LOMOND and Helensburgh’s second XV saw their impressive start to 2024 continue on Saturday with a fine 28-15 friendly win away to old foes Greenock Wanderers.

T-Jay Lambert led the way with a personal haul of 18 points – two tries, two penalties and a conversion – while Craig Newport and Scott Smith also touched down as L&H secured victory against a combined Greenock 2nd/3rd team from a match which, remarkably, featured 94 minutes of rugby.

Both teams – in the referee’s words after the match – “went at each other from the start”, but against the stiff breeze it was L&H, eager to build on the previous week’s seven-try win over Kilmarnock 3rd, who hit form quicker, scoring within two minutes of the kick-off when Lambert sidestepped his way through the home defence to score in the right corner.

The tricky conversion was missed, but it wasn’t too long before L&H had more cause to celebrate, with the visitors turning the ball over after the latest in a series of fearsome tackles by both sides before shipping the ball out to Lambert, who outpaced the home defence to score his second, this time in the left-hand corner.

But any thoughts in the L&H camp that this might turn out to be an easy afternoon were dispelled almost straight away, with Greenock winning the ball back from their own kick-off and scoring their first try of the afternoon through one of their forwards after a series of strong runs at the visitors’ defence.

For the next 15 minutes, both teams battered each other, with many of the L&H players saying afterwards that it was the most physical match they’d played in a long time.

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And it was the visitors who drew blood next, with a scrum on halfway setting the stage for some great runs and handling by Blair Crossan, Lewis Clark and Scott Gates; the pressure soon told, with the hosts conceding a penalty on the 22 and Lambert shrugging aside the tricky breeze to send the kick between the sticks.

Ordinarily that might have been it for the first half, but 40 minutes turned to 45, then 50, and then 52 – which was when Greenock crossed the line for their second score after some slack L&H tackling, with the kick missed to leave the visitors 13-10 ahead at half-time.

Following such a physical first half, it was hoped a reshuffle of the ranks at the interval would give L&H fresh impetus – and once again it was the visitors who started the half best, with some great work by the forwards and nice handling by the backs setting up one of the replacements, Craig Newport, to run a sublime line on to a pass cutting the home defence to shreds to score under the post.

Unfortunately the easy kick was missed, but some superb L&H defending kept the visitors’ lead at eight points – until, on the hour mark, the away side won back possession and a series of incursions by Clark, Craig Wight, Charlie Mackenzie and others won them a penalty, Lambert duly slotting the kick between the posts.

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Greenock knew they had to up their game if they had any chance of winning, and a series of substitutions gave the home side the fresh legs they needed, with a period of sustained pressure eventually paying off in the form of a third try 10 minutes from time.

This one, like the first two, went unconverted – but with only six points between the teams, Greenock had the bit between their teeth and the crowd behind them as they looked to batter their way to the win.

But this L&H team are stingy when it comes to giving points, and tackled like their lives and their jersey depended on every tackle hitting an opponent.

And the crucial moment came five minutes from the end when L&H won a penalty five metres from their own line – and instead of kicking for touch, and risking losing possession from the resulting lineout, stand-off Dougie King took the brave decision to run the ball.

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From there a series of penetrating runs by both forwards and backs led L&H all the way into the home 22, where Smith battered his way over the line for a fitting climax to a breathtaking team try, Lambert converting to make it 28-15.

That wasn’t quite the end of the story, with L&H defending resolutely and winning another penalty; again the decision was made to keep the ball in hand and run at the opposition, with the visitors keeping possession cleverly before the whistle blew after 42 minutes.

Lambert was chosen as the man of the match, but credit goes to all the players from both teams – particularly those who played from start to finish and thus completed some 94 minutes of rugby, demonstrating their fitness levels as well as their skills.

Squad: Martin Jamieson, Andy McKay (Capt), Conrad Deasy, Lewis Clark, Craig Wight, Colin Rettie, Blair Crossan, Stuart Carruthers, T-Jay Lambert, Douglas King, Joshua Foster, Scott Gates, Stuart King, Aiden Harvie, Ben Wain, Brian Lovell, Scott Smith, Harry Wallis, Craig Newport, Charlie Mackenzie.

A full video of the match is available to watch online by clicking here; the match itself starts at 43 minutes.

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Next up for the second XV, it’s back to league duty and a home clash against Cambuslang 2nd this Saturday, January 27. Kick-off at Ardencaple is at 2pm.

Meanwhile, L&H’s first XV were idle on Saturday after a frozen pitch forced the postponement of their West 2 fixture away to leaders Cambuslang.

This Saturday, January 27, L&H’s first team squad make the short journey to Fintry to face Strathendrick in round one of the National Shield competition, with the Ardencaple squad out to repeat of their 27-24 win when the two teams last met at Ruth Menzies Field on league business in early December.

Saturday’s match has a 1.30pm kick-off.