Match Report from: GARY “TAG” COUPLAND
On Saturday 30th April, Annan 1st XV travelled to Maybole to play Carrick 1st XV in their penultimate match of the season in the Tennent’s West Region Division 1. With a win securing 5th place in the league and setting up a possible 4th position decider against Kilmarnock in a couple of weeks. It was hoped the boys would follow up on their recent good win against Cambuslang the previous week. As has been the case however for most of this season unavailability due to injury and otherwise meant 6 changes to the squad from the previous week and 4 to the starting line up.
The game was played in blustery wet conditions on a new 4G pitch at Carrick Academy and Annan made a promising start, pressurising Carrick from the kick off and after a few minutes pressure deservedly took the lead through a Josh Whiteside penalty. Annan then seemed to go off the boil allowing Carrick back into the game and to build more phases and possession inside the Annan half, this coupled with the old failings of poor defence and missed tackling allowed Carrick to score an unconverted try wide right in the corner.
This and numerous infringements and handling errors by Annan spurred the home side on and they deservedly went further ahead with another unconverted try and rounded the half off with a penalty following yet another infringement by the visitors.
Half Time: Carrick 1st XV 13 Annan 1st XV 3
In the 2nd half Carrick continued to capitalise on errors and poor decision making by the Annan boys scoring a further three converted tries to secure the bonus points and win, with Annan’s only bright point being an excellent Aaron Carmichael try out wide on the left after some excellent running and interplay in the backs. This was unconverted and sadly scored in the final minute of the game.
Final score: Carrick 1st XV 34 Annan 1st XV 8
So another defeat to round off the away fixtures for the season with many of the Annan boys looking out of sorts and at times rudderless. The usually reliable lineout failing on many occasions, particularly when in good field positions to set up scoring opportunities. Yet again failings at the breakdown and in initial contact both when carrying the ball and attempting to tackle allowed the home side to disrupt play and capitalise on those mistakes to good benefit. The more or less intact back line which had functioned so well the previous week, were continually starved of possession and when they did get it, apart from a few notable occasions including the Carmichael try, often made handling errors or were stripped of the ball in the contact area due to lack of support.
From a coaches perspective another frustrating game, with the teams inability to perform away from home or indeed at home against some of the form teams at the top of the league, a conundrum that will need to somehow be addressed for next season. On their day this team and squad if they can be consistent in terms of mindset, availability and focus on the game should be able to give any team in the league a run for their money and be vying for the top of the league.
So four training sessions to go and the final game at home against Kilmarnock who sit 5 points ahead. Finishing at least 5th and potentially 4th ( if other results go Annan’s way) is still a possibility for this squad but they will need to apply themselves over the next couple of weeks to finish on a high at Violetbank with a complete and focused performance.
Best for Annan on the day were Alex Halliday in the backs and Harry Houldey in the forwards.
Special mention to Jack Graham who played the 2nd half for his 1st XV league debut. Well done Jack. Jack is the 41st player to play in the team this season.
Annan starting XV: R Glass, K Warrick, K Watret, F Hope, E Campbell, C Smith, H Houldey, S Haren, A Carmichael, J Whiteside, J Park, A Halliday, A Torbett, E Haley, A Jancey.
Subs: (All used) A Craik, J Graham, J Bigham, B Latimer.