Oxfordshire made a disappointing start to the defence of their Home Counties League title with a 16-6 defeat by Surrey at South Oxford.

Oxon, with Chris Gilkes and Paul Skidmore making their debuts, went down 108-104 on shots after sharing the six rinks.

The hosts started brightly and at five ends led by 11 shots. Mark Charlett’s rink of Mick Nash, Remy Clanfield and John Hardie were always in control against skip Robert Wicks, to post Oxon’s best win with a 22-10 triumph.

By ten ends, Oxon’s lead had reduced to five, before opening the margin once more to 11 in the third quarter.

But then Surrey started pegging back shots across the board. Paul Sharman’s side of Ian Whelpton, Skidmore and Gordon Walker scraped home 15-14 against Mick Sigamoney.

And Mark Sykes’s four of Gilkes, Chris Earl and Barry Lambourne defeated Graham Robinson 19-15.

But Alan Prew’s team of Sam Watts, Andy McIntyre and Sammy Timms couldn’t stem the tide as they dropped six consecutive ends to lose 24-10 against Lee Dickson.

Calvin Carpenter’s rink of Ade Kemish, Paul Comley and Alan Ley went down 25-20 to Darren Long.

It meant that going into the last end of the game, played by Ian Snowdon’s four of Dean May, George Schwab and Mark Hancock, Oxon were one behind.

And with Snowdon’s side dropping three shots for a 20-18 defeat against Martin Sampson, it left Surrey the winners by four.

Oxfordshire 104 (6pts), Surrey 108 (16) (Oxon rinks first) Rink 1: M Nash, R Clanfield, J Hardie, M Charlett 22, M Dutton, P Chuter, R Dodds, R Wicks 10.

Rink 2: I Whelpton, P Skidmore, G Walker, P Sharman 15, G Stevens, G Parsons, N Beeson, M Sigamoney 14.

Rink 3: C Gilkes, C Earl, B Lambourne, M Sykes 19, J Tucker, T Wood, S Fishlock, G Robinson 15.

Rink 4: D May, G Schwab, M Hancock, I Snowdon 18, N Alexander, G Dawber, C Barrett, M Sampson 20.

Rink 5: A Kemish, P Comley, A Ley, C Carpenter 20, T Downs, R Long, P Bennett, D Long 25.

Rink 6: S Watts, A McIntyre, S Timms, A Prew 10, C Boozer, J Shillingford, J Cable, L Dickson 24.