Annan RFC 1st XV 71 - Wigtownshire RFC 1st XV 0 (Nil).
What a difference a week makes! Wigtownshire Rugby Club travelled to Annan on Saturday to play against the league leaders.
Annan were relegated last season through a combination of poor results and the SRU’s ongoing league restructuring. In the first games of the season they have laid down a marker of their intentions to move back up straight away. They have taken the maximum points and bonus point, scoring 83 points in the two games with only 7 points scored against them. The “Shire” boys knew it was going to be a very hard day. This was made all the more difficult by the fact that 8 players were missing from the team that had played in their pulsating win last week. The ongoing issues of injuries, educational, work and personal commitments meant only 16 players were available for the match and three of them were making their league débuts. All of the changes resulted in a number of players having to play out of position no doubt impacting on the shape and structure of the team. All these factors appeared to conspire against the visitors to create a “Perfect Storm” scenario, a storm that the players who made the 90 miles journey would have to face.
Annan kicked off, playing with the wind and down the hill. The visitors made a good start securing the ball, and were awarded a penalty, however the kick into the wind failed to find touch and the ball was returned with interest. Well inside the “Shire” half the home scrum showed their power and the ball was moved through their back going into touch 5 metres from the try line. The “Shire” lineout worked well and they cleared the danger. Annan displayed their intent taking the throw quickly and back they came. Once again they were stopped short, but the writing was on the wall, despite another good lineout, Annan turned over the ball at a ruck and powered over the line for the first try with five minutes on the clock. The conversion attempt went wide. From the restart Annan’s game plan became clear, kick down field and keeps the pressure on. Four minutes later it paid off again, a sound lineout and maul sucked in the “Shire” defense, creating an overlap in the backs. When the ball was released, good clean passing made good on this advantage, to score a try. The extra points were added this time. The “Shire” team started to come together and put together some attacking moves. They managed to kick, drive and run the ball up to the Annan 5 metre line only to be held up short of scoring by a combination of good defending and minor handling and rucking errors bringing the referee into play. The home side weathered this period and came back out of defense. Their strong running backs charged up the field, great tackling slowed their progress but after a lull of twelve minutes they managed to score again through their center, bursting tackles and running round behind the post, making the conversion a formality for Stand-Off Craig McCann. Once more the visitors came back, attacking and making ground unfortunately not enough, the game ebbed and flowed up and down the park for the next fifteen minutes with no side achieving an advantage. This stalemate was broken by Annan who scored their 4th try for their bonus point. Once again they won clean ruck ball but powered through the forwards to score close to the post, the conversion was added. Three minutes later, with the last play of the half, Annan scores another converted try, to lead 33 – nil at the break.
The second half started with fresh tactics from the home side. Playing into the wind they elected to keep the ball in hand. The “Shire” defense was tested once more as they worked the ball wide, probing and driving. For 15 minutes they held out, tackling and turning ball over clearing down field, only to be met by hard running backs coming straight back at them. In that time the visitors only made one real attacking move into the home side territory. Unfortunately this was repelled and turned over. They then showed great handing skill, passing the ball through the backs from one side of the field and back again to outflank the “Shire” cover and score their first try of the half out on the wing, the conversion attempt went wide. The game continued in much the same vain for a further 12 minutes. Annan very much in the ascendancy but frustrated by the way the visitors, despite the score line, were working hard to stop their progress and trying to get a score of their own. The game was halted for a short time to allow attention to “Shire” scrum half, Callum Austin who hurt his back in contact. This resulted in a replacement and a further restructuring of the team. Annan took advantage of this to go in for their second try of the half, which was converted. With 27 minutes on the clock an interjection by the referee, for handling in a ruck, saw Andrew Love consigned to the sin bin for 10 minutes. With the visitors were under pressure throughout the game, the home side needed no invitation to take advantage of their plight, being reduced to 14 men. They notched up 4 tries, converting 3 of them, during the ten minutes. With 3 minutes to play, once returned to a full complement the visitors stemmed the flow. Referee Ewan McQuarry blew for no side with the final score standing at 71 – 0 (Nil) in favour of Annan.
The Wigtownshire players gathered on the field for some time after the post-match team exchanges. Despite all the issues they had faced; they were very disappointed with their performance on the day, both individually and as a team. They eventually left the pitch resolved to put the day behind them and use the experience to build, grow and move forward for the rest of the season. On Saturday “Shire” face Cambuslang at London Road, Stranraer as their league season continues
Team: C Stephens, A Farquhar (Capt), J McIntosh, J McKie, D MacCaig, A McCurdy, C Austin; S Campbell, G Keith, S Taggart, G Dunlop, R Graham, R Pauley, C Reid, A Love. Replacement: G Steel