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ANNAN GO DOWN TO LIVINGSTON
3RD APRIL 1999

Annan went down to their fifth defeat in a row, albeit with a much improved performance from the previous week, to a Livingston side who had to win to ensure survival in Division 1. Annan started brightly with some fine driving play but it was the visitors who drew first blood when they were awarded a penalty when the Annan forwards killed the ball at a ruck. Their effort was cancelled out by centre Gordon Carmichael slotted a similar award at the other end before Livingston regained the lead with a further penalty before they scored a try to take an eight point lead. Annanís cause was not helped by a shoulder injury to Captain Neil MacGregor who had to leave the field and was replaced by lock Graham Smith. Annan went into half time eight points adrift with the half time score Annan 3 Livingstone 11.

After the break Livingstonís lead was slowly whittled away by brace of penalties slotted by Gordon Carmichael before Annan took the lead with a superb try when the ball, well won by the home forwards, was spun along the back line to winger Alastair Graham who made the line to score an unconverted try in the corner. This was to be the home sides last points in the game as Livingston showed great determination and fought their way back into the game and before long retook the lead when from a piece of loose play by the Annan forwards the ball was scooped up by the visiting centre who wriggled his way through some poor home defences to score beside the post. The try was converted by the visiting No 15. The Livingston full back continued to punish the home side by slotting a further two penalties and then in the final minute he rubbed further salt into the Annan wounds by dropping a goal to take the final score to Annan 14 Livingston 27 and Livingston lived to fight another season in Division 1 and retain their record of never having been relegated in their thirty one year history.

Although another defeat for the Annan side there was some positive things to take from the game mainly the efforts and no little skill displayed by the four 18 year olds who took part for the full 80 minutes namely lock Michael Newton, wing forward Bob Currie, scrum half Keith Hogg and full back Craig Johnstone. Their performances allied to the other younger players in the team has brought the average age of the Annan team down considerably since the start of the season and must bode well for the future if the club as it now looks to consolidate and start looking forward positively to next season.


ANNAN CRASH TO HADDINGTON
27TH MARCH 1999

Annan crashed to their fourth defeat in a row on Saturday with a tired and lacklustre display at the Everholm. With nothing to play for except pride - and even that looked in short supply - and against a Haddington side who desperately needed a win to keep their hopes of surviving in Division 1 of the TENNENTS National Leagues Annan were second best by a country mile in everything they did and it was also one of those days where anything that could go wrong did go wrong. The Annan players were turned over so many time during the 80 minutes that their heads must have been spinning by the final whistle.

Haddington who had beaten the home side in November at Neilson Park stated their intent in the opening minutes when with a superb backs move they swept the home defences aside to score a converted try between the posts. The went further ahead minutes later with a another fine backs move, who by moving the ball at pace, left despairing tacklers in their wake. Annan on the other hand stumbled from mistake to mistake giving up valuable possession time after time with dropped passes and knock ons which had their supporters in despair. Just before half time there was a glimmer of the old Annan who had given Jed-Forest a run for their money when winger Steven Rae, after a better period of possession by the home forwards, was fed the ball and squeezed in at the corner to score to take the half time score to Annan 14 Annan 5.

At the restart, and after a tongue lashing from their coaches, the home side came out with all guns blazing and drove play deep into the Haddington 22 and the loyal home support were hopeful of a second half fight back. Unfortunately on their initial drive up the middle the Annan forwards were once again turned over and the useful visiting backs ran in a try from their own 22 with hardly a hand being laid on them. Annan raised their game for a ten minute period in the middle of the half when they scored two further tries when firstly wing forward Billy Henderson drove over to score and then winger Steven Rae scored a fine try when he side stepped and out sprinted his opposite number to score in the corner. Haddington, however, were not to be outdone, and ran a further two tries their final one a cheeky affair when their scrum half chipped the ball over the heads of the forwards at a ruck, caught the ball and flopped over the line between the posts. Thankfully the whistle went for no side and Annan had shown that when nothing is at stake, a situation which has been alien to the team over the last seven seasons, they are unable to up their game or in fact adapt their game plan.

With the last league game at the Everholm due next Saturday it is to be hoped that Annan can leave the Everholm with a victory over Livingston. Few players on Saturday left the field with pass marks with the exception of wing forward Bob Currie who covered every inch of the field and literally tackled himself to a standstill.


ANNAN LOSE 3 IN A ROW
21ST MARCH 1999

In almost perfect conditions, although the going was slightly heavy after the overnight rain, the largest crowd ever seen at the Everholm for a rugby match in the first meeting of the two clubs on Annan soil witnessed a disappointing performance by both teams with the referee's whistle a constant factor for the full 80 minutes.

The first half was the better of the two poor halves for the home team with Annan starting brightly and taking first blood when, although losing possession at a ruck, lock Neil MacGregor charged down the Langholm clearance kick with stand off Niall Smith gathering the ball to sprint in to score. Centre Gordon Carmichael converted the try to take the home team into a seven point lead. Play was then punctuated by the referee's whistle for the rest of the half as play was driven from end to end by an incessant number of line kicks from penalty awards, mainly against the home side for offside offences. It was only a matter of time therefore that the Langholm fullback Mark Grieve eventually landed a penalty between the posts after a plethora of misses to take the halt time score to Annan 7 Langholm 3.

In the second half Annan had to make two changes to their pack as firstly lock Paul Buckly who had provided the home side with some quality lineout ball, several against the throw in, had to retire with a shoulder injury and was replaced by Graham Smith and then No8 Stuart Clannachan who sustained a knee injury also had to retire to be replaced by wing forward Bob Currie with Andy Renwick moving to the No 8 position. There was little doubt that these enforced changes resulted in the home pack losing their impetus in the forward exchanges. For the larger part of the second half Annan had to play their rugby on the back foot as the visitors took charge with the home side rarely in the Langholm half. It seemed only a matter of time before the visitors scored but sterling home defence allied with some poor attacking ploys by the Langholm backs allowed Annan to retain their lead to within two minutes of the end of the game. The Langholm try was a fine one as their forwards ground out some quick ball for their backs who at last found a chink in the home defences for Colin Paxton to score the winning try in the corner. Final score Annan 7 Langholm 8.

Langholm deserved their victory and Annan were extremely fortunate to gain a bonus point for keeping the score within seven points. Annan have now lost three league games in a row and the team generally looks jaded after a hard season so far with the forwards on Sunday looking particularly battle weary. With two league game still to play the Annan coaches will have their work cut out to lift the teams spirits in the coming fortnight for their remaining games against Haddington next Saturday and Livingston the following week - both at the Everholm.


ANNAN ARE THUMPED BY HUTCHIES
13TH MARCH 1999

It may not have been Friday the 13th but Saturday the 13th was close enough for Annan as this horror tale unfolded at Auldhouse on Saturday in Division 1 of the TENNENTS VELVET National Leagues. Annan needed to win this fixture to maintain any hopes of promotion to the Premiership. In the final analysis Hutchesons may just have done Annan a favour in killing off their Premiership aspirations because with this display it is extremely doubtful if they could survive in the Premiership at this time.

The home side indicated their intent in the opening minute when they scored the first of their four first half tries. The home side, whose backs were superb had their visitors on the back foot for the entire opening forty minutes with Annan rarely in the home half and never in the Hutcheson's 22 for the entire half. The home back row gave their opposite numbers a torrid time and Annan were unable to gain any fluidity in their play with the home defences snuffing out any Annan sparks of play before the had a chance to ignite. With the score at Hutchesons Aloysians 24 Annan 0 at half time the ever faithful Annan travelling supporters realised that the were witnessing, especially in the back divisions a case, in experience and talent, a game between men and boys and only hoped that their team could make a fight of it in the second half.

Strange though it may seem, in the second half although leaking a further six tries, Annan did up their effort and the forwards with some text book driving and rucking play drove play deep into home territory but lacked the cutting edge to prise open the rock solid home defences. With the ball often spilled in the tackle or turned over the home side ran in some superb tries from deep inside their own half. The only areas where the visitors had parity and in some instances the edge was in their scrummaging and lineouts play and to their credit Annan's heads never went down as the kept plugging away until the final whistle.

The Annan coaches will have an unenviable task in the coming week to lift the players morale and belief in their abilities in order to prepare them for the local derby against Langholm this coming Sunday in a rearranged match at the Everholm. For the record centre Stuart Williamson retired injured and was replaced by Gordon Carmichael, lock Graham Smith was substituted by Neil McGregor, No 8 Stuart Clannachan was substituted by Bill Henderson and John Carlyle replaced the injured hooker Andy Render.


ANNAN LOSE IN A TIGHT MATCH
7TH MARCH 1999

Sunday saw a couple of firsts for Annan RFC both of which Annan could have done without. The 1st XV played their first league game, at Newington since setting out eight seasons ago to find their level in Scottish rugby. The reason was occasioned by the SRU's intransigence in not allowing the game to be played on Saturday despite both clubs happy to do so and with the Everholm being unavailable due to Sunday's Annan River Race Newington was the only available venue. The second was Annan's first home defeat in eight seasons of league rugby - a proud record which some stalwart Annan supporters maintain in still intact as the defeat wasn't at the Everholm!

After some stirring performances in recent weeks from the Annan team it was hoped that they could maintain their improved form and keep their promotion hopes alive in Division 1 of the TENNENTS National Leagues. Alas it was not to be. The home team put in one of their poorest home performances for some time and apart from the final quarter of the game were never really in the hunt. The visitors came wanting revenge for their home defeat in November and set out the task right from the whistle.

In fact it took Annan the best part of ten minutes to touch the ball as the Hillhead forwards controlled the game up front and their strong running backs created numerous problems for the home defences which stood up to the initial onslaught. All the visitors had to show for their initial territorial advantage was a penalty. This was cancelled out when full back Gordon Carmicheal slotted a penalty awarded when the visiting backs were caught offside at a ruck.

Hillhead continued to create the chances as they kept Annan on the back foot and it was only a matter of time, despite some desperate defence, before the visitors scored. The try when it came was a beauty. Annan were pressing on the Hillhead line when possession was lost and the visiting backs ran the ball from behind their own line and with some fine handling allied with some woeful Annan tackling they scored in the corner. The conversion was missed. Annan fought their way into the visitor's half and were again rewarded with a penalty which Gordon Carmichael again converted into three points to take the half time score to Annan 6 Hillhead/Jordanhill 8.

Annan were rocked almost from the restart when the visitors with some fine driving play sucked in the home cover defences and they unleashed their backs to score a terrific try in the corner. The conversion was again missed. Annan kept in contention when they were awarded a further penalty when the Hillhead forwards killed the ball illegally at a ruck which Gordon Carmichael again converted to take the game within a score. Annan continued to try to create some fluency in their game and did manage to drive the play on several occasions towards the visitor's line only to lose possession or give away a penalty at the vital moment and find themselves driven back down field. Time eventually ran out and Annan went down to their first home defeat. The defeat was more difficult to take when it was found that results elsewhere would, had Annan won, taken them into third place. That however in now history and Annan must put the defeat behind them and concentrate on finishing the league in as high a position as possible with some stiff fixtures still to be played.


ANNAN LOSE TO STEWARTRY
27TH FEBRUARY 1999

With both sides still on a high after their Cup and Shield exploits a fortnight earlier there was the hope that this fixture in Division 1 of the TENNENTS National Leagues would bring out the best from both sides. Instead we got a full bloodied local derby with hard uncompromising tackles, lots of mistakes, not a lot of finesse but a close enthralling battle with the result in doubt right up to the last second of the game.

Annan started brightly, at a cold windy Greenlaw, with the forwards driving play deep into the home 22 and were rewarded with a penalty when the home forwards were caught offside at a ruck. Centre Gordon Carmichael slotted the ball between the posts. These three points were cancelled out minutes later when Annan were penalised for a similar offence at the other end and the Stewartry stand off kicked the penalty. Play then was driven from end to end as each set of forwards strived to gain the ascendancy and it looked as if the home eight had the edge when, from a scrum in the visitor's half scrum half Yates, broke up the open side of the scrum and fed his stand off Wallace who drove back into his forwards who, in turn, drove him over to score. The stand off converted his try to take the home side into a healthy seven point lead. The Annan forwards responded in kind and for the remainder of the half kept play firmly in the home half. From one of their driving plays the ball was spun out from a ruck and centre Gordon Carmichael floated a long pass, missing out his outside centre, to winger Euan Hay who scored in the corner. The conversion from the touch-line was missed by Carmichael but he made amends minutes later when he landed a penalty awarded against the home forwards for going over the top at a ruck. Annan went into the half time break with a tenuous one point lead with the score at Stewartry 10 Annan 11.

With the Annan forwards looking to have gained the upper hand in the first half it was expected by the Annan supporters that there would be more of the same in the second half. Instead the game was a fraught affair with both sides making a multitude of mistakes which however made little difference to the overall excitement of the game. In the opening minutes of the half the home side kept play in the visitor's half with some fine line kicking and from a penalty award the ball was kicked to within feet of the Annan line. From the ensuing line-out the home forwards, with a good take and drive, drove the ball over the line to retake the lead with an unconverted try. Annan with the slight advantage of the cross field wind continued to drive play into the home half with stand off Niall Smith attempting to keep the ball in front of his forwards. This ploy paid off and the home side were forced to give away a penalty when their backs were caught offside at a ruck. Gordon Carmichael converted the award to take Annan within a single point of the home side. Annan retook the lead minutes later when from a great piece of driving play by the Annan forwards they gained another penalty award when the home forwards killed the ball in a ruck. Gordon Carmichael's kick just crept over the crossbar much to the joy of the large travelling Annan support. With only minutes to play Stewartry threw every thing into attack and were repulsed by some solid Annan defending. However it looked as if Annan had blown their chances of winning when Stewartry were awarded a penalty inside the Annan 22 when the visitors failed to release the ball in a ruck. The home stand off Wallace who had looked consistent with his kicking throughout the game however hit the post just below the crossbar with his attempt and the referee blew for no-side and Annan had gained a rare victory at the Greenlaw and their first on league business. Final Score Stewartry 15 Annan 17.

This was no classic game of rugby rather a typical local derby with loads of excitement intensified by the closeness of the result. Perhaps a draw would have been a fair result but a draw was no good to either side in their promotion quest with this win keeping Annan in the hunt for promotion. The Annan players who caught the eye were Stuart Clannachan who had another solid game at No 8 with Captain and lock Neil MacGregor leading his troops from the front with some great driving play and wing forward Andrew 's defensive work was exemplary. In the backs, the half back pairing of scrum half Keith Hogg and stand off Niall Smith looks to becoming a fruitful partnership.


ANNAN ARE OUT OF THE SHIELD
13TH FEBRUARY 1999

This quarter final match of the TENNENT'S VELVET SHIELD was, perhaps, the best game of rugby seen at the Everholm. It cannot be very often that supporters of the winners, losers and those neutral supporters who made up one of the largest crowds seen at the Everholm all went away happy, the visitors happy in their victory, the losers happy knowing that they had played some great rugby and had not been overwhelmed by a Premier One outfit and the neutrals who had witnessed a thoroughly entertaining eighty minutes for free!

Things did not start well for the home team when in the opening ten minutes they hardly touched the ball as Jed launched an early onslaught on the Annan line. Their pressure paid off and they were awarded a penalty when the home forwards were penalised for going over the top at a ruck. The penalty was converted by the Jed full back Chris Richards who, with one exception was lethal throughout the afternoon with the boot. The Jed fans did not have long to wait for some further points when again from some good driving play by the Jed pack the ever alert visiting scrum half Mike Dungate scored from close into the Annan line. It was the No 9 who scored again eight minutes later from an almost carbon copy of his first to take the visitors into a 13 point lead in as many minutes. The Annan support could be forgiven in thinking that a deluge of points was on the cards but credit to the Annan team they recovered from their nervous start and spent most of the remainder of the 40 minutes in the visitor's half. The Annan forwards drove deep into the Jed 22 on several occasions but initially were unable to breach the well organised visitor's defences. There efforts seemed to have been rewarded when they were awarded two penalties within minutes of each other but Annan's kicker full back Gordon Carmichael missed with both attempts. The home forwards continued, however, to drive towards a score with some great rucking and driving play. From a scrum awarded inside the Jed 22 scrum half Keith Hogg fed the ball inside to his No 8 Stuart Clannachan who sprinted over in an a diagonal run to the corner to score. Annan now had their tails up and again kept play deep in the visitor's half and were most unlucky not to increase their score when from within their own 22 Annan, with some fine handling, drove play into the other 22 and Gordon Carmichael with a beautifully kick over the his opposite number's head the ball fell into the path of winger Alastair Graham who gathered the ball and looked to have scored a perfectly good try but the referee who was on the spot disallowed it. Just before the interval, and against the run of play, the Jed full back Chris Richards scored a fine try to take the half time score Annan 5 Jed-Forest 18.

At this time the doubters in the crowd could have been forgiven in thinking that Annan would crumble but once again the forwards took command and kept play deep in the Jed half and from a lineout inside the visitor's 22 wing forward Billy Henderson caught the ball and with a series of pirouettes and side steps which would not have looked out of place at the Bolshoi Ballet scored a try which had the crowd roaring for more. And more was to come seven minutes later when from a scrum inside the visitor's half scrum half Keith Hogg broke up the blind side of the scrum and fed winger Alastair Graham who deftly kicked over the heads of the oncoming defence and stand off Niall Smith chipped the ball past the Jed full back and with the ball bouncing kindly into his hands, and although he had to juggle with the ball to get control, he sped over the line to score. When Gordon Carmichael converted the try to bring the score to within seven points at 17 - 24 and with 17 minutes of play left there was a sudden realisation by the Annan support that there team could win this game. The thought however was still born when almost from the restart Jed drove play into the Annan half and from a scrum their No8 Kevin Liddel linked with his backs and was on hand to take the scoring pass to dive in at the corner. The final nail in Annan's coffin came when Jed were awarded a penalty in front of the posts which was converted by their full back Richards to take the final score to Annan 17 Jed-Forest 34 and Annan's Murrayfield dream was over for another year

This was a great performance from the entire Annan team who showed, after their initial nervous start, that they are a match for most teams, especially on their home patch. The forwards, in particular, deserve praise for their rip snorting performance and their match fitness which showed over the full eighty minutes on the soft glue like surface of the Everholm. Particularly noticeable was the fact that Annan had 60% of the territorial advantage and possession but Jed-Forest with less of both made so much more of their possession. The Annan coach Kenny White was well pleased with his charges at the end of the day and if Annan can now convert this type of play into what remains of their league campaign they can certainly be in at the kill when the promotion positions are up for grabs.

It would be churlish perhaps to single anyone out for praise in what was such a good team performance but special mention must go to young scrum half Keith Hogg who improves with every game and Stuart Clannachan who has found his position at No 8. For the record Bob Currie replaced wing forward Andy Renwick, Dougie Pagan replaced the injured centre Stuart Williamson, Ian Fenwick replaced prop Colin Warwick and Craig Johnstone replaced winger Euan Hay.


ANNAN THRASH CORSTORPHINE
31ST JANUARY 1999

Although it must be remembered that this 8 try demolition of Corstorphine was against a team who are languishing in second bottom place in Division 1 of the TENNENTS National Leagues this was a game which showed what has been missing in Annan's play for most of this season with the team beginning to show their potential. The added bonus on Saturday, apart from scoring their first 4 try bonus point of the season, was that results elsewhere in Division 1 went Annan's way and the league now looks as if it may boil up into a grand finale.

Both teams, in the opening quarter drove play from end to end of the field with the home side slowly gaining the territorial advantage as the half wore on. From a scrum awarded to the visitors five metres from their own line their scrum were put under severe pressure by the home eight and the ball squirted out of the back of the scrum and the ever alert scrum half Keith Hogg was on hand to pounce on the loose ball to score his first National League try. Full back Gordon Carmichael converted the try. Annan continued to dominate in the middle period of the half driving play deep into the Corstorphine half and only solid defence kept Annan at bay. The incessant pressure on the visitor's line eventually paid off when after a series of rucks up one side of the field and then the other the ball was transferred from a ruck through six pairs of hands from scrum half Keith Hogg, stand off Niall Smith, hooker Andy Render, No 8 Andy Renwick and lastly to winger Alastair Graham who scored in the corner. The home support did not have long to wait for a try by the same winger but this time in the other corner when from some broken play the ball was scooped up by scrum half Keith Hogg who fed his stand off and with full back Gordon Carmichael coming into the line at pace creating the extra man hooker Andy Render popped up at his side to sprint through the flat footed defence and when halted he got away a looping pass to Alastair Graham to score in the corner. The last ten minutes of the half belonged to Corstorphine as, aided and abetted by a series of penalty awards, play was driven deep into the Annan half. From a ruck just inside the home 22 the ball was spun wide through several pairs of hands for the visiting full back to score a superb try. With the try converted the half time score was Annan 17 Corstorphine 7.

The visitors started the second half as they had ended the first with some fine driving play but the solid home defences snuffed out the attacks. Annan then began to turn the screw and play was driven deep into the visitor's half with a series of mini rucks which were only halted when Corstorphine illegally halted the drives. With quickly taken penalties play was again driven towards the line and when Corstorphine again killed the ball illegally at a ruck the Annan forwards, from a planned move, drove the ball over the line with a rolling maul to score with lock Paul Buckley credited with the touch down. The home team continued to pile on the pressure and from a scrum 5 metres from the Corstorphine line the ball was fed to stand off Niall Smith who broke towards the line and when stopped short his forwards rucked over him and Keith Hogg, in classic scrum half mode, dived over the line to score his second try of the match. Gordon Carmichael converted the try.

By this time of the match it was one way traffic as the Annan forwards who were in total control in all facets of the game rucked and mauled their way up the centre of the park which allied to some great handling by their back division produced a further three tries. The first was scored by prop Jack Tinning who was on hand to take a pass from hooker Andy Render who had made an electrifying break through the demoralised Corstorphine defence. Gordon Carmichael added the conversion. The penultimate try by wing forward Billy Henderson who popped up amongst the backs to score and the last was scored by prop Colin Warrick who, from a piece of broken play picked up and drove from 5 metres out to score. Gordon Carmichael converted to take the final score to Annan 48 Corstorphine 7.

This display by Annan was by far the best display of the season and hopefully won't be the last. The Annan forwards laid the foundations for this emphatic victory but credit must also go to the backs who, for the first time this season, showed what they are capable off. Outstanding in the forwards were hooker Andy Render who was literally everywhere and Stuart Clannachan who improves with every outing at his new position at No 8. In the backs scrum half Keith Hogg ,like his No 8, improves with every game and looks a real prospect for the future and wingers Alastair Graham and Steven Rae looked eager and seemed to be in 'hunter' mode for the full 80 minutes. Full back Gordon Carmichael, although not so consistent with his place kicking as of late, was a solid rock in defence and looked ever dangerous in attack. For the record Jack Tinning was replaced by prop Ian Fenwick, who made his mark with his eagerness to be involved in the game; Paul Buckley was replaced by lock Gary Coupland; Andy Renwick was replaced by 'Tam' Thorburn and Euan Hay was replaced by centre Dougie Pagan.


ANNAN SNEAK IT AGAINST TRINITY
23RD JANUARY 1999

This low scoring game was in fact an exciting and enthralling match but was not without its controversy. Annan's record in Edinburgh area in Division 1 of the TENNENTS National League is not impressive with defeats at Corstorphine and Haddington in the league. Although Annan beat Trinity at Bangholm in Round 1 of the TENNENTS Shield this was league business and with the home team entrenched at the bottom of the league they showed that they were not prepared to go down without a fight.

The visitors started in sparkling form with the Annan forwards immediately driving play deep into the home half and were unlucky not to score when centre Chris Donabie broke through the home defences and looked to have the line at his mercy but was halted by a despairing tap tackle. Annan did get on the score sheet several minutes later when another surging attack by the forwards was halted illegally and full back Gordon Carmichael converted the penalty award. The visiting forwards looked to have the upper hand in forward exchanges especially in the set piece play, with the Annan scrum looking especially effective. It was against the run of play, therefore, that the home team scored the only try of the match when the Annan forwards lost possession in the loose and the ever alert Trinity scrum half spun the ball along his back line and the Trinity left winger scored in the corner. Annan continued to drive play deep into the home half but the Trinity defence held firm. Annan retook the lead mid way through the half when Gordon Carmichael converted a penalty award when the home forwards again illegally killed the ball in a ruck. The rest of the half was in attack and counter attack by both teams but both defences held firm and the half time whistle went with the score at Trinity Accies 5 Annan 6.

Annan started the second half as they had started the first with the forwards, in a terrific display of rucking, close handling and driving play, took play within 5 metres of the home line. They were then rewarded with two penalty awards, in succession, when play was stopped illegally as they drove for the line. Both awards were well within kicking range of the Annan kicker but were spurned in favour of scrums as the Annan forward's scrummaging grew in effectiveness and a push over try looked to be on the cards. From the ensuing scrums the scrums collapsed and one of the home props was unable to continue. To the astonishment of the assembled visiting supporters and players Trinity were unable to field a replacement prop, maintaining that although they had a front row replacement he was a hooker and could not prop, and the referee deemed that the scrums would, for the rest of the match, be uncontested. With the considerable wind in the home sides favour Trinity's ploy was, with Annan unable to disrupt the home scrum, for the Trinity stand off to boot the ball deep into the Annan half at every opportunity. Annan continued to drive play into the home half and with their dominance in the loose and lineout it took great defence by the home side to keep the visitors from crossing the line. Annan did manage to stretch their tenuous lead by a further 3 points when Gordon Carmichael landed a further penalty to maintain his 100% record for the match. With both teams effective in their defensive roles no further scoring was possible in the match and the final score remained at Trinity Accies 5 Annan 9.

This was a match that Annan had not only hoped to win but to win well as it was, the relief in just winning was self evident at the final whistle. There is little doubt that the decision to have uncontested scrums was a factor which disrupted Annan's grip on the game with their considerable dominance in that department. Clarification is obviously required in respect of the definition of a front row replacements in regard to the IRB rules.

The plus points for Annan were the forward play which was, despite the uncontested scrums, much improved with their lineout domination in particular a fruitful source of quality ball and in the backs play, there was glimpses of things beginning to gel in attack. One worrying statistic however is that Annan have not scored a try in their last two league outings.


ANNAN ARE THROUGH TO THE NEXT ROUND OF THE CUP
9TH JANUARY 1999

During the week it did not look as if this fixture would take place as the Everholm was flooded on more than one occasion and it took the intervention of some dry weather and frost towards the end of the week allied to the fact that the river level dropped several feet to ensure that the game went on. Although played in glorious sunshine the pitch itself was extremely heavy under the thin frosted top and a good crowd turned out to see their team play at home for the first time since 31st October.

Whilst this was no champagne performance from Annan - more a sort of flat sparkling wine- it was an emphatic victory against a team who are lying in second place in Division 2 of the National Leagues and are hopeful of promotion into Division 1 next season. The game was one of the proverbial curates egg variety and the parts that were good were very very good but the bits that were bad were awful. Three weeks without a game showed and Annan's performance looked more like a start of season outing than a mid season fixture.

The opening exchanges were fairly evenly matched although the home scrummaging was an immediate cause for concern with the visiting pack putting the Annan pack under severe pressure on several occasions. The visitor's game plan, however, seemed to be based solely on their scrummaging prowess and, fortunately for Annan, the other parts of their game were not up to the same standard. Annan opened the scoring when after a drive into the visiting 22 Stuart Clannachan in his debut role at No 8 picked up from the base of a ruck and shrugging off several tackles breached the Ross High line to score his first National League try for Annan. Full back Gordon Carmichael converted the try. Ross High tied the score when from one of their rare forays into the Annan 22 they were awarded a scrum 5 metres out from the home line. The home front row popped out of the scrum and the referee, deeming that Annan had broken up the scrum deliberately, awarded a penalty try much to the astonishment of the home and away supporters alike.

In the second quarter of the game, although still struggling in the scrums, Annan's ascendancy in other facets of the game began to pay off and it was Stuart Clannachan who restored the home sides lead when he again stormed over the visitor's line in a carbon copy of his first try with the exception that he had a slightly longer distance to cover. Gordon Carmichael again converted the try to give the home side a seven point cushion. The seven points were reduced to four when the visitors were awarded a penalty in front of the posts which their full back gratefully accepted to take the half time score to Annan 14 Ross High 10.

In the second half, although still struggling to gain parity in the scrums, Annan's experience began to tell and Ross High were rarely in the Annan 22. The home side extended their lead when the ball was, on one of the rare occasions, spun out through the back's hands and winger Steven Rae deftly kicked over his opposite number and won the race to the line to get the touchdown. The conversion was missed. Annan continued to enjoy territorial advantage and with some excellent line out work and driving play continued to drive the play towards the Ross High line and when they were awarded a penalty the ball was kicked to touch within a metre from the visitor's line. From the ensuing line out the ball was driven towards the Ross High line and when the surge was halted the ball was spun out and replacement full back Dougie Pagan who, coming into the line at pace, burst through the despairing visiting defences to score under the posts. He converted his own try to take the final score to Annan 26 Ross High 10.

So what of the good parts of the curates egg. Annan dominated in the line out and eventually in the loose and from that source of good ball set up some marvellous drives, one drive taking them half the length of the pitch. Young scrum half Keith Hogg in only his second game for the 1st XV displayed maturity beyond his years in his rugby skills playing behind a retreating scrum on several occasions and still being able to turn bad ball into good. Stuart Clannachan in his first game at No 8 showed some glimpses of promise in that position especially when driving forward. Lock Paul Buckley leading the pack in the absence of Captain Neil MacGregor, who had fallen victim of a stomach virus late in the week, did a sterling job driving his forwards by leading from the front. The Annan defence was sound especially when one considers that Ross High were unable to cross the Annan line.

So what of the bad parts. The scrummaging was the poorest seen at the Everholm for some time especially from an eight who have dominated up front for most of the season. Training this coming week should be a painful experience as the scrummage machine takes a pounding. The amount of hard won ball squandered by dreadful passes, knock ons, dropped balls, wrong options etc. etc. - you get the picture - was extremely frustrating to watch and presumably even more frustrating to play in!

The Annan players who looked the part were hooker Andy Render, No 8 Stuart Clannachan and lock Paul Buckley with Keith Hogg the only back to shine with his dogged display at scrum half. For the record Andy Renwick replaced lock Graham Smith and Dougie Pagan replaced full back Gordon Carmichael.


ANNAN GET TAUGHT A RUGBY LESSON
12TH DECEMBER 1998

With results elsewhere going Annan's way this defeat must be all the harder to bear for the Annan club. This reverse is the biggest margin of defeat that Annan have suffered in their eight seasons of league rugby- all the others having been within one score- and has shattered their promotion hopes as only a collapse in form of the main contenders would give them a glimmer of hope.

This was always going to be one of Annan's toughest away tests with Duns a considerable force at home at Hardens Field. Annan started quite brightly and took the lead with a penalty award converted by full back Gordon Carmichael when the home forwards were adjudged off side at a ruck but that was to be the visitors only points. In the first half it was mostly an even handed contest with Duns gaining the lead towards the end of the half with an unconverted try. Annan's cause was not helped with lock Paul Buckley having to leave the field of play after 20 minutes with a head injury and with Captain Neil MacGregor not playing due to injury the Annan forwards lost shape and form in their play with no one apparently taking on the role as pack leader. Annan, with a half time score Duns 5 Annan 3, looked to up their game in the second half. This was without a doubt Annan's worst display in league rugby with the forwards, in particular, looking leaderless and lacking in confidence. The home forwards looked faster in deed and action throughout the entire 80 minutes. Even in Annan's strongest suites, the scrum and line out, they came off second best. The backs do not escape criticism with some slack defending which made the home side look better than they were. There also appeared to be a complete lack of inventiveness behind the forwards when there were attacking opportunities.

It has to be hoped that even in this defeat that lessons will be learned and that the Annan coaches can lift their team from this trough of despondency in time for the second round of the TENNENTS VELVET SHIELD on January 9th. against Ross High at the Everholm. For the record Michael Newton replaced injured lock Paul Buckley and Euan Hay replaced the injured winger Alastair Graham.


ANNAN GET A GOOD CUP WIN
28TH NOVEMBER 1998

It looked as if the fates were against Annan on Saturday when several changes had to be made to the line-up of the squad prior to the team leaving for Edinburgh due to some late call offs caused by illness and injuries. With stand off Dougie Pagan one of the late casualties Niall Smith was moved from centre to fill the berth with Euan Hay brought into centre and Chris Donabie moved from centre to fill the vacant wing spot. To make matters worse a car carrying three of the players was involved in an accident on the outskirts of Edinburgh but all managed to arrive in time. The Annan supporters also had problems getting to see their team as the match, due to the state of the Bangholm pitch, was moved to a pitch further along Ferry Road with the result that some didn't arrive until half time.

The first half was only minutes old when, following a drive up the middle of the field by the visiting forwards, the ball was spun out to the backs and full back Gordon Carmichael coming into the line spurned the two man overlap anailable to him to score. He was, however, unable to convert his own try. Trinity then dominated territorially for the remainder of the half. The home team missed converting two penalties and thereafter ran or kicked to touch any further awards. The visiting defences held until a couple of minutes before half time when the Trinity No 6 burst through to score under the posts which with the conversion took the home team into a two point lead at 7-5. Their lead was short lived, however, as Annan regained the lead immediately from the restart when the forwards drove deep into the Trinity half and from a scrum in the home 22 the ball was moved wide to right winger Steven Rae who scored in the corner to take the half time score to Trinity Accies 7 Annan 10.

In the second half Annan raised their game and gained territorial ascendancy for the full forty minutes. Two long range penalties from Gordon Carmichael took the score to 7-16 and the Trinity heads visibly dropped. Annan began to play with more verve and finished the game well on top and sealed their victory with another try when Steven Rae rounded his opposite number to score in the corner after his forwards had once again rucked and mauled their way deep into the Trinity 22. This was a better second half performance by Annan with the ball being kept in front of the forwards with some astute line kicking by the backs which kept the home team pinned in their own half for most of the 40 minutes. Even when both the pack and the backs had to be reshuffled when injuries required Annan to make some unscheduled replacements with firstly stand off Nial Smith injured at the end of the first half being replaced by full back Gordon Carmichael with Keith Hogg coming on at full back. Then prop Jack Tinning was replaced by James Gilmour, No 8 Andy Renwick replaced by Stuart Clannachan and Michael Newton on for lock Graham Smith. All in all this was a notable away win with so many enforced changes to the team both before and during the game. The extent of the injury problems is still being assessed but is worrying nevertheless with Annan's return league encounter with Langholm this coming Saturday.

Annan players who caught the eye were wing forward Bob Currie who once again had a solid game and winger Steven Rae who took both of his tries well and full back/stand off Gordon Carmichael who looked extremely competent in his second half role at stand off. Annan have drawn Ross High in the second round of the Shield with the added bonus of a home draw - their first home draw in over 2 years.


A VITAL WIN
22ND NOVEMBER 1998

This was a game Annan had to win to keep their slender promotion hopes alive against third placed Hillhead/Jordanhill at Hughenden on Sunday afternoon in this rearranged fixture. The original game having to be cancelled due to a water logged pitch. Annan's cause was not helped when both selected props Jack Tinning and James Gilmour had to call off with a late injury and work commitments respectively. Replacement prop Colin Warrick was called up but with both 2nd XV props unavailable two 3rd XV props, Grant Wyllie and Jason Graham were brought in at the last moment - one to play and one as replacement.

Annan, playing down the slope in the first half started off well and the forwards carried on from where they had left of the previous Sunday against Biggar. They drove deep into the home half and from a line out inside the Hillhead 22 the ball was won well and instead of driving the ball through the forwards the ball was spun to stand off Dougie Pagan who cleaved diagonally through the home defences and when tackled off loaded the ball to left winger Alastair Graham who had come off his wing on a diagonal run to score under the posts. Full back Gordon Carmichael converted the try. On their next drive the visitors added to their lead when Dougie Pagan slotted a superb drop goal when his forwards presented him with well won ruck ball.

The home team struck back almost immediately when their winger, fielded an Annan kick out of defence preceded on a storming run up his wing and with some good inter passing the home team scored a converted try to narrow the visitor's lead to three points. Annan's forwards continued to dominate up front and kept the home team pinned in their half for long periods with some fine driving play allied to some fine line kicking from the Annan stand off which kept the ball in front of his forwards. Although the visitors could not cross the Hillhead line they were rewarded with two penalties converted into points from boots of Gordon Carmichael and Dougie Pagan respectively although in the words of Bill McLaren both kicks were of the 'inebriated variety' but managed to creep over the bar. Annan went into the half time break with a healthy nine point advantage with the score Hillhead/Jordanhill 7 Annan 16.

Annan consolidated their lead early in the second half when they were awarded a further penalty when the Hillhead wing forward was caught driving in from the side at a ruck and Gordon Carmichael again slotted another kick of the'inebriated' variety which again managed to flop over the bar. In the last quarter of the game the home side piled on the pressure in an attempt to turn the game around and they were rewarded with a fine try which was almost a carbon copy of Annan's try which they duly converted. They followed this with a further three points when they were awarded a penalty when the Annan backs were adjudged off side which took the score to Hillhead/Jordanhill 17 Annan 22. There then followed, for the Annan supporters a nail biting last ten minutes as the home team laid siege to the Annan line in a desperate attempt to gain the winning points. It was their desperation, however, which saved the day for the visitors as the home side ran several penalty awards which were kickable in an attempt to score a try and it took superb Annan defence to stem the tide. When the final whistle went Annan had scored a remarkable victory and had kept their hopes alive in the promotion race.

Special mention has to be made of props Grant Wylie who was called up to play on Sunday morning and did not look out of place throughout the game and to Jason Graham who, although did not play answered the call after finishing work at 6.00am on Sunday morning both having played for the 3rd XV the previous day. Also worthy of comment was the fine performance of stand off Dougie Pagan who, as previously mentioned, managed to keep the ball in front of his forwards for large sections of the game and who played after a night shift at work For the record Euan Hay replaced centre Niall Smith, lock John Deakin replaced Grant Wyllie with lock Neil MacGregor propping and Graham Smith replacing wing forward Stuart Clannachan.


ANNAN ARE OUT OF THE CUP
15TH NOVEMBER 1998

Annan may be out of the TENNENTS VELVET CUP going down to Premier 2 side Biggar in Round 3 but what a cracking match this turned out to be at Hartree Mill on Sunday. They may have been the under dogs for this match but what a fight they made of it and the final score did not reflect the contribution the visitors made to this game.

On a fine sunny November day at Hartree Mill but on an extremely heavy and wet pitch Annan in the opening minutes drove deep into the Biggar 22 and were immediately rewarded with a penalty when the home forwards handled in a ruck. Full back Gordon Carmichael slotted the award to give Annan the lead. Biggar hit back almost immediately with a finely worked try by their scrum half after some good solid driving by their forwards drove play towards the Annan line. The home stand off converted the try. Play was again driven by the Annan forwards into the home half and again the home forwards, who were under a lot of pressure by the Annan pack, were penalised when their open side wing forward broke early from a scrum. Gordon Carmichael reduced the Biggar lead to a single point with his kick. Annan continued to keep the home team in their own half with some fine line kicking by stand off Dougie Pagan and outside centre Niall Smith and were again rewarded with a penalty when yet again the home forwards were penalised for killing the ball in a ruck. Gordon Carmichael kicked his side into a two point lead.

Biggar, who were finding it difficult to settle into a pattern of play against some fine dynamic defence from the visitors, eventually got their act together and in a purple patch scored three tries in quick succession by their New Zealand lock, their wing forward and their stand off all of which were converted to take them into a commanding 28 points to 9 lead. Annan were not overawed by this blitz and fought their way back into contention. The visiting forwards who, in the set piece were giving their opponents a hard time, and encouraged by their stand off keeping the ball in front of them with some good line kicks looked to have scored a great driving try when from a line out they drove the ball over the line for No 8 Andy Renwick to ground the ball. Unfortunately the referee was not in a position to award the try. Justice was done minutes later when from a similar drive lock Neil McGregor was awarded a try when he reached the line. Gordon Carmichael converted the try to take the half time score to Biggar 28 Annan 16.

The visitors started the second half with a great spell of driving and rucking play with some fine interplay between their backs and forwards but as seems to happen so often they could not capitalise on their territorial advantage and breach the solid defences of the home side. The game erupted on a couple of occasions with some unseemly fisticuffs as the home forwards frustrations came to the surface at being pushed around by the visiting eight. However the home side's experience began to tell and they ran in a further three tries in the final quarter of the game one by their antipodean lock forward and a further two by their stand off who with two further conversions amassed a 22 points in the match. The final score Biggar 47 Annan 16.

Although disappointed at the result the Annan players were well pleased with their overall performance as was their loyal band of travelling supporters. The re-jigged back line looked threatening at times and young scrum half Keith Hogg, on his first XV debut, looked a fine prospect for the future of the club. the honours, however, must go to the Annan forwards who did not look out of place at this level with open side wing forward Bob Currie the pick of the bunch with an other outstanding performance in the loose play. In the backs full back Gordon Carmichael and stand off Dougie Pagan put in solid performances.

Annan now progress to the TENNENTS VELVET SHIELD competition with the first round a week on Sunday. They do not care who they are drawn against as long as it is at home. Annan have not had a home draw in the cup competition since November 1996!


ANNAN LOSE TO HADDINGTON
7TH NOVEMBER 1998

Annan travelled to East Lothian in the hope of building on the previous weeks display against the league leaders and talk before the match was of it being a possible five pointer and that may well have been the rock on which the Annan side perished. In the end this was the most disappointing display by the Annan team for some time.

Playing against the wind in the first half Annan weathered some early pressure in the first minutes of the game before exerting some pressure of their own in the home 22 but were unable to turn their pressure into points. The home team were awarded a penalty in the Annan 22 when the visiting forwards were adjudged offside at a ruck. Haddington extended their lead minutes later with another penalty for a similar offence by the forwards. Then came a moment of madness by the visitors when having turned over possession within their own 22, instead of clearing their line, they tried to run out of defence and the ball was thrown away carelessly and the home stand off chipped the ball over the Annan defence with the Haddington winger winning the race for the line to get the touch to score. Annan found themselves 11 points to 0 at half time and seemed unable to find any cohesion in their play albeit they had their moments with some good solid rucking by the forwards. The only real chance they had in the first half came from a scything run by centre Chris Donabie who, with only the full back to beat, slipped as he tried to change direction but his forwards were unable to recycle the ball quickly enough to make the breakthrough they so desperately needed.

The tale of woe continued in the second half when in the opening minutes the Haddington stand off kicked a peach of a drop goal and then followed it minutes later with a further penalty to give his team a 17 points to 0 lead. In the last quarter of the game Annan began to exert some pressure in the home half and the breakthrough came when from a line out following a penalty award the ball was driven over the line with replacement prop Colin Warrick coming up from the bottom of the pile of bodies with the ball. Replacement full back Dougie Pagan landed the conversion from the touch line. Minutes later it looked as if he had added a try to his points tally when he looked certain to score following a diagonal break through the Haddington defence. The score was chalked off when his outside centre was penalised for crossing. Annan continued to press the home line and the loyal band of Annan supporters thought their team may again snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. Their hopes were further raised when from a fine handling move through the forwards and backs winger Steven Rae crashed over in the corner to score. Dougie Pagan failed with his conversion attempt. Whilst Annan continued to press the Haddington line time ran out and they were unable add to their score line and went down to their second successive away defeat.

This was a particularly poor display by the Annan team in that several of the more experienced players in the side putt in some below par performances and the team in general seemed to lack the 'buzz' apparent in some of the earlier games. With the three teams ahead of them all winning, and although Annan still hold on to their fourth place in the Division, the gap has now widened and their hopes of promotion now seem to be fading.For the record Stuart Clannachan replaced wing forward Robert Currie, Colin Warrick replaced prop James Gilmour and Dougie Pagan replaced full back Gordon Carmichael.


ANNAN GET A DRAW
31ST OCTOBER 1998

This was a game that Annan had to get a result if they were to remain in contention for promotion in Division 1 of the TENNENTS VELVET National Leagues and whilst they did not get the result they wanted they showed great character in coming back from 17 - 14 down to level the score in the final moments of the game.

The home team started strongly and drove the game deep into the visitors half and their forwards looked in impressive form as they rucked and mauled their way towards the visitor's line and the ball eventually was spun out to the wing and winger Alastair Graham scored in the corner. Full back Gordon Carmichael converted from the touchline. From the restart Annan in trying to run the ball out of defence were caught in possession and the ball was turned over and the visiting forwards rucked their way to the line to score an unconverted try. The Annan forwards continued to have the upper hand in the set piece with their scrummage and lineout play outstanding. It was no surprise therefore when from a scrummage near the Hutcheson's line the Annan pack powered their way over the line for a pushover try with No 8 Andy Renwick credited with the touchdown. Gordon Carmichael again converted the try to give Annan a healthy 14 - 5 half time lead.

As so often seems to happen Annan thinking the game was won appeared to relax in the second half and after the half time break failed to control the game as they had done in the first half and in so doing allowed the visitors back into the game. The visiting backs, having to live on meagre rations as their forwards were playing their game on the back foot, had to rely on pressurising the Annan backs into errors with some aggressive tackling. This they accomplished with too many missed tackles on display by the home teams mid field defences. Hutchesons fought their way back into contention with a fine backs try which went unconverted to bring the score to 14 - 10. Annan looked to have increased their lead, however, when winger Alastair Graham crossed the line and in an effort to make the conversion easier sprited behind the posts but was tackled and was adjudged by the referee not to have grounded the ball. The visitors then went ahead when from a defensive lapse they scooped up a loose ball and recycled the ball several times before scoring their third try. This time they made no mistake with the conversion to take the lead for the first time at 14 - 17. The Annan faithful, who are now becoming used to nerve racking finishes from their side, really got behind their team and to their credit the home side immediately from the restart drove their way towards the visitors line and Hutchesons put in some superb defensive tackles to keep the Annan attacks at bay. Eventually, however, they coceaded a penalty when one of their forwards killed the ball at a ruck and Gordon Carmichael, who under tremendous pressure, stroked the ball between the posts to tie the scores at 17 - 17. In the final minutes, which seemed an eternity for the home support, Hutchesons believing they could win ran every scrap of possession they won at the Annan line but the home defensive line remained firm and it was with an immense sense of relief for the home fans that , whilst not winning, their seven year unbeaten home league run had remained intact.

This was a game of rugby of excellent quality with enough excitement and drama for several games. Annan had enough possession to have won the game and there was some excellent periods of play which showed what the team are capable of. However the Hutcheson's backs always looked quicker in deed and action than their Annan counterparts and showed that the Annan balance in their back line is still not quite right with the ball transferrance looking slow and laboured at times. The forwards on the other hand showed that they are probably the best balanced pack in the league and on Saturday prop Colin Warrick celebrated his promotion back into the pack with a good display of driving play with which he never failed to breach the gain line. Captain and lock Neil MacGregor also had one of his best games for the club driving his forwards from the front with some fine driving runs.


ANNAN WIN A DERBY CRACKER
17TH OCTOBER 1998

This was, in the final analysis, a much improved performance by Annan although it took 40 minutes to show what they were capable of. It was also a most important match in order to exorcise the defeat by Corstorphine and keep their league promotion hopes alive.

It has to be said that the first half performance by the home team was less than enthralling for the large turnout of supporters who had braved the elements and it was the Stewartry who held the territorial advantage for the balance of the half. The visiting forwards, although under pressure in the set piece, looked the sharper of the two in the loose with the home forwards looking distinctly lack lustre to say the least.

Stewartry opened the scoring in the opening minute of the game when awarded a penalty on their opening drive when the home forwards killed the ball at a ruck in front of the posts. Annan replied in kind ten minutes later when the Stewartry forwards committed a similar offence at the other end of the park. The visitors retook the lead the lead with a perfectly struck drop goal by their stand off Colin Duck after the visiting forwards had driven play up the centre of the field. They went further ahead when Annan conceded a further penalty before Annan managed to reduce the deficit to three points with a further penalty by full back Gordon Carmichael to bring a dull and frustrating first half for the home support. Half time score Annan 6 Stewartry 9.

Whether it was the team talk or something in the oranges at half time but the difference in Annan's play in second half was a revelation compared to the first. The turning point in the game, from Annan's point of view, came early in the second half when the visitors with a series of penalty awards near the Annan line laud siege to the home line but the home defences remained solid which was epitomised by a try saving tackle by lock forward Paul Buckley who, when the Stewartry No 12 looked certain to score wrapped him up in an all enveloping tackle and drove him several yards back from the try line. The siege was lifted moments later when on another drive towards the line the Stewartry centre was penalised for a double movement in the act of scoring and Annan cleared their line. Some wag in the crowd was heard to shout that that was Stewartry's last chance to score and his prophetic statement proved to be true as the visitors never returned to the Annan half for the remainder of the match as the home side took the game by the scruff of the neck and turned on the style for the first time this season with a display of attacking rugby with both forwards and backs inter linking with some fine continuity play.

The first try, when it came, was worth the wait. The Stewartry backs pinned in their own 22 tried to break out of defence and Annan No 8 Andy Renwick put in a scything tackle on the ball carrier, dislodging the ball in the process, which was fed back through his legs by wing forward Bob Currie, picked up by prop Jack Tinning fed to hooker Any Render and then spun through the backs hands for winger Alastair Graham to score in the corner. The conversion was missed to give Annan a slender two point lead. Their lead was extended when minutes later wing forward Billy Henderson broke from the side of a ruck and spurning the offer of a two man overlap dummied the Stewartry cover defence to score a try which was converted by Gordon Carmichael. Annan continued to press for a further score and score they did when prop James Gilmour powered his way over to score from 10 metres out. Gordon Carmichael again converted in off the post to give Annan a comfortable 16 point cushion. With the real prospect of their first 5 point victory Annan continued to press the visitors' line for the vital fourth try. It looked as if they had their wish when stand off Niall Smith broke through the cover defence and with the line at his mercy inexplicably threw out a long pass to winger Alastair Graham who was unable to get his hands to it and the moment was lost. Final Score Annan 25 Stewartry 9.

This, as already stated, was Annan's best performance of the season so far, leaving the first half display to the side, with something of their potential beginning to show and some confidence creeping into their play. The Annan pack in particular had a purple patch in the second half pushing the Stewartry pack about at will and once again ruling the sky in the line outs. The main difference, however, in the final analysis was the fitness of the Annan team who looked, at the end of the game as if they could have played for a further forty minutes despite the heavy conditions whereas the visiting pack had run themselves to a standstill. However Annan will have to improve from a forty minute team to an eighty one if they are to be real promotion contenders as some of better teams in the league would have buried Annan's hopes in the first half.


ANNAN THROUGH TO THE NEXT ROUND
10TH OCTOBER 1998

This TENNENTS VELVET CUP game had been dubbed, in the National Press as Annan versus the new Annan - a reference to both clubs rapid rise up the leagues with Garnock being promoted from Division 7 to 3 in successive seasons - but unlike their political equivalents it was old Annan who ended up on top at the end of the day.

Annan, who have failed to fire on all cylinders in recent matches, had hoped to use this respite from National League business to iron out some of the wrinkles in their game and while they never looked as if they would lose this game, the home team, with some vociferous home support, made life difficult for the visitors for the full eighty minutes.

Things looked good for Annan in the opening minutes of the game when from the kick off the visiting forwards immediately drove play up field towards the home line and when they were stopped, it was at the expense of a penalty against Garnock who illegally killed the ball at a ruck. Full back Gordon Carmichael kicked the penalty to open the scoring. From this promising start Annan had several excellent scoring chances but once again failed to capitalise on their early territorial advantage. They squandered these chances but either choosing the wrong option or by losing possession in the tackle. It took a full thirty minutes before the visitors managed to consolidate their lead when from a quickly taken free kick awarded close to the Garnock line the home defences were caught napping and No 8 Andy Renwick was on hand to take the final pass to crash over in the corner to score. For the remaining ten minutes of the half Garnock kept their visitors pinned in their own half with some excellent line kicking by their stand off who used the wind to great advantage. Annan weathered the storm and their line remained intact with the half time score Garnock 0 Annan 8.

With Annan's dominance in set piece generally and the line out in particular it was expected that they would use the wind to keep the home side pinned in their own half but Annan failed to capitalise on the wind advantage but instead tried to run the ball on most occasions. Whilst on the attack a loose pass was intercepted by the Garnock right winger who out sprinted the Annan defences to score under the posts to bring the score, with the conversion, within a single point.

Annan continued to drive the game into the home half and although they struggled to breach the stalwart home defences, breach it they finally did when centre Stuart Williamson presented with quick ball from a ruck crashed over the line to score. Gordon Carmichael converted the try to give Annan an eight point cushion. This was reduced to five points when Garnock converted a penalty award which Gordon Carmichael cancelled out minutes later when a similar award at the other end to take the final score to Garnock 10 Annan 18.

This, once again, was not a convincing performance by the Annan squad who made too many mistakes but the on the plus side Annan's set piece play was solid especially the line out which provided a rich seam of possession. Credit, however, must go to the home side who showed why they have risen up the leagues so rapidly with a strong front five and some solid defensive work by their backs. For the record John Deakin replaced wing forward Graham.


ANNAN LOSE IN EDINBURGH
3RD OCTOBER 1998

Annan travelled to Edinburgh with hopes of an away win against a Corstorphine team who had failed to record a win in their last four league games and were languishing at the bottom of the league. However, although losing their last four games it was apparent that Corstorphine were an improving side and were determined to reverse the trend.

Annan started off brightly and pressurised the home line from the start of the match and were rewarded within the opening ten minutes with a try, when from a scrum within the Corstorphine 22, the visiting back row drove towards the line and released scrum half Barry Graham who score in the corner. Full back Gordon Carmichael converted the try from the touch line. Corstorphine, almost from the restart, struck back with a fine try from their right winger who along with their stand off were the home sides most potent attacking force, to take the score to 5 -10. Corrstorphine took the lead minutes later with a penalty when the visiting forwards were adjudged offside at a ruck. This was the first of a plethora of penalties worryingly conceded by Annan throughout the match. Annan retook the lead with a further penalty struck by Gordon Carmichael which was cancelled out by a similar award to Corstorphine to take the half time score to Corstorphine 11 Annan 10.

The second half was one full of handing errors, lack of continuity play and conceded penalties by both teams. Neither team had the ascendency during the forty minutes. Annan however retook the lead and extended it to 11 - 19 with three further well struck penalties by Gordon Carmichael. They also had numerous chances to seal a win with some drives towards the line but in every case they flunked their chances with some inept handling either by dropping vital passes, knocking the ball on or conceding needless penalties. It did look however that Annan were going to hold on for a win when from a scrum within the Annan 22 the home side launched an attack which ended with their right winger crashing over in the corner to score. In the dying moments it looked as if Annan were going to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat when winger Steven Rae found himself clear with only the full back to beat. The Corstorphine No 15, however, held his nerve and with a copybook tackle drove the winger into touch a metre short of the line. This was virtually the last move of the game and Corstorphine had their first victory of the season at Annan's expense.

This was a disappointing display by the Annan team who conceded no less than 23 penalties in the game to Corstorphines 10, a shortcoming which the Annan coaches will no doubt be addressing during the coming week. Of similar concern to the coaches will be their teams woeful continuity play with the team using up their entire years supply of knock ons and dropped passes in eighty minutes. Apart from their inability to convert pressure into points in attack Annan's mid field defence was also a cause for concern during the game where they were unable on several occasions to close down the Corstorphine half backs. Whilst there will be the obvious merchants of doom who are already writing off Annan's chances it has to be remembered that there is a long way to go in this league.

For the record Dougie Thomson replaced lock Neil MacGregor who had to retire with a mouth injury and Stuart Clannachan replaced wing forward Robert Currie who retired with a recurrence of a shoulder injury.


ANNAN BEAT TRINITY ACCIES
26TH SEPTEMBER 1998

Annan beat a talented Trinity Accies side in Division 1 of the TENNENTS VELVET NATIONAL LEAGUES at the Everholm to climb to third place in the league.

Over the past few seasons Annan when they have played well, especially away from home one week, always seem to suffer a slump in form the following and this week was no exception. After their great display against Livingston at Almond Park last Saturday they slumped to one of their poorest performances of the season so far at the Everholm on Saturday.

Even as Annan took the field on Saturday there seemed to be a distinct lack of 'buzz' about the team and within five minutes they found themselves seven points down when the visiting backs ripped through some lacklustre mid field defence by the home side to score an excellent converted try between the posts. Annan struggled to get into the game in the first quarter of the game and found themselves pinned for long periods within their own 22. In the second quarter Annan began to find their way again and slowly fought their way back into the game. Full back Gordon Carmichael clawed back a vital three points on the half hour with a well struck penalty when the visiting forwards handled the ball in a ruck. Annan launched several promising attacks towards the Trinity line only to have them snuffed out by some terrific defensive work by the visitors. It was vital for Annan to score before half time and score they did. The ball was driven deep into the Trinity 22 by the home forwards and from the ruck, with the visiting back row sucked in, the ball was taken on by wing forward Bill Henderson who, providing the extra man in the attacking line, gave winger Steven Rae the space to score in the corner. Gordon Carmichael converted the try to take Annan into the half time break with a slender three point lead at 10 points to 7.

In the second half the game swayed from end to end with both teams making mistakes which punctuated the game with numerous stoppages and as a result there was no continuity in play by either team. Annan did break the pattern when from some fine driving rucking play and with some good inter passing the ball was driven deep into the visitor's 22 and the ball was spun wide to winger Chris Donabie who looked to have scored in the corner but the referee was unsighted and the score was denied. From the ensuing five metre scrum, in a planned move, centre Stuart Williamson cleaved through the Trinity defence and crashed over the line to score. Gordon Carmichael failed in his conversion attempt.

Trinity clawed their way back into the game when they were awarded a penalty which the converted to take the score to 15 points to 10. Annan seemed to have the game won as they controlled possession but with ten minutes to go they lost possession in a ruck and the talented Trinity backs breached the home defences for their winger to score an unconverted try in the corner. With the score tied at 15 points all and the visitors launching several promising attacks the Annan faithful, who by this time were all nervous wrecks, thought they were about to witness their teams' first home league defeat at the Everholm. But they had reckoned without their teams tremendous fighting spirit. With the large home crowd roaring them on Annan launched several attacks towards the visitor's line. From one attack the ball was lost in the tackle and a clearance kick by the Trinity full back down field found his Annan counterpart Gordon Carmichael who launched a counter attack and with a deft kick over the Trinity advancing back line gathered the ball and when tackled and brought down in the visiting 22 his forwards were on hand to drive over him and the ball was swept wide to right winger Steven Rae who took his opposite number on the outside and scored in the corner. Gordon Carmichael slotted the conversion from the touch line to put the final nail in Trinity's coffin and Annan had won a hard fought victory.

This was not one of Annan's better games with the forwards, collectively, having an off day and finding themselves under pressure for the first time for some time in the scrums. Only in the line outs did they reign supreme winning all their own ball and several of the oppositions. In the loose they looked disjointed and were unable to provide a solid attacking platform for their backs. The backs, however, are now beginning to gel and looked a more potent attacking force than of late. In the forwards lock Paul Buckley and wing forward Robert Currie caught the eye whilst stand off Niall Smith and centre Stuart Williamson had solid performances. The man of the match, however, was full back Gordon Carmichael who hardly put a foot wrong for the entire 80 minutes and was instrumental in setting up the winning try.


ANNAN GAIN REVENGE
19TH SEPTEMBER 1998

Annan gained their revenge in Division 1 of the TENNENTS VELVET NATIONAL LEAGUES over Livingston at Almond Park

On a perfect September afternoon at Almond Park on Saturday Annan were determined that there would be no repeat of the last season's result against their hosts and that they would get their revenge for their only league defeat in the 1997/98 season.

Straight from the whistle Annan drove straight into the Livingston 22 and within the minutes were awarded a penalty which full back Gordon Carmichael slotted home. Annan continued to dominate the proceedings for most of the first half with the home team rarely entering Annan territory. Only sterling defence by the home team kept Annan from scoring. Eventually mid way through the half the visitors breached the home defence when from a scrum within the home 22 No 8 Dougie Thomson picked up from the base of the scrum and drove towards the line and fed scrum half Barry Graham who sprinted in to score between the posts. Gordon Carmichael converted the try to give Annan a healthy 10 - 0 lead. Annan continued to pressurise the Livingston line for the remainder of the half until almost on the stroke of half time Livingston managed to break out of the Annan attacking stranglehold and their stand off launched a speculative diagonal kick out of defence towards the Annan line. The home winger out sprinted the turning Annan defences to ground the ball just before the ball ran out of play to take the half time score to Livingston 5 Annan 10.

Livingston in the second half, with the aid of what wind there was tried to keep the visitors pinned in their own half which they managed to do for long periods but the Annan defences were up to the task and the home side were unable to make any significant inroads into their points deficit and it took a penalty award on the half way line for the home team to add any further points to their tally and bring the score within two points. Annan, at this point kept their composure and killed the game off driving the playback into the Livingston half for the remainder of the half. From one of the drives Annan were awarded a penalty which Gordon Carmichael converted to take the final score to Livingston 8 Annan 13.

This was, psychologically, a most important win for Annan and whilst one worrying aspect of Annan's play was their inability to turn the pressure and territorial advantage into points they were worthy winners in most departments of the game with the forwards dominant in the set piece and loose play. There was also a marked improvement in the backs play with stand off Niall Smith, winger Steven Rae and full back Gordon Carmichael putting in solid performances. For the record No 8 Dougie Thomson was replaced by Andy Renwick, prop James Gilmour replaced John Carlyle and flanker Graham Smith replaced Bob Currie.


ANNAN EDGE OUT DUNS
12TH SEPTEMBER 1998

Annan managed to gain their first victory in Division 1 of the TENNENTS VELVET NATIONAL LEAGUES against Duns at the Everholm in a tense nervy match.

On a heavy rain sodden pitch at the Everholm Annan ran out eventual winners against their visitors from Duns but they made extremely heavy weather of it with too many errors and too many penalties conceded over the 80 minutes. Duns who play a similar game to the home side base their game around their forwards and in the early exchanges it looked as if Annan would get on top in that department with some good solid drives by the home eight deep into the visitors territory and when Duns were penalised for killing the ball in the ruck full back Gordon Carmichael converted the award. Duns hit back several minutes later from a similar award to tie the scores. The home side continued to drive the play into the visitor's territory and whilst they were unable to cross the Dun's line they did extend their lead by a further six points with two further well struck penalties by Carmichael. It was almost half time before Annan managed to breach the Duns' defences when from a series of driving rucks up the middle, which managed to suck in the Dun's fringe defences, stand off Niall Smith broke through the gap created and spun the ball to his centres with outside centre Euan Hay crashing over to score his first league try. Gordon Carmichael failed in his conversion attempt making the half time score Annan 14 Duns 3.

For the first 20 minutes of the second half the visiting forwards upped their game and only stout home defence kept them at bay but it was only a matter of time before they scored. From a scrum in the Annan 22 the Dun's stand-off found a huge gap in the home mid field defences and set up a fine try for his winger which was unconverted to take the score to Annan 14 Duns 8. With only 6 points between the teams the spectator's nerves were stretched to breaking point as Dun's realised that the game was still for the winning ran the ball at every conceivable opportunity. This was also the moment in the game that Annan decided to control the game in the way they had failed to do the previous week against Langholm. In the last quarter of the game the Annan forwards slowly began to exert their superiority and keeping the ball tight the preceded to drive the game deep into the Dun's half and by pressurising any possession which the visitor's achieved they kept a stranglehold on the final minutes of the game. They had several opportunities to seal the victory. Twice they had the Dun's scrum driven backwards towards their own line but were unable to turn the pressure into points. Similarly Gordon Carmichael failed with a penalty attempt from in front of the posts. When the final whistle went there was a palpable feeling of relief from the home support that a victory had been achieved.

Whilst this was not one of Annan's better performances there was some plus points. The Annan set piece play was solid with the scrummage and line out play generally sound. However there were too many elementary handling mistakes and a general lack of continuity and ball retention in the play by the forwards in their loose play and the backs lacked any real penetration in the mid field.

On the plus side stand off Niall Smith had a improving game as the game wore on and Robert Currie had another impressive performance at open side wing forward.


ANNAN UNLUCKY AGAINST LANGHOLM
5TH SEPTEMBER 1998

Annan were extremely unlucky not to come away from their first ever encounter with Langholm with a victory or a draw at the very least, losing the game by a controversial try in the dying moments of the game in this opening fixture of Division 1 of the Tennents Velvet National Leagues.

On a perfect September day at Milntown the visitors started the game strongly and immediately drove the game into the home 22 and in the second minute of the game took the lead when they were awarded a penalty when the Langholm forwards were caught offside at a ruck. Full back Gordon Carmichael slotted the ball home. Five minutes later Langholm levelled the score when they were awarded a penalty for a similar offence. Annan continued to use their forwards to drive the ball deep into the home half and from one of these drives the ball was lost and the Langholm full back attempting to clear his lines with a clearance kick found instead found Annan winger Steven Rae who fed full back Gordon Carmichael who led a counter attack with a diagonal run and when eventually stopped he deftly fed the ball to hooker Andy Render the ball was then spun through the hands of wing forward Robert Currie to lock Paul Buckley who was then driven over the line by the rest of the Annan pack to score. Langholm hit back with a penalty and on the half hour mark they took the lead with a fine backs try with their full back scoring. Almost on the stroke of half time the visitors retook the lead when wing forward Robert Currie charged down an attempted clearance and he won the chase for the line. Gordon Carmichael slotted the conversion to take the half time score to go into the half time break leading by a single point at Langholm 14 Annan 15.

Annan increased their lead by a further six points with two further successful penalties landed by Carmichael as the Annan forwards continued to dominate in the loose and set piece. Only in the lineouts did Annan struggle to win their own ball cleanly but won enough of Langholm's to make up for that deficiency. The lively home backs were the only thorn in Annan's side who although living on meagre rations made full use what they had causing the Annan defence considerable problems. On one of their sorties into the Annan half they spun the ball wide from a penalty award and with their full back coming into the line at pace he scored a fine converted try to level the score at 21 all. Annan continued to pile on the pressure taking the play deep into the Langholm half but were unable to break down the stubborn home defences to score the vital try. In the dying moments of the game Annan hearts were broken when from deep in his own half the Langholm winger sent a long raking kick deep into the Annan half and the race was on for the line. The race appeared to have been won by Annan centre Stuart Williamson but, to the disbelief of the large Annan support and it has to be said even some of the home fans, the referee some 20 metres behind the play awarded a try to the home side. With the final whistle blown after the failed conversion Annan had lost their first opening league game in seven seasons.

This was a cracker of a game played in front of a large crowd who contributed greatly to a marvellous atmosphere, and played in great spirit by both teams who provided an exciting, fast and error strewn first game of the season. Annan players who caught the eye were 17 year old wing forward Robert Currie who had a great league debut performance and full back Gordon Carmichael who hardly put a foot wrong over the 80 minutes. There were lots for the Annan coaches to work on in the coming weeks and Annan will play worse than this display and win in other games.


ANNAN PLAYER IN BURNT TIE SHOCK
5TH SEPTEMBER 1998

After the match one of the Annan players was seen wearing a club jumper, nothing wrong in that you may say. BUT the reason for the jumper.....well it seems that the nameless player who goes by the name of "Stu Williamson" had burnt the front of his 1st XV tie with his new iron. A fine must be on the card, not for the tie but for the attempted deception!!!!!....more news on this story when I can be arsed. To the Sun, Star & The Sport Newspapers : Please feel free to use this story in your papers, its on par with the "Gay Icon" pics for scandal!!!!!


ANNAN PLAYERS IN GAY PICTURE SCANDAL
12TH AUGUST 1998

Yup, the photos that appear on the Annan funpage somehow got put on some gay sports internet page!! (I didn't get any fee though...!!!). The papers picked up on the story and for a few days the whole of Scottish Rugby were shocked(??!) at the pictures when they appeared in the papers!!!! I was going to put the picture titled "Jack goes to the sheep farm" on the page but I don't want any more scandal!!! Oh the fun I had trying to explain to my workmates I wasn't peddling gay porn...........


PRE-SEASON BUILD UP
AUGUST 1998

Annan's pre-season build up has been a bit of a 'curate's egg' - good in parts! With several 1st XV squad members unavailable( holidays, work and Billy's Wedding) the trial match against Premier 3 East Kilbride at Torrance on Friday 21st August saw several young players blooded for the first time and although the Annan squad were beaten by four tries to one the Annan coaches were well pleased with the general performance.

On Wednesday 26th August Annan travelled over the border to take on North West Division 2 Carlisle. With several players available who had missed the trial the previous Friday Annan beat Carlisle (14-17). The score line flattered the Cumbrian side with the Annan forwards in good form with only some eccentric refereeing-especially in relation to the scrums-keeping the score as close as it was.

On Saturday 29th August Annan travelled again over the border to take part in the Aspatria Pre-Season Classic XV a-side tournament. Annan again due to several players unavailability had to field some young players. The tournament was played in two leagues with Annan pitted against Premier 1 side Heriots FP and last seasons' winners Blaydon from North Division 1 and lost both games 38-0 and 25-5 respectively. In the final game against old adversaries Netherhall Old Boys from Maryport the match was drawn (10 all) with Annan lucky to get the draw.