It may well be the season for being jolly – but for many down Ardencaple way it’s been a tough old slog so far in Helensburgh RFC’s league campaign, writes Calum McNicol.

West League Two was always going to be a testing re-introduction to coarse rugby, but few expected the Greens’ promotion bid to be blown so far off course in their bid for an immediate promotion.

They currently languish in third-bottom place after half their league fixtures, so that ambition might seem like folly now.

But new year, new cheer and all that – and though Helensburgh’s on-field strength is fluctuating and erratic at present, there are signs of the green shoots of recovery, both in the cadre of promising young players at the Burgh’s core, and in the club’s off-field organisation and commitment.

In August, Burgh crashed out of the West Regional Shield to Strathendrick, having had good numbers at summer training but little friendly-match preparation.

A league opener at home against Bishopton and then away to Cumbernauld saw Burgh snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on both occasions, before a resounding 49-28 loss at home to Oban set alarm bells ringing.

A welcome but narrow three-point win down at Millbrae steadied the ship, before another grinding victory at local rivals Loch Lomond suggested the Greens were finding their feet in a league notorious for brawn over brains.

Then came a spirit-crushing defeat at home to Clydebank – and a referee about whom the less said the better ­– and a despairing loss down in the wilds of Wigtownshire, before Helensburgh finally delivered a crowd-pleasing performance, demolishing Paisley 44-24 on a balmy autumn afternoon.

League leaders Lenzie left Ardencaple with the points in early November, but only after another monumental struggle as Burgh’s young team raised their game in the face of adversity.

Through choice, and after the autumn international series, Burgh’s next match, almost a month later, was a bus trip to Oban and a bit of a battering in Oban, though the Cowboys and Indians-themed return trip was a fine example of the camaraderie which seems to be sadly on the decline in the amateur leagues.

Then came the Beasts from the East – well, okay, Loch Lomond – who harnessed their inner iceman to cope with terrible conditions on December 15 and leave with a 19-8 victory that leap-frogged them above their near-neighbours.

Just six years ago, current coach Davie Calderwood was among the players who, having won the treble the season before, finished sixth in West One.

The champions that year were Marr FP – who currently have one foot in the Tennent’s Scottish Premiership, the top tier of Scotland's club game, as they lead National One.

In stark contrast Helensburgh, over the last three to four years, have seen a decline in both numbers and quality of player - it’s a harsh fact but meant in no way to be a criticism of any current squad member - and relegation was inevitable as a result.

But rugby is a such a cyclical sport: it’s to be hoped that in six years’ time, Burgh’s youngsters will – bolstered by further emerging talent from the club’s youth section – have begun their own climb back up the leagues.

It’s also to be hoped that Davie has hung up his boots by then. Surely?