HELENSBURGH’S young rugby players fell at the semi-final hurdle of their West Regional Cup tournaments at the weekend – but the players at under-18, under-16 and under-15 level can all take great pride in reaching the penultimate stage of the competition.

In near perfect conditions for rugby the U18s travelled to Coatbridge on Saturday for their Shield semi-final against Waysiders Drumpellier. After a good showing in the pool stages this was set to be a tight cup encounter and this proved to be the case as no quarter was given by either side.

Lomond and Helensburgh scored first midway through the first half when lineout possession was gained from a penalty and the driving maul penetrated deep into the Waysiders red zone before the ball was passed to winger Picken who drove over the line from close range.

The conversion was good from Niblock, but the hosts levelled just before half time with a close range penalty move and crash over between the posts for a fairly simple conversion.

Waysiders forced their way over the line early in the second half for their second, and what would turn out to be the match’s final, try; despite throwing everything at the Waysiders line, Helensburgh were repulsed by a combination of resolute defence, frustrating errors and indiscipline in the eyes of the referee.

In the final moments of the match Fowler burst towards the line only to be penalised for holding on, allowing Waysiders to run down the clock and close out the win.

Coach Paul Reaney said: “Throughout the cup campaign the U18s have played an effective brand of go forward rugby, forged by the dedication of the team in training.

“Although the U18s were not able to progress any further on this occasion this match was a fitting tribute to the efforts of the boys who will shortly end their youth rugby carrier and progress onto senior rugby.

“It was also pleasing to note that all of the younger U18s showed up well in some very tough matches – this should be the catalyst for next season.”

Meanwhile, Helensburgh’s under-16s lost 51-12 to a well-drilled Whitecraigs side in their Quaich semi-final.

After losing an early try Burgh hit back with a great scrum and a good flat crash ball which saw Cameron Gow tie things up.

Though Helensburgh defnded reasonably well in the first half, and absolutely owned the scrums, which were hard driven by Rhys Elias and Samuel Farrar, they still trailed 17-5 at the break.

Whitecraigs ran away with the game in the second half, though William Harrison’s great pick-and-go try, converted by Tom Fleming, was a consolation for Helensburgh’s efforts.

Player Solomon Blake said: “Although the result didn’t go our way it doesn’t take away from the fact that we still gave it our all and had fun and had a laugh which at the end of the day is all rugby’s really about.”

Ian Smith, the U16s’ coach, added: “As coaches we wanted to challenge our team, play teams outside our conference and comfort zone. Deciding to enter the cup competition was always a step up and we played six, winning two - at first glance this doesn’t make good reading.

“However, drill deeper and you’ll see we’ve bedded in two new players in Mackenzie and Thomas - neither even looked at rugby ball before December!

“We’ve given a scare to teams that are in conferences higher than us, and that have played more games than us. We’ve scored some amazing tries from positions we ought not to have.

“We’ve trialled players in new positions – Cameron started this season in the front row and is now an established inside centre – while Harry, Ben and Ewan regularly stepped in to play under 15s and grew their confidence and player development.

“We’ve had eight players go for regional trials and grow their game. We lost Fabian, Toby B and Solomon to long term injury early in the season.

“The results are not always in our favour, but most importantly 34 players have bonded, had fun and enjoyed playing their rugby together.

“I will still be trying to get development fixtures right through until the end of April. Thank you to parent power for away matches and continued support of the squad.”

The under-16s’ next development match is against Loch Lomond at Dillichip this Sunday, March 27.

Finally, Helensburgh’s under-16s bowed out of their Bowl competition in the last four with a 47-19 defeat to Dalziel.

Burgh were left on the back foot after conceding two early tries, though Ewan McCartney gave the visitors some momentum with his strong running, breaking away up the right side and dotting down under the posts.

Dalziel scored another couple of tries, but Helensburgh have resilience in bundles and fought back with a blistering run by Fergus McEwan to score the try of the day, again easily converted by Rhuairidh Hall.

Some suspect decisions by the referee frustrated the Helensburgh camp, but ultimately the stronger team took the win – though some strong running and handing off by Ben Grayson for Helensburgh’s third try did give the visitors something to look back on from the second half.

Coach Paul McClearn said: “It was great to see strong debuts by Kyle Du Toit and Fraser Stein in their first game for the club. Well done boys.

“This team have great heart and the coaching team are very proud of their performance in this competition with them getting better every week.

“Player of the match was Gethin Davies for his dominant tackling.”