Early hits spoil Annan’s day
Irvine ............... 26 Annan .............. 20
Annan travelled to take on Irvine who, after a poor start to their season, have now found some form, especially at home.
Despite the severe weather warnings in place, Annan arrived at Marress to find the pitches in good condition and no rain.
For the travelling Annan support, the match started with a feeling of déjà vu as, like the previous week at Allan Glens, Annan were two scores down in the first 10 minutes when the well-drilled home forwards drove over the line from lineouts on the fivemetre line.
With one of the tries converted, Annan were 12-0 down in as many minutes.
It got worse as Irvine increased their lead on the 20-minute mark when, from a forward surge, they once again crossed the line to score a converted try (19-0).
At this point, it looked as if Annan were on their way to a heavy defeat, but the visitors managed to steady the boat when, from a surging run by Annan’s captain No 8 Sean Haren, he set up centre Alex Halliday for a scintillating try between the posts. Stand-off Josh Whiteside added the conversion.
Just before half-time Annan were once again rocked back when the hosts added another converted try in the corner to take the half time score to Irvine 26 Annan 7.
Whatever was said in the half time team talk certainly had the desired effect as Annan were a different team in the second half.
Irvine rarely threatened the Annan line as the visiting defences held firm.
The home forwards began to exert some set-piece dominance and began to supply their backs with some quality ball to launch several attacks.
From a great run down the wing, James Kirby set up Alex Halliday for his second try as he crashed over in the corner. The conversion was missed. (26-12).
Annan continued to dominate possession and territory and, as Irvine tried to break out of their 22, lock Neal Coupland ripped the ball from an Irvine forward and set up Halliday who, with a fair bit of work to do, crossed the whitewash with a couple of home defenders on his back.
Again, the conversion was missed. (26-17).
Annan got within six points of their hosts when Josh Whiteside landed a penalty award from the 22.
Annan were now in rampant form and in the last minutes of the game laid siege to the Irvine line and, from their last attack, came so close to winning the game.
With the home defences in some disarray, a deft cross kick was launched by centre Adam Torbett for winger James Kirby to run onto.
Unfortunately, from the Annan perspective, the ball bounced into touch tantalisingly inches from the hands of the winger.
From the ensuing lineout the ball was booted into touch and the game was over.
Once again, this was a game of two halves for Annan with the first half one they want to forget.
The forwards, who struggled in the first half began to find some form in the second in their set piece play. Irvine beat Annan on Saturday
The Annan player of the match has to be centre Alex Halliday who, with his hat-trick of tries on Saturday, means he is leading 1st XV for this season with eight tries and has scored 97 tries in total in his 1st XV career in 184 1st XV appearances.
Since the 1st XV entered the national league system in 1991, Kevin Jones had scored the most tries on 94 but the tries scored by Alex this season and on Saturday means he is now the all time 1st XV try scorer since the club started in Glasgow District 2 with 97 tries.
Alistair ‘Babe’ Graham is third on 84 tries since 1991 but this does not include the many, many tries scored when Annan were in the Border Junior League.
Annan 1st XV squad: R Glass, K Warrick, T Sloan, N Coupland, D Nordon, D Barnes, C Bell, S Haren (C), J Bigham, J Whiteside,J Kirby, A Torbett, A Halliday, W Gray, A Jancey. Replacements: R Hetherington (used), S Nicholson, D Robson, M Thorburn.
Other results: Irvine 2nd XV 65 Annan 5.