FIFTEEN young Helensburgh rugby players, along with their coaches and some enthusiastic parents, hit the streets of the town last Saturday morning for a training session with a difference.

The club’s under-15 squad decided to go on a ‘Reindeer Run’ with coaches Ian Smith and John Penniston to raise money for the RNLI as part of the festive fund-raising initiative being undertaken by the charity’s Helensburgh branch.

Setting out from the club’s Ardencaple grounds on Rhu Road Higher, the group headed west towards Helensburgh Sailing Club before turning south along the seafront, with a stop-off at Kidston Park, before heading into town and back towards the club – encountering the festive market in the town centre along the way.

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Coach Ian Smith said: “We have a great number of sailors in our squad and like so many, the RNLI has had its funding opportunities curtailed during the pandemic.

“There was lots of fun in the park on the climbers and balancing, running across the seafront keeping the two rugby balls moving. Only a few forfeit press-ups were given for dropped balls!

“An impromptu game of ‘piggy in the middle’ on one of the slip ramps with two balls, then into Colquhoun Square, and a game of touch rugby across the grass, where we drew our biggest crowd of the season – I think it’s the first time a game has been held there.

“Shoppers and stall holders were laughing, smiling and cheering as we continued in front of the Christmas tree.

“The ball challenges and singing were ramped up, forfeits were often and sit-ups and burpess were dished out.

“Don’t believe those who say rugby players can sing – these guys certainly wouldn’t make judges’ houses and would definitely get a red buzzer!”

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The prize-giving continued back at the clubhouse, where Ben Grayson, as Mrs Elf, and Toby Barrie, as Olaf, won the ‘best dressed’ prizes – amid assurances that both costumes had been borrowed from sisters.

Other memorable moments included Tom McVeigh opting for an aubergine from the ‘secret present’ sack, only to select a swede instead; Solomon Blake biting into a red onion to ‘win’ a selection box, and Findlay Penniston being one of the fortunate few by selecting sweets.

“I still have a tin of unclaimed spaghetti hoops and two lollipops!” Ian said.

“Everybody thoroughly enjoyed themselves and we hopefully made people laugh and brought some cheer and joy to festive shoppers.

“John and I are immensely proud of each member of our team. It has been a difficult and trying season for us all, but they have all stepped up and shown a sense of maturity and risen to the added responsibilities.

“We hope they all have a fantastic festive break, and we’ll resume in 2021 with some fitness to work off the mince pies and turkey.

“We’d also like to thank everybody who made our buckets rattle with coins, raising over £130 on our travels. We really enjoyed it and we want to do more!”

(Thanks to Ian Smith for the info and Tom Grayson, Paul Crombie, Michael McVeigh, Sally McCartney, Rhona Deighan and Linda Pender for the pictures)

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