Lomond Helensburgh under-16s kicked off 2023 in style with a thumping victory, triumphing 54-12 away to Renfrew Raiders.

Originally billed as a home fixture for Lomond Helensburgh, the weather had other plans and in a quickly rearranged fixture, the Raiders did a fine job in hosting at short notice.

A bare squad made the short trip over the Clyde. Players were out of position and did what they could to make the team work.

A familiar pattern emerged; starved of possession and field position, Lomond Helensburgh defended resolutely. The tackle count was already in the tens within the opening few minutes.

Some high tackling saw the side concede numerous penalties and eventually, the sustained pressure saw the Raiders cross for an unconverted try. It looked like a long afternoon ahead.

From the resulting restart, Lomond Helensburgh’s quick recycling of the ball and direct, route one line running saw Ewan McCartney cross for a converted score, and the lead.

This lead was stretched further when McCartney again crossed a few moments later from more direct running; 14-5 to Lomond Helensburgh.

From here the game tightened up and the Raiders built a solid platform in which to camp deep inside the Lomond Helensburgh half. The defence took a battering and aching bodies lay scattered.

Sustained pressure and dogged determination saw

Raiders cross for a second score.

An eventful restart put into the Lomond Helensburgh 22m gave Raiders the advantage, battering on the try line but unable to cross in the wake of resolute defence.

Repeated infringements cost Lomond Helensburgh a yellow card to Harry Kemp; this only spurred the visitors on, and from the resulting penalty, they won a turn over and released the pace of Alex Brown who danced and galloped away to score under the opposition posts to make it 21-12.

The 14 men then turned the screw again, with Euan Branch scoring to make it 28-12 at half-time.

The second half returned to a full 15 and saw one change for Lomond Helensburgh, Tom McVeigh taking up a new position in the front row. Playing as hooker Tom played what was probably his greatest game to date.

The second half also saw Lomond Helensburgh close the game out and dominate possession and field position, Ethan Talbot taking control of the lineouts and giving his opposite number a torrid time.

Solomon Blake threw some frankly outrageous dummies and score of the day went to Ben Grayson; the move began deep in Lomond Helensburgh’s half and featured several phases of play before Grayson streaked away from inside his own half. With three men to outpace, he glided like the wind to score and make it 35-12.

Tom McClearn got his name on the score sheet with some impressive dancing and balancing skills, and on his first appearance for Lomond Helensburgh since P7, dual-registered Charlie Deacon scored from a short range pick and drive, with three Raiders acting as an anchor.

The game rounded off with Brown getting his second score of the day.

This was a convincing win, and pleasing for the coaches to start the second half of the season with a win.

Fitness was fantastic, but coach Ian Smith had some concerns: rucking was at best patchy and at worst non-existent, while the penalty count was too high.

Tackle height and player releasing in the tackle are things to work on in the coming training sessions.

The side’s next fixture is its opening cup fixture away to Dalziel on January 22.