Stewartry 27, Annan 42
Annan finished the season as they started – unbeaten – but not before they had survived a fright at Greenlaw in this final match.
Stewartry needed to win and hope that Cumbernauld could do them a favour by beating second-placed Lenzie, while Annan wanted to add to previous seasons’ unbeaten league triumphs when they switched from the Border League to the National Leagues. They now have four such successes.
Stewartry were out for revenge and kicked off with the wind behind them. Annan worked their way upfield until Stewartry stole the ball and fullback John Muir broke away on a 40-metre run back into the Annan 22. Prop Ian McMorran, with hooker Danny Burton, broke clear towards the Annan line, winning the first scrum.
Stewartry put in a big effort, driving Annan back before the ball was released to centre Danny Boyd, who was held up over the line and the try was denied.
From the next scrum, Stewartry kept the pressure on and from the ensuing ruck Kerr McMinn rolled over for the opening try in six minutes, Cammy Fenwick adding the conversion.
Annan were soon on the attack but a mighty kick from Craig Mosey in his own 22 took the ball back to the Annan 22. Annan’s Craig McCann made a fine break from defence but once again Mosey kicked the ball back into Annan territory.
After 15 minutes an Annan knock-on gave Stewartry captain Ian Fenwick the chance to break, with Tommy Cannon and McMinn setting up scrum half Jamie Farquhar with the chance to put Ian McMorran in for his first try of the season. Fenwick again added the extras.
Mosey’s boot kept the pressure on Annan and a kick to the corner saw Stevie McCulloch break from the lineout, setting prop Tommy Cannon in for a third try in 23 minutes, putting Stewartry 19-0 ahead.
Once again Annan battled upfield and were more in the game, with some sustained pressure giving Sean Haren their first try.
On the half-hour John Muir won Stewartry a penalty from one of his jinking runs and Fenwick converted for a 22-7 score.
But Annan were soon back into the Blacks’ 22 with Cammy Bell going over for a second try.
Stewartry had the worst start to the second half when fullback John Muir knocked on in his own 22 while fielding the Annan kick-off and, from the scrum, Bell was in for his second try.
It was Annan in control as Stewartry’s forwards were beginning to tire but Stevie McCulloch was still taking a good supply of lineout ball and leading the way in the loose, earning him Stewartry’s man of the match.
Annan at last got their noses in front with a bonus-point try from Kevin Jones, who ran through poor Stewartry tackling. McCann added the points to make it 22-24. Minutes later McCann added the first of two penalties.
Annan turned on the champagne rugby and a move involving at least eight players saw number eight Sean Haren score his second try, McCann adding the conversion.
Two minutes from time Alex Halliday broke away for an individual try. Craig McCann added his final kick for him to win Annan’s man of the match.
Martin Smith put winger John Fingland in for Stewartry’s consolation fourth try.
Thsi was a hard-fought derby enjoyed by the big crowd in what was nearly summer weather, as Stewartry ended the season in third place.
Stewartry: J Muir, A Kerr, D Boyd, C Fenwick, J Fingland, C Mosey, J Farquhar, T Cannon, D Burton, I McMorran, L Henderson, K McMinn, S McCulloch, M Smith, I Fenwick (capt), S Broll, S Hogg, M Taylor. Subs all used.
Annan: K Jones, D Wyllie, A Halliday, J Bingham, G Smith, C McCann (capt), A Rae, C Warrick, C Bell, C Nicholson, G Hogg, M Thompson, S Livingstone, D Barnes, S Haren, K Watret, J Nelson, A Jancey, M Carpenter.