The annual Violetbank 15-a-side challenge took place last Saturday and provided a feast of entertainment for all present and an opportunity for the participating teams to gauge progress made in summer training before the league campaigns begin this week. Unfortunately, Livingston pulled out at the 11th hour so the game times were lengthened in their league. The Tournament results were:
Netherhall 0 v Annan 14
Stewartry 10 v Hawick Quins 0
Hawick Quins 14 v Netherhall 14
Stewartry 7 v Annan 17
Stewartry 28 v Netherhall 0
Hawick Quins 3 v Annan 5
Annan started off with a solid performance against Netherhall Old Boys from Maryport and scored within the first five minutes with a fine driven over try with prop Colin Warrick getting the touchdown. Annan’s second was scored by youngster Alex Halliday who sidestepped the Netherhall full back to score after a splendid backs move. Standoff Andrew White added two fine conversions from the touchline to complete the scoring.
Next up were old rivals Stewartry who as usual provided Annan with a stern test and although No 8 Graham Smith romped in for a simple try early on which winger Craig McCann converted Stewartry fought back with an opportunist try which was converted to tie the scores.
Just before half time a Craig McCann penalty took Annan into the second half with a 3 point lead. In the second half both teams battled hard to breach the whitewash but it was Annan standoff Andrew White who, with an outrageous double dummy sprinted over to score. He also converted his own try.
Annan’s last game in League A was against old Border rivals Hawick Harlequins. In a tough tussle in the first half wing forward Bruce Blower powered over in the corner to score. Quins fought back with a penalty to take the half time score to 5-3.
In the second half Annan had enough possession to have won a barrow load of games but some stuffy defence from the borderers kept their line intact, although Annan did cross the line 3 times but the tries were disallowed.
Dumfries 0 v Langholm 16
Wigton 3 v Langholm 13
Wigton 0 v Dumfries 22
Langholm’s march to the final started with a hard fought win over Dumfries and an equally hard game against Cumbrian side Wigton.
FINAL – ANNAN 42 LANGHOLM 3
Annan’s young guns stepped up to the mark in the final and showed that given time they will be a force to be reckoned with. Annan had a dream start in the opening minutes when from a finely crafted kick over the heads of the advancing Langholm backs full back Kevin Jones latched on to the ball to land the opening score. Annan continued to spread the ball wide at every opportunity and playing the game at pace they stretched the Langholm defences time and time again.
From a fine drive up the touchline lock John Nelson received an inside pass to score. Next in line was winger Craig McCann who outstripped the cover defences to win the race to ground the ball after stand off Andrew White launched another crafty kick. With Craig McCann adding all three conversions Annan went into the half time huddle 21 points to 3 in the lead.
Langholm came straight out at the beginning of the second half with all guns blazing but were hit almost immediately with a killer blow when prop Steve Kelly latched onto an inside pass following a defensive mistake by Langholm and scampered into score.
Within minutes No 8 Graham Smith had notched up another score with a simple pick up and drive through a despairing defence. Annan’s last score was a peach. After a crunching tackle on the Langholm inside centre the dislodged ball was scooped up and an attack launched down the touchline.
Full back came into the wing position and out sprinted the Langholm winger and with his opposite number bearing down on him he coolly chipped the ball over his head and won the footrace to the line. With Andrew White adding all three conversions Annan had scored their biggest ever victory over rivals Langholm with the final score 42 points to 3.
After six years and having been runners up in four previous finals Annan were justifiably cock-a-hoop at winning their own tournament. Especially pleasing for the coaches was the performances of the young players who have stepped up from last years Colts squad who all deserve a mention: Bruce Blower, Andrew White, Andrew Jancey, Alex Halliday, Jonathon Crombie and Michael Carpenter.
All in all a most satisfying pre season warm up for the Annan club with Carlisle also beaten 18-12 the previous week and with a bit of a buzz about the club the club are looking to make their mark in Division 2 of the SRU National Leagues which starts on Saturday. But all this will be for nought if they do not hit the ground running this season after losing their opening games last season which made life difficult for the rest of the season