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Annan defeated at East Kilbride despite spirited performance.

East Kilbride....... . 25 Annan .......... . 3 Annan travelled to EastKilbride for their penultimate match of 2018, bruised from the previous week's shock home defeat to Strathendrick.

The squad were determined to make amends for that loss by putting in a performance that Annan supporters expect from them.

East Kilbride were also full of motivation, beating fellow title challengers Allan Glens handsomely away from home in their previous fixture.

Annan kicked off, on a gloomy, moist day, to the massive East Kilbride pack, easily weighing 10kg per man more than their Annan counterparts. However, it was the Annan pack which dominated the first 30 minutes. Aggressive running and defence from the smaller side allied with clever kicking piled pressure on the home side. This resulted in a simple penalty for Craig McCann to put Annan 3-0 ahead.

A couple of opportunities near to the EK line were squandered and despite all the pressure, Annan could not extend their lead. East Kilbride started to get more into the game, assisted greatly by needless penalties conceded by the away team. This allowed them to regain territory and use their big ball carriers to bludgeon over the line. Annan defiantly repelled this but the effort and resource used left space out wide which was exposed very well by the home side to score two nice tries, giving East Kilbride a 12-3 lead at half time.

The rain continued to come and go into the second half with Annan trying to get the impetus back. This hope was dashed when an unforced knock-on inside the 22 from an aimless kick gave the big East Kilbride forwards the fillip they wanted just after half time. The sheer size and girth of the home players told, forcing the away side back a metre at a time and eventually squeezing over for an unconverted try.

Annan responded by pushing play back into the home 22 but once again opportunities were not taken. Then after a delay to treat a bad looking leg injury for Harry Houdley, Annan turned the ball over in the opposition half, leaving them scrambling to get back to prevent another score. They managed this. However, from a five metre scrum, East Kilbride pushed themselves over for another unconverted try, giving them the bonus point.

Late in the game the home kicker rediscovered his kicking boots by notching a penalty to make the score 25-3 to the home side and that's how the game ended.

East Kilbride showed why, after this result, they are sitting top of the league. They are a big side who defend very strongly.

Over the winter months they will take some stopping. However, if anyone is going to they should look at the way Annan played for large parts of this game. The whole squad was enthusiastic, committed and showed a huge amount of grit, an almost complete reversal in approach from the week before.

Annan 1st XV squad: R Glass, M Crombie, R Hetherington, K Watret, D Nordon, K Warrick, C Bell, S Haren, J Bigham, C McCann (C), H Houldey, A Jancey, A Halliday,J Kirby, J Whiteside. Replacements: D Wyllie, J Crombie, M Thorburn, (all used).

This weekend After the defeat to East Kilbride, Annan are now in danger of slipping down into the bottom half of the table.

Next season, West 1 is reducing to 10 teams and with the way relegation will work in the regional divisions (between 0 and 3 teams relegated depending on how many West teams come down from National 3) who knows how many teams will be relegated this season.

Annan need a few more points to perhaps put any lingering relegation threats behind them.

At the top, its shaping up to be the tightest league ever with the top four teams all within a couple of points (assuming the teams win any games in hand).

Saturday's opponents Greenock Wanderers are in that top four. Greenock were looking like champions elect just a few weeks ago but two defeats to Garnock and East Kilbride meant they were dragged back down into the promotion mix.

In all, the teams have played each other 10 times with Annan winning six times and the Renfrewshire team four.

Annan 1st XV: R Glass, M Crombie, J Crombie, D Robson, D Nordon, K Warrick, C Bell, S Haren, J Bigham, C McCann(C), C Wyllie, J Callaghan, A Halliday, A Jancey, J Whiteside. Replacements: J Kirby, M Thompson, G Graham, M Thorburn.

Players to meet at Violetbank at 12.30pm for a 2pm kick-off.

The 2nd XV are also at home to league leaders Greenock Wanderers 2nd XV.

Annan 2nd XV squad: B Conroy, R Brown, S Livingston, I Thorburn, J Ogilvie, C Grant, A Allison, A Carlyle, L Johnstone, F Laurie, C Smith, K McDerment, J Park, B Sweeney, C Taylor.

Players to meet at Violetbank at 12.30pm for a 2pm kick-off.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Dumfries and Galloway Standard (Dumfriesshire, Scotland)
Date:Dec 14, 2018
Words:817
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