All previous match reports etc can be found at the Archive page.
FULL MATCH REPORTS: QUICK ACCESS
IRVINE 13 v ANNAN 23
26 APRIL 2003
Twenty two Annan players stood justly proud on Saturday in the centre circle after as scintillating a game of club rugby seen on the Murrayfield pitch. A view not only expressed by this slightly biased correspondent but also the national press. Annan’s display was one of the best for some time, which along with Annan’s magnificent passionate vocal support coupled with the Irvine display on the pitch and equally terrific vocal support made this a day to remember for both clubs. A support, which as indicated in one of the national newspaper reports, ‘frankly put the support in the (Cup) final to shame’.
In the opening quarter of the game, with the Irvine forwards, displaying plenty of controlled aggression, and generally in control, only resolute Annan defence kept the Annan line intact but their efforts were rewarded when the Irvine standoff slotted a magnificent drop goal from well outside the Annan 22 to take a 3 point lead after 10 minutes. The Annan defence in this period and infact for the entire 80 minutes was immense as they soaked up drive after drive by the well organised Irvine pack. Stand off Niall Smith got Annan back on level terms in the 25th minute when the Irvine backs conceded a penalty when they were caught offside. Irvine showed that they were more than a purely forward orientated team when from a lineout following a penalty the ball was spun out to the Irvine left wing who was just prevented from scoring by a terrific tackle from winger Michael Anderson. This let off seemed to inspire Annan as following a break out of defence by centre Mike Rennie they looked certain to score the opening try but were penalised two metres short of the line for handling in the ensuing ruck. With Niall Smith missing a penalty on the half hour mark the remainder of the half provided a superb exhibition of defensive play by both teams. Half Time score 3-3.
Right from the restart the Annan forwards laid siege to the Irvine line and within the opening minute it looked as if they had scored the first try when centre Mike Rennie looked to have breached the whitewash but with the referee unsighted the score was chalked off. Annan were not to be denied however when minutes later they were awarded a penalty. Spurning the kick for goal Annan instead opted for a lineout 5 metres from the line. From the throw in the forwards rumbled for the line with first lock Billy Henderson in control and then in his now trademark fashion prop Colin Warrick burrowed over to score Annan’s first try which Niall Smith failed to convert.
Annan visibly upped their efforts and they put the Irvine defence under immense pressure and in a superb move from a ruck within the Irvine 22 Niall Smith found a gap in the Irvine defence and finding Bill Henderson on his elbow for the lock to offload the ball with an overhead pass to wing forward Andy Renwick to score a crucial try. Although Niall Smith failed in his conversion attempt he atoned for his miss with a successful penalty minutes later to give Annan a healthy 16-6 lead. The best try of the day came along minutes later when Mike Rennie finished of a terrific move by the Annan backs in concert with the forwards with centre Andy Render putting in a gem of a pass to his co-centre to score. Niall Smith converted the try and Annan were home and dry. Irvine to their credit never gave up and threw everything into the final minutes of the game and were rewarded with a try in the 80th minute which was converted to take the final score to Annan 23 Irvine 13 and the rest is history as they say!
In the last ten minutes within the friendly spirit of the game Annan and Irvine gave all of their replacements a chance to savour the unique Murrayfield experience. One particular moment to savour was the sight of veteran lock Ian ‘Tam’ Thorburn taking the field as he had played his first game for Annan when this correspondent was playing his last. The final whistle brought some great scenes of jubilation both on the pitch and in the West Stand as Annan Captain Stuart Williamson raised the BT Bowl aloft. The celebrations, however, were only just beginning as the massive Annan party began. The icing on the cake for a great performance was the Man of the Match Award made to the ebullient Michael Rennie. A lot of credit must go to the valiant effort put in to the overall spectacle of the BT Bowl final by Irvine who pushed Annan all the way. The effort, which Irvine put into the first half perhaps was ultimately their undoing as the energy expended began to show in the second half as the fitter Annan team began to exercise control.
The journey home and the welcome in the Annan clubhouse for their heroes was one, which all involved will savour for the rest of their lives. It has to be said that several tears were shed by some of the older members of the club who perhaps realised that they may never see the likes again but are willing to hope they may.
Annan Squad: 1. P. O’Donnell (J. Tinning 55min, M. Forbes 76min)) 2. P. Carruthers 3. C. Warrick (J. Carlyle 67min) 4. G. Smith ( I. Thorburn 78min)5. W. Henderson 6. A. Renwick 7. P. Minto (N. Moffat 79min) 8. S. Clanachan 9. B. Graham 10. N. Smith 11. S. Williamson (C) 12. M. Rennie (C. McCann 79min)13. A. Render 14. M. Anderson (B. Hay 75min) 15. A. Eggleton
Replacements: 16. M. Forbes 17. J. Tinning 18. J. Carlyle 19. I. Thorburn 20. N. Moffat 21. C. McCann 22. B. Hay
TRINITY 20 v ANNAN 32
19 APRIL 2003
Annan completed their League programme with a sound win at Trinity, and a bonus point too, and although the result did not affect Annan's League position, Annan can now go forward to Saturday's Bowl Final at Murrayfield with greater confidence. All squad members have now had a run over the last two weeks, and there were some new permutations at Trinity, with some players 'resting’ or unavailable, to allow the coaches to finalise their Bowl plans. Craig McCann was at stand off, with Niall Smith rested, lan Thorburn and John Nelson formed the second row in the absence of Graham Smith and Billy Henderson, and Bruce Hay got a run on the wing, and at centre in the second half.
Not that this was Annan's best performance of the season, though. While there was some very good play, there were moments of carelessness. On a bone hard pitch players could be forgiven for not wanting to risk injury. At the end of the day, however, Annan were well worth their win against a plucky Trinity side who threw everything into attack.
Annan got an early present, courtesy of a lucky bounce. After two minutes of the game, McCann appeared to miskick a clearance, a Trinity player fumbled, fullback Andrew Eggleton kicked through, a defender kicked the ball towards touch, but the bounce of the ball brought it back and over the try line where Eggleton was on hand to touch down, Unfazed by this reverse Trinity gave as good as they got for the first half hour. The teams swopped penalties, Rennie kicking for Annan, before the home side went ahead for the first and only time in the game. Their right wing supported a run up the middle to score at the posts, and the successful conversion gave Trinity a 10-8 lead.
Annan responded in fine fashion, driving play deep into the Trinity 22, and when Andrew Eggleton was held short, Murray Forbes picked up from the ruck and drove over on the blind side (just as he had done at Bangholm in April 2002). Five minutes later and Annan scored again, this time the ball being moved quickly from the right inside the Trinity 22. Centre Andy Render was held at the posts, but managed to offload to Michael Rennie for the score. Michael Rennie's conversion of his own try made it 20-10, a gap narrowed by a Trinity penalty just on half time.
A stiffish breeze was now behind Annan in the second half, and Annan did well in the third quarter. On 46 minutes Stuart Clanachan had scored a typical try, picking up from a 5 metre scrum and driving over. Michael Rennie converted to take Annan to 27-13. Trinity still refused to lie down, and ran the ball at every opportunity, being rewarded with their second try, and a conversion, after 55 minutes. Moving into the final quarter, Stuart Clanachan sealed the game for Annan with his second score, this time taking an inside pass to crash over on the right. Both sides had some defending to do before the end, but there was never any likelihood that Trinity could overcome Annan's 12 point lead.
So a satisfying win for Annan, but still room for improvement. The lineout for Annan was again excellent, and the scrum solid. Pick of the forwards in the loose was lan Thorburn, backed up by Andy Renwick. There were some good moments in the backs too, with fullback Andrew Eggleton having a storming game, Barry Graham on good form,and Craig McCann settling in well at stand off. The big hitters in the backs, Andy Render, Stuart Williamson and Michael Rennie had plenty of practice, as Trinity tried to move Annan from one side of the pitch to the other. Andy Render was Annan's only casualty of the hard ground, Bruce Hay going to centre and Michael Anderson coming on to the wing. Colin Warrick came on at prop for Murray Forbes at half time, and Paul O'Donnell for Neil Moffat on the flank.
ANNAN TEAM: A. Eggleton; B. Bay, A. Render, M. Rennie, S. Williamson; C. McCann, B. Graham; J. Carlyle, P. Carruthers, M. Forbes, J. Nelson, I. Thorburn, A. Renwick, N. Moffat, S. Clanachan. Replacements -P. O'Donnell, M. Anderson, C. Warrick.
ANNAN 17 V CAMBUSLANG 33
12 APRIL 2003
In this, Annan’s penultimate fixture of their league campaign in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues, and their last home game of the season, it had been hoped that the home loyal home support would witness an example of what might be on show at Murrayfield in a fortnight’s time. What transpired, however, was a hotchpotch of rugby with some excellent flowing play mixed in with some dreadful disjointed, error strewn moments. There was no doubt that the ‘Murrayfield Experience’ was foremost in the minds of the Annan squad as they played out the 80 minutes.
Annan started brightly and the omens looked good as they drove play deep into the Cambuslang half but some elementary errors allowed the visitors, with some good back play, to take play deep into the Annan half. In a sweeping move by the Cambuslang backs only a superb all enveloping tackle by winger Michael Anderson stopped a try being scored in the corner. However the referee deemed that Michael’s tackle had been high and he was to the surprise of both sets of supporters sin binned for ten minutes. More surprisingly no penalty was awarded but from the scrum awarded for the knock on in the tackle the visiting No 8 strode over for a simple try as the Annan back row were posted missing. With the try converted Cambuslang went into an early 7 point lead.
Annan fought back immediately and from a lineout in the Cambuslang 22 the forwards’ drive took the ball towards the visitor’s line. Winger Andy Render took on the ball to within striking distance of the line and from the ruck the ball was swung out to the backs with centre Michael Rennie powering over for his first 1st XV try for the club. The conversion was missed. Minutes later Annan were awarded a penalty within their own 22 and inexplicably decided to run it. With the side down to 14 men the simple decision would have been to kick for touch to eat up the sin bin time. However the ball was turned over and the visiting backs with the benefit of quick hands and some woeful tackling scored again in the corner. Annan were to be stung twice more before half time as Cambuslang rattled up their bonus point for four tries before the break. The first was almost a carbon copy of their second try as quick ball through the hands of their back line allied with some half hearted defence allowed a further score in the corner. Their last try before the half time whistle was unfortunate when running out of defence the home full back had his pass intercepted and the visiting inside centre scored beside the posts for a further converted try to take the half time score to Annan 5 Cambuslang 26.
In the second half although Annan had the better of play in lineout and in the loose over the 40 minutes they were rocked minutes into the game when, with Annan pressing on the visitor’s line the ball was again intercepted. And with the ball kicked ahead the Annan full back was put under immense pressure as his defence struggled to get back to his aid. Cambuslang won the fight for the ball and they again drove over for a try, which was converted to take the score to Annan 5 Cambuslang 33. Annan worked their way back into the game and although denied a try when the referee was unsighted they drove over from the ensuing scrum with lock Billy Henderson getting the touch down. The home team continued to dominate the play for the remainder of the half and were rewarded with a further try when, from some cracking interplay by the backs and forwards lock Graham Smith drove over to score. With stand off Niall Smith adding the conversion the score line took on a slightly more respectable air with the final score ending up Annan 17 Cambuslang 33.
All in all not one of Annan’s finer performances but like the proverbial curates egg was good in parts. The Annan lineout once again ruled the skies and in the second half at least Annan’s loose play was much improved. Several players looked to be playing well below their potential but with Murrayfield and potential injuries in mind perhaps it was understandable. Young Craig McCann making his debut at full back for the 1st XV looked a real prospect and stand off Niall Smith, place kicking aside, were the pick if the backs. In the forwards lock Graham Smith and wing forward Andy Renwick looked the part.
Annan Team: P. O’Donnell, P. Carruthers, J. Tinning, W. Henderson, G. Smith, A. Renwick (C), N. Moffat, S. Clanachan, B. Graham, N. Smith, M. Anderson, M. Rennie, A. Eggleton, A. Render, C. McCann. placements; M. Forbes, I. Thorburn, S. Williamson, J. Carlyle.
ANNAN 18 V HAWICK YM 13
5 APRIL 2003
Annan overcame a stubborn Hawick YM side, who caused Annan no end of trouble at Violetbank on Saturday, to book their place in the Bowl Final at Murrayfield on the SRU BT Cellnet Cup Finals Day on 26th April.
Despite local radio’s erroneous assumption that Annan were the underdogs against the mighty Green Machine that is Hawick RFC in this BT Cellnet Bowl semi final, Annan were in fact the favourites to overcome Hawick YM one of the top Hawick junior clubs. With three divisions separating the teams one could have been forgiven for expecting the home side to have a fairly easy ride. But nothing could have been further from the truth as the YM ran the home side close in an exciting if error strewn semi final at Violetbank.
As expected both sides opening play looked nervous and edgy but it was the visitors who overcame their nerves to put the Annan defences under severe pressure in the opening quarter. In truth Annan never seemed to lose their nervousness throughout the entire game. Ten minutes into the game Annan at last exerted some pressure in the YM half and from a scrum 5 metres out from the visitor’s line No 8 Stuart Clanachan picked up and drove over the line to score. Stand off Niall Smith converted to give the home side a 7 point lead – a lead which they never lost but on several occasions looked perilously close to giving up. Niall Smith added a penalty when the YM forwards were penalised for killing the ball in a ruck. The penalty was made easier for Smith when the YM side were marched back a further 10 metres for protesting their innocence. The visitors tactic of putting up high ‘garryowens’ almost paid dividends when on more than one occasion the defending players either missed the ball entirely or knocked on much to the joy of the visiting support. The visiting support had something to cheer about scoring a try of their own when their outside centre danced through some woeful defending by the home side. When he was eventually tackled he got away a superb pass out of the tackle to his No 8 John Parkes who crashed over to score a converted try to take the score to 10 – 7.
Against the general run of play, from a lineout deep in the YM half, play was driven towards the line by the Annan forwards and then released the ball to the backs who, with quick hands, spun the ball wide to winger Michael Anderson to score in the corner. With the conversion missed the home side looked to be heading for the half time break leading 15 –7 but almost on the stroke of half time YM were awarded a penalty which to the delight of the large travelling YM support was slotted between the posts to keep them within a score at Annan 15 Hawick YM 13.
In the second half, with the exception of a couple of forays into the Annan half, Hawick YM were forced to put in some desperate defence as the home side battered away at the YM line. Some fine line kicking by stand off Niall Smith kept play deep on the visitor’s half for long periods. On a couple of occasions, from lineout drives, Annan looked to have scored but unfortunately not to the referee’s satisfaction. Annan did add a further penalty from the boot of Niall Smith and this was to be the only score from either side in the half. Annan did have opportunities to add to their penalty tally as the visitor’s killed the ball on numerous occasions which earned two of their players yellow cards during the half. In the end Annan won the game with an unconvincing display at 18-13. They will however have to up their effort and find some way of keeping their nervousness in check when they run out onto the hallowed Murrayfield turf on 26th April if they are to add the SRU BT Cellnet Bowl to their trophy cabinet!
Annan Team: : P. O’Donnell, P. Carruthers,J. Tinning, W. Henderson, G. Smith, A. Renwick (I. Thorburn), N. Moffat (P. Minto), S. Clannachan, B. Graham, N. Smith, S. Williamson(C), M. Rennie, A. Render, M. Anderson (B. Hay), A. Eggleton. Repacements; M. Forbes, J. Carlyle, B. Hay, I. Thorburn
ANNAN 31 V GARNOCK 8
SUNDAY 30 MARCH 2003
Annan progressed to the semi final of the BT Cellnet Bowl competition with a convincing win over Division 3 Garnock on Sunday. In front of a large crowd at a sunny Violetbank The visitors made Annan work hard, in the first half, as they played their hosts at their own game with some fine driving rucks and mauls which in the opening minutes pinned Annan in their own half. Annan however showed their attacking potential when full back Andrew Eggleton, coming into the back line at pace, burst through the Garnock defences and only a despairing shirt tail tackle kept him from scoring. Annan however did get some reward from the territorial advantage when from the ensuing ruck the home forwards were penalised for handling in the ruck and standoff Niall Smith opened Annan’s account with a well struck penalty. The visitors struck back with a penalty of their own minutes later to tie the scores at 3 points all. The visitors then silenced the Annan support when from a speculative kick out of defence the ball, rather than being gathered on the full by the Annan defence, was allowed to bounce into the hands of the Garnock inside centre who outpaced the home defence to score in the corner. The conversion was missed.
From the restart Annan took the game deep into the visitor’s half and from a quickly taken penalty in the Garnock 22 wing forward Paul Minto strode over for a majestic score with hardly a hand being laid on him. With the conversion missed the scores were tied at 8 points each and despite Annan gaining the upper hand for the remainder of the half the score remained tied at 8 all at half time.
In the second half, it was one way traffic as the home forwards took control of the game and with the lightweight home scrum bolstered by the bulk and experience of replacement props Jack Tinning and veteran Murray Forbes and with the back row triumvirate of Paul Minto, Andy Renwick and Stuart Clanachan supreme in the loose and the lineout aided and abetted by locks Billy Henderson and Graham Smith the Annan backs had a plentiful supply of quality ball to play with.
Garnock’s desperate defence was penalised on several occasions for slowing the ball down at rucks and Niall Smith took advantage of two of the awards to punish these indiscretions with two successful kicks to take the score to 14 – 8. The home side continued to attack the visitor’s line and eventually the tiring Garnock fringe defences faltered and centre Andy Render, receiving the ball at pace, breeched the line to score. Niall Smith added the conversion to take the score to 21-8. The Annan try count was increased when from a No 8 pick up and drive from a scrum near the Garnock line Stuart Clanachan added to his seasons considerable try tally with a score. The final score in the final moments of the game came from a scrum 5 metres from the visitor’s line when the ball squirted out of the side of the Garnock scrum and the ever alert Annan winger Michael Anderson pounced on the loose ball to score. With the failed conversion attempt the last act of the game the Annan players and supporters were able to celebrate and start planning for the semi final tie on Saturday against Hawick YM.
This was a satisfying performance by the Annan squad against the stuffy and well organised team from Garnock who had in their scrum half Paul McCrorie a real live wire who showed why he is in the Scotland Under 19 squad. Whilst the Annan pack were under some pressure in the set piece scrum against their heavier Ayrshire counterparts their fitness in the loose and supremacy in the lineout provided the basis for this fine win. For the record Ian Thorburn replaced wing forward Andy Renwick with props Murray Forbes and Jack Tinning replacing John Carlyle and Paul O’Donnell.
LIVINGSTON 12 V ANNAN 10
SATURDAY 15 MARCH 2003
Livingston’s Almond Park has rarely proved a happy hunting ground for Annan and so it proved again on Saturday in this Division 1 of the BT National Leagues. Often in the past the poor display by the visitors has been blamed on the state of the pitch but no such excuse could be made this time as the recently re-laid Livingston pitch was immaculate and the overhead conditions were perfect. Annan started brightly enough and for the first ten minutes the game was played in the Livingston 22 and good quality possession was plentiful but unfortunately both forwards and backs made heavy weather of it and there was a distinct lack of penetrative running until, in a planned move, centre Andy Render bust gloriously onto a short pass and scythed through the Livingston defence from thirty metres out to touch down under the posts. Stand off Niall Smith converted the try and landed a penalty to put Annan ten points up in as many minutes of play, - And then it all started to go wrong as the Livingston forwards cranked up a gear and only stubborn defence by Annan, some wayward final passing from the home team and a generous chunk of luck kept the Annan line intact until half time.
Annan hoped to be able to exert some pressure of their own in the second half but it was Livingston who dominated both possession and territory and it was backs to the wall stuff from Annan again until Livingston scored a try which had long threatened and a successful conversion closed the gap to three points with thirty minutes left and defeat for Annan it must be said looked inevitable until midway through the half Annan fought back and spent a full ten minutes camped on the Livingston line but during this period Livingston conceded about as many penalties as did Annan during their game against Cartha two weeks previously. But sadly Annan failed to take the golden opportunities presented to them and when the inevitable happened and the siege was lifted, Livingston roared back into attack and a fine sweeping movement from the home back line ended with the Livingston right winger scoring a fine try in the corner. Annan had just one more chance to steal the game in the dying minutes thanks to a fine piece of ball control from centre Andrew Eggleton, but it was not to be.
This was an uninspiring performance from Annan who defended doggedly but lacked any real drive or cutting edge in attack. Although on the defensive for long periods Annan had enough chances to win the game but an unwillingness to depart from the reliance on the pack to drive the rolling maul to the line, cost them dear in the second half as the tactic failed repeatedly while the backs could only look on with as much dismay as the small band of travelling supporters. A close result then in a game which Livingston certainly deserved to win but which Annan had more than enough chances to take the spoils. Plus marks for Annan included fine lineout play from Graham Smith and Stuart Clanachan and wonderfully committed and well organised defence from the back row of Paul Minto, Stuart Clanachan and Andy Renwick. The mid-field defence was also sound and with centre Andy Render typically aggressive in the first up tackle and Andrew Eggleton corner flagging with his usual élan. Young Craig McCann also had an encouraging outing at full back
Annan Team: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, P. O’Donnell, J. Nelson, G. Smith, A. Renwick, (C) P. Minto, S. Clanachan, B. Graham, N. Smith, E. Hay, A. Eggleton, A. Render, M. Anderson, C. McCann. Replacements: N. Moffat, J. Tinning, I. Thorburn
ANNAN 18 V WAYSIDERS 3
SUNDAY 9 MARCH 2003
Annan progressed to the quarter finals of the BT Cellnet Bowl competition on Sunday at Violetbank by defeating a stuffy Waysiders Drumpellier team from Coatbridge by two tries, two penalties and a conversion to a penalty. The game, which was played in appalling conditions of gale force winds and driving rain at Violetbank, was always going to be tense affair for the home side. Annan sitting some four divisions above their opponents, and the highest placed side left in the tournament, were well aware of all the potential banana skins lying in wait for them as favourites to progress to the quarter finals.
Annan, playing with the gale at their backs in the first half, were rarely out of the visitor’s half for the first forty minutes and it was only some stout defence by Waysiders which kept the home side from crossing their visitor’s line. The pressure however did pay off for the home team as Waysiders gave away several penalties for ruck offences two of which stand off Niall Smith successfully converted to take Annan into a six point lead. The home pack whilst under some pressure in the scrums from a heavy visiting eight continued to dominate the loose play and the lineouts and from a Waysiders scrum in their own 22 Annan’s scrum half Barry Graham caught his opposite number, and when the ball went loose it was won on the floor by the Annan backrow. From the ensuing ruck No 8 Stuart Clanachan drove over to score. Niall Smith converted the try from near the touchline with a magnificent kick despite the howling gale to take Annan into a healthy 13 point lead at half time.
Although playing against the wind in the second half Annan tightened up their game and played a simple driving game in order to deny their opposition possession. From a scrum in the Waysiders 22 the ball was quickly fed to the backs. Centre Michael Rennie with a bull dozing break took out two of the visiting defenders and released winger Stuart Williamson to score a fine try in the corner. Waysiders to their credit refused to give up and despite having two players yellow carded for persistently killing the ball in rucks took the game to Annan and were rewarded with a penalty. Annan continued to play simple rugby in awful conditions and kept play, in the main, in the centre of the pitch. In the last minutes of the match Waysiders exerted considerable pressure on the Annan line but they were denied a score by some magnificent defence from the entire Annan XV and at the final whistle Annan progressed to the quarter finals on 30th March against Garnock at Violetbank.
All in all this was a game in which the weather played a major part but credit has to go to both teams who provided an entertaining game of gritty rugby for both sets of drenched supporters. For the record winger Stuart Williamson (head injury) was replaced by Michael Anderson, prop Paul O’Donnell was replaced by Jack Tinning and wing forward Neil Moffat was replaced by Paul Minto.
Annan Team: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, P. O’Donnell, W. Henderson, G. Smith, A. Renwick, N. Moffat, S. Clannachan, B. Graham, N. Smith, S. Williamson (C), M. Rennie, A. Render, B. Hay, A. Eggleton. Replacements: P. Minto, J. Tinning, M. Anderson, D. Wyllie
ANNAN 17 V CARTHA QUEENS PARK 18
SATURDAY 1 MARCH 2003
The body language of players and spectators at the end of this match told the story as the undoubtedly better team on the day trudged off the Violetbank pitch where Annan were kicked to defeat by the boot of the visiting standoff. With their team scoring three tries to none and never once having their line breached the home support and players had every reason to feel distraught at the final whistle. Yet Annan were the authors of their own defeat as in the final quarter of the game they were unable to win enough ball to keep play in the Cartha half.
In the opening minutes the home side were under the cosh as the visitors tore into the Annan defences and the portents were ominous but the home defences held fast and stopped Cartha from crossing the line. The visitors did manage to gain three points from their onslaught however when they were awarded a penalty which was duly converted by the unerring boot of the Cartha kicker. This reverse seemed to kick start the home team as their forwards began to exercise complete control over their Glasgow counterparts. Twice the Annan forwards drove the ball over the line but on both occasions the referee deemed that the ball was held up. Annan were not to be denied however when, after a series of rucks in the Cartha 22, the ball was spun out through the hands of the half backs to lock Billy Henderson who drew his man and slipped the ball to wing forward Paul Minto to score to the right of the posts. The conversion was missed.
Cartha retook the lead after a rare incursion into Annan territory again from the boot of their kicker. Annan again, through their forwards, drove play deep into the visitors half and this time from a lineout following a penalty award they drove the ball again over the line for prop Colin Warrick to score for the home side to retake the lead. Again the conversion was missed. Cartha again fought back and were awarded a penalty, which looked out of range of their kicker, but an unguarded comment by one of the Annan players found the award moved 10 metres nearer the posts and within the range of their kicker. Half time score Annan 10 Cartha QP 6.
Annan restarted the second half as they had finished the first with their forwards again well in control and providing the backs with ample ball play pressure was applied to the Cartha line. From a scrum on the visitor’s 5 metre line a planned move was driven off the side of the scrum and Annan looked to have scored but once again the ball was deemed to have been held up. From the ensuing scrum Annan opted for a more direct approach and No 8 Stuart Clanachan drove over to score from a pick up from the base of the scrum. Stand off Niall Smith was on target with the conversion to take the home team into a 17-9 lead. At this point Annan looked to have the match won but Cartha had other ideas and to their credit proceeded to take the game to Annan with a simple approach – deny the home side possession and keep pressurising the home defences. While the visitors pressurised the Annan line the heroic home defences never once crumbled but the inevitable happened with a series of penalty awards against the defending side. These indiscretions cost Annan dear as they saw their lead slowly whittled away and eventually overtaken and prop Jack Tinning sin binned for ten minutes for persistently killing the ball. In the final desperate throws of the match the Annan forwards provided a platform in the Cartha half for stand off Niall Smith to attempt a drop goal which to the dismay of the home players and supporters and to the joy of the visiting team and their supporters shaded past the upright. This was the last act of this enthralling match which saw Annan’s hopes of Premiership rugby next season take a knock but with three matches remaining the ball is firmly at their own feet.
For the record flanker Neil Moffat replaced the injured centre Andy Render (hamstring) with flanker Paul Minto moving to the wing and winger Stuart Williamson moving to centre.
Annan 1st XV Squad: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, J. Tinning, W. Henderson, G. Smith, A. Renwick, P. Minto, S. Clannachan, B. Graham, N. Smith, S. Williamson (C), M. Rennie, A. Render (N. Moffat,) B. Hay, A. Eggleton.Replacements: P. O’Donnell, N. Moffat, M. Anderson
ANNAN 31 V KILMARNOCK 6
SATURDAY 8 FEBRUARY 2003
Annan regained their winning ways with a five try victory over Kilmarnock Falcons at Violetbank on Saturday. The quality of the rugby played by the home team was, given the atrocious condition of wind and driving rain, far better than most of the rugby seen at Violetbank this season.
Playing against the wind in the first half Annan had the bulk of possession and territorial advantage but it was the visitors in a rare sortie into the Annan half who scored first when they were awarded a penalty which their stand off converted to take the lead. Annan, however, continued to batter away at the visitor’s line and with several scoring chances snuffed out by some determined Falcons’ defence it was only a matter of time before Annan scored and when it came it was well worth the wait. From a scrum No 8 Graham Smith in concert with prop Colin Warrick drove the ball towards the visitors’ line and from the ensuing ruck scrum half Barry Graham fed the ball to lock Billy Henderson who drew his man and slipped the ball to winger Michael Anderson who scored in the corner. Stand off Niall Smith missed the conversion.
Annan continued to dominate the play with the forwards and backs combining well with some fine close quarter work driving play but were unable to breach the Falcons’ line again in the half. In fact the visitors retook the lead just before half time when they again were successful with a penalty award. Half Time score Annan 5 Kilmarnock Falcons 6.
With the wind and rain at their backs in the second half Annan harnessed the elements well and with stand off Niall Smith putting in some fine line kicks play was seldom out of the visitor’s half. From a scrum in the Kilmarnock 22 stand off Niall Smith glided past the Killie fringe defences to score the best try of the day which he also converted for Annan to retake the lead. Annan were unlucky minutes later when from a fine move centre Mike Rennie looked to have scored but was deemed, by the referee to have knocked on in the act of scoring. Annan were not to be denied however when from a penalty move 5 metres from the Falcon’s line prop Colin Warrick crashed over to score. Niall smith added the conversion. Annan gained their 4 try bonus point when from a lineout take and drive lock Billy Henderson drove over from the edge of the maul to score with Niall Smith again adding the addition two points.
The home side added a further try when centre Andy Render made the gain line and popped the ball up to centre Mike Rennie who with quick hands found winger Mike Anderson on the outside who scored his second try of the match. Niall Smith conversion attempt which was the last action of the match hit the post. Final Score Annan 31 Kilmarnock Falcons 6.
All in all this was a much improved performance from the Annan squad with prop James Gilmour and No 8 Graham Smith the pick of the forwards with centre Mike Rennie awarded the Match Sponsors BNFL ‘Man of the Match’ award. The new centre pairing of Mike Rennie and Andy Render with Andrew Eggleton moving to full back looks promising with the ball being played wider than in recent outings.
Annan XV: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, J.Gilmour, (J. Carlyle) W. Henderson, I. Thorburn, A. Renwick, P. Minto, G.Smith, B. Graham, N. Smith, S. Williamson (C), M. Rennie, A. Render, M. Anderson, A. Eggleton. Replacements: J. Nelson, C. McCann, J. Carlyle
DUNS 29 V ANNAN 8
SATURDAY 25 JANUARY 2003
After a solid first half of the season Annan have now lost their last four league games and have gone from looking a good bet to remain in the top six of Division 1 of the BT National Leagues to basically having to battle it out with the chasing pack for the sixth Premiership 3 place. After Saturday’s performance at Hardens Field the odds must be lengthening by the minute as Annan put in a lack lustre performance to lose by 5 tries to 1 against a fairly ordinary Duns side.
The game, which was played in a gale and bitterly cold conditions, hadn’t even started when the visitors were dealt an unfortunate blow when scrum half Barry Graham had to withdraw from the team when he injured his back in the warm up. His place was taken by Craig McCann. Playing with the advantage of the wind at their backs and down the slope Annan were, however, never able to control the game as the home side played basic, solid possession rugby as Annan’s ball retention was once again woeful in the contact area. The home side’s back row snaffled the majority of any loose ball and turning over possession with ease time and time again. Annan did not seem to be able to take advantage of the elements in their favour in the first half and indeed it was the home side who scored first with a break out try from their own 22 which their stand off converted. Annan to their credit did fight back and scored a try of their own when in a good solid piece of back play centre Andy Render scored in the corner to take the score to 7-5. Stand off Niall Smith failed with his conversion attempt from the touchline but was on target minutes later with a penalty award in front of the posts. Duns however made an instant response and scored another try before half time to take the score at the break to Duns 12 Annan 8.
Whilst it was feared by the small knot of Annan supporters that against the elements in the second half that the floodgates might open Annan in fact tightened up their game defensively. But once again lack of control at the areas of breakdown allowed ball to be turned over and they found themselves driven deep into their own half as the ball was booted downfield. Despite two good pieces of incisive back play in the half Annan rarely troubled the Duns defences. Duns to their credit played a simple game with their stand off and inside centre the main play makers and it was the home side who ran in a further three tries in the half. Their last try was their icing on the cake when from another turn over in their own 22 they ran in a try against the run of play. In truth the scoreline flattered the home side but Annan can only have themselves to blame for their sloppy play throughout the game. Centre Andy Render was one of the few Annan backs to play to his potential with No 8 Graham Smith and lock Bill Henderson the pick of the forwards. Captain Stuart Williamson showed his versatility when he moved from the wing to wing forward where he did a sterling amount of work.
Annan’s lack of strength in depth was cruelly exposed with several players injured or unavailable at the weekend but the players themselves must now realise that their Premiership aspirations are entirely in their own hands.
HILLHEAD 44 V ANNAN 23
SATURDAY 18 JANUARY 2003
Although the scoreline suggests that this was a somewhat one sided affair nothing could be further from the truth as Annan put in one of their better performances of the season at Hughenden on Saturday in this Division 1 encounter of the BT National Leagues. The game was played at a frantic pace with he home side eventually winning by six tries, four conversions and two penalties to Annan’s three tries, two conversions and two penalties.
The game was only a couple of minutes old before the visitors’ crossed the home defences when a fine forward take and drive from a line out resulted in no.8 Stuart Clanachan being driven over to score. Stand off Niall Smith missed the conversion from a tight angle on the right touchline. Hillhead through some fine play by their backs drove play deep into the Annan 22 where the ball was lost at the breakdown. In attempting to clear from beneath his posts, stand-off Niall Smith had his kick charged down by his opposite number, who was first to touch down behind the line. The stand off then converted his own try. The Annan forwards once again gaining supremacy and two minutes later the visiting pack drove a rolling maul over the home line from which prop Colin Warrick was credited with the touchdown this time stand-off Neil Smith converted the try. On a rare break out , the home side managed to take play into the Annan 22 where one of the visiting backs was caught off side presenting the home side with a penalty chance which was duly converted.
With only 15 minutes played Annan were 12-10 in the lead and for the next twenty minutes, Annan exerted a virtual stranglehold on the proceedings in the set piece play with their lineout play particularly effective. Annan’s best try of the day followed a fine passage of play when with quick transference of the ball through the hands put winger Mike Anderson in on the right. Niall Smith added to Annan’s lead with two further penalties. With Annan 23-10 in the lead and Hillhead looking decidedly shaky Annan were dealt a blow when No 8 Stuart Clanachan, who had been having a fine game, had to leave the field with a bad neck strain. Annan then had a chance to go further ahead when the home full back had his clearance kick charged down and unfortunately centre Andy Render was unable to control the wickedly bouncing ball and the chance was lost.
The home XV heartened from these let-offs seemed to find their form which for the remainder of the half and ran in two converted tries to take the half time score to 24-23 in Hillhead’s favour.
Although Annan failed to add to their score in the second half, there were several periods when they monopolised possession but could not penetrate the home defence either around the fringes or through the middle. The home full back broke through the middle to score his teams fourth try and secure their bonus point. Then Hillhead’s left winger touched down for the fifth while their right winger scored their sixth and final try by taking two Annan players with him over the line. Hillhead added a further penalty goal to leave the final score at 44- 23 pts. In the final analysis the scoreline did not reflect the contribution which Annan had made to this excellent advert for Club rugby over the full 80 minutes. Annan’s dominance of the lineout and scrummaging throughout the game made the size of the defeat all the harder to swallow. However the home team through their exiting backs revealed the full array of their finishing power and ability to take their chances when six of their seven backs each scored a try and showed just why they are in pole position in the league.
Annan XV: N. MacGregor, P. Carruthers, C. Warrick, W. Henderson, G. Smith, A. Renwick, T. Paulin, S. Clanachan (N. Moffat), B. Graham, N. Smith, S. Williamson (C), A. Render, A. Eggleton, M. Anderson, M. Rennie (B. Hay Replacements: P. O’Donnell, N. Moffat, B. Hay,
STEWARTRY 31 V ANNAN 17
SATURDAY 28 DECEMBER 2002
Annan were never in the hunt in this game, played at the Everholm on Saturday, with their Division Two local rivals Stewartry faster, smarter and quicker in almost all facets of the game. Like their game against Kinross in the BT Bowl two weeks ago one would have been forgiven for mistaking which team played in which league. Stewartry played with aggression, passion, commitment and no little skill Annan seemed to lack most of those attributes. If Annan had a game plan they kept it well hidden whereas their visitors’ was simple – play simple no nonsense direct driving rugby, pull in the home fringe defences and then spin the ball wide. Their other simple concept was to retain possession in contact a ploy which Annan seemed incapable of employing and unlike Annan preferred to play the ball out of contact rather than going to ground at every conceivable occasion. Annan were certainly in the Christmas spirit as they gifted Stewartry turnover ball time and time again.
From the start the visitors carried the game directly to their hosts with the game, in the first quarter, played almost entirely in the Annan half. It was only a matter of time before the visitors scored and it came quite simply when from a scrum the ball was driven towards the Annan line and from the ensuing ruck, one of the Stewartry forwards drove over to score. The try was converted by their full back. Annan’s only response towards the end of the half was a well struck penalty by stand off Michael Rennie to take the half time score to Annan 3 Stewartry 7.
Although Annan scored two tries in the second half and had several other scoring chances, one when lock Billy Henderson spurned the obvious outside pass to his winger and another when the ball was hacked through and centre Andrew Eggleton knocked on in the act of scoring, they were never able to get back into the game. The closest they came was when, with the score at 26 – 10 the Annan forwards put some fine driving play together and with the visiting midfield defence sucked in winger Kevin Jones swept over the line to score to bring the score to 26 – 17 and Annan looked to be back in the game. Stewartry had other ideas however and within five minutes had scored the try of the match when with some great driving play from their forwards they sucked in the home midfield defence and released their backs who, with the luxury of a three man overlap sent their left winger into score and the game was lost for Annan. Final Score Annan 17 Stewartry 31. For the record Annan’s other try was scored by centre Andrew Eggleton converted by Michael Rennie.
With Annan returning to league action next Saturday the Annan coaches will be hoping that the majority of players on display on Saturday will have managed to shake off the effects of the festive season which were so evident in the Chisholm Cup game.
Annan Team: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, J. Tinning, W. Henderson, J. Nelson. (N. MacGregor) P. O’Donnell, (D. Wyllie) A. Renwick, (G. Smith) S. Clanachan, B. Graham, M. Rennie, M. Anderson, A. Render, A. Eggleton, S. Williamson, ( K. Jones), K. Hogg.
KINROSS 11 V ANNAN 31
SATURDAY 14 DECEMBER 2002
Annan progressed to the 2nd round of the BT Bowl by beating a lively, determined Kinross side at King George V playing fields. There may be 5 divisions between the two teams but there were times on Saturday when one would have been hard pushed to decide which team plyed their trade in which league.
This game was played in the gathering gloom except that the gloom had already gathered at 1.30pm for the kick off and if Kinross had not had floodlights it is doubtful if the game could have been played at all. The gloom was augmented with cold, driving rain and an extremely heavy ground. In the opening seconds it looked as if Annan were going to score directly from the drop out when the home forwards fumbled and the ball was hacked on with the two visiting centres winning the race to the line but neither were able to control the ball and the chance was lost. This incident seemed to set the scene for Annan’s day as they struggled not so much against their opposition but against a series of self inflicted mishaps in handling and poor decision making. After the initial flurries of activity by both sides the visitors began to exert pressure on the Kinross line and from a series of driving mauls and rucks the backs were released and in a sweeping move left winger Michael Anderson scored in the corner. Stand off Niall Smith converted from wide out to give Annan a 7 point lead.
Annan added to their score in a rerun of the first try when the forwards provided quality for their backs and this time full back Michael Rennie coming into the line at pace provided the space for right winger Stuart Williamson to score an unconverted try. For the remainder of the half Annan, in particular the forwards, looked lacklustre and allowed the home side back into the game. Annan’s defensive game stood up to the home onslaught and kept Kinross from crossing the line but the home side were rewarded for their efforts when they converted one of their three penalties awards to take the half time score to Kinross 3 Annan 12.
At the restart the home side were again awarded a penalty when the Annan forwards handled in a ruck and Annan’s lead was cut to 6 points. Annan hit back minutes later when from a scrum on the 5 metre line No 8 Stuart Clanachan picked up at the base of the scrum and drove over to score with Niall Smith adding the conversion. Whilst never stamping any real authority on the game the visiting forwards ruled the lineouts with the home side only winning one during the whole game. From one 5 metres from the Kinross line Annan disrupted the throw and with the ball loose prop Colin Warrick was on hand to scoop the ball up and drive over the line to score to take Annan into a comfortable 24 - 6 lead.
Kinross were not to be outdone and from a scrum in the visiting 22 their scrum half darted up the blind side to score untouched by an Annan hand. Annan’s response was immediate and from a scrum No 8 Stuart Clanachan again picked up and was driven over to score his second try of the game which was converted by Niall Smith to take the final score to Kinross 11 Annan 31.
This was not one of Annan’s finer displays but one cannot take anything away from Kinross who played well above their league status. With Annan the highest placed team in the Bowl competition they are going to have to get used to teams upping their game against them and avoid the potential banana skins, which are waiting for them.
Annan Team: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, P. O’Donnell (G. Wyllie), J. Nelson, G. Smith (M. Newton), A. Renwick, N. Moffat (C. Moffat), B. Graham, N. Smith, A. Render, A. Eggleton, S. Williamson, M. Anderson, M. Rennie.
Annan have been drawn against Waysiders Drumpellier RFC in the 2nd Round of the BT Bowl at Violetbank on Saturday 11th January.
BERWICK 10 V ANNAN 7
SATURDAY 7 DECEMBER 2002
Berwick took the points at Scremerston last Saturday, leaving Annan with a bonus point, scant reward for a fine performance from the Annan team, on a freezing afternoon on a muddy pitch this was not a game for the purists, but a slog in the mud, with both teams driving through their forwards. There were surprisingly few errors given the conditions, and the game was sympathetically refereed by lan Davidson of Duns, and yet it was a referee's decision on which this game turned.
With the benefit of a stiff cross wind, Annan dominated the first half both territorially and in possession. Berwick were hardly able to escape their own half, and it was hoped that Annan would be able to build the necessary lead before half time. It took Annan until into the second quarter to get on the scoreboard. After Michael Rennie had missed with a long range penalty, Annan laid siege to the Berwick, line. Stout defence kept Annan out for long spells, but when Stuart Clanachan snaffled a Berwick throw on their own five metre line, the drive saw prop Colin Warrick driven over. Michael Rennie made an excellent job of the tricky conversion, and Annan were 7-0 ahead. However, despite further pressure Annan could not add to the scoreline, their closest coming when centre Andy Render sped round the blind side of a five metre ruck and dived over the line, only for the well-placed referee to say the ball had been held up.
Predictably Berwick came out for the second half fired up, and it was Annan who had to defend. This they did with gusto, and when Berwick fluffed a penalty kick, hopes began to rise. Berwick's first score came, apparently, from nowhere. Berwick won scrum ball inside the Annan halt, the Annan defence moved forward to meet the attack when Berwick stand offBen McCreath punted the ball just over the Annan try line. Scrum half Barry Graham made a valiant attempt to prevent the try, and he and centre Mark McCreath appeared to touch down at the same time, but referee Davidson awarded the try. Ben McCraath
converted to tie the scores.
As the game entered its final stages and the play surged back and forward through the mud, Berwick were awarded a penalty on their right. To spectators a successful kick looked less than likely, but Sod's Law applied as far as Annan were concerned, and the ball squirmed over to give the home side the points.
Despite the result, this was & good performance from Annan. They kept possession well, kicked for position well, and just lacked that finishing touch. One would have to say they were the better team. Michael Rennie had a good first outing at stand off, his barging runs suiting the conditions. The lineout was good after adjusting to the conditions, and though Berwick shaded the scrums, Annan performed well in the loose. It was not a day for the backs, but their defence was solid. What Annan lacked was the killer touch in the first half. All players performed with credit, but my man of the match, just, would be old head Barry Graham.
Annan team: K. Hogg; M. Anderson, A. Eggleton, A. Render, S. Williamson; M. Rennle, B. Graham; C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, P.O'Donnell (J. Carlyle), J. Nelson, M. Newton, A. Renwick, T. Paulin (N. Moffat), S. Clanachan. Not used: C. Moffat
ANNAN 9 V PRESTON LODGE 13
SATURDAY 30 NOVEMBER 2002
Annan’s target of getting into the Premiership was dented somewhat on Saturday when they were beaten at Violetbank by the league leaders Preston Lodge in a somewhat uninspiring performance by both teams in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues. The home team had to make several changes to the selected side with Michael Rennie, selected to replace the injured stand off Niall Smith, moved to full back to replace the Keith Hogg who had sustained an injury at training during the week with veteran Gordon Carmichael taking the stand off role. With wing forwards Andy Renwick similarly injured in training and Neil Moffat a ‘flu victim the back row had to be re-jigged with Paul O’Donnell called up.
In the early exchanges the home forwards drove play with some fine rucking into the PL 22 and were rewarded with a penalty taken by full back Michael Rennie which hit the post. The visitors hit back with some fine driving play of their own and from a scrum 5 metres from the Annan line the PL No 8 drove over to score a try which was duly converted to give the visitors a 7-0 lead. From the restart the home forwards again drove play into the PL 22 and again were awarded a penalty which this time Michael Rennie converted. Michael Rennie closed the gap to a single point when he landed a further penalty just prior to half time. Half Time Score Annan 6 Preston Lodge 7
In the second half Annan, although playing better than the first, were still unable to break down the well organised PL defence and whilst Annan took the lead with another Michael Rennie penalty the visitors always looked the more dangerous side with the ball in hand and they retook the lead with another penalty and sealed the game in the final stages with a well taken drop goal.
All in all this was a generally poor performance from Annan with the only plus point being the lineout where they disrupted the visitors’ lineouts on several occasions. The other negative point was the number of needless penalties conceded. But the main difference between the teams was the visiting back row and half backs who controlled the game.
Annan Team: C. Warrick, 2. P. Carruthers, 3. J. Gilmour, 4. W. Henderson, 5. J. Nelson, 6. P. O’Donnel, 7. T. Paulin, 8. S. Clanachan, 9. B. Graham, 10. G. Carmichael, 11. S. Williamson, (capt), 12. A. Render, 13. A. Eggleton, 14. M. Anderson, 15. M. Rennie. Replacements: G. Smith, J. Carlyle (All used), E Hay (not used)
ANNAN 17 V LIVINGSTON 8
SATURDAY 23 NOVEMBER 2002
Annan earned a hard fought if unconvincing win over old rivals Livingston at Violetbank on Saturday in the last game of the first half of their league campaign in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues. On a cold wet miserable Saturday afternoon those Annan faithful who had spurned the comforts of the fireside or Christmas shopping were able to see their home team under perform yet never look like losing this game. In truth this was a disappointing Livingston team compared to the team, which Annan has played over the last few seasons.
Annan started brightly enough and held the territorial advantage for most of the half but as so often happens were unable to convert their early pressure into points when given the chance with stand off Niall Smith missing a penalty award in the opening minutes. Minutes later it looked as if Annan had scored a try when from a lineout on the visiting 5 metre line, following a penalty award, No 8 Stuart Clanachan plunged over to touch down. The referee however maintained that the ball had been held up over the line and awarded a 5 metre scrum to the home side. Annan were not to be denied and from the scrum lock Graham Smith was driven over to score. Niall Smith added the conversion to take the home side into a 7-0 lead and the score remained the same until halftime.
In the opening minutes of the half the visitors drove play into the Annan half and were rewarded for their efforts with a penalty which was duly converted into 3 points with a well struck place kick by the visiting stand off. Annan fought back and when from a strike against the head stand off Niall Smith picked up the ball from the base of the retreating scrum and broke up the blindside. He proceeded up the touchline and side stepped the Livingstone right winger to cross the line untouched to score a fine try which he also converted from the touchline. Minutes later he was on hand to stretch the home sides lead with a well struck penalty.
Annan, instead of turning the screw, seemed to relax thinking the game was won, and allowed Livingston to get back into the game. From a penalty award in the home 22 the visitors spurned the three points on offer and instead opted to kick into touch for a lineout 5 metres from the Annan line. Annan showed some naivety in the lineout when instead of attempting a mass block at the lineout decided instead to have jumpers at the front and back of the line in an attempt to win the ball. The result, with two jumpers and four lifters taken out of the defence, was that the inevitable happened and the Livingston forwards poured through the gaping hole in the middle of the line to score.
The remaining ten minutes of the game became a dullish affair as neither team seemed to have the ability to breach each others’ midfield defence and the game trundled to its conclusion with the home team the victors and another four points in the bag. With all of the four top teams in the league – the top three winning away from home – Annan remain in fourth place.
For the record Darren Irving replaced prop Paul O’Donnell, Michael Anderson replaced centre Stuart Williamson (injured hand) and winger Paul Quinn replaced stand off Niall Smith with Michael Rennie moving to the stand off spot and Andy
Render moving to inside centre.
The Annan players who caught the eye were stand off Niall Smith who created several chances, centre Michael Rennie who in his debut for Annan’s 1st XV showed promise of things to come. Special mention must go to Paul O’Donnell who, although normally a wing forward, stepped into the prop position when James Gilmour was unavailable and looked the part.
Annan Team: C. Warrick, 2. P. Carruthers, 3. P. O’Donnell (D. Irving), 4. W. Henderson, 5. G. Smith, 6. A. Renwick, 7. N. Moffat, 8. S. Clanachan, 9. B. Graham, 10. N. Smith (P. Quinn), 11. K. Jones, 12. A. Render, 13. A. Eggleton, 14. S. Williamson, (capt)(M. Anderson), 15. K. Hogg.
CARTHA 15 V ANNAN 7
SUNDAY 10 NOVEMBER 2002
Cartha deservedly won this ill-tempered game at Dumbreck in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues. Both sets of players showed a lack of composure, but some of the frustration shown must be down to an inconsistent, and at times eccentric, display of refereeing by Mr McNair. He never had complete control of the game and whistled for any number of petty offences much to the frustration of both teams. Unfortunately for Annan, they were at the wrong end of the majority of the referee’s decisions. This meant they constantly surrendered field position and were unable to develop many periods of sustained pressure.
In the first half Annan started nervously, then scored on their first visit into the Cartha 22. A typical storming run by No 8 Stuart Clanachan was finished off by a drive to the line by prop James Gilmour. Stand off Niall Smith converted. Cartha fought back and scored a neat try from a scrum near the Annan line. The home side went ahead just before half time from the best bit of back play in the whole game. The home full back’s intrusion into the line breached the Annan defences and he score a fine try.
Had the reasonably sized crowd known what was to follow, they probably would have gone home at half time. The second half was a poor affair, full of errors and no continuity. This, coupled with weak refereeing accounted for the increasing tousiness which culminated in the sending off of Annan winger Kevin Jones for a retaliatory offence.
On reflection Annan’s pack did compete well at set pieces. Prop James Gilmour and first team debutant John Nelson at lock did as expected and wing forward Neil Moffat had good moments in loose play. Unfortunately Annan’s loose play was blighted with offences, real and imaginary, and they must improve in this facet of their game or they will lose more matches purely on the penalty count against. At the base of the scrum, veteran scrum half Barry Graham strove manfully, but the backs generally dropped too many passes and their handling was too poor to encompass the elaboration of the moves they tried. A back division with as much pace and individual ability should be able to function better as a unit.
A very disappointing result but, on the brighter side Annan should certainly be able to improve on this performance and certainly have nothing to fear from teams above them in the league.
Annan Team: C. Warrick, 2. P. Carruthers, 3. J. Gilmour, 4. W. Henderson, 5. J. Nelson, 6. A. Renwick, 7. N. Moffat, 8. S. Clanachan, 9. B. Graham, 10. N. Smith, 11. K. Jones, 12. A. Render, 13. A. Eggleton, 14. S. Williamson, (C), 15. K. Hogg.
ANNAN 19 v HAWICK 15
TUESDAY 29 OCTOBER 2002
On Tuesday evening Annan played their first floodlight game at Violetbank with a special match to commemorate the switching on of the lights against a Hawick XV. A large crowd turned out on a perfect evening and were treated to an excellent game of open, flowing and exciting rugby. Both teams, freed from the worries of league rugby, played the game at an electrifying pace with the play flowing from end to end. The home forwards held the edge in the forward exchanges where the rucking on display was of the highest order by both sides but the visiting backs looked to have the edge and looked more alert to the loose ball. However to the surprise and delight of the large Annan support it was the home side who opened the scoring when stand off Niall Smith lofted a high garryowen which the Hawick fullback failed to gather, the ball was hacked on by the advancing home mid field with winger Kevin Jones winning the foot race to the line. Stand off Niall Smith added the conversion. Niall Smith added to his points tally when he scored a magnificent try when he cleaved through the Hawick midfield defences to score beside the posts. He again converted the try to take Annan into a 14-0 lead which they held on to until half time.
In the second half Hawick came out determined to reel back Annan’s lead and laid siege to the home line and were only kept at bay by some superb defensive work. They made some changes to their front five line-up who began to exert pressure on their Annan counterparts and a score looked inevitable. However it was the home side who scored when in a drive towards the visiting line scrum half Barry Graham pounced and scored to take Annan’s lead to 19 points to nil. The visitors then began to exert pressure on the home line and were first awarded a penalty which they converted and then awarded a penalty try when Annan were guilty of persistently killing the ball in a series of rucks. They then added a further try when they were awarded a free kick when the Annan hooker was penalised for ‘foot up’ in a five metre scrum which Hawick’s No 7 Roddie Deans took quickly to score. Whilst Hawick continued to press for a win the Annan defences held firm and in fact were unlucky not to increase their lead when replacement centre Michael Rennie ripped through the Hawick defence only to be stopped in the 22. From the ensuing ruck the home forwards drove to the Hawick line only for lock Billy Henderson to spill the ball in the act of scoring. Final Score Annan 19 Hawick XV 15.
All in all this was a great advert for club rugby with both teams playing an entertaining brand of rugby, which is unfortunately not always on display in league rugby. If, however, Annan could transfer the passion and skill on display on Tuesday night to their league campaign Premier 3 rugby would definitely be on the menu at Violetbank next season.
ANNAN 31 v TRINITY ACCIES 10
SATURDAY 26 OCTOBER 2002
Annan continued on their winning ways on Saturday with a flattering and somewhat unconvincing display over a Trinity Accies side who up until the last quarter of the match looked capable of causing a major upset in this Division 1 match in the BT National Leagues at Violetbank.
Right from the whistle it was obvious that the visitors from Edinburgh, who are propping up the Division without a single win, were going to fight every inch of the way and in fact it was Trinity who got points on the board in the early exchanges. When the Annan backs were caught offside at a ruck the Trinity fullback gratefully slotted the three points from the penalty award. Annan continued to battle away but with the visiting defences rattling the Annan attacks and with the home forwards unable to provide any quality ball and the backs throwing away any ball won frustration set in in both the home players and supporters. However the Annan forwards did get their act together in on two occasions in the first half when from a lineout, following a penalty award, Annan yet again profited from their trademark lineout take and drive try scored by prop Colin Warrick followed by a further try scored by No 8 Stuart Clanachan from a ruck in the Trinity 22 who drove over. The try was converted by stand off Niall Smith. Although Annan had a healthy nine point lead it was Trinity who looked the more assured of the two teams when in possession and they stretched the home defences on several occasions with some probing runs from their backs and half backs so it came as no surprise when, just before half time, the visiting backs broke through the home defensive lines with the Trinity wing forward getting the touchdown behind the posts. The try was converted by the Trinity fullback to take the half time score to Annan 12 Trinity Accies 10.
With their pressure and score just before half time Trinity’s tails were up and they started off the half where they had left off and kept the pressure on the home team with some fine inter passing between backs and forwards which was only thwarted by some equally fine last ditch defensive work by Annan. Annan managed to weather the storm and began, slowly, to work their way back into the game with the forwards beginning to exert some control on the game. Annan’s breakthrough came, when from a lineout No 8 Stuart Clanachan again showed his speed and power to drive over to score. Niall Smith added the conversion to take his side again to a nine point lead. In the final quarter of the game the home side began to show what they are capable of with some driving forward play allied with some better line kicking by stand off Smith. From a lineout five metres from the line Annan stole the ball against the throw and once again the ball was driven over the line and this time it was replacement prop Murray Forbes who was credited with the score, which Smith again converted. Annan by this time were in complete control of the game as the visitors visibly wilted. Annan’s final try when it came was a beauty with the forwards securing quick quality ball from a ruck in the Trinity 22 the ball was spun wide to outside centre Andrew Eggleton who sold his opposite number a hint of a dummy which was enough to give him the space to score. The conversion was missed. Final Score: Annan 31 Trinity Accies 10.
All in all, whilst this was a five point win for Annan it was a less than convincing performance with the score line somewhat flattering to the home side. But it is said that when you can play badly and win you can’t be a bad side! The Man of the Match Award was presented to Annan’s No 8 Stuart Clanachan by match sponsors BNFL.
This result, with Preston Lodge beating Hillhead Jordanhill, takes Annan into second place in Division 1 which is Annan’s highest ever position at this point in their league campaign.
Annan Team: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, J. Tinning, (M. Forbes), W. Henderson, G. Smith, A. Renwick, N. Moffat, S. Clanachan, B. Graham, N. Smith, K. Jones, (P. Quinn), A. Render, A. Eggleton, S. Williamson, (C), K. Hogg.
KILMARNOCK 19 v ANNAN 41
SATURDAY 19 OCTOBER 2002
For the second week in a row Annan travelled up the A76 into Ayrshire hopeful, this time, of erasing the memories of last week’s defeat in the Scottish Cup by Ardrossan. This week it was back to league business in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues with the visit to Kilmarnock. Annan had never beaten their hosts on their home patch but with the team at almost full strength they were hopeful that they would be able to reverse the trend.
Annan started well with the forwards taking play deep into home territory with both the visiting forwards and backs testing the home defences. The game was only ten minutes old, when from a ruck in the Kilmarnock 22, the ball was spun wide and centre Andy Render crashed over to score. Annan’s lead was short lived however when two minutes later the home forwards provided quick ball for their backs and with the Annan backs looking to snuff out the attack the home stand-off kicked the ball deftly over the advancing defensive line and the Kilmarnock winger won the foot race to the line to score a converted try. For the remainder of the half Kilmarnock really had their visitors on the back foot and as Annan were forced to defend they conceded numerous penalties three of which the home stand off converted to take his team to a commanding 16 point to 5 lead. With minutes of the half left Annan prop Jack Tinning was sin binned for persistent ruck offences and the travelling Annan support feared the worst as their team had put in an error strewn half and looked disjointed enough without being reduced to playing with a man short. However with seconds to play in the half, from a scrum in the Kilmarnock 22 No 8 Stuart Clanachan picked up from the base on the scrum and drove over to score a try which stand off Niall Smith converted to take the half time score to Kilmarnock 16 Annan 12.
The Annan coaches and players had plenty to discuss in the half time team talk as Annan had put in a poor first half performance where the forwards had lacked control both in the set piece and in the loose with the Annan scrummage creaking under the weight of the large home pack. In fact the Annan scrum conceded two strikes against the head in the first period. The Annan backs were not blameless either, as they conceded possession on several occasions with spilt balls in the tackle and generally lacked composure in possession. Whatever was said at half time obviously had the desired effect as the Annan performance in the second half was a revelation compared to the preceding forty minutes.
Immediately from the re-start Annan were awarded a penalty, which they kicked to touch and from the ensuing lineout the Annan forwards scored what is now becoming their trademark try. From the lineout take and drive prop Colin Warrick was driven over to score with Niall Smith converting the try to take Annan into a one point lead. The Annan forwards were now beginning exert considerable control on the game and from a ruck the ball was off loaded to scrum half Barry Graham who scored. This score was followed soon after when again from quick ruck ball lock Billy Henderson drove over to score. The Annan support were still pinching themselves to make sure they were not dreaming when within the space of a couple of minutes Annan scored a further two tries. Firstly, Niall Smith added to his points tally when from a scrum in the Kilmarnock 22 he was fed the ball and sidestepped his way over the line to score, converting his own try and then from a home scrum Annan struck against the head and No 8 Stuart Clanachan picked up and drove over to score. Niall Smith added the conversion to take the final score to Kilmarnock 19 Annan 41.
This was truly a game of two halves with Annan most impressive in the second half after a somewhat indifferent performance in the first. But before Annan get too carried away with this marvellous result, especially as it was away from home, let them reflect on their hapless first half performance which better opposition would probably have punished more severely.
Annan Team: C. Warrick, N. Moffat, J. Tinning, W. Henderson, G. Smith (M. Newton), A. Renwick, P. O’Donnell, B. Graham, N. Smith, A. Render, A. Eggleton, S. Williamson, K. Jones, K. Hogg,
ARDROSSAN 17 v ANNAN 10
SATURDAY 12 OCTOBER 2002
Annan went out at their first hurdle in this season’s BT Cup Round 2, falling to Ardrossan in a game which proved something of a disappointment all round.
Ardrossan are going well, sitting top of Division 2, and though Annan are mid table in Divsion I, a hard game was expected, particularly since Annan were forced into several changes in the pack. Skipper Stuart Williamson found himself in the unaccustomed position of No 8, his fellow back row being Paul O’Donnell and Stewart Livingston, while evergreen Ian Thorburn was asked to pull his 1st XV boots on again at lock.
Though it rained all the way to Ardrossan, sunshine greeted the kick off, and the pitch at Memorial Field was in excellent condition. The first quarter saw the teams testing each other out, but on the whole Ardrossan had the better of the half. Approaching half time they led 10—0, thanks to a try, from their speedy right winger who outpaced the Annan defence, a conversion and penalty. While Annan had their moments, it was almost on half time when they managed to strike back. The Annan backs got a rare chance to move the ball at pace in the home 22, and centre Andrew Eggleton was able to put intruding fullback Keith Hogg in for a heartening score. Stand off Niall Smith converted, and Annan were very much back in the game at 7—10.
Annan upped their game in the second half, and though it was difficult for both sides to get any continuity going due to frequent stoppages, for fouls or fights, Annan’s pressure did result in two penalty awards in kickable positions. Niall Smith missed the first, but shortly after made no mistake with the second to tie the game at 10—10. With full time looming, and with spectators discussing the rules on extra time, Ardrossan struck the killer blow when their centre got through several despairing tackles to score. The conversion was almost the last act of the game, and Annan were relegated to the Bowl competition
Given the disruption to their normal pattern, Annan did well. The forwards battled hard in the scrums, but it did not take Ardrossan long to work out that Billy Henderson was Annan’s only lineout target. However the heavier Ardrossan forwards were never able to subdue a fitter Annan. The Annan backs again did not put together much in the way of flowing rugby, the main ploy being the garryowen, but with the home backs lying as close to the offside line as the referee would allow, it was not easy to build much in that department.
Stuart Holliday made his debut coming on for Stewart Livingstone in the second half, while Murray Forbes took over late on for loosehead Colin Warrick. Congratulations, then, to Ardrossan, a most hospitable club, while Annan can look forward to a trip to Kinross on December 14th for the first round of the BT Bowl competition.
Annan Team: C. Warrick (M. Forbes), P. Carruthers, J. Tinning, W. Henderson, I. Thorburn, A. Renwick, S. Livingstone, (S. Holliday), P. O’Donnel, S.Williamson (C), B. Graham, N. Smith, K. Jones, A. Render, A. Eggleton, E. Hay, K. Hogg.
ANNAN 23 V DUNS 10
SATURDAY 05 OCTOBER 2002
After the previous weeks encouraging performance albeit in defeat to the league leaders Hillhead/Jordanhill at Violetbank Annan’s faithful supporters turned out again on Saturday at Violetbank to see if Annan could build on the previous weeks performance, cut out the mistakes, kick their penalties and win. Well two out of three isn’t bad! Annan’s coach Shaun McGauchie said after the game “ we had enough possession to have won three games but with the players making too many mistakes and taking wrong options we made hard work of winning”.
Annan started off with some great driving play straight from the whistle in this Division 1 of the BT National Leagues and immediately had their visitors’ backs against the wall. But as so often happens the home side were unable to capitalise on their early pressure as some sterling Duns defence kept them at bay and it was the visitors who, in almost their first touch of the ball, attacked the Annan line through some attractive back play. The ball was set up by their dangerous back row, who fed their backline who in turn cleaved through some woeful cover defence to score an unconverted try.
Annan, to their credit, stuck in after this early blow and worked hard, through their forwards, driving play back into the Duns 22 where they were eventually rewarded for their efforts with a penalty following a ruck offence. Thankfully, after the previous week’s folly, Annan decided to go for goal. Stand off Niall Smith duly provided the 3 points to keep his side in touch. For the remainder of the half it was a case of attack followed by counter attack as both teams lived on each others’ mistakes as the ball was dropped, knocked on and possession turned over on far too many occasions. Half Time Score Annan 3 Duns 5.
The second halt continued, generally, in the same vein as the first as the catalogue of errors continued to mount for both sides. Annan took the lead for the first time when Niall Smith landed another 3 points when the visiting forwards were penalised for a lineout infringement. The home forwards were now beginning to exercise more control in the set piece play and stole a couple of strikes against the head and disrupted the Duns’ scrum on several occasions although their lineout, normally one of Annan’s strengths, creaked on several occasions as the visiting backrow plundered some wayward throw ins. However the Annan forward pressure began to pay dividends, when from a ruck, replacement prop James Gilmour drove over to score his 1st XV try of the season. Niall Smith duly converted the try to give the home side a 13-5 lead.
Whilst the home support relaxed a little, they should have known better, as Annan always, it seems, like to live on the edge and when attempting to run out of defence the ball was fed through the backs hand it was intercepted by the Duns outside centre who romped in to score in the corner. Thankfully, for the home side, the Duns’ fullback missed the conversion and Annan were left with ten minutes to play with a slender 3 point lead and the home support once again left with the prospect of a nail biting finale. The were however spared the full agony as the home forwards immediately drove up field and when the visiting full back was forced to carry the ball over his own line following a superbly flighted kick from Niall Smith. From the ensuing scrum the Annan eight drove the ball over the line with No 8 Stuart Clanachan getting the touch down and Niall Smith the conversion to provide the home team with a 10 point cushion as the game went into the final minutes. Niall Smith drove the final nail into the Duns’ coffin when he slotted a final penalty to take the final score to Annan 23 Duns 10.
All in all this was not one of Annan’s better games albeit a win. The Annan backs, who had showed real promise over the preceding games, had their poorest game for some time. Time after time the ball carrier seemed oblivious to support players outside or inside him, spurned obvious overlaps and too often spilled the ball in the tackle or threw out directionless passes. The Annan coaches will have plenty to work on in the next fortnight before the next league game away to Kilmarnock.
Annan Team: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, J. Tinning (J. Gilmour 45 mins), W. Henderson, G. Smith ( N. Macgregor 45mins), A. Renwick, N. Moffat, S. Clanachan, B. Graham, N. Smith, K. Jones, A. Render, A. Eggleton, S. Williamson, (C), K. Hogg
ANNAN 7 V HILLHEAD/JORDANHILL 15
SATURDAY 28 SEPTEMBER 2002
After two good victories in Division 1 of the BT National Leagues Annan lost this game not through lack of commitment but rather through indiscipline and poor decision making on the field of play. Their visitors from Glasgow who head Division 1 unbeaten took their chances – Annan did not!
In the first half Annan played some fine driving rugby through their forwards and dominated the lineout where the visitors had no answer to the Annan’s take and drive formula. With the Hills line under siege for long periods defensive infringements were inevitable by the visitors and the home side were awarded a series of penalties which they insisted in kicking to the corners. There is an old adage in the rugby world that you should always kick your points-Annan obviously do not subscribe to that theory. From five kickable penalties in the first half Annan did not attempt one kick at goal. From a sortie into the home 22 Hills were awarded a penalty, which their fullback slotted to take the lead at 0-3. Annan hit back however and from a lineout on the five-metre line the forwards drove the ball over the line with prop Colin Warrick credited with the touchdown. Stand off Niall converted the try from wide out on the right for the home side to take the lead at 7-3.
Annan’s lead was reduced to a single point when Hills were awarded another penalty for a ruck infringement, which the visiting full back kicked with ease to take the half time score to Annan 7 Hillhead/Jordanhill 6. There is little doubt that the home side territorial dominance in the first half was not reflected in the scoreline but in truth they had only themselves to blame spurning perfectly good kickable penalties in favour of lineout drives.
In the second half the visitors took the initiative and slowly began to control more aspects of the game with their stand off varying his kicking game to keep the home backs on their toes. The game was played between the 22s as both sets of backs put in some tremendous defensive work allied with some poor handling by both sets of backs in attack when a score looked on the cards. When one of Hills’ second row players was sin binned for persistent lineout offences the Annan support expected their team to take full advantage of the situation but as so often happens the numerically reduced team upped their game and Annan were unable to score during this ten-minute period. This was probably the period when the game turned in Hillhead’s favour and they increased their lead when they were awarded a series of four penalties of which the Hills fullback converted three to take the visitors into a 15-7 lead.
In the final minutes Annan, who were by this time chasing the game and would have required two scores to win, committed the ultimate act of folly. They were awarded a penalty in a kickable position, which if successful would have earned the team a bonus point, and inexplicably ran the penalty and then kicked the possession away to touch which brought the final whistle.
In the final analysis the game yielded a total of 35 penalties between the teams of which the Hillhead fullback slotted 5 out of 6 attempts but, inexplicably, Annan did not take one penalty kick at goal. One has to ask why, in a league where 2 points separate 6 teams, there was no-one in the Annan team who realised the importance of a bonus point? It has to be hoped that come the end of the season Annan does not rue this naivety!
Annan Team: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers, J. Tinning, W. Henderson, G. Smith, A. Renwick (C), M. Newton, S. Clanachan, K. Hogg, N. Smith, K. Jones, A. Render, A. Eggleton, S. Williamson, M. Anderson. Replacements: J. Gilmour, N. Moffat, B. Graham (all used)
CAMBUSLANG 19 V ANNAN 31
SATURDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 2002
After one of the most encouraging results by Annan in an away fixture since joining National Division One in 1998, backed up by a resounding win by the 2nd XV the Club can look forward with optimism to the season ahead. In glorious conditions for the second week running Annan were rocked by an electrifying first minute try by Cambuslang from a pick up and fifty metre surge by their powerful and pacey No.8. The fact that the same player never broached the gain line again says much for the quality of the Annan fringe defence in which the Annan No 7 excelled.
After conceding the unconverted try Annan regrouped and controlled play in the home 22. During this phase Annan enjoyed a wealth of possession through intelligent kicking backed by controlled driving forward play well supported by the backs. Sustained pressure was quickly rewarded by four sparkling tries. Two from prop Colin Warwick and No.8 Stuart Clanachan following copy book line out drives, - a third by winger Kevin Jones who had the pace to edge over at the corner flag behind an outflanked defence and the fourth from stand-off Niall Smith who had the speed of mind and foot to profit from a fumble over the line by the home stand-off following a sustained spell of intense Annan pressure. Smith converted twice to take the halftime score to 24—5 to Annan.
If the first half had been a showcase for Annan ‘s attacking skills, the second half demonstrated that the defence was equally up to the task, - and they needed to be as the home side with the backing of a vocal crowd and assisted by the usual Annan tendency to concede a rash of penalties, put Annan under unremitting pressure for most of the half. Not surprisingly Cambuslang opened the scoring with a well worked try duly converted to close the gap to 24- — 12 but Annan weathered the storm and when, with 15 minutes to go, Stuart Clannachan was driven over for the fifth try and with Niall Smith adding the conversion points, the game was in the bag, - although the final converted try by the home team which closed the game at 31 —19 was probably a fair reflection of the play.
This was a team performance by Annan of the highest quality in which every player played their part — none more so than the hard working physical Annan back row. In the backs centre Andy Render was immense and Smith exerted rare control and vision. A special mention too to returnees Neil MacGregor and James Mason who turned back the clock in some style.
ANNAN 22 v BERWICK 12
SATURDAY 14 SEPTEMBER 2002
Annan secured this excellent victory over Berwick on a fine sunny day at Violetbank on the back of their first half performance in this Division 1 fixture in the BT National Leagues. Right from the whistle Annan took the game straight to their visitors from Northumberland with some direct running and some fine offensive defence. Annan never let the Berwick settle into any pattern of play but it was the visitors who had the first chance to open the scoring when they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts which fortunately for Annan the visiting stand off missed. Annan from the restart immediately laid siege to the Berwick line and on two occasions, following some excellent forward drives the ball was spun to the wings with scoring passes being spilt on both occasions.
Annan kept their form and composure and mid way through the half their perseverance was rewarded when, from a series of great drives by the home forwards, No 8 Stuart Clanachan drove over to score. Stand off Niall Smith added the conversion to take Annan into a 7 points to nil lead. That lead was doubled when from a five-metre scrum No 8 Stuart Clanachan again drove over to score. Stand off Niall Smith again slotted the conversion. For the remainder of the half Annan continued to control the game but were unable to break down the stubborn Berwick defences and the half time score remained at Annan 14 Berwick 0.
Annan started the second half as they had finished the first and from a drive into the visiting 22 were awarded a penalty when the Berwick forwards killed the ball in a ruck, which Niall Smith converted. There then followed a period of excellent continuity play from the home team with the ball kept alive through some fine interplay between forwards and backs. This period of enterprising play was rewarded when Annan scored a scintillating try in the corner.
The try was instigated by scrum half Barry Graham who broke down the blindside of the scrum and started off a move which saw the ball pass through seven pairs of hands and a ruck before winger Michael Anderson crashed over in the corner. Niall Smith missed the conversion but Annan went into the final quarter with a commanding 22 point to 0 lead.
In the final quarter the general blistering pace at which the game was played seemed to take its toll on Annan more than Berwick with the visitors beginning to make inroads into home territory for which they were rewarded with two late tries, one of which was converted to take the final score to Annan 22 Berwick 12.
All in all this was a highly entertaining game of rugby enjoyed by a sizeable crowd in the September sunshine with the home side running out deserved winners. The game was played at a blistering pace for the entire 80 minutes, which was a credit to the fitness level of both teams and if Annan can carry this standard of play into the rest of their league campaign and with several players still to return after injury Premier 3 may well be attainable next season. Whilst the visiting forwards probably edged the set piece play in the scrums the home side edged the lineouts and the loose play. In the backs the home side had the edge with their offensive defence which denied the visiting backs any space.
For the record Colin Warrick replaced prop Murray Forbes, Neil MacGregor replaced lock Billy Henderson and Craig Johnstone replaced winger Allan Rae.
PRESTON LODGE 24 v ANNAN 21
SATURDAY 31 AUGUST 2002
Though this game had its fair share of mistakes and errors, which meant that both teams had difficulty building continuity, it was enlivened by three bursts of activity, and also by the fact that the result was in the balance until the end.
Sunshine and a good pitch, but with a blustery cross wind meant conditions were good for all but kicking. All successful kicks came with the wind behind, all attempts into the wind failed, the result being more tries than successful kicks.
Annan got a dream start. A lineout on the right close to the Preston Lodge line saw a rolling maul from which prop Colin Warrick scored. Just the start desired, but before the Annan supporters had stopped clapping Annan were behind. Showing greater urgency the home site scored twice to move 14—5 ahead, aided by some slack Annan defence. First was a try by the right corner, successfully converted, and this was followed shortly after by a score under the posts, also converted. To their credit Annan regrouped and began to win the battle for possession, a Niall Smith penalty narrowed the gap and after a long period of stalemate they produced their own purple patch just before half time, scoring two tries of their own to establish a half time lead. First the Preston Lodge cover was exposed on the right, and quick hands put centre Michael Anderson in at the corner. Then a lovely chip over the defence by stand off Niall Smith, which he successfully gathered, allowed flanker Billy Henderson in at the same corner.
Though the half time score, 18—14 to Annan, was finely balanced, it was hoped that Annan would be able to continue in the same vein after the break.
Preston Lodge had other ideas, and a second spell of scoring just after half time gave them a 24—18 lead. Again Annan were caught out in defence , but having come back in the first half, perhaps they could do so again. In fact Annan’s only score of the half was to be Niall Smith penalty, and disappointingly play became bogged down, with neither side able to establish continuity, too often possession being given away or fouls committed. So Annan had to settle for a bonus point, but will be heartened by the fact that they pushed Preston Lodge all the way.
After a shaky start, the Annan scrum solidified, while the lineout was solid. The home lineout was awful. In the loose, Preston Lodge were a touch sharper to the loose ball, and possibly a touch sharper in the backs, though Annan were never really able to give theirs a run in the second half, when they could perhaps have made better use of the wind advantage they had to keep the home side under pressure.
Annan team: C. Warrick, P. Carruthers (N. Moffat), J. Tinning, S. Clanachan, W. Henderson, P. Minto, N. Moffat(G. Coupland), A. Renwick, B. Graham, N. Smith, A. Rae, M. Anderson, A. Render, K. Jones, K. Hogg. Sub not used M. Forbes.
VIOLETBANK CHALLENGE TROPHY
SATURDAY 24 AUGUST 2002
A sunny Violetbank (well for most of the time) was the setting on Saturday for the Violetbank 15 a-side Challenge Trophy with teams taking part from Hawick, Selkirk, Biggar, Stewartry and Annan. The organisers were left with a dilemma on Friday night when Aspatria withdrew from the tournament and after much deliberation decided that instead of a two league format of three teams playing a round robin tournament that they would have a single league of five teams all playing each other with the winner taking all.
Annan’s first game against Hawick was an enthralling encounter with the visitors scoring two tries to Annan’s three (two scored by full back Kevin Jones) but with Hawick converting both their tries and adding a penalty and Annan only converting one the final score ended 17 points all.
Annan’s next encounter was against old local rivals Stewartry and what a typical local battle it was. The first half saw Stewartry encamped within the Annan 22 where they battered away at the Annan line only to be denied by some superb Annan defence and the teams turned round all square at nil all. In the second half the roles were reversed with Annan pounding away at the Stewartry line. From a lineout take and drive it was prop Murray Forbes who drove over to break the scoring dead lock. Minutes later from a ruck almost on the Stewartry line scrum half Keith Hogg wriggled his way over to score. Craig Johnstone converted to take Annan into a 12 point lead. Stewartry scored a late consolation try to take the final score to Annan 12 Stewartry 5.
Annan’s biggest win of the day was against Selkirk where they managed to score five tries to one which set Annan up for the final game of the day against Biggar who were also unbeaten in a winner take all meeting. Biggar had beaten Selkirk (44-0), Stewartry (15-5), and Hawick (17-7). In this final game Annan put in a tremendous effort but were unable to break down the well organised Biggar defences and were beaten by 4 tries to nil. As Annan failed to score a try, Hawick who were on the same points and tries scored by Annan, lifted the runners up medals as they had conceded fewer points.
Other Results: Selkirk 0 Hawick 34; Stewartry 0 Hawick 5.
All in all this was a most successful tournament with some great pre-season rugby on display although it did have a downside for Annan with lock Graham Smith and centre and Club Captain Stuart Williamson both sustaining injuries which may keep them out of the game for some weeks.