All previous match reports etc can be found at the Archive page.
FULL MATCH REPORTS: QUICK ACCESS
ANNAN 19 - LANGHOLM 10
WEDNESDAY 9 MAY 2001
Annan competed a historic victory on Wednesday night at Violetbank in their final game of Division 1 of the BT National Leagues with their first victory over local rivals Langholm at the sixth time of asking which also took Annan to their highest ever placing in the leagues at 5th. The victory was, however, tinged with some sadness as the win consigned Langholm to Division 2 next season.
This re-arranged local derby, due to the foot and mouth crisis, was always going to be a tense affair. The intensity of the occasion was heightened due to the importance of the result to Langholm, Annan having secured their Division 1 place the previous Saturday with their win over relegation strugglers Trinity.
Both teams, still struggling to field full strength XVís, failed to find any fluency in their play in the first half. However the home side started the brighter of the two and kicking with the wind built up a 9-point lead, as stand off Niall Smith slotted over three penalties from four attempts as the visitors were penalised for undisciplined play. This was a game where the points had to be taken when they were on offer. Defence by both sides was secure in the first half but Annanís set piece play, which had been poor against Trinity Accies, was much better with the forwards providing a solid base. The later stages of the half saw lock Graham Smith and Langholm No 8 Brannan sent to the sin bin for fighting.
Whilst the first half was a tense, error filled half, the biggest crowd of the season at Violetbank were given value for their money with an exiting display by both teams. The home forwards, whose set piece play had improved, began to put in some fine driving play with the back row trio of Stuart Clannachan, Andy Renwick and Robert Currie in the loose looking particularly impressive. Niall Smith added to the home sidesí lead with another penalty strike. At this point it looked as if, especially as Annan seemed to have the Langholm attacks well contained, that the visitors were down and out but Langholm were far from buckling and launched several fine attacks on the Annan line. One attack found the normally secure Annan backs wanting and centre Niall Cubbin sliced through to score. Cubbin was on hand minutes later when from a series of rucks in the Annan 22 he was on hand to drive over for another try. The Annan faithful, having visions of yet again seeing their team fail at the final hurdle, were relieved to see the conversion attempt fail.
Annanís reply was immediate. Laying siege to the Langholm line a number of drives by the forwards were thwarted before the ball was fed out to centre Stuart Williamson who just managed to touch down between the posts, leaving Niall Smith with an easy conversion. This try was no more than Annan deserved as they had numerous periods of pressure and were close to scoring on several occasions, one of which could have resulted in a penalty try.
At the final whistle Annan knew they had accomplished a historic win for the club and had ended the season at their highest ever level in Scottish rugbyís pecking order. Several players impressed over the piece with wing forward Bob Currie and lock Billy Henderson having one of their best games of the season. The most pleasing aspect of the evenings performances was the coming of age in senior rugby terms of young prop Darren Irving who, thrown into the 1st XV due to unavailability and injuries to other front row players, showed that he is maturing into a fine player.
ANNAN 18 - TRINITY ACCIES 15
SATURDAY 5 MAY 2001
With both senior hookers on holiday, a centre at a wedding, two players returning from long term injuries and two farmers returning after a two months absence, Annan had to make several positional changes to their team to take on Trinity Accies in what was, in essence, a relegation battle on Saturday at the Everholm. The balance of need however was numerically different in that the visitors needed a win whereas the home side only needed a point to ensure Division 1 rugby at Violetbank next season. The basis of Annanís strengths, their scrummage and lineout proved to be the weakest points of their play, which ensured that their backs had to live on poor ball from the set piece for most of the game.
In the first half, although taking an early lead with a well struck penalty by stand off Niall Smith, Annan were rarely in the Trinity half as the visitors ball retention and territorial advantage were far superior to their hosts. Annan defensive play allied to the visiting team lacking penetration in their back play kept Trinity from breaching the Annan line. Trinity landed a penalty half way through the half to take the half time score to Annan 3 Trinity Accies 3.
The second half was a more entertaining affair with the home side at last beginning to make inroads into the visitorís territory and on one of their forays they were awarded a penalty when the Trinity forwards were penalised for handling the ball in a ruck. Niall Smith slotted the award to take the home side into a tenuous 3-point lead. Minutes later the home side were awarded a further penalty, which this time Niall Smith kicked down the line. From the ensuing lineout the Annan forwards drove the ball towards the Trinity line and when the ball was released to the backs right winger Kevin Jones, on a lateral run, cleaved through Trinity defences to score between the posts. Niall Smith converted the try to take the home side into a 13 Ė3 lead. The visitors were not down and out yet as from the restart they launched an attack, which although initially thwarted by some stout home defences, with the ball recycled several times the ball was eventually fed to the visiting full back who scored. With the conversion missed Annanís lead was reduced to 5 points.
Annan applied pressure right from the restart and from a lineout in the Trinity 22 the forwards drove the ball to within sight of the line and the ball was fed to lock Graham Smith who drove over to score. Niall Smithís conversion attempt hit the upright to deny the home side a 12-point lead. Annan, however, never like to make it easy for themselves or their supporters and some slack defending allowed Trinity to score a further try when their No 7 drove over to score a converted try. With 3 points between the teams the last ten minutes of the game were tense and nerve racking for both sets of supporters as both sides tried to seal the fate of the other. In the end it was Annan who gained their victory and secured Division 1 rugby at Violetbank next season and left their visitorsí fate to the last two outstanding games of the season. Ironically Annan has a direct bearing on the outcome of the outstanding relegation places as they have to play bottom placed Langholm at Violetbank on Wednesday night with a 7 oíclock KO and on Saturday Langholm are set to play Trinity Accies at Milntown in a game that will decide which two from Langholm, Trinity Accies or Livingston play Division 2 rugby next season.
ROSS HIGH 20 - ANNAN 12
SATURDAY 21 APRIL 2001
Annan travelled to Tranent on Saturday to play their first game of competitive rugby for the best part of two months and although without one or two regulars, due to the foot and mouth crisis, put in a reasonable performance overall. Annan started the match looking like word beaters and within five minutes had taken the lead when lock Billy Henderson, after some great rucking and driving play by the visiting eight, drove over to score. Stand off Niall Smith landed the conversion to take Annan into a 7-point lead. Despite the home team scoring an unconverted try mid-way through the half it looked as if Annan were going to go into the break still in the lead but their hopes were dashed when Ross High scored a converted try at the whistle to take them into a 12 point to 7 lead at half time.
Annan started the second half looking a little lack lustre after their first half exertions and were pushed further behind when the home side added a further unconverted try not long after the re-start. Annans continued to play some enterprising rugby but were, with their somewhat lightweight pack, under the cosh in the set piece scrums where they were unable to generate quality ball for their backs. Annan closed the points gap mid way through the half with the best try of the day when driving play from deep inside their own half the visiting forwards drove play into the opposing 22 and centre Andy Render drove over to score to keep Annan in contention. Annan had several opportunities to reduce the deficit during the second half but the Annan kicker was having a nightmare in kicking terms and missed 5 penalty attempts. These misses were compounded, when prop Colin Warwick was denied a try by the referee when he drove over the line from short range. Why the try was disallowed still remains a mystery. The home team had the final say when their kicker landed a penalty to take the final score to Ross High 20 Annan 12.
This was a game that Annan needed to get something from as they are still in the relegation zone and they were most unlucky not to even get a bonus point. On the plus side the re-arranged team, despite being ring rusty, showed some promising touches.
ANNAN 9 - LIVINGSTON 5
SATURDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2001
With both teams with a foot in the relegation zone this was always going to be a tense, nervous, edgy battle and so it proved. With Livingston having had a notable victory over promotion hopefuls Ross High the previous Sunday in the BT Cellnet Shield quarterfinals the visitors had high hopes of pulling off a victory. This allied to the fact that they had brought with them a considerable travelling support which must have made their players feel as if they where playing at Almond Park in this Division 1 encounter in the BT National Leagues.
Playing against the wind in the first half, in bitterly cold conditions, play was driven from end to end as both teams tried to gain the upper hand. Both teams, however, were guilty of some inept handling as time and time again the ball was lost in contact. Honours remained even in the loose although the home side just about edged the play in the set piece. With both sides defences working extremely hard to close down attacks before they had time to blossom play was extremely fragmented and neither team was able to put together many flowing moves. The most promising move from the home side came in the opening minutes when in a rare flowing movement the ball was fed out to left winger Kevin Jones who burst up the left touchline. He was tackled into touch but fell awkwardly and damaged his ankle and had to be replaced by Euan Hay. Although Annan took the lead halfway through the half when full back Niall Smith slotted a penalty award the visitors were unlucky not to even matters up and in fact take the lead when their stand off Ferrier failed to convert three penalty awards. Annan managed to retain their lead and went into the half time break with a slender three point lead. Halftime score Annan 3 Livingstone 0.
The second half was similar to the first Ė error strewn Ė with both sides losing the ball in contact. Annan had hoped to gain the advantage of at least playing with the wind in the second half but even that seemed to conspire against them with the wind changing quarter with the added disadvantage for both sides that with the change in direction came driving snow. The home side managed to advance their lead in the third quarter when from two rare sorties into the Livingston half they were awarded penalties, which Niall Smith converted. With Annan now two scores ahead Livingston threw everything into attack, which the home side managed to quell with some excellent work by the back row and midfield defences. However, from a line kick out off defence, which failed to find touch, and instead found the welcoming arms of winger McMahon, Livingston launched a counter attack up the right wing. Although the initial surge was stopped the visiting forwards recycled the ball quickly and with some fine handling up the right touchline the Livingston outside centre Logan scored. With the conversion missed but with the points gap now down to four the visitors again launched attack after attack on the Annan line but were held out by some do or die defending. Annan did have the chance to extend their lead when they were awarded a further penalty within kicking range of Niall Smith. His attempt shaved the outside of the post. He also attempted a drop goal minutes later, which left the posts unscathed but had the corner flag worried.
The last five minutes where nerve racking for both sets of supporters as the visitors threw every thing into attack with the home side absorbing the punishing incursions into their territory. Some siege gun kicks out of defence by stand off Gordon Carmichael and full back Niall Smith relieved the pressure on several threatening occasions. Eventually to the relief of the Annan support the referee blew for no side and it was a mightily relieved home side that trudged off the pitch.
In truth Annan were extremely lucky to walk away with four points from this game. Some may say a draw would have been a fairer result some that Livingston were unlucky not to have won. In retrospect had the visiting stand off had his kicking boots on they would have and it would have been Annan who would have been staring into the abyss that is the relegation zone. As it is Annan are still not clear of the drop zone with a difficult away fixture to Ross High looming and two extremely interesting home games against Langholm who are now third bottom after their stunning defeat by Corstorphine at the weekend and Trinity Accies who, although lying second bottom, have begun to find some form with some fine recent wins.
KILMARNOCK 32 - ANNAN 7
SATURDAY 10 FEBRUARY 2001
After the magnificent victory over Kilmarnock at Violetbank in October in the league Annan must have been optimistic of their chances in the return match at Bellsland on Saturday with virtually the same team and with identical weather conditions. But Kilmarnock had done their homework and had tightened up their game in the lineout and scrums, two areas that Annan had dominated at Violetbank.
Credit had to go to both clubs that the match produced some highly entertaining rugby on a pitch which was more like a gluepot that a sports field. Playing with the considerable wind in the first half the home team made the most of the conditions with their standoff Jenkins driving play deep into the Annan half with some precision line kicking on numerous occasions. From one of the lineouts created the visitors were penalised for an offence and the home full back converted the award with a finely judged kick given the tricky wind conditions. The home side added to their score minutes later, when from a lineout following a penalty award the home forwards drove over with lock Duthie claiming the score. Annan continued to attempt to drive play into the home half but were never able to build on any continuity of play or to prise open the excellent home defences and as often as not found themselves driven deep into their own half by some great line kicks out of defence by the Kilmarnock standoff and full back. Just before half time Annan conceded another try when in a fine backs move the home stand off Jenkins set up his inside centre Kidd with a pass to score under the posts. With the conversion this took the half time score to Kilmarnock 15 Annan 0.
With the elements now in Annanís favour in the second half it looked, in the opening minutes of the half, as if the visitors would get a reward for their pressure on the home line but as so often happens Annan could not turn the pressure into points. It was Kilmarnock who turned the screw and with some excellent sweeping backs moves, considering the conditions, scored a further three tries through their left-winger Pratt, full back Stewart and stand off Jenkins. Annan managed to cross the line for the penultimate score three minutes from the end when No 8 Stuart Clanachan drove over from short range to score. Stand off Niall Smith added the conversion to take the final score to Kilmarnock 32 Annan 7.
Despite this being an entertaining game and one of great credit to both sides given the atrocious conditions Annan must be desperately disappointed in their overall performance on the day. There was a lack of pace in their play both in the forwards and the backs with centre Michael Anderson the only back who seemed capable of prising the home defences open on occasions. What was apparent was that when quick ball was forthcoming from the rucks the forwards drove it on themselves and bad or slow ball was given to the backs, which left them without any option but to drive the play back into the forwards, and the cycle began again. For the record Darren Irving replaced prop Colin Warrick (suspected broken nose) with Ally Carlyle replacing wing forward Bob Currie.
ANNAN 42 V DUMFRIES 3
SATURDAY 3 FEBRUARY 2001
After several years old local rivals Annan and Dumfries met in a friendly on Saturday at the Everholm. Having missed each other in the leagues as one went up and the other went down it was great to see old rivalries rekindled on the rugby field.
Annan, who was without scrum half Keith Hogg and lock Graham Smith who were both injured playing for the Glasgow District Union on Tuesday night, had to re-jig their line up. Veteran full back Gordon Carmichael moved to scrum half with winger Kevin Jones relocated at full back and Billy Henderson brought off the bench to take up the lock position.
In the opening exchanges both sides held their own with both sets of defences putting in some great work and it was midway through the half before the home side breached their visitorís line when after a series of rucks on the Dumfries line centre Mike Anderson drove over to score. Stand off Niall Smith converted the try. Annanís second try was as good as has been seen for some time at the Everholm for some time. Annan turned over ball in their own 22 and the ball was spun out to the backs with centre Andy Render breaking out through the Dumfries defences and with only the visiting full back to beat he unselfishly fed winger Euan Hay who was sprinting up on his inside to score between the posts. Again Niall Smith converted the try. Towards the end of the half Dumfries converted a penalty award to take the half time score to Annan 14 Dumfries 3.
In the second half the home team took command of the game and were seldom out of the Dumfries half and only dogged defence by the visitors kept the Annan attacks at bay. But with the amount of possession it was only a matter of time before the Dumfries line was breached and the home side added a further four converted tries without reply. The tries came from prop Colin Warrick, lock Billy Henderson and flanker Bob Currie. Stand off Niall Smith adding a further try and with his six conversions during the game took his personal points tally to 24.
This was a highly entertaining game with both sides trying to play open entertaining rugby. For the Annan supporters it was refreshing to see their side playing the ball through their backs for a change after the tight defensive games of National Division 1. For the record Darren Irving replaced prop Jack Tinning, hooker Paul Carruthers was replaced by Neil Moffat, lock Michael Newton replaced by veteran warhorse Neil Halliday and winger Euan Hay by Chris Donabie.
ANNAN 8 V GLENROTHES 6
SATURDAY 27 JANUARY 2001
This encounter at Violetbank was vital for both teams with the visitors propping up the league and the home side sitting perilously close to the relegation zone. So a win was vital to both sides with Annanís job looking the more difficult as they had never beaten the Fife side.
In the opening skirmishes the home side held sway driving play deep into the visitors half and, as was to be the pattern throughout the match, were kept at bay by some stubborn Glenrothes defence with former internationalist David McIvor called back into the Fife team to stiffen up their resolve. Both teams had chances in the first quarter to take the lead but both easy attempts were missed. One of the attempts coming off the post, which led to a mad scramble by the Annan defences to deal with the ball. It was the visitors who opened the scoring when at last one the kickers managed to put the ball between the posts. Annan eventually levelled the score before half time when a penalty was awarded to the home team when the Glenrothes forwards were caught offside at a ruck. Stand off Niall Smith slotted the award to take the half time score to Annan 3 Glenrothes 3.
In the third quarter Annan continued to batter away at visiting defences but with both sides playing with the same defensive tactics neither side was able to dominate in the close quarter exchanges. There was some relief for the Annan support when a kick out of defence by the visiting standoff was charged down. Winger Kevin Jones hacked the loose ball through the advancing Glenrothes defensive line and then won the footrace to the line to score. The conversion was missed. For the remainder off the half the home side, with the visitors having the bulk of possession, were left to defend their line for considerable periods of time. Glenrothes cut the home sides five-point lead to two when they were awarded a penalty when the Annan backs were caught offside in front of the posts. With only two points in the game the remaining five minutes were fraught for both sets of supporters as both sides fought for a decisive score. Fortunately for Annan the time ran out for Glenrothes and the home side had their much-needed victory.
This was not a great advert for running rugby but if you happened to be interested in defensive tactics you would have been in your element. The only problem was that with both sides playing the same sort of game both in attack and defence the result was that the game became a sort of stalemate played in the middle half of the pitch. Both teams lacked a Ďplaymakerí in their attacking armoury with the result that attacks were easily snuffed out at source. Apart from the defensive display the other positive attributes of the Annan team was another solid display by the forwards in the set piece with the lineout display much improved. With results in other games going Annanís way Annan have been moved up the league to sixth place but are still not out off the woods yet.
HADDINGTON 32 v ANNAN 10
SATURDAY 13 JANUARY 2001
After Annanís much improved display the previous Saturday, albeit in defeat, against second placed Hutchesons/Aloysians, hopes were high of Annan providing an
upset against the league leaders Haddington in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues at Neilson Park. For the best part of the first half the visitors were well in the
hunt as they battled up and down the park with the forwards again a force to be reckoned with driving play towards the home line on several occasion. No 8 Stuart
Clannachanís drives were a constant thorn in the side of the home team. The well organised home defences held firm, however, and all Annan had to show for all their
efforts was a penalty kicked by stand off Niall Smith which cancelled out one for the home side. In the final minutes of the half Haddington edged themselves in front
with a well-taken try to take the half time score to Haddington 8 Annan 3.
The second half belonged to the home side as Annan struggled to maintain continuity in their play. Their efforts were not helped by disruption to the make up of the
Annan side with injuries to No 8 Stuart Clannachan, winger Stuart Williamson and lock Ian Thorburn with replacement prop Murray Forbes having to fit into the
second row slot and replacement Andy Copland filling the wing spot. Annan therefore had to finish off the match a man short with teams only allowed two
replacements in league games. The home side ran in four further tries as they dominated the play. Annan had the last say, as in the final moments of the game, No 8
Graham Smith galloped 30 metres to score a consolation try under the posts. Niall Smith converted the score to take the visitors into double figures.
All in all this was a somewhat disappointing performance by the Annan team after their previous weeks performance and shows a worrying lack of consistency in their
play. The defeat has also taken Annan into the relegation zone where they now sit in third bottom place. On the more positive side, off the remaining six league games,
four are at home against sides in the bottom half of the table.
ANNAN 14 v HUTCHIES/ALOYSIANS 16
SATURDAY 6 JANUARY 2001
Few people would have given Annan much of a chance against high flying Hutchesons/Aloysians after being well beaten by them at Auldhouse 48-10 in September,
yet for 75 minutes of this fixture the home side looked more like the promotion contenders than their much vaunted visitors.
Annan took the lead before the game was minutes old when the visitors were penalised for being offside at a ruck. Stand off Niall Smith calmly slotted the three points
and Annan were in the lead which they held on to until five minutes from the final whistle. With the Annan forwards in cracking form the game was played mainly in the
visitors half and only superb Hutchisonísí defence kept the rampant Annan pack from scoring. The pressure was too much, however, and the visitors gave away a
further two penalties, the first for offside at a ruck and the second for not releasing the ball in a tackle. Niall Smith added the six points and the home side were had a
healthy 9 point lead. The visitors responded with a sustained period of pressure in the Annan 22 and were rewarded with a try when their hooker, who looked to
have been stopped short of the line, managed to get the ball over the line to score. The Hutchisonísí stand off Croatian internationalist Posa missed the conversion.
Annanís response was immediate. From the restart the ball went into touch and from the ensuing lineout the ball was driven towards the visitors line. From a ruck
standoff Niall Smith broke through the Hutchisonísí midfield defences and although brought down short of the line the ball was quickly recycled and wing forward
Bob Currie acting as scrum half fed centre Michael Anderson who in turn fed winger Kevin Jones to score to the left of the posts. Niall Smith missed his easiest kick
off the day but Annan went into the half time break 14Ė5 in the lead.
Playing into a strong wind in the second half Annan was expected to have to play the game in their own half. But, although the visiting stand off did drive play deep
into the Annan half on numerous occasions with some great kicking from hand, the home forwards continued from where they had left off in the first half and
dominated in the scrums and in the loose. The only disappointing part of their play was in the lineout, normally one of the stronger facets, where the visitors were able
to pillage the ball on occasions. Hutchisonís reduced the Annan lead in the third quarter when they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts when an Annan
forward was adjudged to have been offside at a ruck. Posa slotted the award with ease to take the score to Annan 14 Hutchesons/Aloysians 8.
Although the home side continued to drive play into the visitors half they were unable to break through the stubborn and well-organised Hutchisonís defences. It was
the visitors who reduced their points deficit when they were awarded a penalty, again in front of the posts, when an Annan forward was again adjudged off side at a
ruck. Posa slotted the award and Annanís lead was reduced to a slender 3 points.
With five minutes to go the tension was palpable on the touchlines as both teams strove to make the decisive score which would make the game safe in the home
sides view or win the game in the visitorís. Then came the heart breaking moment for the home team and their support. From a lineout the ball was driven towards the
Annan line and when the surge was halted the ball was swung wide to the right. The Annan defences looked to have stemmed the attack only for the ball to be
recycled through a ruck and with the home midfield defences sucked in to the ruck the visiting no 6 surged over to score. Posa missed the conversion. From the
restart Annan tried to drive play quickly into the visitors half but time was running out and Annan were unable to get the result they so richly deserved. Final Score
Annan 14 Hutchesons/Aloysians 16.
Although the Annan players were obviously disappointed in defeat, especially as they did not deserve to lose, they can take great heart from their performance. If they
can recreate this performance in their remaining matches in the remainder of the season they should see themselves in the top half of the league.
ANNAN 7 v DUNFERMLINE 17
SATURDAY 16 DECEMBER 2000
Without a game for a fortnight Annan looked a little ring rusty against National League Division 2 leaders Dunfermline. In the opening quarter the home side had most of the
pressure but as so often seems to happen these days they were unable to convert the pressure into points. The forwards laid siege to the visitorsí line but were held out by
some terrific Dunfermline defensive work and by some poor ball retention at times.
With the home pack struggling in the scrummage against the heavier, well drilled Dunfermline pack they were unable to provide a solid platform in that department but made
up for this deficiency in the loose and the lineout. In one of the first attacking moves by the visitors the ball was dropped in the Annan 22 and winger Kevin Jones picked up
the loose ball and out sprinted the visiting defences to score under the points. The try was converted by stand off Niall Smith to give Annan a 7-point lead.
Dunfermline struck back minutes later when from a solid five metre scrum the ball was fed out to the left and the visiting outside centre drove over the line to score a
converted try to level the scores. Both sides had chances to take the lead before half time when they were awarded kickable penalties but all were missed. Annan had the
best chance when they were awarded a penalty almost on half time when the Dunfermline No 6 was sent off for head-butting an opponent. Although the referee ordered the
kick to be retaken because of some ungentlemanly conduct both attempts were missed and the half time score remained tied a 7 points all.
Early in the second half Dunfermline pressure on the Annan line paid off when the visiting stand off dropped a goal to take Dunfermline into a 3-point lead. Annan had a
chance almost immediately to tie the scores when they were awarded another kickable penalty unfortunately it was missed. Annan then had their best spell of the game
with the forwards picking and driving the ball towards the visitorsí line but again were thwarted by some excellent Dunfermline defensive work. Then against the run of play
Dunfermline scored a simple try with the ball fed out to their left-winger he eluded some poor tackles to score under the posts making the conversion a simple job for his
Annan continued to hammer away at the Dunfermline defences but to no avail as time ran out. All in all Dunfermline were worthy winners, especially when one considers
that they played the entire second half with 14 players. Even with a 7-man scrum they still managed to give the Annan 8 a torrid time in the scrums. With no further
involvement in the BT Shield competition Annan will now have to concentrate on their league campaign.
CORSTORPHINE 6 v ANNAN 12
SATURDAY 25 NOVEMBER 2000
Annan moved up three places in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues with this hard fought and well earned victory at Union Park. This win was also the first time
Annan have beaten Corstorphine on their home patch.
Annan changed their game plan from recent matches and instead of using their backs they adopted a simple strategy using their mobile set of forwards to pick and
drive the ball towards their opponents line Ė a tactic which paid off with two well taken tries. In the first half the visitors laid siege to the home line for long periods but
were unable to break down the well organised home defences and it looked as if Annanís inability to turn pressure into points was about to haunt them yet again.
Then from a lineout in their opponents 22 the ball was driven by the forwards to the line with prop Colin Warrick crashing over to score. The try was converted by
stand off Niall Smith to take the visitors into a 7 points to 3 lead at half time.
In the second half Annan continued with the same tactics and continued to dominate in the set piece and the loose with the lineout again proving a valuable source of
quality ball. It was only a matter of time, therefore, before Annan scored again and this time it was winger Stuart Williamson who, coming in at an angle to a ruck was
fed the ball and darted over to score. The conversion was missed. In true Annan fashion the final minutes of the game were tense as the Annan faithful were again
subjected to a nail-biting finale as the home team tried to add to their two penalty strikes with a try. To Annanís credit they kept their nerve and with some well
organised defence kept the home team at bay and ran out worthy winners.
The Annan forwards showed their potential with lock Michael Newton in particular showing a fine return to form after his back injury. He, along with the back row of
Stuart Clannachan, Andy Renwick and Bob Currie gave their Corstorphine counterparts a torrid time in the loose. In the backs it was their defensive qualities which
shone through with Niall Smith looking more relaxed in the stand off role. His varied kicking game keeping the ball in front of his forwards at all times.
The four well earned points has moved Annan out of the relegation zone but it has to be remembered that with two games in the league falling victim to the weather
the position may well be temporary. However there is a consistency in the Annan play which will be welcomed by the Annan coaches and supporters alike
LANGHOLM 12 v ANNAN 7
SUNDAY 19TH NOVEMBER 2000
Annan travelled the short distance to Milntown with hopes of their first victory over the home side in five meetings between the clubs but Langholm seem to have the Indian
sign over Annan and the Annan XV were sent home to think again.
These local derbies, especially when at Milntown, seem to be close run affairs and this one was to be no exception. In the first half the visitors held sway with some great
driving play by their forwards, which kept the home side, contained in their own half for long periods. The Annan forwards, with the exception of the set piece scrummage
where they struggled for parity, ruled the air in the lineouts where they won all their own ball and pinched numerous of the oppositions. Their lighter and more mobile pack
also had the edge in the loose winning the majority of any loose ball on the deck. The Annan try, and the only one scored by either team, was just reward for the forwards
when from a drive up field and from a scrum at the five metre line the ball was driven over by the pack with wing forward Andy Renwick claiming the score. Stand off Niall
Smith added the conversion to give the visitors the lead. On one of their rare excursions into the Annan 22 Langholm were awarded a penalty when the visiting backs were
caught offside at a ruck and Annanís lead was reduced to four points. Half Time score Langholm 3 Annan 7.
In the second half Langholm resorted to a simple game plan by pushing the ball behind the Annan backs. The home stand off punished the visitorsí poor ball retention in
tackle situations by driving play deep into the Annan 22 on every conceivable occasion. The tactic paid off handsomely for the home team as the visitors gave away several
penalties in their half and the Annan lead was slowly eaten away and overtaken. Annanís sorties into the Langholm half were rare but when they came the visitors did look
threatening. On one occasion the Annan forwards drove the ball to within a couple metres of the line and a try looked inevitable. But the Annan forwards were unable to stay
on their feet and were penalised for diving over the ball and the incentive was lost. Final result Langholm 12 Annan 7.
This was a hugely disappointing result for Annan who are still looking for their first victory over Langholm and sees Annan slip, worryingly, into the relegation zone in Division
1 of the BT National Leagues. On the plus side, however, Annan did gain a bonus point and more importantly kept their line intact. The Annan backs and back row defence
was a real bonus as they nullified the much vaunted Langholm backs who it has to be said rarely threatened the Annan line. In the forwards lock Michael Newton had
another excellent game especially in the loose and in the lineouts where he was a constant thorn in the side of the home forwards. In the backs the halfback pairing of Keith
Hogg and Niall Smith is beginning to gel into, hopefully, a potent attacking force.
MUSSELBURGH 19 v ANNAN 3
SATURDAY 5 NOVEMBER 2000
Annan travelled to Stoneyhill, Musselburgh to take on Premier 3 strugglers in Round 3 of the BT Cellnet Cup and although the home side ran out winners after 80 minutes
they knew they had been in a fight.
Annan, although without several first team regulars due to injuries, started strongly with their forwards causing the home eight all sorts of problems in the set piece and in
the loose. On one drive deep into the home 22 the home forwards were found guilty of killing the ball in a ruck and stand off Niall Smith, in his first run out since being injured
on the 23rd September, slotted the three points. Although Musselburgh were finding the Annan forwards quite a handful their backs, with ball in hand, always looked
threatening with their outside centre and full back particularly effective at breaking the gain line. The home side obviously felt they could break down the stubborn Annan
defences as they spurned several kickable penalties and instead ran the penalties but the visiting defences held firm. Annan had the chance to extend their slender lead half
way through the half when they were awarded a penalty just outside the 22. Niall Smithís attempt faded agonisingly close to the left hand upright.
The home side got their breakthrough they wanted when their backs, with some speedy handling, eventually managed to break through the visiting defences for their outside
centre to score. The try went unconverted. Ten minutes from the end of the half Annan had another chance to take the lead when once again the were awarded a penalty,
this time to the right of the posts and within the Musselburgh 22 but once again the kick faded past the post. Half time score Musselburgh 5 Annan 3.
In the second half the visitors continued to have the edge in the forward battle with the lineout particularly a rich source of quality ball but Annan found it increasingly difficult
to make headway against the well-policed home defence. Musselburghís second try came from a speculative kick out of defence by the home full back. The ball was
gathered by winger Andy Copland who was stripped of the ball by the home back row who beat their Annan counterparts to the breakdown. The ball was fed to the home
winger who scored in the corner. The try was converted.
Musselburgh continued to press for a further score and one was eventually forthcoming which they converted to bring the final score to Musselburgh 19 Annan 3.
Despite the final scoreline this was a much improved performance by the Annan team. The return of stand off Niall Smith seemed to galvanise the backs into a more
cohesive attacking unit. The return of lock Mike Newton, from injury, similarly seemed to act as a catalyst in the forwards with his abrasive style of play. The Annan forwards
were also well served by veteran lock Ian Thorburn in his first first team appearance this season whose enthusiasm for the game was an example to all around him. Although
out of the Cup Annan now progress to the BT Cellnet Shield competition for 3rd round losers.
ANNAN 3 V ROSS HIGH 3
28 OCTOBER 2000
Ross High travelled to Annan from Tranent on Saturday still smarting from their surprise home defeat by Trinity Accies who until Saturday were propping up the league and Annan were desperate to acquire some precious points to ease them out of the relegation zone. So the scene was set for what should have been an enthralling battle. What ensued, at a wind and rain swept Violetbank, was an error strewn but nevertheless intriguing encounter. The home side started brightly and drove play deep into the visitors on numerous occasions but were unable to break down the stubborn and well-organised Ross High defences. When the visitors had their chances near the home line the Annan defences showed that they were equal to the task and kept the attacks at bay. The action in the first half roamed from end to end but with neither team looking as if they could break each otherís tight defences the half ended at Annan 0 Ross High 0.
The second half was almost a mirror image of the first as neither team seemed able to impose their particular style of play on the game and there was the rub. Both sidesí strengths are based around their powerful front fives and their dynamic back rows who literally cancelled each other out during the 80 minutes. Annanís cause was not helped when wing forward Bob Currie had to leave the field of play with a knee injury early in the half. He was replaced by utility forward Ally Carlyle who quickly fitted in to the team in an unaccustomed role at wing forward - he normally fills the position of prop. Both sided had their moments during the second half but it was the visitors who broke the deadlock when on a fine drive by their forwards the ball was fed to the Ross High stand off who landed a slightly inebriated drop goal. Annan did, at this point, seemed to up their game and drove play, with some fine line kicking by stand off Gordon Carmichael deep into the corners but again were denied by some superb Ross High defence. As the half drifted to its conclusion most of the surprisingly, given the dreadful weather, home support had settled for a single point (from being within 7 points) when on a drive by the home forwards the visiting forwards were penalised for pulling down a maul and, to the immense relief of the home support, Gordon Carmichael slotted the penalty to tie the score at 3 points all.
All in all this was not one of Annanís better performances and while the weather did play itís part it was Annanís inability to retain possession and persistence in kicking away valuable possession on numerous occasions which did not help their cause. The two points earned however did help Annanís position in the league moving the team up two places to sixth position. Another plus point was the reduction in penalties given away by the team after the plethora given away in recent games but perhaps this was more to do with the quality of refereeing than less errant play.
LIVINGSTON 25 V ANNAN 10
21 OCTOBER 2000
Annan travelled to Almond Park with high hopes of an away victory over old rivals Livingston after two consecutive victories in the league and Cup over Kilmarnock and Hillfoots respectively.
Annan started brightly with some solid forward driving play and ten minutes into the game scored a try when scrum half Keith Hogg charged down an attempted clearance kick by the home full back and won the race to the line. Stand off Gordon Carmichael added the simple conversion. Carmichael was on target with the boot minutes later when the home backs were adjudged offside at a ruck and the visitors looked to have a healthy 10 point lead. Livingston had other ideas however and ate into the Annan lead before half time firstly with a fine try by their young scrum half. They then added a penalty before half time to take the half time score to Livingston 8 Annan 10.
Annanís game plan, if they had one, fell apart in the second half with even their normally rich source of ball,- the lineout, running dry. Livingston slowly took control of the game and scored a further two tries, two conversions and a penalty. Annan rarely got going in the second half giving away a plethora of penalties which disrupted any fluency in their play.
All in all this was a poor performance from Annan who seem to be a 40 minute team at the present moment and are unable to adapt their game plan to suit the írefereeing conditionsí.
ANNAN 20 v HILLFOOTS 5
14 OCTOBER 2000
Hillfoots who are riding high in Division 4 of the BT National Leagues came to Annan hoping to create an upset in Round 2 of the BT Cellnet Cup and whilst they never looked like winning they did give the home side some problems in the second half aided and abetted by some over fussy refereeing.
Annan started like world-beaters and in the first quarter of the game the visitors from Tillicoultry were rarely in the Annan half. From a quickly taken 22 drop out by the visitors the kick was charged down and the ball was quickly recycled by the home forwards and with a deft chip over the head of the flatfooted Hillfootís defence by stand off Gordon Carmichael and the ball bounced kindly for No 8 Stuart Clannachan to gather the ball and drive over the line to score. The conversion by Carmichael hit the post.
Annanís second try came after a terrific drive by the forwards drove the ball over the line was deemed held up by the referee. From the ensuing 5 metre scrum scrum half Keith Hogg picked the ball up from the base of the scrum and drove over to score. The conversion was again missed. Annan continued to apply the pressure and minutes later from a line out the ball was whipped alone the backs and with full back Kevin Jones providing the extra man on the wing he darted over to score in the corner.
Annanís last try was almost a carbon copy of their third with the exception that it started from a quickly taken penalty with the ball again was whipped along the back line for Kevin Jones to score. With that score Annan seemed to think the game was over as a contest and proceeded to sit back on their lead. This lackadaisical attitude to the game allied with some fussy refereeing killed the game as a contest. Hillfoots fought their way back into the game and finished the half looking for a score. Half time score Annan 20 Hillfoots 0.
The second half was a tedious affair with Annan dispensing with their successful formula of the first half, of driving play into the visitorís 22 before spinning the ball to the backs, and instead tried to attack from deep in their own half. The game was constantly stopped in mid flow by a string of Ďinjuriesí to Hillfoots players and, it has to said, by some over fussy refereeing. The result was a frustrating game of rugby; both to play in and to watch with the only excitement in the 40 minutes being the visitors try. Final Score Annan 20 Hillfoots 5
After the previous weeks high against Kilmarnock this was a disappointing performance by Annan who seemed to sit back on their laurels when they though they were far enough ahead instead of building up the score. In the backs scrum half Keith Hogg revelled in his recall to the position with centre Michael Anderson beginning to find his form. In the forwards the back row were effective in defence but seemed to lack inspiration in attack.
ANNAN 28 v KILMARNOCK 16
7 OCTOBER 2000
Those hardy supporters who braved the dreadful weather conditions at Violetbank on Saturday little realised that they were about to witness a little bit of history and a highly entertaining game of rugby. Even the most ardent Annan supporter, prior to the kick off, in their hearts of hearts felt that the league leaders from Ayrshire would prove to strong for the homesters but from the whistle Annan showed a determination and fire which has been sadly lacking in some of their previous matches this season.
From the Annan dropout the ball went into touch and from the ensuing lineout Annan stole the ball against the throw and the home forwards drove for the visitorís line and set up a ruck, the ball was set back to stand off Gordon Carmichael who sweetly dropped a goal to take a three point lead which they were never to relinquish for the remainder of the match The home forwards held sway in the loose and the lineouts with parity with the visitors in the scrummage. Winger Kevin Jones was unlucky ten minutes into the game, when running out of home half, he firstly sidestepped the cover defence and then deftly chipped the remaining defence and looked to have won the race to touch down the ball but was unlucky that the referee was unsighted!
Kilmarnock then earned a penalty in one of their few incursions into the home half to level the score at three points all. Annan were denied another try when minutes later after a great drive by their forwards and interplay with their backs the ball was driven to within inches from the line. The despairing visiting defence looked to have given away a penalty try by illegally killing the ball but to the astonishment of all watching the referee awarded a penalty against the home side for diving over. Annanís dominance was rewarded when they were awarded a penalty for a late tackle on stand off Carmichael who calmly slotted the award. Carmichael was on song minutes later when the Kilmarnock forwards killed the ball in a ruck. The visitors had a chance on the stroke of half time to claw back three points but their full backís kick went wide. Half time score Annan 9 Kilmarnock 3.
In the second half Annanís forwards continued to dominate proceedings with some fine driving play and earned a further penalty when Kilmarnock were penalised for coming in at the side of a ruck. Gordon Carmichael again slotted the three points. Minutes later a deft kick by Carmichael over the visiting defence forced the Kilmarnock full back to kick the ball dead over the try line. From the ensuing scrum the home back row, in a planned move, drove the ball towards the line and with the rest of their forwards providing the beef lock Graham Smith was driven over to score. Carmichael added the conversion to take Annan into a 16-point lead.
At this point it looked as if the home side were on their way to a comfortable victory but Kilmarnock refused to lie down and they fought their way back into the game. They added a further two penalties to take the score to Annan 19 Kilmarnock 9 before Carmichael added two further penalty to restore a healthy 16 point lead. The first was awarded when the Kilmarnock forwards handled the ball in a ruck and the second when, following a kick ahead by winger Kevin Jones, the visiting full back was caught in possession by the home back row, and failed to release the ball. The visiting stand off, who always looked the most potent attacking force in the visitorís armoury, provided the visitorís only bright moment of the match when he danced his way through the home defences to set up his winger to score. The try was converted to bring the score to Annan 25 Kilmarnock 16 with five minutes to play. In another attack only a magnificent tackle by full back Keith Hogg stopped what looked a certain try. The Annan faithful are well used to nail biting finishes at Violetbank and so it seemed was to be the case on Saturday before that man Carmichael calmed their fears by slotting a further penalty to take the final score to Annan 28 Kilmarnock 16 and Annan had secured a famous victory.
This was without doubt Annanís best display of the season so far. They adapted their play to the weather and nullified the slick Kilmarnock backs with some aggressive defensive work by their backs. This was a fine team performance bearing in mind that Annan were without one or two first team regulars and bodes well for the rest of the season. It must be remembered, however, that one of Annanís undoubted failings in the past couple of seasons has been consistency in their performances and to ensure that they end the season in the top half of the division they must recreate the team performance displayed on Saturday week in week out for the rest of the season.
GLENROTHES 21 v ANNAN 15
30 SEPTEMBER 2000
This was a game Annan could well have won, but their performance was patchy and in the end Glenrothes were allowed to snatch victory, their first of the season in the league.
Despite the defeat, the result for Annan was better than the equilvalent game last season, when Annan fell to their heaviest defeat of their league campaign. This time there was no David McIvor to lead the Glenrothes side.
Annan went behind to a penalty and a try for the hosts to lead 8-0, but got back into the game when after a good spell of Annan pressure, prop Colin Warrick burrowed over in typical fashion to score and bring Annan to 5-8 at half time.
Annan then proceeded to dominate the third quarter, and went ahead thanks to a penalty from stand off Gordon Carmichael, followed by a great try from No 8 Stuart Clannachan, who ran in from the half way line.
Carmichael converted the try and Annan led for the first time at 15-8. A controversial lineout led to a try and conversion to Glenrothes, which tied the scores at 15-15, but the last laugh was to go to the home side with a late try.
The Annan forwards were good in patches but lost possession too often in contact. There were good displays from wing forward Andy Renwick, in his first top team start of the season, and lock Paul Buckley, until he was forced to retire in the second half.
The reorganised Annan back division was not effective on the day, but there was a promising return to 1st XV duty by centre Chris Donabie, after many months of injury.
ANNAN 16 v HADDINGTON 26
23 SEPTEMBER 2000
Haddington travelled to Annan unbeaten and in second place in the league and left still unbeaten but top of Division 1 of the BT National Leagues with former leaders Hutchesons/Aloysians beaten at Ross High.
Annan started brightly at Violetbank and for the first quarter looked to be in control and were six points ahead in that period when stand off Niall Smith converted two penalty awards when the visiting forwards were caught offside at a ruck and a maul respectively. Annanís lead was short lived however as the visiting back row and half backs began to turn the game in Haddingtonís favour. Haddingtonís ball retention and handling in the backs was just sharper in deed and thought than their Annan counterparts and it was only a matter of time before the home defences were breached. Haddington scored an unconverted try with some delightful handling in their backs and then took the lead with a well struck penalty by their stand off. The visitors consolidated their lead before half time when the scored a second try again through their handy looking backs. The try was converted to take Haddington into a healthy nine point lead at half time.
Annan who, without Captain and centre Andy Render (concussion) and Vice Captain and lock Paul Buckley (unavailable), were further stretched when lock Michael Newton had to retire (back injury) to be replaced by Neil MacGregor and then winger Alastair Graham retired at half time (calf injury) to be replaced by Gordon Carmichael. The latter replacement required some alterations to the home back line with Carmichael moving to centre and Stuart Williamson moving to the wing.
With the second half only minutes old Annan were struck with a hammer blow when the visitorís left wing scored the simplest of tries in the corner after some fine driving play by the Haddington forwards sucked in the Annan back row defences. Annan to their credit were not going to go down without a fight and winger Stuart Williamson, after the home forwards had created a solid attacking platform, drove over to score.
Disaster then struck Annan when stand off Niall Smith was illegally shoulder charged and taken out while chasing up a kick through had to leave the field of play with a chest injury. Having used their two replacements Annan was left to play out the rest of the half with fourteen men. The Haddington prop who had perpetrated the foul was sin binned and was extremely lucky not to be sent off. During the period of equality of numbers Haddington increased their lead by six points with the conversion of two penalties. With the visitors back to full strength everyone expected them to pile on the points but as so often happens the numerically challenged team upped their game and took the game to their visitors. They were rewarded for their Herculean efforts with a well taken try when lock Neil MacGregor drove over to score after some fine driving play by his forwards. Unfortunately it was all too little too late for the home team and Haddinton ran out worthy winners.
The Annan players and coaches were visibly disappointed with their lack lustre performance at the end of this game especially in front of their home support. There is little doubt that the Annan forwards, on their day, are a match for any eight in this Division but it has to be said that the Annan back line lacks a cutting edge. With the injury list lengthening Annanís strength in depth is set to be sorely tested in the coming weeks.
HUTCHESONS/ALOYSIANS 48 v ANNAN 10
16 SEPTEMBER 2000
Annan travelled to Glasgow to take on league leaders Hutchesons/Aloysians who, whilst relegated from the Premiership last season, had recruited heavily in the close season and on Saturdays performance look favourites to bounce straight back up.
In the opening quarter Annan looked sluggish and gave away a converted try early in the game. The Annan forwards then found their form and began to control the forward exchanges in the set piece play with lock Paul Buckley pinching several lineout balls against the throw. From one of the forward drives deep into the home 22 the home forwards were penalised for handling in the ruck and stand off Niall Smith landed the penalty to keep the visitors in touch. Hutchesons restored their seven-point cushion when they were awarded a penalty when the Annan backs were caught offside. The home side extended their lead with a further converted try before Annan with a great piece of driving close quarter play drove play deep into the home 22. When the ball was passed to the backs it was centre Andy Render who crashed over to score. Niall Smith converted the try and the visitors were back in contention. Unfortunately captain Andy Render was injured in the act of scoring his try and had to leave the field of play. With only two replacements now allowed in the National Leagues and Annan having taken the gamble in naming two forwards some reshuffling was required. Wing forward Graham Smith moved to the wing with veteran Ian Thorburn taking up the wing forward position.
At half time with the score at Hutchesons/Aloysians 17 Annan 10 the Annan coaches must have been happy with their teams first half performance and although the visitors were to concede a further converted try early in the third quarter they still kept their forward play tight driving play into the home half but were often thwarted by a loose pass or knock on. With a healthy 17 point lead the home tactics were simple with their stand off who had a magnificent boot driving play deep into the Annan half with some deadly line kicking. During the third quarter the visitors were deeply unlucky to have a try disallowed when wing forward Stuart Clannachan, after a fine piece of driving play from his forwards, drove over in the corner only to have the touch judge deem that he had hit the corner flag in the act of scoring. In the final quarter as the Annan XV, visibly tired after their exertions, tried to force play too often and gave away valuable possession and the home backs who always looked dangerous with the ball in hand ran in a further three converted tries to take the final score to Hutchesons/Aloysians 48 Annan 10.
Although well beaten by a well drilled team Annan can take a lot of heart from their overall performance with the forwards in particular a force to be reckoned with. It has to be said that Annan will play a lot worse than this and win games in this league.
TRINITY ACCIES 18 v ANNAN 34
9 SEPTEMBER 2000
Annan kicked off their second league match against a Trinity Accies side who had a point to prove after their heavy loss against Hutchesons/Aloysians the previous week.
On a dry and sometimes sunny Edinburgh afternoon, Trinity kicked off into the wind and the sun. For the first 10 minutes Annan had to defend their try-line from constant Trinity pressure. Annan always seem to concede an early try and it was no surprise when from a ruck 5 yards out, the Trinity Accies stand-off picked up, sold a dummy and sailed through to score the first try. The conversion was missed. Trinity 5 Annan 0
This seemed to wake Annan up and they finally managed to get into the Trinity half. Niall 'Baz' Smith kicked a penalty after an offside decision against Accies (much to the annoyance of the home fans who constantly felt the referee was being biased towards Annan). Trinity 5 Annan 3
This filled the Annan team with confidence and from a line out, a full 35 yards out, the ball was driven by the Annan forwards to within 5 feet of the Trinity line. The drive continued when prop Colin Warwick picked up and steamrollered his way over the Trinity line. Niall Smith scored the conversion. Trinity 5 Annan 10.
Another penalty converted by Niall Smith increased the Annan lead. Annan were playing well now with only the odd line out loss being the minus points of the Annan play. However the next Annan try was from a lineout!! The ball was won cleanly and the Annan forwards again powered towards the Trinity line. This time Bob Currie picked up and barged his way over to score Annan second try. Niall Smith converted from an impossible angle. Trinity 5 Annan 20.
This was the half-time score. You felt that with Trinity now having the sun and wind at their backs, Annan would be under greater pressure in the second half. However within 5 minutes of the restart Annan had scored again! Annan took a great line-out against the head and from the resulting scrum, a pick up and a superb pass, put Stuart Williamson over to score the Annans third try. Niall Smith converted. Trinity 5 Annan 27.
A combination of Annan seeming to relax and perhaps Trinity seeing the game running away from them resulted in Annans lead being eroded. Trinity scored a penalty but missed two more attempts. Trinity got their second try when an attempted Annan clearance from their own 22 was charged down by a Trinity forward who chased up the ball and touched down. The conversion was missed. The score was now Trinity 13 Annan 27.
This try however seemed to kick Annan back into life and from another line-out, the ball was won cleanly and Bob Currie danced his way over for Annan fourth try and also earned Annan a bonus point for scoring 4 tries in a match. The try was converted. Trinity 13 Annan 34.
The last 10 minutes of the game were a bit scrappy, with Annan content to contain Trinity who in turn were getting desperate and running the ball from anywhere. From one of these runs the Annan midfield defence was finally breached and a fine passing movement ended in a Trinity winger powering over for Trinitys second try. The conversion was missed. Trinity had a further chance to score at the death but poor handling let them down. Final Score: Trinity 18 Annan 34
All in all, it was good result from Annan who have not won very often away from home in this division. The bonus point picked up for scoring 4 tries was also a plus point (pardon the pun!). The Annan forwards played well despite some lineout problems in the first half, with Bob Currie being the pick of the forwards. The Annan backs were strong in defence if not very penetrative when going forward. However this combination was too much for a poor Trinity Accies team. Annan now face league leaders Hutchesons/Aloysians which should prove a sterner test for the Annan team.
ANNAN 20 v CORSTORPHINE 15
2 SEPTEMBER 2000
In near perfect conditions at Violetbank on Saturday Annan for the first time in their three seasons in National Division 1 got off to a winning start in their league campaign Ė it should also be noted that it was also their first home game start in the same three seasons!
In the first half Annan held the territorial advantage and played some attractive running rugby with the forwards, in particular, with some fine close quarter driving and handling, making inroads into the visiting defences. The home side had several chances to open the scoring and only some sterling defensive work and poor decision making keeping the visitors line intact. In the opening quarter of the game all Annan had to show for their efforts was a successful penalty strike by stand off Niall Smith. The penalty awarded against the visiting forwards for a handling offence in a ruck. Annanís first half try when it came was well worth waiting for. Play was driven deep into the Corstorphine 22 by the forwards and after a series of rucks in the 22 the ball was spun to the backs and winger Euan Hay taking the ball at pace sprinted over the line to score behind the posts. Niall Smith converted the try. Niall Smith extended Annanís lead by a further 3 points when the visiting forwards were once again caught offside. The visitors opened their account when they were awarded a penalty when the home backs were caught offside at a ruck. Half Time score Annan 13 Corstorphine 3.
In the second half Annan, as so often has happened in the past, allowed the opposition back into the game when they gave away a plethora of penalties. Penalties awarded for some elementary errors and it is to be hoped that the Annan coaches will be addressing these lapses in the coming weeks. On balance the home side again had the territorial advantage in the second half and indeed lengthened their lead to 17 points when wing forward Billy Henderson celebrated his return to the home side, after a long layoff due to a back injury, with a fine individual try in the corner.
The loyal Annan support had to endure a nerve racking final quarter of the match as they saw the healthy 17-point lead slowly whittled away as the home XV committed penalty after penalty offence enabling the Corstorphine stand off to convert four of the numerous penalty awards. Thankfully for the home side he was having an off day with the boot and Annan held on to win the game. Final Score Annan 20 Corstorphine 15.
In fairness Annan deserved their win with the final score somewhat flattering to the visitors. The forwards in particular played well as a unit both in the set piece and the loose although some poor handling at times let them down. In the backs the half back partnership of Keith Hogg and Niall Smith looks promising for the future with Niall Smith in particular having a good day with the boot.
26 AUGUST 2000
Annan travelled to Aspatria on Saturday 26th August to take part in their prestigious pre-season tournament. Annan were in lofty company with sides from the host club, Workington, Hawick, Gala, Wigton, and Tynedale. Annan were curtailed to two games in their group when Heriots FP called off. Their opening tie was against hosts Aspatria. Annan put in a solid performance against the home team but went down eventually by 12 points to 3. In their second game against an extremely strong Workington side saw them heavily defeated 33 points to 0.
HAWICK AND HAWICK YM v ANNAN
17 AND 19 AUGUST 2000
The short trip to Hawick proved an ideal training camp for Annan. Arriving on Thursday evening, they had their first action at Mansfield Park against the Hawick 1st XV squad.
The hosts put out their 1st XV front five, and all other members of the team had 1st XV experience. Annan stuck to their guns throughout a fast a furious game in which no quarter was asked or given.
Annan looked most impressive in the set pieces, where their pack matched or bettered Hawick, but Hawick had the edge in the backs, who were able to create telling overlaps.
Scorers for Annan were Keith Hogg and Neil MacGregor with tries while stand off Niall Smith had two conversions and a penalty. Final Score: Hawick 33 Annan 17
On Saturday, Annan were again at Mansfield Park, this time to take on Hawick leading junior team, Hawick YM. Annan were able to give a game to some of the younger players who had missed out on the Thursday game and they took an early grip on the game when stand off Niall Smith made a lovely break to put centre Michael Anderson in under the posts.
Smith then hit the post with a drop goal attempt, but Annan went further ahead when good handling put flanker Billy Henderson in at the corner.
The weather conditions deteriorated in the 2nd half with heavy rain and Annan found themselves mostly on the defensive however they tackled well and the defense held out. Final Score: Hawick YM 6 Annan 15