MATCH REPORTS
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All previous match reports etc can be found at the Archive page.

FULL MATCH REPORTS: QUICK ACCESS
LEAGUE: HOME

CORSTORPHINE
LIVINGSTON
STEWARTRY
GLENROTHES
LANGHOLM
GLASGOW SOUTHERN
DUNS
MURRAYFIELD WANDS
ROSS HIGH

LEAGUE: AWAY

STEWARTRY
MURRAYFIELD WANDS
ROSS HIGH
LANGHOLM
GLASGOW SOUTHERN
DUNS
LIVINGSTON
GLENROTHES
CORSTORPHINE

CUP GAMES

GLASGOW HAWKS
HAWICK YM
GLASGOW SOUTHERN

OTHER GAMES

MARLOW


LIVINGSTON v ANNAN
SATURDAY 1ST APRIL 2000

Annan travelled to Almond Park for their last game of their league campaign in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues hoping to consolidate their position in the league. A win would have moved them above Ross High and Glenrothes and into a mid league position. Unfortunately two late call offs due to injury disrupted the balance of the side that had put in a superb performance the week before against Corstorphine at Violetbank.

With centres Niall Smith and Michael Anderson both sidelines through injury and illness respectively wingers Stuart Williamson and Andy Render filled the gap with Bruce Hay and Kevin Jones taking on the wing slots. The changes seemed to have little effect on the balance of the visiting side as in the first quarter of the game the game was played in the home half with the Annan forwards providing an ample supply of ball for the backs. In this period Annan scored their only points of the match with a fine try by winger Kevin Jones who, after a flowing move by the backs, scored at the corner flag. The home teamsí reply was immediate and they scored two tries in the second quarter- one converted Ė to take the half time score to Livingston 12 Annan 5.

The second half, despite a ten-minute period with Annan camped on the Livingston line, belonged to the home side as their stand off controlled the game. He exploited Annanís defensive frailties in midfield and added a further try, conversion and an outrageous drop goal to take the final score to Livingston 22 Annan 5.

There is little doubt that, with both teams safe in their league positions, there was little to play for in terms of the league but the home side showed that you can still play attractive attacking rugby. They also showed superb defensive work when under extreme pressure from the Annan pack. All in all this was a disappointing performance from what had been an improving Annan side and shows that a lot of work has to be done in the close season in preparation for the 2000/01 season.

ANNAN V CORSTORPHINE
SATURDAY 25TH MARCH 2000

With Corstorphine mathematically still in the promotion hunt prior to Saturdayís game in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues and Annan still in danger of relegation this game was always going to be an exciting one - and so it proved to be with the home side putting in one of their best all round performances seen at Violetbank this season in a four try demolition of their visitors from Edinburgh.

Winning the toss and playing against the wind in the first half at a sunny Violetbank Annan set about their task with some vigour straight from the whistle taking the game deep into their visitorís half. They were rewarded with two penalties in close succession when, firstly, the Corstorphine backs were caught offside at a ruck and then when they were their forwards went over the top at a ruck. Stand off Gordon Carmichael landed both of these awards to take the home side into a six point lead before the visitors halved the lead when they were awarded a penalty of their own when the Annan backs were caught off side. The home forwards in a superb display of driving and rucking kept play deep in the visitorís half and a try seemed inevitable. When the first one came it was from a Corstorphine mistake when from a scrum close to their line the ball squirted out of the side of the scrum and Annan scrum half Barry Graham was on hand to pounce on the ball and ground it over the line. The conversion was missed. Annanís second try of the half came almost on the half time whistle when awarded a penalty the ball was kicked to touch a metre or so from the line. From the throw in lock Paul Buckley soared to take the ball and crashed over to score. Again the conversion was missed. Seconds later the half-time whistle did blow and Annan had a healthy thirteen point lead with the half time score Annan 16 Corstorphine 3.

The question on many of the minds of the Annan faithful at the break was could the home side maintain their powerful grip on the game and consolidate their lead. Their question was answered minutes after the start of the second half when the home side were awarded a penalty and again the award was kicked to touch close to the visitorís line. This time, however, the ball was palmed off the top to prop Colin Warwick who was driven over the line by the rest of his pack to score. Annan continued to play their rugby in the visitorís half and midway through the half Annan score another try which was a carbon copy of the last when again from a lineout following a penalty award prop Colin Warrick was again driven over to score to give Annan only their second four try bonus point of the season. Both conversions were missed. Annan were unlucky minutes later not to add to their try tally when from a penalty stand off Gordon Carmichael put in a beautifully flighted cross kick to find winger Stuart Williamson who grounded the ball over the line. However the referee deemed that the penalty had not been taken through the mark and chalked off the Ďscoreí. Annan finished the match as they had started pressing on the Corstorphine line with the final score Annan 26 Corstorphine 3 and much to the relief of the large support Annan had maintained their Division 1 position.

Without doubt this was Annanís finest performance of the season with the home forwards, in particular, rampant with the Annan back row of Michael Newton, Bob Currie and Stuart Clannachan in devastating form. The Annan backs must also rate a mention as they snuffed out almost every potent attack by the visitors with some dynamic defence and rarely failed to make the game line with the ball in hand. All in all a satisfying day for the Annan club with the one question burning in the minds of the large support as they made their way home Ė where would the team have been if they had played with the fire and passion displayed at Violetbank on Saturday over the preceding months?

DUNS v ANNAN
SATURDAY 11TH MARCH 2000

Bottom of the table Duns kept their hopes of survival in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues with this victory over third bottom Annan. This was a case however of Annan losing the match more than Duns winning it.

The game was only two minutes old, at a sunny if windy Hardens Field, when Annan were rocked when from a scrum in the Annan half the Duns no 8 flipped the ball from the base of the scrum between his legs to his scrum half Ponder who darted down the blindside of the scrum to score an unconverted try. Annanís defensive frailties around the fringes was again exposed five minutes later when from a ruck a couple of metres from the line the Duns scrum half Ponder burrowed over to score. This time the try was converted to give the home side a 12 point lead in as many minutes. From the restart Annan drove play to the home line and wing forward Bob Currie was on hand at a ruck to drive over to score. Standoff Gordon Carmichaelís conversion attempt struck the upright. Half way through the half Duns again cruelly exposed the visitors fringe defences when from a ruck Duns centre Affleck sprinted in to score an unconverted try. Annan to their credit kept driving play deep into the home half but were often as not thwarted by their own mistakes with ball retention low on the list of priorities it appeared. Duns increased their lead before half time with a drop goal from their stand off Thompson. Annan continued to press the Duns line in the final minutes of the half with several scoring chances going a-begging with the most glaring missed opportunity when wing forward Bob Currie with the line at his mercy inexplicably passed the ball to an open space! Half Time score Duns 20 Annan 5.

In the second half Annan, with the benefit of the wind, visibly upped their game and straight from the whistle drove play deep into Duns territory and No 8 Stuart Clannachan looked to have scored but was penalised for a double movement in the act of scoring. Annan continued to pile on the pressure but on several promising attacks were let down by some basic ball handling skills and poor decision making. Despite the pressure it was Duns who went further ahead when from a turn over the Duns scrum half Ponder broke from the ruck and with a deft kick through the flat Annan defences won the foot race to the line to score an unconverted try. Annan to their credit kept piling on the pressure in the home half and the pressure eventually paid off when after a fine back move drove play to within a metre of the home line lock Neil MacGregor was on hand to drive over to score. Gordon Carmichael landed the conversion to cut the deficit to 13 points. The visitors kept the pressure up as their forwards began to play at something like their potential and from well won ball in the centre of the field the ball was swept wide and outside centre Niall Smith broke through the home cover defence to score out wide. Gordon Carmichael landed the conversion from the touchline to take Annan within 6 points of the lead. The final ten minutes of the game was tense nail biting stuff for both sets of supporters as Annan battled hard to keep the pressure on the home team. As the seconds ticked away towards no side and it looked as if the visitors were settling for a bonus point. This was almost denied them when Duns were awarded a penalty in front of the posts which thankfully for Annan they missed. Final score Duns 25 Annan 19.

Annan, who seem to delight in keeping their supporters, on tender hooks at the end of the season now have to win one of their remaining two games against Corstorphine at home on the 25th March or away at Livingston on the 1st April to be sure of playing Division 1 rugby next season. The plus points from Saturdayís game for Annan was the solid display by their backs who seem at long last to have a balanced and assured look in their line up with once again the centre pairing of Michael Anderson and Niall Smith looking solid in defence and attack. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the forwards display on Saturday with several players looking heavy legged and lacklustre to say the least. There is little doubt that the fragmented nature of the second half of the season and with Annan having no further involvement in any of the Cup competitions has left the club short of match practice at this vital period.

ANNAN v GLASGOW SOUTHERN
SATURDAY 26TH FEBRUARY 2000

Annan were unlucky on Saturdayís performance not to come away from their game, in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues, against the league leaders with at least a point. The problem lay in the fact that they let their visitors tot up too many points in the first half to enable the Glasgow Southernís lead to be overhauled.

Annan, from the whistle, took the game deep into their visitors half with some great driving play from their forwards and only some solid defensive work from the Southern fringe defences kept the home side from scoring. The visitors worked their way back into the game with some equally fine driving play. An indiscretion at a ruck by the home forwards resulted in the referee awarding the visitors a penalty which they kicked to touch inside the home 22. From the ensuing lineout the ball was swung to their nimble and speedy backs and their No 4 coming into the line crashed over to score. The try was converted by the Southern scrum half. Annan went further behind when an Annan forward was adjudged to be offside at a ruck and the visiting scrum half again slotted the penalty award. He was on target minutes later when Annan were again penalised this time for not releasing the ball in a ruck.

Both teams put in some fine passages of play in the second quarter of the match as the game flowed from end to end and it looked as if the home side would go into the break 13 points behind which all there felt could be overhauled. However almost on the stroke of half time the visitors won a loose ball in their own half and in a superb move from their backs play was swept down field and their full back coming into the line at pace crossed the line to score. Their scrum half again slotted the conversion to take the half time score to ANNAN 0 GLASGOW SOUTHERN 20.

In the second half the home forwards gave their opposite numbers a torrid time after absorbing some early pressure in the opening minutes. The Annan pack managed to take three strikes against the head in the set piece and set up their backs with some excellent ball for their backs and only some great defensive work by the visiting backs kept Annan out. However it was only a matter of time before the Annan pressure told and from a scrum near the visitorís line No 8 picked up from the base of the scrum and with the remainder of his back row in tandem the ball was driven over the line with wing forward Graham Smith grounding the ball to score. Stand off Gordon Carmichael missed with his conversion attempt. Annan continued to drive play deep into the Southern half and it was the home forwards who again provided the platform for the next score when, again from a scrum near the line, Annan took the ball against the head and drove the visiting forwards over their own line to score. The try being credited to No 8 Stuart Clannachan. Gordon Carmichaelís conversion attempt struck the upright.

Annan continued to press for a further score of any type which would bring them within 7 points of their visitors score but were unable to convert the pressure into any further points and at the final whistle it was a relieved Glasgow Southern and a disappointed Annan side who left the field of play. This was a much better display by the Annan side who have in their last few games looked a more balanced side. The new blend in the backs, especially, has looked more threatening going forward and less fragile in defence with the new centre partnership of Michael Anderson and Niall Smith beginning to gel. In the forwards all eight looked impressive as a unit with the back row also gelling as an effective unit in the loose with Graham Smith beginning to make his mark in the senior squad. This match was a hugely enjoyable game of rugby especially for the neutral supporter and it has to be said that Annan have played worse than their display on Saturday and won.

GLASGOW SOUTHERN V ANNAN
SUNDAY 6TH FEBRUARY 2000

After this entertaining tie in the BT Cellnet Shield the home side emerged as winners by four converted tries and a try to a try and a penalty. The enforced absence of several regulars, due to injury and unavailability, made what was already a hard task for Annan into a monumental one. Fortunately for Annan the replacements slotted in reasonably well and the team gave a spirited display. The score-line slightly flattered the home side, but also highlighted Annanís inability to turn pressure into points.

Kicking with the elements in the first half, Annan contrived to lose two tries in the first quarter. Although the chances were well taken, they were largely due to Annanís lack of organisation. Once the recast side found their shape, the defence improved immeasurably. The visitors gradually asserted themselves. Scrummage pressure and parity in the loose and lineout situations ensured some good possession, and Annan stretched the home sideís defences and No 8 Robert Currie crossed the line for an excellent try. A penalty from stand off Gordon Carmichael brought Annan closer by the interval, trailing by only 4 points at 8-12.

Unfortunately for Annan they conceded a bad try immediately after the interval, by surrendering ruck possession rather tamely. Stung by this Annan gritted their teeth and fought their way up field. Despite the wind, which was by now moving up the Beaufort scale, and rain, Annanís driving forward play gave the home side a lot of problems. Southern showed their pedigree by adding two further tries going into the last quarter. This ended the contest, and Annan were left to rue their missed chances.

This was a reasonable performance from Annan, and a distinct improvement on their recent efforts. The pack grafted well and grew in stature as the game went on. If lock Michael Newton and No 8 Robert Currie were to the fore, the rest were not far behind. Perhaps the biggest improvement was behind the scrum. Stand off Gordon Carmichael varied the tactics well, although on occasions the ball was moved wide too early. Centre Michael Anderson gave the midfield some solidity and used the ball sensibly. Overall, a satisfying performance in defeat, and one which will give some welcome selectorial problems this coming week.

So Annan have now played the league leaders twice, losing in the league at Braidholm 31 Ė 0 and in this Shield tie 33-8. February 26th is the date of Glasgow Southernís visit to Violetbank were it is hoped the results will be reversed.

GLENROTHES V ANNAN
SATURDAY 29TH JANUARY 2000

Annan suffered their second biggest defeat in the National Leagues against a revitalised Glenrothes side at Carleton Park despite a solid first half performance, which saw Annan leading at the break. Annanís downfall was orchestrated by the Glenrothes experienced home back row led by the inspirational Dave McIvor. Annan did not have their troubles to seek with first choice No 8 Stuart Clannachan injured in training during the week, second choice Andy Renwick out with a long-term knee injury and third choice veteran Ian Thorburn hospitalised with appendicitis and with blind side wing forward Billy Henderson also injured Annan had to look to youth rather than experience in their back row. Robert Currie, normally open side wing forward had to move to the No 8 spot with Graham Smith and Michael Newton drafted in as wing forwards. The young trio going forward with ball in hand looked impressive but defensively were unable, in the second half, to contain the home back row with that man Dave McIvor in impressive form scoring a hat trick of tries.

In the first half Annan, with the gale at their backs, played most of the game in the home half and although putting points on the board first from a penalty slotted by stand off Gordon Carmichael Glenrothes hit back with a converted try scored under the posts when Annanís defensive frailties were cruelly exposed. Annan continued to kick for the corners using the wind to their advantage and while the forwards drove for the line on several occasions they were kept out by some fine aggressive defensive work by the home side. Gordon Carmichael added a further penalty when the home backs were caught offside to narrow the lead to a single point. Annan regained the lead when wing forward Graham Smith bust out of mid-field and having drawn the Glenrothes cover defence floated a fine pass out to full back Keith Hogg who out sprinted the remaining cover defence to score an excellent try. Annan continued to press for further scores but were unable to convert the pressure into points and lead 11 points to 7 as the half time whistle went. There was little doubt in the mind of the travelling support that a 4-point lead and having to play into a strengthening gale would not be enough of a lead to take into the second half.

In the second half, although Annan battled bravely, they were unable to cope with the driving play of the home back row who unlocked the visiting defences with monotonous regularity and exposed once again the frailties of the Annan defences which have been unfortunately been on display all too often throughout this season. Glenrothes added a penalty; nine tries (two of which were interceptions when Annan was pressing on the home line) and a conversion without reply in the second half as Annan crumbled. Final score Glenrothes 57 Annan 11.

The visitors also lost prop Jack Tinning (ankle) and centre Andy Render (ankle) replaced by John Carlyle and Michael Anderson respectively. Kevin Jones replaced winger Bruce Hay. Annanís collapse in form must be worrying to their coaches and supporters alike and with Annanís injury list lengthening and several players obviously carrying injuries Annanís strength in depth is going to be severely tested over the remaining weeks of the season. The most crucial of Annanís problems must be the lack of cover in the front row with two senior props now injured.

ANNAN V LANGHOLM
SATURDAY 22ND JANUARY 2000

Annanís minor winning streak of four games in a row came to an abrupt halt on Saturday at Violetbank when Langholm became the first team in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues to win at Annanís new home. Although losing a try within the first ten minutes of the match when winger Basnett scored in the corner Annan had the bulk of possession for the remainder of the half and pressurised the visitorís line for long periods but as so often happens they could not breach the impressive Langholm defensive line. It was the visitors who extended their lead to eight points when they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts kicked by Park. Annan had two clear-cut chances when with a two-man overlap the chances were spurned on both occasions as the ball was taken back inside to the forwards. Then just before half time Langholm were gifted a try when a clearance kick was charged down and the ever alert visiting backs latched on to the loose ball to send winger Basnett over to score his second try to take the half time score to Annan 0 Langholm 13.

Annanís woe continued in the second half, despite the efforts of the home forwards who won good ball in the set piece, especially in the lineouts. Unfortunately their efforts were in vain as on numerous occasions the ball was lost or squandered by some inept play in the Annan back division. The Langholm backs who, were in top form, made easy pickings of Annanís mistakes and ran in four more tries from Gordon, Park (two) and Graeme Park. Grieve added a conversion and a drop goal to complete the Langholm scoring. Annanís forwards who perhaps just had the edge in forwardsí battle had the last say when both props Jack Tinning and Colin Warrick drove over from short range to score. Full back Gordon Carmichael converted both tries to take the final score to Annan 14 Langholm 38.

This was a disappointing display by Annan especially after the improving performances in recent games but there was little doubt that several of the Annan team were still recovering from the bruising encounter at Stewartry from the previous Saturday. That is not to take away from the Langholm performance. It was obvious that Langholm had done their homework and had identified where the weaknesses lay in the Annan team and this allied to their improving back line created problems for Annan whenever they were in possession of the ball. The Annan coaches will have their hands full in the coming week rebuilding the confidence in the team before their next game at Glenrothes on Saturday.

STEWARTRY v ANNAN
SATURDAY 15TH JANUARY 2000

Annan as well as completing the double over Stewartry in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues, also won their first away points in the league this season and retained the Chisholm Cup in a typical hard fought derby battle at the Greenlaw on Saturday.

Right from the opening minutes it was evident that the home side were in determined mood to avenge their earlier defeat at Violetbank and to gain some vital points to lift them out of bottom place in the league. Annan were, however, in as determined a mood and whereas a couple of seasons ago they might have buckled under the pressure they showed that they are now a more streetwise side and slowly turned the game with some fine disciplined forward play. First blood of the half went to the visitors when from a planned move from a lineout within the home 22 the ball was spun to No 8 Stuart Clannachan who coming onto the ball at pace in the line cleaved his way through the Stewartry mid field defence to score beside the posts. Full back Gordon Carmichael converted the try to give Annan an early 7-point lead. Annan maintained the pressure in the home half for long periods for the remainder of the half but were unable to break down the stubborn and fierce home defensive line. It was the home side who were next to score when Annanís full back was penalised for not releasing the ball in the tackle and Stewartryís scrum half slotted the three points. In the dying moments of the half the home side launched a concerted attack on the Annan line and from a lineout near the visitorís line the home forwards drove over to score an unconverted try to take the lead at half time. Halftime score Stewartry 8 Annan 7.

Playing up the slope in the second half the Annan forwards, as they had in the first, drove play up the centre of the field of play and again it was excellent defensive work by the home team which kept Annan at bay. Annan were rewarded for their pressure when they were awarded a penalty, when the home forwards handled the ball in a ruck, and Gordon Carmichael converted to three points to give the visitors the lead for the second time. Annanís second try came from a turnover in possession in the Annan 22 when scrum half Barry Graham pilfered a loose ball and launched a counter attack and, linking with his forwards, play was driven over the half way line. The ball was then spun out along the back line to winger Kevin Jones who still with a lot to do rounded his opposite number and the opposing full back to score. Gordon Carmichael again slotted the conversion to give Annan a 9-point lead. He increased this lead to 12 points when he landed a further penalty awarded when the home backs were caught offside at a ruck. Annan with a comfortable 12-point lead going into the final 10 minutes of the match, as they seem prone to do, relaxed their grip on proceedings and the home side fought their way back into the game and in the dying moments of the match the Stewartry forwards from a ruck deep in the Annan 22 drove over to score a late consolation try. The Stewartry scrumhalf converted the try to take the final score to Stewartry 15 Annan 20.

This was a vital win for Annan and takes them to four wins in a row and will undoubtedly do wonders for the confidence of the team with several tough league matches to come over the next couple of months starting with the home match against Langholm this coming Saturday. Plaudits are due to the Annan forwards who, under severe pressure, kept their heads and gave a disciplined display. Lock Paul Buckley was outstanding again in the lineout and veteran Ian Thorburn, brought in at blindside flanker as a late replacement for the injured Billy Henderson (back injury), gave one of his typical rampaging performances. In the backs full back Gordon Carmichael gave one of his best performances of the season so far orchestrating his backs and giving a faultless display of kicking.

ANNAN V HAWICK YM
MONDAY 3RD JANUARY 2000

In this rearranged fixture of the first round of the BT CELLNET SHIELD Annan comprehensively beat Hawick YM from the Border District League by 7 tries to 3 at Violetbank. This was the first meeting of the clubs at Annan since 29th October 1988 when Annan were in the Border District League. Annan lost that day but made up for that on Monday. Both teams had been forced to make several changes to their original selection due to injuries and fluí. Annan had to bring in veteran No 8 Ian Thorburn to replace Stuart Clannachan, Michael Newton to replace Bob Currie at wing forward and Keith Hogg to replace Barry Graham at scrum half. All of Annanís problems were fluí related.

Right from the whistle Annan took the game to the visitors and the game was only minutes old when Annan were awarded a penalty on the visitors 22 which full back Gordon Carmichael duly converted to three points. YM hit back minutes later when their ever alert backs capitalised on a handling error in the Annan back line and their speedy left winger J. Auchinleck sprinted into score an unconverted try. This spurred the visitors into their best spell in the first half and they kept up pressure in the Annan half and were awarded several penalties as Annan tried to keep them at bay. The YM fullback G. Welsh landed two to stretch the visitorís lead to 8 points. In the second quarter of the game the home forwards began to make their presence felt against their lighter and less experienced counterparts and play was driven into the YM 22. From a scrum 5 metres from the line the powerful home eight drove the over the line to give veteran No 8 Ian Thorburn the touchdown. Gordon Carmichael converted the try to bring Annan to within a single point of the visitors. Ian Thorburn was on hand again in a carbon copy of his first try to take Annan into the lead at the break with the score Annan 15 Hawick YM 11.

In the second half Annan continued with their game plan of using their forwards to drive play into the Hawick YM 22 and hopefully convert pressure into points. First on the score sheet in the second half was captain Neil Macgregor who from a lineout take and drive he was on hand to break off from the side of the maul and drive over to score in the corner. Next on the score sheet was winger Kevin Jones who latched on to a clever chip ahead by full back Gordon Carmichael to score. Wing forward Graham Smith was next when from a scrum he burst through the visiting fringe defence to score beside the posts. Annanís next try was the best of the match when centre Andy Render latched on to a wayward YM pass and side stepped his way to the line to score. Annanís captain had the last word as he crashed over for his second try. Hawick YM scored two consolation tries towards the end of the half. Gordon Carmichael converted three of the tries with stand off Niall Smith converting one.

This was a solid performance from the Annan side against a young but talented YM XV and laid to rest a persistent nagging doubt in the club that they may not have come so far as they thought from their Border District days. Annan now face Glasgow Southern in Round 2 of the BT CELLNET SHIELD this coming Saturday at Braidholm a tougher proposition altogether. The Glasgow side having already beaten Annan in the league earlier in the season .

ANNAN V ROSS HIGH
SATURDAY 11TH DECEMBER 1999

In their biggest win of the season so far Annan demolished their visitors from Tranent by five tries to one at a rain soaked Violetbank on Saturday in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues. For the first time this season they also gained a valuable bonus point for scoring four tries.

Apart from spells at the beginning and end of the match when the visitors exerted some pressure on the Annan line the home team where generally in control of the match although in the first half neither team was able to stamp their authority on the proceedings. After the opening exchanges play was driven deep into the visitor's half with some solid driving play by the home forwards. From a probing kick over the heads of the Ross High defences by standoff Niall Smith the ball was scrambled into touch by the visiting fullback. From the ensuing lineout the ball was taken by lock Paul Buckley and driven over the line with scrum half Barry Graham burrowing under the Ross High defence to score. Full back Gordon Carmichael's conversion attempt was denied by the cross bar. Ross High hit back several minutes later with a finely worked try with their forwards winning a loose ball in the middle of the field of play and the ball spun wide for their left wing to score in the corner. The remainder of the forty minutes was played mainly between the 22s but a combination of handling errors in the wet conditions and some resolute defence by both teams kept the score tied at five points all at halt time. On the first half performance it looked as if Annan could struggle to win the match as the weather and pitch conditions were making skilful rugby impossible and with handling difficult in the soggy conditions mistakes and turnovers abounded.

In the second half however Annan defied the conditions and put in their best performance of the season so far. Although the quality of rugby was hampered by the conditions it was Annan's use of the condition and fitness level which turned the match firmly in their favour. Ross High were unable it seemed to adapt their game plan to take into account the weather conditions whereas their hosts decided on the simple approach and kick the ball in behind the Ross High defences making them turn in the treacherous conditions and capitalise on their mistakes. In the opening minutes of the half Annan were rewarded with a penalty in front of the posts when the Ross High forwards were caught handling in a ruck. Gordon Carmichael slotted the three points. Annan continued to drive play deep into the visitor's half with some excellent line kicking by stand off Niall Smith. And with the home forwards dominating the lineout, with lock Paul Buckley pinching several balls against the throw, Annan had enough possession to win several matches. From a series of rucks near the Ross High line it was wing forward Billy Henderson who spun off the side of a ruck to power his way over the line to score in the corner. The conversion was missed.

Annan continued to keep play in the visitor's half and when Ross High tried to run out of the defence the ball was spilled in the tackle and centre Andy Render hacked the ball through the Ross High cover defences and diving on the ball some seven or so yards from the line aquaplaned over to score. Gordon Carmichael converted the try to give the home side a seventeen point cushion. Instead of sitting on their lead Annan continued to pressurise the visitors into making mistakes. From a scrum on their own line the Ross High scrum was turned and the ball squirted out of the side of the scrum and replacement scrum half, ever alert to the situation, beat his opposite number to the ball to score. The conversion hit the post. Annan's last try was again the result of pressurising the visitors into making mistakes. The ball was again spilled in a tackle as the Ross High backs tried to turn defence into attack and winger Kevin Jones hacked the ball on and won the foot race to the line to score his first try for the senior XV. Gordon Carmichael landed the conversion from the touchline. With a twenty seven point lead Annan visibly relaxed and the last ten minutes belonged to the visitors who laid siege to the Annan line but the home defences stood firm and at the final whistle Annan had secured a fine win and Ross High their heaviest defeat for several seasons. As a game or rugby this was no classic, the weather conditions taking its toll on quality but Annan's commitment, especially in the second half, and general overall fitness bodes well for the rest of the season.

In the forwards prop Colin Warrick looked impressive in the loose, lock Paul Buckley reigned supreme in the lineout and the back row of Billy Henderson, Bob Currie and Stuart Clannachan looking impressive with No 8 Stuart Clannachan a constant thorn in the side of the visitors with his driving runs from the base of the scrum. In the backs stand off Niall Smith had an impressive performance with his kicking, in difficult conditions, causing the opposition all sorts of problems.

ANNAN V MURRAYFIELD WANDERERS
SATURDAY 27TH NOVEMBER 1999

Annan maintained their unbeaten home run at Violetbank, but only just, against their highly committed visitors from Edinburgh in this Division 1 fixture in the BT National Leagues. Wanderers, coached by Dumfries & Galloway's newly appointed SRU Development Officer Peter Wright, came to Annan having won five and lost four of their games so far this season and sitting fifth in the league. Annan having lost the away match at Murrayfield on the opening day of the season 12 - 3.

Annan started the match strongly driving play deep into the visitor's half with some great rucking and mauling play. From a ruck, in the Wanderers 22, five minutes into the game the home forwards drove the ball over the line for lock Neil MacGregor to score. The conversion was missed by full back Gordon Carmichael. Although the home forwards had the edge over their counterparts the Wanderers backs were always alert and always able, it seemed, to get the ball away out of the tackle, that ability and their running off the ball had the home defences stretched on more than one occasion. Wanderer's first try when it came was a simple effort. The ball was spun wide, from a ruck, fed back inside and then spun wide again with the Wanderer's winger eventually rounding the Annan cover defence to score behind the posts making the conversion a formality. Annan continued to drive play towards the visitor's line but were unable to break down the best defence in the league. It was Wanderers who scored again before halt time when they again strung together some impressive passes for them to score in the corner. The try was again converted. Annan drove play immediately back into the visitor's half and were rewarded with a series of penalty awards which eventually provided a valuable six points from the boot of Gordon Carmichael to take the half time score to Annan 11 Murrayfield Wanderers 14.

In the second half the home forwards for the most part dominated the set piece and loose play but were unable to break down the well policed visiting defences. Annan's tactic seemed simple in using the wind to keep play deep in the Wanderers half which proved effective in the main. From a piece of sustained Wanderers pressure a loose pass from a prop was intercepted by wing forward Billy Henderson who sprinted a full 70 metres before being caught. The ball was recycled and as scrum half Barry Graham crashed over from a short pass from lock Neil MacGregor the pass was ruled forward and the try denied. From the ensuing scrum Wanderers tried to run out of defence and were penalised for being offside at a ruck and a simple kick in front of the posts by Gordon Carmichael levelled the score at 14 points all.

The last quarter of the game was intense as both teams threw every thing into winning the game. The visitor's were unlucky not to score after a period of sustained pressure on the home line but the siege was lifted when Annan were awarded a penalty. Murrayfield continued to press for the winning score but the home defences stood firm. Annan then had their turn to apply the pressure with winger Kevin Jones close to scoring his first senior try for his club. In the final minutes of the game Annan's pressure was rewarded when Gordon Carmichael slotted the winning penalty when Wanderers were penalised for killing the ball in a ruck. As the clock ran down Annan played a simple game keeping the ball in the forwards or kicking for touch. When the final whistle went Annan had retained their unbeaten run at Violetbank but not without some anxious moments for their supporters.

In the forwards the Annan back row of Stuart Clannachan, Billy Henderson and Andy Renwick were an extremely effective unit with Stuart Clannachan especially effective going forward ball in hand. In the backs no one in particular stood out but all formed an effective defensive unit. For the record centre Andy Render (dead leg) was replaced by Euan Hay.

CORSTORPHINE V ANNAN
SATURDAY 20TH NOVEMBER 1999

This was a game that Annan richly deserved to win having had the bulk of possession and territorial advantage throughout the 80 minutes. Yet once again it was their inability to turn possession into points which denied them their first away win of the season in this Division 1 encounter in the BT National Leagues at sunny Union Park

The Annan forwards were dominant throughout the match in the set piece and open play with the lineout a rich source of quality ball as their lineout specialists, Paul Buckley in particular, ruled the skies. As the forwards kept play deep in the home half only stout Corstorphine defence kept the visitors from crossing their line. They did however concede numerous penalties by deliberately killing the ball at rucks. The Annan kickers unfortunately were not on form as four relatively easy kicks were missed with only one penalty converted into points in the first half by full back Gordon Carmichael. Corstorphine landed a penalty late in the half to level the scores at half time at 3 points all.

The Annan travelling support were in buoyant mood at half time as it looked, if Annan could continue in the same manner in the second half as they had in the first, that an away win was a distinct possibility. And indeed the visitors continued, as they had in the first half, to drive play deep into the home half and laid siege to the Corstorphine line but again superb home defences kept them at bay. And yet again the home forwards were content to concede penalties in their 22 but again as in the first half Annan were unable to convert them into points as the Annan kicker had an off day.

Although the visitors continued to have the bulk of possession and territorial advantage as so often happens the home side in two rare excursions into the Annan half won some quality ball and it was enough to see them score two tries. The first was a simple effort with the ball spun wide to their winger who scored in the corner and the second a similar effort only this time their no 4 popped up amongst his backs to score in a similar position. Both conversions were missed. Annan continued for the remainder of the game to hammer on the home line in an attempt to at least gain a bonus point. When the final whistle went it was a very relieved Corstorphine side who left the field knowing that they were fortunate to gain the win and fortunate that the Annan kickers were so out of sorts.

After the previous Saturday's mismatch in the Cup this was a heartening display by the Annan squad who looked a much sharper outfit all together. In the forwards No 8 Stuart Clannachan had his best match of the season so far with Paul Buckley outstanding in the lineout winning several balls against the throw. In the backs young winger Kevin Jones, who replaced Keith Hogg in the second half, looked to have lost none of his pace in his first run out in the 1st XV since breaking a bone in his hand on the 14th August at the opening of Violetbank.

It is to be hoped that Annan's kicking coach will be working with the Annan kickers this coming week in an effort to improve on the quality and accuracy of his charges. It is most disheartening to think that had they landed even the easiest of the penalty awards Annan would have been out off sight by half time. For the statisticians the Annan success rate was one out of eight attempts.

GLASGOW HAWKS V ANNAN
SATURDAY 13TH NOVEMBER 1999

It may not have been Friday the 13th but Saturday 13th was close enough for Annan as this horror story unfolded at Old Anniesland on Saturday as the Hawks swooped and clinically dissected the Annan XV in Round 3 of the BT CELLNET NATIONAL CUP. Annan were unable to cope with the fast, mobile and street wise pack in the loose play and with the even faster, mobile and street wise backs in the wide open spaces. It wasn't that the Annan defences were paper thin more that it was taking two and sometimes three Annan defenders to stop the Hawks ball carrier which left an overlap on all too numerous occasions - 21 occasions in fact as that was the number of tries scored against the luckless visitors. Five of the tries being scored by Hawks second choice winger Murray Scott.

Annan had their moments with some good passages of play but were unable to break down the superbly organised home defences. Again too often well won ball was squandered by spilled passes or knock ons and with the Hawks back row in rampant form each Annan mistake was gobbled up and recycled to tear into the visitors' defences. Hawks on the other hand rarely made a mistake and when they did Annan were seldom quick enough in deed or thought to capitalise on these rare moments. Only in the set piece play was there equality with the Annan scrummage and lineout looking relatively safe. Yet even in that area Annan showed their vulnerability and inability to react quickly to change. From an Annan scrum almost on the Hawks line the strike was lost against the head and Hawks instead of just clearing their line attacked from behind their own line and Annan found themselves congregating behind their own line awaiting the conversion of a try by full back Cambell Aitken who also slotted a further 15.

The biggest cheer of the day was when in the dying moments in the game Annan scored their solitary points. From a lineout the ball was taken off the top by Bill Henderson and flicked to scrum half Barry Graham, the ball was then floated along the back line to winger Euan Hay who scored the simplest of tries. Stand off Niall Smith's conversion attempt hit the post.

All in all the romance of the cup was lost on Annan on Saturday but nevertheless all were agreed it is a great competition. To the Hawks credit they played at the same intensity from the first minute to the last never letting up in their relentless pressure on the Annan line when they could have eased their foot of the gas. For the Annan coaches, players and supporters there is now the task of lifting their team's spirits from this crushing defeat and build up the players confidence for next weeks league match away to Corstorphine.

To put this defeat in perspective Glasgow Hawks are without doubt the best club team in Scotland at the moment and have already this season put fifty plus points past Jed-Forest and Hawick in Premier Division 1. For Annan scrum half Barry Graham had a solid game under severe pressure, No 8 Stuart Clannachan always made ground with the ball in hand and young Steven Earl put in another solid game on the wing.

ANNAN V DUNS
SUNDAY 7TH NOVEMBER 1999

On a wet miserable Sunday afternoon at Violetbank Annan and Duns provided a little sunshine in an entertaining, if error strewn, game of rugby for the brave souls who had ventured out. In the opening minutes Duns exerted considerable pressure in the home half but some resolute home defensive work kept the Borderers at bay and it was Annan who had the first clear scoring chance when they were awarded a penalty to the right of the posts. Unfortunately the chance was missed and it was the visitors who eventually took the lead when they were awarded a penalty for a lineout infringement.

Whilst Annan held the balance of play in the first half with some solid set piece work by the forwards the weather conditions made handling difficult for both teams and there were few periods of sustained play. Annan did level the score before half time with a penalty landed by stand off Niall Smith when the visiting forwards were caught offside at a ruck. Half time score Annan 3 Duns 3.

In the third quarter Annan slowly began to gain the upper hand as their forwards exerted some control in the proceedings and it was not long before the pressure told as the visiting forwards, who were prepared to give away penalties rather than tries, conceded a string of awards and standoff Niall Smith was successful with three of his attempts to take Annan into what looked like a safe 12 - 3 lead. Duns however were not to go down without a fight and they marshalled their forces and with some fine play battled their way deep into the home 22 and remained there until their forwards forced their way over at the right of the post. The try was converted to take the visitors to within 2 points. With the game finely poised with only minutes to play it was the home side who exerted the most pressure and play was concentrated in the Duns 22. The visiting backs who always looked dangerous throughout the game in a last attempt to win the game attempted to run out of defence and Annan centre Andy Render intercepted the pass to score. Niall Smith's conversion was the last kick of the match as the referee blew for no side. Final Score Annan 19 Duns 10.

Whilst no classic, and Annan's inability to convert pressure into points once again in evidence, this was however an entertaining game of rugby played in miserable weather conditions which made handling difficult with the added difficulty of a slippery top surface. Annan's win was based on their forwards' work and some tenacious defensive work by their backs exemplified by a superb try saving tackle by Keith Hogg who was drafted in to the team at the last minute.

GLASGOW SOUTHERN V ANNAN
SATURDAY 30TH OCTOBER 1999

Annan suffered their biggest defeat of the season on Saturday by a slick Glasgow Southern side who were faster in deed and thought than their visitors over the eighty minutes in this Division 1 fixture of the BT Scotland National Leagues. The strange thing was, however, that if Annan had played like they did at Braidholm on Saturday in their previous game at home against Glenrothes they would undoubtedly have won and won convincingly. Whilst the score line does not reflect the effort Annan put into the match, especially in the first half, it does underline Annan's problems at the moment in that they are unable to convert pressure into points when in the driving seat and are gifting their opponents valuable possession by being turned over with ease in the loose.

The home team started strongly and had their visitors penned in their 22 in the opening moments but Annan weathered the early pressure and when they were awarded a penalty they then worked their way deep into the home half with solid driving play by their forwards and astute line kicking by the half backs. They kept Southern pinned in their 22 for long spells in the half and only the home teams' well organised and aggressive defences kept Annan from crossing their line. On the half hour Annan lost the ball in the middle of the field in a ruck and a combination of fine handling by the hosts and woeful tackling by the visitors say the Southern right winger score under the posts. The try was converted. Annan, who had the advantage of the wind in the first half, had the chance to reduce the deficit to 4 points when they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts after the home forwards were forced to kill the ball in a ruck but the chance was missed. Southern had the opportunity to increase their lead in the dying moments of the half but a superb try saving tackle by Annan full back Gordon Carmichael denied the home team. Half Time score Glasgow Southern 7 Annan 0.

In the second half the Annan support knew that their team would be up against it as Southern had the advantage of the now strengthening wind and driving rain blowing the length of the pitch. They however did not need this advantage as Annan were happy, it appeared, to gift the home team possession on numerous occasions with handling errors and turnovers. On several occasions possession was lost when after some excellent driving play the ball carrier managed to find himself isolated without support and Southern managed to profit from easy pickings by their ever alert backrow. Annan were punished for their mistakes as the home team ran in a further four tries in the half without reply with each one pillaged from an Annan error. Final Score Glasgow Southern 31 Annan 0

This was a disappointing scoreline for Annan which flattered the home team somewhat over the piece but underlined again Annan's inability to turn pressure into points. Also exposed were some naiveties in Annan's defensive strategies against what must be said was probably the best team they have played at National League level to date. There is little doubt, however, that these are difficult times for the Annan squad and whilst it is always easy to find reasons to explain away a drop in form it is much more difficult to put forward remedies to cure the ills. One thing is clear, however, that this is the time for the players and coaches to look to themselves and realise that, in rugby terms, they are team players and as such the team and the club need them to pull together and get the club through these difficult but nevertheless interesting times and more importantly, for them and their loyal supporters, put some fun back into their rugby.

For the record Billy Henderson replaced flanker Michael Newton, Michael Anderson replaced centre Stuart Williamson and Murray Forbes replaced prop Jack Tinning. In the forwards lock Paul Buckley had another solid game with No 8 Stuart Clannachan looking effective with ball in hand. The pick of the backs was young winger Steven Earl who had a solid game belying his youth.

ANNAN V GLENROTHES
SATURDAY 23RD OCTOBER 1999

Annanís game on Saturday in Division 1 of the BT Scotland National Leagues was a little like the weather dull, dreary and with few bright spells. Their visitorsí from Fife had until Saturday lost all their games and it was hoped that the home team could capitalise on Glenrothesís poor start to the season. It however was not to be as Annan put in their poorest display of the season with a disjointed and lacklustre performance at Violetbank.

It had all started quite brightly for the home side and in the first ten minutes they played the game deep in the Glenrothesí half. Their pressure was rewarded when after a period of sustained pressure winger Steven Rae on a burst up the wing found himself bundled into touch near the visitorís line but he had been able to keep the ball in play and lock Neil MacGregor picked up and drove over to score. The referee caused some concern for the home support when he took some time to award the score as he had mistakenly thought the try line was the 22! After this initial flurry the home team game plan appeared to fall apart and although they increased their lead with a well struck penalty by full back Gordon Carmichael they proceeded to squander well won possession by taking the wrong option on numerous occasions. Although Annan had the bulk of territorial advantage they, through turnovers and dropped passes, were unable to increase the score and they turned around at half time with the score at Annan 8 Glenrothes 0.

The second half, unfortunately for the supporters of both sides, was more of the same as both teams contrived to play a game of error strewn rugby. The only difference in this half was that the visitors scored the points. Firstly they were awarded a penalty which their converted into three points. Then when Annan seemed to have the game sewn up when with only minutes to go a speculative kick out of defence by the visitors caught the Annan full back in two minds when he fielded the ball and while he managed to side step the first tackler he was engulfed by several Glenrothes players, the ball was dislodged and the visitors scrabbled a try in the ensuing melee. Fortunately for Annan the conversion was missed. Annan had an opportunity to win the game in the dying minutes when they were awarded a penalty to the right of the posts but it was not to be Annanís day and the chance was missed.

Annan appear to be content at the moment to play a limited game of ten man rugby with the forwards unwilling or unable to create linkages with their backs in open play. They are tending to drive the ball one or two phases too far in open play losing possession by knock ons, dropped passes or turnovers on too many occasions. All in all this was a poor advert for the game of rugby by two poor teams on the day. The real losers, however, were the faithful supporters who had turned out in miserable conditions to witness miserable rugby.

LANGHOLM V ANNAN
SATURDAY 9TH OCTOBER 1999

Annan left Milntown devastated on Saturday with a feeling of deja-vu as yet again a dubious try awarded, in the dying seconds of the game, cost them the victory they so richly deserved. Although going down by three tries to one to the home side the visitors had the majority of the play with the Annan forwards in particular in improving form in this Division 1 encounter of the BT Scotland National Leagues.

Although starting strongly Annan were rocked after 10 minutes when the Langholm scrum half Irving sliced through some slack Annan midfield defence to score. The try was converted. Annan continued to press in the Langholm half but resolute home defences kept the visitors at bay until their efforts were rewarded when full back Gordon Carmichael slotted a penalty awarded when the home backs were caught offside at a ruck. Annanís midfield defence was caught napping again when the home backs spun the ball wide and their full back Gordon coming into the line at pace scored in the corner. With the conversion missed the half time score stood at Langholm 12 Annan 3.

In the second half the visiting forwards continued to dominate in the set piece and loose play and put in some great drives up the middle. Annan looked to have scored a try when from a series of drives the ball was spun to centre Stuart Williamson who crashed over the line but the try was disallowed by the referee. Annanís efforts were eventually rewarded when from a turnover in the Annan 22 centre Andy Render burst through the home defensive line and outsprinted the cover defence to score in the corner. Gordon Carmichaelís touchline conversion brought Annan within 2 points. Annan continued to pressurise the Langholm line and the visitors took the lead when from a scrum in the Langholm 22 stand off Niall Smith kicked a peach of a drop goal. Annan extended their lead with a Gordon Carmichael penalty with 10 minutes to go. There then followed a nerve racking finale as Langholm threw everything into attack. Annan looked to be heading for a famous victory as their defences stool up to the home teamís attacks. There then followed a strange refereeing decision when the referee looked to have awarded Annan a penalty when a Langholm forward was sin bined for stamping. The Langholm player was joined in the sin bin by Annan stand off Niall Smith whose offence was not releasing the ball in the tackle and the referee reversing the penalty award! With three points not enough Langholm drove for the line and although their drive appeared to have been stopped a try was awarded by the referee although there did appear to be a double movement in the scoring of the try. The conversion was missed and Annan were denied their victory.

Although beaten Annan look to have started to come together as a team. Their defence, however, needs some work - a deficiency which the Annan coaches will no doubt be working on in the coming weeks. All in all this was a thoroughly enjoyable and exciting game of rugby for the spectator to watch.

ANNAN V STEWARTRY
SATURDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER 1999

On a perfect day for running rugby at sunny Violetbank this game in Division 1 of the BT Scotland National Leagues was in the traditional local derby mode -a hard forward battle, not a lot of finesse, dropped passes, knock ons (lots!), and heaps of excitement with the result in doubt until the final whistle.

Annan almost had the perfect start right from the drop out when they were awarded a penalty just outside the visitorís 22 but full back Gordon Carmichael missed with his attempt. It was Stewartry who went in front several minutes later when they were awarded a penalty, when an Annan hand was spotted in a ruck by Canadian referee Chris Slack, which visiting stand off Wallace slotted. The game then was played basically between the 22s as neither teams was able to stamp their authority on the game with dropped passes and knock ons the order of the day. It was Annan who broke the impasse when from a quickly taken free kick the ball was spun out to winger Steven Earl who with impressive speed hurtled down the right wing and when tackled passed the ball inside, and although the pass did not go to hand it bounced up into the hands of the ever lurking wing forward Billy Henderson who scored. Gordon Carmichael missed the conversion. Annan continued to exert pressure on the visitors and it was not long before the Stewartry line was breached again. From a scrum the ball was worked along the line and when the momentum was stopped by some desperate Stewartry defence the ball was recycled and fed along the line in the opposite direction and No 8 Andy Renwick popping up in amongst his backs to crash over the line to score. This time Gordon Carmichael was on target with his conversion attempt to take Annan into a 9 point lead. They maintained this points margin until half time.

With the home side having had the balance of the play in the first half and looking the stronger team as the half finished the home support hoped to see their team turn the screw in the second half but as so often happens this was not to be. Stewartry upped their game and they had the bulk of the possession over the piece in the second forty minutes but some excellent defensive work by the home team, exemplified by the crunching tackles put in by stand off Niall Smith fresh from his sojourn in the land of Oz, kept their only scoring opportunity to a penalty slotted by Wallace. Annan restored their 9 points lead when stand off landed a penalty awarded when the visiting backs were caught off side at a ruck.

Stewartry full back Wilson looked to have breached the home defences when he burst through with electrifying pace only to be brought crashing down by a superb all enveloping tackle by No 8 Andy Renwick with the line at his mercy. With the lines cleared from the ensuing scrum Annan looked to have weathered the storm and the home support breathed a sigh of relief with five minutes left. They should have known better as Annan always, it seems, wish to take their supportersí emotions to the brink.

A clearance kick from a scrum half Barry Graham from a scrum in the Annan 22 failed to find touch and was fielded by the visiting full back Wilson. He in turn put in a speculative cross field kick to where the Annan full back lurked in anticipation but in an attempt to turn defence into attack he fumbled the ball and the ever alert and speedy Stewartry right winger Telfer hacked the ball on into the huge dead ball area at Violetbank and won the sprint to score. The conversion was missed. With Annan left with a tentative 4 point lead the last few minutes were nail biting to say the least for both sets of supporters but it was the home side who ran out eventual winners. This was once again not a game that the rugby purist would have enjoyed but for shear excitement it was hard to beat. Both teams were high on commitment but both were guilty of too many fundamental errors mainly in the ball retention department.

On the plus side for the home team was the back row display with open side wing forward Bob Currie and No 8 Andy Renwick in outstanding form. There was also a glimpse of some form returning to the backs play with stand off Niall Smith showing that his four months playing for Shoalhaven RFC in Australia has paid dividends with some excellent decision making and defensive work on display. The Annan coaches must be slightly happier with this display especially in the knowledge that one or two players have returned to the fold after injury and unavailability.

ROSS HIGH V ANNAN
SATURDAY 18TH SEPTEMBER 1999

Annanís trip to East Lothian, the graveyard of Annanís fortunes in the past few seasons, proved to be their downfall yet again. This was Annanís first visit to Tranent in Division 1 of the BT Scotland National Leagues but they left not quite empty handed with a bonus point from the Ross High Playing Fields at Blawearie Road. At home Ross High have a record which is similar to the one held by Annan for so many years at the Everholm until the tail end of last season - invincibility at home.

Annanís cause was not helped when in the first scrum of the game prop James Gilmour sustained an injury but played on until half time when the scrum had to be rearranged. Whilst the visitors had parity in the lineout and in the loose play they struggled in the scrums against a well drilled and extremely effective home eight. This allied to the Ross Highís stand offís extremely effective boot and that he knew every inch of his own ground drove Annan back in to their own half on numerous occasions. Playing with the wind and the slope in the first half the home side turned their territorial dominance into points and the visitors found themselves 15 points to 0 down at half time with the home side scoring two tries, one converted, and a penalty.

At half time Annan had to reshuffle their pack with hooker Colin Warrick moving to prop, centre Andy Render moving into his former position as hooker and wing forward Billy Henderson moving to the wing. These changes appeared to stiffen up the Annan scrummage and the forwards in general started to get to grips with the game and exerted considerable pressure on the home line. But as so often happens they were unable to convert the pressure exerted into points and found themselves, having relinquished possession, driven back downfield courtesy of the aforementioned standoffís boot.

Annan did manage to breach the home defences when they spun the ball wide and full back Keith Hogg coming into the line at pace cleaved through the defensive line, untouched, to score. Standoff Gordon Carmichael converted the try to take the visitors within 8 points. Ross High stretched their lead with a penalty before, in the final minutes of the game, Annan scored a consolation try when once again the ball was spun wide and this time winger Steven Rae scoring. Gordon Carmichael again converted to take the final score to Ross High 18 Annan 14.

This was a disappointing result for Annan who once again, were unable to convert pressure into scores, gave away too many penalties and generally were unable to utilise their backs who looked to have the beating off their counterparts. Annan did, however, have the consolation of a coming away from Tranent with a bonus point.

ANNAN V LIVINGSTON
SATURDAY 11TH SEPTEMBER 1999

Annan made heavy weather of their first league match at Violetbank in the BT SCOTLAND National League Division 1 against a Livingston squad who were in buoyant mood after their fine win over Corstorphine the previous week.

The home team started in confident mood and from their first drive drove the visitors into their own half and kept Livingston hemmed into their 22. Their early pressure was rewarded with a penalty when the visiting forwards were adjudged off side at a ruck and stand off Gordon Carmichael slotted the three points. Annan continued to create pressure with the home forwards dominating the set piece play but it was the visitors who were next on the score board when stand off Gordon Carmichaelís pass to his inside centre was intercepted by his opposite number who out sprinted the flat footed Annan defences to score under the posts. The try was converted by the Livingston full back to take the visitors into a 4 point lead. Livingston stretched their lead to 9 points when from a free kick 5 metres from the Annan line the Livingston open side wing forward drove over to score a controversial try with the Annan scrum half illegally blocked from making a crucial tackle. The offence, unfortunately, was undetected by the referee as it happened on his blind side. The conversion was missed.

Annan continued to attempt to drive the ball up the centre of the field but with some inept handling contrived on numerous occasions to surrender possession to the opposition. On one of their forays into the visitors half Annan did manage to retain possession and when the Livingston backs were caught offside at a ruck Gordon Carmichael again slotted the three points to bring the gap to 6 points. The gap was eventually closed and the lead retaken when from a scrum on the Livingston line the visiting front row collapsed the scrum with the home eight driving for the line and the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try. Gordon Carmichaelís simply conversion gave the home side a slender single point lead. Annan extended their lead when from a lineout 5 metres from the Livingston line the home forwards drove the ball to the line and with excellent mauling control hooker Colin Warrick spun off the side of the maul to score. The conversion was missed. Livingston were to have the last say of the half, however, when from a crunching tackle on one of the Annan centres the ball was spilled and the ever alert visiting backs capitalised on the error and cleaved through a hapless Annan defence to score under the posts. The conversion took the visitors into a single point lead at the break. Half time score Annan 18 Livingston 19.

The second half performance of the home team tried the patience of the home supporters and stretched the nerves of everyone there with Annan contriving to drop, knock on and spill the ball in the tackle - if there was a way of losing possession Annan displayed every method in an error strewn third quarter of the game. In that 20 minutes Livingston kept Annan pinned in their half, not by their enterprising play but solely by capitalising on Annan mistakes. It was evident, however by this time, that the visiting forwards were unable to cope with the home 8 at the set piece and the home forwards were also, slowly, beginning to get on top in the loose play.

The game turned when lock Neil MacGregor and No 8 Andy Renwick came on as replacements. Their fresh legs and experience saw the home forwards exert total control on the forward exchanges and Neil MacGregor, as ever leading from the front, set up some fine ball from his drives up the centre of the park. With some measure of control now in Annanís play it seemed only a matter of time before a score came and so it was to be. From a scrum awarded a couple of metres from the Livingston line Annanís scrummage control was complete and with the visiting pack destroyed No 8 Andy Renwick dropped on the ball as it crossed the line to score a vital try. Gordon Carmichaelís conversion gave his team a vital 6 point lead. For the few minutes remaining Annan kept a strangle hold on the game to earn four vital points in their league campaign.

For the purist rugby supporter their was little to get excited over in this error strewn game but for shear excitement it was hard to beat with the lead changing four times over the eighty minutes. Annan ,over the piece, deserved their victory but Annanís ball retention or rather lack of it must be of deep concern to their coaches along with a lack of incisiveness in the backsí attacking play allied with some hapless defence.

MURRAYFIELD WANDERERS V ANNAN
SATURDAY 4TH SEPTEMBER 1999

Under the shadow of the West Stand at Murrayfield, and on a glorious day for the opening match of Division 1 of the BT National Leagues, Annan took the field with perhaps their youngest ever XV. The visitors to Murrayfield, who had had to re-arrange their squad due to injuries and unavailabilities found their player resources further stretched when experienced stand off Gordon Carmichael had to call off due to a family bereavement. His place was filled by nineteen year old Craig Johnstone originally selected at full back with Bruce Hay called up to fill the No 15 shirt. Both were playing at those positions in the 1st XV for the first time.

In the opening quarter Annan were forced to defend their line as the home team laid siege to the visitorís line. The Annan defences, however, held firm and as the newly arranged XV began to find their feet they slowly began to work their way up field and put the Wanderers defence under pressure. They were rewarded when the home backs were adjudged offside at a ruck and stand off Craig Johnstone slotted the three points. Annan continued to exert pressure in the home 22 but were unable to break down the stubborn Wanderersí defences. Annan, although rewarded for their efforts with several penalty awards, were unable to capitalise on them. Wanderers were, however, able to capitalise on their pressure and levelled the score with a penalty to take the half time score to 3-3.

With neither teamsí backs able to make inroads it was up to the forwards to battle for territorial gains in the second half. As the stalemate continued both sidesí defences stood firm and in truth neither side looked capable of scoring a try. There were, however, two clear cut scoring chances in the second half and both of those fell to Annan. The first saw the ball knocked on and the second, when the visitors had a three man overlap, ended with a forward pass. With both sides awarded a similar number of kickable penalties the difference in the two teams was the kickers. Wandererís had the higher success rate with their kicker landing three further awards which took the final score to Murrayfield Wanderers 12 Annan 3.

Annanís disappointment at losing was self evident which was made more so by the fact that they knew they could have won the game. This disappointment was tempered by the fact that even the most ardent Annan supporter, aware of the clubís injury and player unavailability, was relieved that the defeat had not been greater. There were, however, more plus points than negative ones to be taken from this game with several of the younger players showing up well over the eighty minutes. Although one or two looked a little raw there was definite evidence of some talented players in the making. In the forwards the back row, generally, looked effective but the lightweight scrum creaked at times with one notable exception, when under severe pressure on their own line, they drove the home scrum off their own ball.

All in all the Annan coaches, while disappointed with the defeat, must be heartened to see some of their young charges showing up well in Division 1 rugby.

ANNAN V MARLOW
FRIDAY 20TH AUGUST 1999

Annan played host at Violetbank on Friday night to Marlow from the Englandís South West Division 2. Marlow, coached by Derek White who was spending his second consecutive weekend in Annan having played for the Scottish Legends at the opening of Violetbank, were taking part in the Aspatria Tournament the next day and had decided to spend their weekend in Annan.

In the opening minutes Annan had a feeling of Ďdťjŗ vuí as they suffered a similar onslaught as they had experienced the week before with the strong running visiting back line tearing the home defences apart. With the home tackling woeful, to say the least, Annan were three tries down in the space of twenty minutes and a severe drubbing looked on the cards. However after weathering the initial storm the home side got their act together and slowly fought their way back into the game. The breakthrough came when from a ball stolen in the mid field by wing forward Bob Currie was fed to centre Andy Render who broke through the tight Marlow defences and set up scrum half Barry Graham to score in the corner. The half time score was Annan 5 Marlow 17.

Annan, although falling further behind by a further try early in the second half, upped their game and Marlow were starved of any further ball. The Annan forwards drove the ball up the centre of the pitch and their backs slowly began to find their feet as an attacking force forcing their visiting counterparts onto the back foot. It was the forwards who scored the tries with the best of the night coming from No 8 Stuart Clannachan who tore through the Marlow cover defences to score. His try was followed by two further scores by lock forward Paul Buckley and wing forward Billy Henderson. Unfortunately for Annan, goal kicker Gordon Carmichael had left his kicking boots at home and none of the tries were converted. Annan finished the match the stronger of the two teams but were unable to snatch victory which over the piece the deserved. Final Score Annan 20 Marlow 24.

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