Lomond and Helensburgh’s under-18 rugby players are looking good to progress to the semi-finals of the West Region Cup or Shield after a fine 20-14 win over their Lochaber counterparts at Ardencaple.

The closely-fought win, with Helensburgh scoring three tries to their visitors’ two, sees the Burgh youths sit proudly at the top of their pool with three wins from four matches and just one group game to go.

Tries came from T-Jay and Andrew, with Conor landing one penalty and a conversion.

Coach Paul Reaney said afterwards: “Today’s match was a tight encounter with every one of the 22 boys in the squad putting in a shift.

“Lochaber played very well and we wish them well in their semi-final. Well done to Lloyd who made his debut today.”

Meanwhile, Lomond and Helensburgh’s under-16s lost 40-31 to an unbeaten East Kilbride in a ‘slobber-knocker’ encounter in front of another strong home crowd on Sunday.

EK exploited some early mistakes to score two tries for an early 12-0 lead, but after some good direct running a high tackle penalty saw Toby Clark go over from close range to reduce the arrears.

The visitors responded immediately with a strong number 8 scrum pickup leading to a third try, and though EK worked through the phases from a long Helensburgh clearance kick to add a fourth, Burgh hit back with a penalty try after sniping scrum-half Alex Brown was illegally tackled just short of the line.

The referee’s decision also saw the EK tackler shown a yellow card, and at 26-12 down at the break and with an extra man at the start of the second half Burgh were very much in the game – and Clark went over again to reduce the gap to just seven points.

EK, though, soaked up the Burgh pressure and with the yellow card period over the visitors were quick to exploit any Helensburgh errors, a breakaway try taking them into a 33-19 lead.

Home fly-half Tom Fleming’s clever kicking exploited the available space and won Burgh another penalty which saw Clark go over for his hat-trick try, EK being handed another yellow card in the process.

A fine blindside move saw Finlay Martin go close, only for EK to again build some phases and work the ball through the hands for a fine score to go 14 points clear with time running out.

Helensburgh, though, refused to throw in the towel and another offside penalty allowed Clark to go over for a fourth try.

Coach Stuart Barrie said: “It was great advert for the U16 game, with two teams that kept going until the final whistle.

“Burgh’s lineout was strong with Alex Tacchi winning and stealing line-out ball regularly, and Cameron Gow provided real impetus with his running in the midfield.”

Helensburgh’s U15 game last weekend fell victim to Covid isolations, while the U13 and U14 squads’ games against St Columba’s School were called off because of frozen pitches in Kilmacolm.

This Saturday, March 12, Helensburgh’s U18s, U14s and U13s are all up against Balfron Strathendrick, while Sunday, March 13 sees the final cup pool fixtures for Helensburgh’s U16s (away to Strathaven) and U15s (at home to Whitecraigs).

Elsewhere, Helensburgh’s senior men’s XV returned to action on Saturday for the first time in more than a month – but a lack of match sharpness saw them tumble to a heavy defeat away to Cumnock.

The Greens’ next league fixture is away to Strathaven on Saturday, March 19.

(Photo from U16 fixture v East Kilbride taken by Melody Grayson)