HELENSBURGH Rugby Club chairman David King says there’s still plenty of cause for optimism despite the Grizzlies’ defeat in their first league match of the season on Saturday.

The Burgh battled back from 19-7 down at home to Bishopton to level the scores with a quarter of the game to go – only for a dropped ball at the restart to hand the Renfrewshire side back an advantage they would not relinquish.

King said: “This game was a testament to grass roots rugby and our special guest for the day, ex Glasgow Warrior Graeme Morrison, was highly impressed by both teams, their competitive spirit and especially at the size of the home support that Helensburgh had on the day.

“Player/coach David Calderwood can take a lot from the game and with Helensburgh missing some key players due to university commitments, there are still major improvements to come.”

Newly-promoted Bishopton kicked off at Ardencaple in front of a large home support, and the visitors immediately gained possession and attacked with a kick into the Burgh 22.

Helensburgh winger Ollie Curtis returned the kick but missed touch, and Bishopton spread the ball wide to their number 12, who easily swept through a sleeping Burgh defence to score in the corner. With the conversion missed it was 5-0 to the visitors after only two minutes.

The loss of an early try was a wake up call to the home side and from kick-off captain Cammy Kerr took the ball to the visitors’ 10-metre line, gaining a penalty where winger Reece Court kicked Burgh into a strong position on the Bishopton 22.

From the line out, second row Josh Green secured the ball, and great back play saw stand off Bowman pass out to centre Ally Rogers who, with a great move, popped the ball inside to fellow centre Welch, sliding through to score under the posts; Court’s conversion put the Burgh 7-5 in front.

Both teams eventually settled into a rhythm, but Bishopton were looking the more dangerous, taking advantage of penalties that Helensburgh kept giving away.

On 17 minutes the visitors’ number eight managed to force himself over the line, but scrum half Kinsella was able to rip the ball, forcing a knock on and a defensive scrum on the Grizzlies’ five-metre line.

But Bishopton’s heavier pack managed to push the Burgh scrum off the ball, and this time their number eight redeemed himself, touching down for a converted score which put the visitors back in front.

Helensburgh worked their way up to Bishopton’s five-metre line in response after great driving play from the home forwards, but a knock-on and consequent scrum allowed the opposition to clear.

More penalties conceded by Helensburgh gave Bishopton the chance to make ground deep into the hosts’ half, and a drive over the line yielded a third try and, thanks to the conversion, a healthy 19-7 half-time lead.

Bishopton kept the home side under pressure at the start of the second half, pushing up to the Grizzlies’ 22, but great work by Burgh prop Liam Flannagan saw him steal the ball – and with the Bishopton backs out of position, a fantastic cross-kick by Bowman enabled winger Paul Howell to collect the ball and run in from the halfway line to score under the posts.

Court’s conversion reduced the leeway to five points with half an hour still to play, and with the tide now having firmly turned in Helensburgh’s favour, the home side were at last able to play their own game.

From a 10-metre lineout, flanker Sean Alton stole Bishopton’s ball, offloading to Flannagan who, with the pack behind him, drove up to the opposition’s 22.

Clever play from there saw Kinsella pass out to winger Conner Slader, who chipped the ball over the defence before touching down to score in the corner.

Court’s conversion attempt, from a difficult angle, only narrowly missed the target, leaving the scores tied at 19-19 – but to the home crowd’s dismay, a dropped ball from the restart gave Bishopton a huge opening, and the visitors’ number four picked up, knocked aside two desperate Helensburgh tackles and floated through the defence to cross beneath the posts for a converted try which gave them a seven-point lead.

Burgh pushed hard to get back in the game in the final quarter, keeping Bishopton in their own half, but a sticky defence and more dominant scrum kept the home side at bay and as much as they tried they just couldn’t get through for the vital try, and had to take what consolation they could from a losing bonus point.

Helensburgh’s next league game is away to Cumbernauld this Saturday, September 8. Kick-off at Auchenkilns is at 3pm and any travelling support will be most welcome.