HELENSBURGH’S young rugby players celebrated a season of success at their annual awards dinner.

So big is the youth section at Helensburgh Rugby Club that the evening was split into two sections, with the U13s, U14s and U15s enjoying their own dedicated awards ceremony before the U16s and U18s took centre stage later in the evening.

The U13s, led by Mark Bone, with James Silverthorne and Tobias Barrie, had their inaugural season at youth level, and did themselves proud. There is a seismic shift from mini rugby to youth rugby and the squad grew in stature and confidence as the season progressed, with almost a 50/50 split of wins over losses.

Ellis Fleming won the coaches’ player of the season accolade, and Flynn Chambers took the players’ player accolade.

The U14s, guided by Paul McClearn and Robin Smith, were fortunate to have retained the majority of last season’s squad, enabling them to continue building on the hard work shown over the previous year, with another split of 50-50 between wins and losses for a squad which has really come of age since Christmas.

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Lewis Eales picked up the coaches; player of the season prize, and Struan Smith was named players’ player of the season.

The 15s, who started the season under the guidance of John Cashmore and Mark Bennett, with Ian Smith stepping in to replace John after Christmas, had a season of two definite halves.

A little over a year ago the 15s were in need of players and a coach and were in danger of folding. John stepped into the role and built a team around the core loyal squad of six. Those core squad players grew their squad into this year’s 15s and became a team.

Sadly John had to step down at Christmas due to other commitments, but Ian stepped in, and he and mark were able to build on the foundations laid down in the first half of the campaign, setting about growing the squad to 19 players.

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The team soon became the most feared in the league, not losing a competitive fixture and finishing joint champions, having played two games fewer than their joint winners.

Peter Burgeon from the SRU was on hand to present the squad with thier Quaich plaque, while Ruairidh Carlow won the coaches’ player of the year prize and Callum McGinn the equivalent from his team-mates.

The under-16s had set such a benchmark last season that the expectations were high, and Iain Mackay and Henry Boswell knew it would be a difficult season – but solid commitment and determination saw the 16s reach the National Schools final at The Hive in Murrayfield, where despite coming second, they all did themselves proud.

Post Christmas they had their regional title to defend, and they did so unbeaten, reaching the final at home to Oban in a fixture which summed up grassroots rugby as both teams wowed a packed Ardencaple ground.

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 A 17-17 draw was a fair result and the title was shared between both clubs. Both teams gave absolutely everything that glorious Sunday afternoon.

Peter Burgeon presented the squad with their plaque.

The senior youth team, the under-18s, led by former club captain Stewart Tacchi with Graham Smith and John Penniston, also had high expectations following last season’s trip to The Hive, though unfortunately this time they came up painfully short with very hard fought quarter final loss to the eventual winners from Queen Victoria School in Dunblane.

The regional cup competition saw them pitted in the harder cup draw where an agonising two-point loss to Oban saw them lose the Plate final.

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This was a squad that provided a number of players for  the senior men's teams and saw a number of players rise from seasons under 16s. Again they did themselves and the club proud. Mike Miller won the coaches’ player of the year award, and Euan McGinn was chosen as the winner of the players’ player prize.

Youth convener Ian Smith said: "This season over 140 players from U13-U18 pulled on the green and gold of Helensburgh. More than 30 volunteer coaches/medics and first aid gave their time unselfishly to making 2023/24 season happen.

“I am extremely humbled and proud of the dedication shown by all.”

The season is almost at an end, save for the 18s and 16s playing in the Helensburgh sevens tournament on May 25 and a few development fixtures for 13s and 14s. 

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Ian added: “Soon 2024/25 season will soon be upon us; throughout the summer there will be touch rugby on Friday nights, along with the relaunching of walking rugby.

“New and old players are always welcome; even if you have never before picked up a rugby ball, come and join us.

“Support the teams with a volunteer role, and come and join the fun at Helensburgh RFC.”

Find out more about getting involved with the club at helensburghrugby.co.uk.