 21-11

Annan refused to lie down and after a long period of concerted pressure were awarded another penalty which McCann kicked with 10 minutes to go. Appearing to be the fitter team Annan were now dominating the game and after a lineout drive was stopped, the forwards showed great patience and ball retention and got their reward when Colin Warrick drove over. McCann's kick to level the scores was just wide. Annan continued to press right up to the final whistle but the home defence held firm to leave the final score 21-19.

This was an excellent game of rugby which belied the awful conditions and was a great credit to both teams. Annan will rue the opening quarter but overall the coaches will be very pleased with their performance. It is difficult to single out individuals but Ewan Braid was outstanding in the forwards and Alex Halliday was excellent in both attack and defence, while Callumn Nicholson had his best game yet in an Annan jersey.

Annan 1st XV: C Warrick, S Wyllie, C Nicholson, G Hogg, M Thompson, D Barnes, E Braid, A Jackson; J Bigham, C McCann, G Smith, D Wyllie, A Halliday, A Rae, K Jones; Subs (Used - S Haren, Not used - M Carpenter,A Copland. )

CLYDEBANK 5 v ANNAN 45
27TH OCTOBER 2012

Annan remain unbeaten and are once again leaders of RBS West Division Two on points differential after a fine performance at Whitecrook Park. With Stewartry losing unexpectedly to Waysiders Drumpellier, the stage is now set for a top-of-the table clash with Lenzie at Violetbank on November 24th although there is still the small matter of playing Stathaven on Saturday.

In last Saturdays fixture, Annan blitzed Clydebank with a fantastic first half performance which left their opponents reeling. From the outset, there was excellent pace and movement from the Annan backs, but it was the forwards who got the show on the road with the first score. With only five minutes on the clock, the visitors had a five metre line-out and a clean take and drive accomplished to perfection with Colin Warrick bullocking over for a trademark try. Ten minutes later and captain Craig McCann was alert to snaffle a Clydebank handling error and outpaced the despairing home defence to score an excellent individual try from all of 70 metres.

Almost immediately, following some good driving play by the forwards, centre Johnny Callaghan was held up in the act of scoring but that only delayed further pain for Clydebank. Bigham fed to David Wyllie and, after some big yards made by the winger, McCann took it on and drew his man for Alex Halliday to score in the corner. Three tries in 17 minutes and Annan were well and truly in the driving seat. Clydebanks only threat to that point had been a missed penalty by their scrum half.

Another two tries were accumulated by the Violetbank side before half time. Following a brief flurry by Clydebank, which was easily contained by a solid Annan defence, a smooth backs move saw McCann shipping a looping pass to full back Kevin Jones who showed his customary pace to score a fine try. Then, in 32 minutes, the best try of the game. Scrum half James Bigham took a tap penalty, passed, received the ball on the loop and popped it out to Callaghan for a sparkling score.

Half time score: Clydebank 0 Annan 31.

A combination of factors led to Annans performance dipping in the second half. Prop John Nelson retired injured and late pre-match call-offs meant that they only had one replacement. The shuffling around of personnel led to a somewhat scrappy second half performance. Despite all of this, and the fact that Annans line-out started to malfunction, Clydebank only managed one score, from a driving maul, despite having a lot of possession near the Annan line. Annan didnt really function as a fluid unit in the second period, but despite this they went on to score a further two fine tries. An untypically quiet Alex Halliday saw a gap after good work by Bigham and Callaghan and weaved his way through to the line for his second try. Not to be outdone, full back Jones added his second score when he was alert to a defensive fumble and got his fingertips to the ball to touch down.

A great victory on the road for Annan who, for the most part, played with pace and style. The backs were a joy to watch, the forwards played their part, none more so than Number 8 Ali Jackson and we witnessed seven tries, five of them converted by Craig McCann. Lots of difficult games around the corner, but this was one to savour.

Annan Team: C Warrick, C Bell, J Nelson; M Carpenter, M Thompson; D Barnes, S Wyllie, A Jackson; J Bigham, C McCann (c); D Wyllie, A Halliday, J Callaghan, G Smith; K Jones. Replacement: A Rae

CARRICK 13 v ANNAN 20
13TH OCTOBER 2012

Annan kept their winning streak alive, but only just, on Saturday at Maybole against a determined Carrick side. The match started off with both sets of forwards holding their own in their set piece play and the Annan backs, although having the better of their hosts in attack for the most part, found playing on an extremely narrow pitch stifled much of their play.

In the first quarter of the match centre Alex Halliday made a good break with the ball going through several sets of hands only for hooker Callum Bell to be denied by an excellent try saving tackle over the Carrick line. Annan were, however, the first to score when stand off Craig McCann converted a penalty awarded when the home forwards strayed offside at a ruck. It didn't take long however for the hosts to level the scores with a penalty awarded for a similar offence.

Annan's only try of the game was created by a storming run from centre Jonny Callaghan and with the home mid field defence pulled in, winger David Wyllie drew his man and timed his pass to winger Graeme Smith to perfection to allow him to score in the corner. Craig McCann missed the conversion from the touchline. Both sides traded penalties in the 2nd quarter to take the half time score to Carrick 6 Annan 11.

At the beginning of the second half Annan increased their lead by another 3 points when McCann converted a penalty award. Carrick hit back through a fine piece of forward driving place to drive the ball over the line for a converted try to take them within one point of Annans lead. Annan sealed their victory with another two penalties to take the final score to Carrick 13 Annan 20. Carrick battled all the way to the final whistle and made Annan work hard for their victory.

With Lenzie the only other unbeaten team in the league getting a bonus point win there is now only one point separating the two teams at the top of the league. This sets up a mouth-watering prospect of Saturdays game against Lenzie at Violetbank.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, C Bell, J Nelson, G Hogg, M Thompson, S Wyllie, S Livingstone, E Braid, A Rae, C McCann, G Smith, J Callaghan, A Halliday, D Wyllie, K Jones. Replacements: C Nicholson, M Carpenter, B Jamieson.

EAST KILBRIDE 13 v ANNAN 21
6TH OCTOBER 2012

Match Photos

There was a feeling of deja vu for the spectators in this RBS Shield Round 1 match at East Kilbrides Sports Club which was a repeat of last seasons preliminary round match between the two teams which Annan won 13 - 22.

Annan had had to make some personnel and positional changes prior to the match when captain and stand-off Craig McCann failed a late fitness test. The half back partnership had to be re-adjusted with Alan Rae taking the scrum half role and James Bigham the stand-off berth.

The first quarter of the match was fairly even in possession terms with the visitors edging the territorial advantage. First blood went to the home side, however, when the Annan forwards were caught offside at a ruck and were penalised which was converted by the home stand-off. Annan equalised minutes later when the home forwards were caught sealing off the ball at a ruck which stand-off James Bigham converted.

Bigham added a further three points when the hosts committed the same offence minutes later to put Annan into a 3 point lead. East Kilbride upped their game in the second quarter and forced Annan to defend in their own 22. From a fine piece of driving play by the home forwards the Annan mid field defence was pulled in which allowed the home right winger to find enough space to score at the corner flag. The conversion was missed. Annan had chances to retake the lead when they were awarded a couple of kickable penalties which were missed so the score remained at 8-6 to the hosts at half time.

The third quarter belonged to Annan with their backs attacking the East Kilbride with increasing confidence. Their pressure paid off and they re-took the lead with a penalty again converted by Bigham. Annans first try was an excellent effort. Centre Jonny Callaghan broke through the home defences and looked like he would go all the way but was tacked just 5 metres from the line. The ball was quickly recycled to the left and, passing through several pairs of hands, found hooker Callum Bell who scored to the left of the posts to give Annan a healthy 6 point lead.

By this time the Annan side were in total control of the game and only determined defence kept the visitors out but the home sides defences were breached eventually when centre Alex Halliday went on one of his mazy runs and with the full back to beat he neatly chipped the ball over his head and won the race to touch the ball down. Bigham added the extras to take the score to East Kilbride 8 Annan 21. For the last 10 minutes of the match East Kilbride battered away at the Annan line and from a lineout following a penalty award their No 8 crashed over to score a consolation try two minutes from time. Final Score East Kilbride 13 Annan 21.

All in all a satisfying display by Annan following their previous weeks stuttering performance. The forwards put in a workmanlike shift with the front five, after a shaky start with their scrummaging, in control for the most part. The back row likewise put in a fine defensive performance with No 8 Ali Jackson again outstanding. In the backs it would be churlish to pick out anyone as they all put in a fine performance both in defence and attack. The hosts named Annans Man of the Match as centre Jonny Callaghan.

Annan now play Kilmarnock in Round 2 of the RBS Shield at Bellsland on the 10th November.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, C Bell, J Nelson, M Thompson, M Carpenter, W Barnes, S Wyllie, A Jackson, A Rae, J Bigham, G Smith, J Callaghan, A Halliday, D Wyllie, K Jones Replacements: C Nicholson, K Watret, G Hogg, S Livingstone (all used)

ANNAN 21 v MCLAREN 3
29TH SEPTEMBER 2012

Match Photos

Despite Annans excellent start to their West Division 2 campaign, this match against McLaren (from Callander in Perthshire) was always going to be a real tester, and so it turned out to be. It wasnt the greatest of games, and the weather played a big part in this, but ultimately the Violetbank side produced the goods to preserve their 100% record.

The opening exchanges were distinctly scrappy with lots of knock-ons from both sides and McLaren looked lively as they sensed that they had the upper hand in the scrum. Indeed, the Perthshire side certainly had the best of the first quarter as Annan struggled to find their momentum. Penalised at a scrum after 23 minutes, the home side found themselves 0-3 down from a penalty by Harry Milligan but they gradually came into the ascendancy and, after three missed penalties, they clicked into gear to produce a super try. Andy Copland tied men in, he fed to Craig McCann, there was an amazing weaving run by Alex Halliday who unselfishly passed to Callum Bell for a quite spectacular try. Annan were 7-3 up at half time, but had been unconvincing.

There was a distinct lack of excitement for the home fans at the beginning of the second half. This was a scrappy affair which was waiting for a spark! And that spark was supplied by Annan, who ran in two more excellent tries in fact, it is a long time since this correspondent has watched such a dull game producing three such brilliant tries1 We had to wait until the 60th minute for the second score and it was straight from the training manual penalty 5 metres out, kick to touch, line out, take and drive, prop Colin Warrick over the line for a classic score. Annan completed a job well done with a further try through Jonny Callaghan, created by McCann, and that was that three top-class touch downs and three conversions by McCann. Annan march on, but work still has to be done to produce a smooth, consistent performance.

Annan did what they had to do but McLaren were a well drilled side and produced a good team performance. In particular, their centres nullified many an Annan threat and they caused the Annan scrum quite a few problems in the first half. Having said all of this, they very rarely threatened in the Annan 22. A good solid win, but sterner tests lie ahead! Man of the Match for McLaren was No. 7 Joe McKillion and for Annan No. 10 Craig McCann.

Annan RFC were delighted to have 6 mascots on the day (the winning Hecklegirth Tag Rugby Team) Daniel Cameron, Keir Johnston, Charlotte Cormack, Kirsty Johnstone, Lauren Warrick & Aidan Mackay.

Annan Team: C Warrick, C Bell, C Nicholson; J Nelson, M Thompson; D Barnes, E Braid, A Jackson; A Rae, C McCann (c), G Smith, J Callaghan, D Wyllie, A Copland; A Halliday. Replacements (all used) - S Wyllie, M Carpenter, S Livingstone, C Trant

WAYSIDERS 0 v ANNAN 55
22ND SEPTEMBER 2012

Match Photos

Annan travelled to Coatbridge to take on Waysiders Drumpellier on Saturday in RBS Regional League West 2 buoyed by the previous Saturdays display against Wigtownshire and while they again scored some fine tries against their hosts there were certain elements of their play that the Annan coaches will be looking to tighten up in the coming weeks.

Annan started nervously and although standoff Craig McCann missed a penalty in the opening minutes he was on target minutes later to settle the early jitters. Annans first try came when centre Alex Halliday burst up the wing and unselfishly fed the ball inside to hooker Callum Bell who sprinted in, unchallenged, to score. However Halliday got his name on the score sheet minutes later when he latched on to a deft chip ahead by McCann to score under the posts.

The Annan forwards who, despite struggling in the first scrum, slowly began to exert their superiority in the set piece play and the Annan back row, quicker and fitter than their counterparts, cleaned up most of the ball in the loose.

From a quickly won ball at a ruck, centre Jonny Callaghan drove through a despairing home defence to score. McCann added a further penalty and from the restart wing forward Ewan Braid charged down the dropout and gathered the ball to score. With McCann converting all four first half tries the half time score was Waysiders Drumpellier 0 Annan 34.

For the first 10 minutes of the second half Waysiders threw everything they had at the Annan line and kept Annan trapped within their 22 for most of that time. However Annans defence of their line, bordering on the heroic, soaked up everything their hosts threw at them albeit with the help of some lucky bounces of the ball!

Once the siege had been lifted Annan got back to their try scoring ways and it was wing forward Sean Haren who saw an opportunity from the back of a ruck to crash through the a pile of bodies to score. With their hosts now on the back foot and desperately trying to break out of the stranglehold their visitors were exerting on their line, centre Alex Halliday intercepted a loose pass 5 metres from the line to score the penultimate try of the game.

Annans final try was the best of a good bunch when Captain McCann broke out of Annans half to cleave open the hapless home defences to run half the length of the pitch to run in a fine try under the posts. With his conversion of the 3 tries in the second half this took the final score to Waysiders Drumpellier 0 Annan 55.

Over the piece this was another dominant performance by the Annan 1st XV squad albeit flawed in several areas. The reception of the restarts was woeful with only one being secured in the entire game.

Against a better team this could be cruelly exposed. Also the fast game plan produced its own errors with forward passes and numerous knock-ons an unfortunate by-product of a high energy game. The Annan coaches will no doubt be working on these points in the coming weeks.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, C Bell, J Nelson, R Craig M Thompson, D Barnes, E Braid, A Jackson, J Bigham, C McCann, G Smith, J Callaghan, A Halliday, D Wyllie, K Jones. Replacements: C Nicholson, S Haren, S Wyllie (all used)

ANNAN 71 v WIGTOWNSHIRE 0
15TH SEPTEMBER 2012

Match Photos/Match Highlights

Annan continued their fine run of form with an eleven try demolition of Wigtownshire at Violetbank last Saturday in Division West 2 of the RBS Regional League. With Stewartry beaten by Lenzie at the Greenlaw 9-7 Annan are now a clear 3 points ahead of unbeaten Lenzie at the top of the league courtesy of 3 bonus points.

Annan dominated in all facets of the game for the full eighty minutes with the home defensive efforts taking the plaudits. It did not take long for Annan to open their account when following a driving run from prop Colin Warrick, breaking from the back of a maul, the ball was released to the backs and full back Kevin Jones coming into the line scored. Annan kept the scoreboard ticking over throughout the first half with further tries from centre Alex Halliday (2), lock Robert Craig and hooker Callum Bell with stand off Craig McCann adding 4 conversions to take the half time score to Annan 33 Wigtownshire 0.

Wigtownshire upped their game at the beginning of the second half but were unable to break down Annans resolute defences. From a turn over at a ruck the visitors standoff launched a speculative kick into the Annan 22 which was fielded by centre Alex Halliday who launched a counter attack up the middle of the park. The ball was fed right and then back across field, with the ball passing through 9 pairs of hands, to eventually reach winger Graeme Smith who scored the try of the match in the corner. Alex Halliday scored his hat trick minutes later followed by centre Jonny Callaghan who scored a further hat trick in quick succession. The final score of the day went to fullback Kevin Jones who, with a wicked change of direction, wrong footed the visiting defences to score under the posts. Craig McCann added a further 4 conversions to take the final score to Annan 71 Wigtownshire 0.

All in all this was a dominant performance by the Annan 1st XV squad with the forwards set piece play providing the home backs with quality ball throughout the game. The Annan back row of Dwayne Barnes, Euan Braid and No8 Ali Jackson were outstanding with Ali Jackson perhaps the pick of the bunch with some powerful runs. With the game played at pace throughout there were numerous handling errors but nevertheless this was a promising performance. No doubt Annan will face some sterner tests in the coming weeks but with three fine performances behind them their confidence must be high. The Match Sponsors Cochranes Ltd Man of the Match was centre Jonny Callaghan.

Annan 1st XV Squad: C Warrick, C Bell, J Nelson, R Craig M Thompson, D Barnes, E Braid, A Jackson, J Bigham, C McCann, G Smith, J Callaghan, A Halliday, D Wyllie, K Jones Replacements: C Nicholson, A Rae, S Wyllie (all used)

CUMBERNAULD 0 v ANNAN 48
8TH SEPTEMBER 2012

Match Photos

Annan travelled to Cumbernauld with confidence after their comfortable win last week and this was justified with another impressive performance

Conditions were dry and firm underfoot, but with a strong crosswind which just favoured Annan in the 1st half. After an edgy start Annan were settled by a Craig McCann penalty. Alex Halliday then made a break and kicked ahead but the bounce of the ball just eluded Calum Bell in the act of scoring.

Shortly afterwards good handling sent Jonny Callaghan on a good run and when he was stopped, quick recycling led to Sean Haren powering over for the 1st try. Callaghan then scored an excellent individual try close to the posts which McCann converted. Annan continued to dominate especially when they upped the pace of the game and scored again when Haren started a counterattack and Bell scampered in from 40 metres

Half time score Cumbernauld 0 Annan 20.

Cumbernauld came into the game more in the second half and their forwards competed well both in the scrum and at close quarters. Their backs, apart from the odd individual break, were not really a threat. Annan became a little disjointed at times, but as in the first half whenever they speeded up their recycling or counterattacked from deep they looked like scoring. Further tries were scored by Alex Halliday (2), Stewart Livingstone, and James Bigham with McCann converting all 4.

All in all a good away performance, but with areas to work on. The scrum will need to be more consistent and the finishing needs to be more clinical with a number of try scoring opportunities being spurned.

Annan Team - C Warrick, C Bell, R Craig, M Thompson, J Nelson, D Barnes, E Braid, A Jackson, J Bigham, C McCann (Capt), G Smith, J Crowther, A Halliday, J Callaghan, K Jones, Subs (all used) C Nicholson, R Gracie, S Haren, S Livingstone & B Jamieson.

ANNAN 35 v CAMBUSLANG 7
1ST SEPTEMBER 2012

Match Photos/Match Highlights

Annan kicked off their RBS West 2 League campaign at a breezy but unusually sunny Violetbank on Saturday.

Cambuslang kicked off with the wind at their back and had Annan under early pressure after a series of penalties, but the defence was solid and a visiting penalty attempt went wide.

Annans scrum was going well, however, and from turnover ball Cambuslang conceded a penalty under their posts which Craig McCann converted. Soon after, a good run by David Wyllie resulted in a 5 metre line out which was driven over for a trademark Colin Warrick score which went unconverted.

Cambuslang hit back and a quick penalty caught Annan napping and poor defence close to the ruck led to a try by the home posts which was converted to make the score 8-7

Annan started to get on top, with good runs from Kevin Jones and Alex Halliday but the final passes didnt quite go to hand, and a try was also disallowed for a forward pass after good interplay between forwards and backs.

Both sides were obviously rusty with a lot of errors punctuating the play with Annan just about deserving their lead at half time

Annan upped their game in the 2nd half and the scrum gained a penalty which McCann converted. Soon after the restart the Annan backs put pressure on their counterparts and the loose ball fell to McCann who showed a good turn of pace to run in from 50 metres, a try he also converted.

Annan were now dominating the forward exchanges and McCann increased the lead with another well struck penalty.

Annan kept the pressure on with the half backs kicking well with the wind to keep Cambuslang pinned in their own half.

The home side then scored a lovely try which originated from a quickly taken lineout on half way. The ball was transferred through several pairs of hands before an inside pass to Kevin Jones put him clean through for a try converted by McCann.

The final score came from another good scrummage turning the ball over and good passing put David Wyllie in for the bonus point try, again converted by McCann. After a slow start Annan dominated all facets of play in the second half. As mentioned the scrum was on top throughout and the lineout got much better with Michael Thompson winning a lot of clean ball.

The rucks were messy but the Annan back row, with the returning Ewan Braid in the van, put in a great stint, tackling and spoiling opposition ball. The backs passing and communication were much better in the second half and their defence was solid throughout.

Overall the coaches will have been very pleased with the first outing Man of the Match was Craig McCann whose kicking both out of hand and off the tee was exemplary.

Annan Team C Warrick, C Bell, R Craig, J Nelson, M Thompson, D Barnes, E Braid, A Jackson, J Bigham, C McCann ( Capt), G Smith, J Crowther, A Halliday, D Wyllie, K Jones, Subs( All used) G Hogg, S Haren , S Wyllie.