Helensburgh and Lomond Youth Rugby’s under-15s, 16s and 17s kicked off their 2022-23 season in an away development fixture to Kelpies on warm, sunny afternoon on Sunday, August 21.

As a development fixture the result was immaterial and saw the game split into four 20-minute periods.

The travelling support saw a mixed U15 and U16 squad, led by Harry Kemp from the U16s.

A good solid start by both teams saw early pre-season jitters and ball spills. Kelpies were the first to capitalise and cross for a try.

Undeterred the squad picked themselves up and took the game to Kelpies, only for inconsistent refereeing to see them penalised harshly. That allowed Kelpies to stretch their legs – and the score.

Regathering under the sticks a few words of encouragement from the coaches, the players’ belief returned. From the re-start there was added impetus and hunger.

Crossing for a score, Helensburgh Lomond worked a team effort try.

Half time (quarter time) saw the coaches jiggle players around make a few changes and remind the squad that this was pre-season and it was not expected to be perfect.

Receiving the restart and taking the game to Kelpies, Helensburgh Lomond put themselves into a commanding position and tightened the game. It was nip and tuck for the balance of the game and scores traded. Helensburgh Lomond lost out by one score.

The club reserved praise for talented quartet Adam, Fergus, William and Joseph who stepped up almost two age grades to qualify under the age grade system to play at a level they were yet to experience.

The third quarter saw the introduction of the U16 and U17s, and the long anticipated return of Solomon playing his first game in ten months after having a scrum collapse on him in October last season.

Drilled by Ian Smith and Pete Kemp, the squad came flying out of the blocks with a point to prove. Low on numbers, they were high on team spirit and morale – but were hindered by pre-season rustiness and missed tackles.

That, combined with inconsistent refereeing, saw Kelpies strike the first blow. Trading scores and playing as a team saw flowing rugby and signs of what can be expected for the coming season and was pleasing to watch.

Honours were even at the break.

Into the third quarter and there was disaster as a very sloppy defence and lack of concentration saw Kelpies score straight under the sticks within seconds of the restart.

Helensburgh Lomond were given a stern talking-to, which kick-started their efforts and they started to take control. looked dangerous every time they had ball in hand and their fitness was beginning to show, as Kelpies had no answer to Helensburgh Lomond running from all angles, keeping the ball in hand.

Against the run of play Kelpies scored and levelled the game.

In the final few minutes and with Kelpies on the ascendancy threatening the Helensburgh line, fantastic man and ball tackling prevented a certain try and the ball was spilt loose. Pouncing Helensburgh Lomond launched a counter-attack from behind their own line.

Numerous rucks slowly gained metres and a penalty against Kelpies. Clearing the ball to touch on the halfway saw Helensburgh Lomond set up the try of the day. A clean line out fed the back line to run hard and fast at the tired Kelpies defence.

Crashing over the line saw Helensburgh Lomond edge the final score and win the game. A true Hollywood try, with every player involved.

Meanwhile, the under-18s made the short journey to Alexandria on Saturday, August 20 for the first match of the 2022-23 season. The squad’s overall fitness on the back of some tough pre-season sessions showed as the team ran out 49-5 winners against a spirited Loch Lomond side.

There were tries from: Oscar (three), Fabio, Will, T-Jay (two), Toby and Robbie, along with two conversions from Robbie.

Nine players made their under-18 debuts in this training match and the squad are starting to gel.

Head coach Paul Reaney commented: “Overall this was a good workout for the under-18s and the coaching team have noted a few areas for improvement.”