Sirens win first regional derby
Round 6 of the Women’s Premier League saw Stewartry Sirens head down the A75 to Annan Warriors for a bit of history in the making – the first time these teams have played against each other in league or cup.
The first few minutes of the game set the tone for the rest of day with both teams determined to play running rugby.
Annan held the territory from the kick-off with the Sirens looking to move the ball from deep in their own half.
A quick Sirens tap penalty saw a promising break end with a knock on, the resulting scrum showed the dominance of the forward pack as they pushed Annan off the ball, allowing the Sirens to make their way into the Annan 22.
An infringement by Annan resulted in a penalty that Claire Manson took quickly. Support from her forwards allowed a quick ball from the ruck to set up Iona St Joseph to punch a hole through the Annan defence. With Ali Henderson in support, the resulting ball was passed to Donna (Burnett) Burns to opening the scoring with not even 10 minutes on the clock. The conversion was missed.
Annan’s response was almost immediate as an infringement at the restart saw a quick penalty being passed to Annan second row who managed to beat the Sirens cover defence in the foot race to the corner. Again the try went unconverted.
The Sirens’ restart was fumbled and, from the resulting scrum, Iona St Joseph surged towards the Annan 22.
A few phases later, Annan were caught offside and the quick tap penalty from Lizzie Ballentine found its way to St Joseph who finished the move below the posts with the Sirens second try, with 15 minutes on the clock.
The conversion was missed and a pattern was emerging.
With the Sirens forwards dominating the scrums, it was set to be a tough day in this department for the Annan forwards but they made up for it by being competitive in the breakdown area. However, any ball won by the Annan forwards was soon harried down by the Sirens back line, often resulting in another scrum.
With both sides determined to run, handling mistakes and infringements seemed to dominate the next 15 minutes that were played in the Annan half with neither side gaining enough momentum to break out or through.
Another Sirens quick penalty from Claire Manson saw the forwards secure the ruck for Lisa Ritchie to pass onto Iona St Joseph who broke the defensive line and popped the ball up for Ali Henderson to cross the line for the Sirens third try. The conversion was kicked by Lisa Ritchie.
The rest of the half saw both teams trying to break through, ending with Annan on the front foot. Half time Annan 5 - 17 Sirens.
The second half started with Annan on the attack, looking to use their mobile forwards to cause damage. They made their way up to the five-metre line but some resolute defence from the Sirens was soon turned into attack with Claire Manson taking a quick penalty to see the Sirens surge to the halfway line only to give possesion back through another penalty.
This time Annan were robbed of the ball and it was Iona St Joseph who made a good 40 metres before passing to Claire Manson for the Sirens fourth try, converted by Lisa Ritchie.
The Sirens took the game back to Annan and another combination of forwards and backs saw them nearly cross the line once more. However, it was the Annan defence that stood firm this time.
The Sirens enjoyed a spell of dominance with Jenny Yates returning kick returns with some incisive runs.
It wasn’t long before Annan re-grouped and made their way downfield. With one infringement too many from the Sirens whilst defending the try line, the referee sent Dawn Currie to the sin bin for 10 minutes. Almost immediately Annan scored but failed to convert.
With 15 minutes to play, the Sirens were going to be under some pressure not to concede. It was actually the Sirens who went on the offensive. After some good work by the forwards to win a scrum against the head, minus a player, the play moved right and back left with Rhea Currie slipping a pass to Claire Manson, allowed her to sprint under the posts from 25m out. The try was converted by Lisa Ritchie.
The Sirens were keen to add more points and still with 14 players they mounted another assault towards the Annan line. They spent the best part of the last 10 minutes looking for an opening and when they thought they had scored, they were penalised for turning a ruck into a maul.
The last few minutes saw Annan work their way up to the Sirens’ line, this time denied by knocking the ball on.
As befitting the endeavour from both teams to play running rugby, the game ended when the Sirens were forced into touch as they tried to attack from their own line.
Credit to both sets of players who tried to play rugby. It was hard and competitive as one would expect from two Women’s Premier teams who met for the first time in a league match.
Player of the match (awarded by Stewartry): Lisa Ritchie
Player of the match (awarded by Annan): Iona St Joseph.
Derby day delight Stewartry Sirens celebrate their win at Annan