HELENSBURGH dug deep in difficult conditions to maintain their unbeaten home start to the 2021-22 campaign on Saturday with a gritty 13-8 win over Clydebank at Ardencaple.

Ian Fulton scored the game’s only try as the Green and Golds bounced back from the disappointment of a single-point defeat away to Uddingston seven days earlier to move up to third place in West Division 2.

The last time these two met, pre-Covid, the Bankies ran out easy winners, but this is a different Burgh squad with a different mentality.

In that last match the Helensburgh players leaked tries left and right but the only thing that leaked this time were the heavens bringing rain that made the ball feel like a bar of soap and challenged both squads to play anything but up-the-jumper rugby.

Clydebank hit their stride early, retaining possession and attacking in waves using a quick set of backs and fit, interlinking forwards that produced quick ruck ball.

The visitors have developed a fast, open, flowing style of play that is very un-Clydebank-like but one that is easy on the eye and certainly to be admired and meant Helensburgh hardly touched the ball in the first 20, and had to defend hard around the fringes and out wide.

READ MORE: Helensburgh beaten by late penalty as Greens lose at Uddingston

This Helensburgh defence clearly enjoys being tested and allowed Clydebank’s runners to come from deep at pace and with intent. If the Burgh defence would only use its line speed to engage the opposition higher up and closer to the gain line then the green clad supporters on the sidelines would feel just a little less anxious.

One breach, at any point along the line would have allowed the red and black jerseys to flood through, but it wasn’t to be: the line stood firm, the first-up tackling was assured, at times even driving the Clydebank boys backwards, and it must have been incredibly frustrating for the opposition to work so hard recycling ball from multiple phases only to come away with nothing except perhaps territory.

Helensburgh slowly began to see more of the ball and moved themselves into the Clydebank half – and when the deadlock was eventually broken it was the hosts who got the first points on the board, Warren Smith converting a penalty after 25 minutes.

From the kick-off Burgh piled forward with Matt Storey and Sam Johnson making big dents in the opposition and wingers Rowney and Farrar threatening to score on numerous occasions out near the touchline; scrum-half Josh Powell found space around the contact areas and was a constant thorn in Clydebank’s side with his quick forays and nimble footwork.

But it was Clydebank who scored the first try, after a short period of intense pressure amidst what looked like a loss of focus from Helensburgh allowed them a fairly easy run in to dot the ball down to the right of the posts.

The conversion was missed but it served as a warning to the home side not to drop their effort or concentration.

READ MORE: Rally star Anderson 'absolutely devastated' after crash ends Yorkshire hopes

Helensburgh’s penalty count has definitely not been helping them this season, and Saturday was no different; the referee penalised the boys in green regularly for silly offences that only allowed the Bankies to kick upfield to relieve the pressure and turn the heat back up on the home side.

Fortunately, Helensburgh’s aggressive defence kept the visitors out, and continued to do so for the rest of the game.

And the hosts controlled the second quarter; their forwards ploughed up the middle, the backs sprayed the ball wide, and it was the blonde mop of Ian Fulton that eventually barged its way over the Clydebank try line underneath the posts to the huge relief of the supporters.

The conversion made it 10-5 to Helensburgh at the break, and heavy rain turned to sunshine at the start of the second half, with the home side continuing to make good use of their possession and moving forward with intent.

If Helensburgh’s approach had a fault, it lay in trying to play too much rugby at the wrong time in the wrong areas of the pitch – though another successful penalty took Helensburgh into a 13-5 lead, leaving Clydebank knowing they would have to up their game to stand a chance of victory.

The visitors played the last quarter the same as the first – inside Helensburgh’s 22 – but despite having several chances to do so, they couldn’t get back to within touching distance.

A lone penalty near the end offered Clydebank a chance to grab a losing bonus point, and it was one they took, though no doubt they will already be looking forward to welcoming Helensburgh to their 4G pitch for the return match in January.

Club president John Cashmore said: “The Burgh boys celebrated well into the evening and it was great to see the clubhouse rocking again.

“It’s nice to see the team sitting third after four matches, but the rest of October will be hugely challenging, with away games at Dalziel on the 9th, at home against Oban on the 16th and away to Strathaven on the 23rd.”