Tries flowed thick and fast at Ardencaple on Saturday as Helensburgh lost 49-28 to Oban Lorne in the first Argyll derby of the season, writes Calum McNicol.

A blistering start by the visitors left Burgh with a mountain to climb, and though the Greens won the second half 21-14 – scoring a bonus-point four tries in total – the damage had been done, particularly by Oban’s fleet-footed full back, who ran riot in the first half hour.

Yet it could all have started so differently: Burgh camped inside Oban’s 22 for the opening five minutes and missed an early try opportunity when Connor Slader just failed to hold on for what would have been an easy interception ramble home.

Oban’s No.15 Craig Wright then entered the fray, setting up their first converted score after seven minutes by hacking forward after a rapier thrust through the midfield, gathering and popping for a supporting player.

Soon after, Craig Bowman’s brave covering tackle denied the flame-haired speedster, but seconds later, several lame tackles contributed to another try for Oban with less than 10 minutes on the board.

Both teams had players who had brought their kicking boots – Oban would go on to convert all seven of their tries, while Slader didn’t miss on his four attempts.

Some incisive back play from Oban’s backs then set up Wright to roast down the right wing and dot down for a third with 11 minutes gone; not since the days of Kiwi Kieran Verryt has the home crowd seen such a scorched earth specialist run rampant.

A stirring run from man-of-the-match for Burgh, Tom Berry, midway through the half rallied the beleaguered Burgh boys, who slowly seemed to be waking up from their slumbers. Cameron Kerr, Craig Calderwood and full-back Paul Howell tried manfully to set up go-forward ball but too often, a simple error stalled any advances.

A double blow for Burgh arrived just shy of 30 minutes, when first they lost winger Reece Court to injury, forcing a reshuffle of the ranks, before fine interplay set up Wright to romp home from 50 metres for Oban’s fourth.

And in a classic case of ‘when it rains, it pours’, Oban’s number 13 scooped up a woozy pass from Burgh skipper Cammy Kerr and ran in from 40 metres for a fifth under the posts.

But the highlight of the half arrived on the stroke of half-time when lock Craig Calderwood capitalised on an Oban error and showed phenomenal perseverance to not only chase his own kick, but out-muscle two covering defenders to grab the ball and score. Slader made it 35-7 at the half.

Coach David Calderwood’s stern interval dressing-down – pleasingly done on the pitch, in front of the home crowd – worked wonders, for within minutes of the restart, more sterling work by the industrious Berry set up Ollie Curtis for a short-range score, Slader adding two points.

With 50 minutes played, Oban’s centre jinked past several players and looked likely to score until a lung-bursting covering tackle by Sean Alton barrelled him into touch at the corner flag.

Oban exerted considerable pressure on the Burgh line and eventually after a scrum-five for Burgh, the unfortunate Calderwood’s dropped ball was pounced on over the line for a gift of a try; not the first of the day, either it must be said.

Burgh back came strongly. Fine play between Linzee-Gordon and Slader saw the latter burst through a gap, then feed the galloping Berry and though he was stopped short of the line, rapid recycling allowed Kerr to flop over the line to make it 42-21.

Calum Serafini’s quick intervention on the hour saved another home loss, but it only delayed the inevitable, when from another close-range scrum on Burgh’s line, Oban got their seventh try.

Despite some harum-scarum passing from the Greens at times, they sensed a bonus point and it came when Berry capped a terrific debut with a fine try.

This was without doubt a hefty defeat at home for Burgh, who handed at least three tries to Oban on a plate, and old failings materialised worryingly in view of the long season ahead.

Poor tackling, and failing to prevent turn-overs on their own ball must worry the coaches most, but the lineout needs work too.

However, one positive is there’s still plenty of the season left to iron out these deficiencies. Another is Helensburgh’s never-say-die attitude. This season, at this level, will be one of attrition, and the Greens are going to need that grit in spades.

Burgh: Howell, Chase, Slader, Simmons, Court, Bowman, Curtis, Raeside, Ashdown, Ard, C. Calderwood, Berry, Alton, Kerr (c), Green. Subs: Linzee-Gordon, D. Calderwood, Kinsella, Serafini.

* Burgh travel to Millbrae this Saturday. Interestingly, the Ayr side had to concede their match away to Cumbernauld this week, due to a lack of players.