CHINNOR were unable to start the new season with a notable victory on the road as Darlington Mowden Park triumphed 23-16 in an entertaining contest at a rain-soaked Northern Echo Arena.

The hosts raced into a 12-0 lead inside the opening nine minutes of the National 1 opener, with centre Liam Checksfield and winger Morgan Passman crossing.

Chinnor replied through a Will Kelly penalty and then closed the gap to 12-10. A strong scrum in front of the posts led to quick ball to centre Jason Worrall, who cut through and over from close range – Kelly adding the extras.

Visiting flanker Max Heathman was sin-binned just before the break and Mowden fly-half Matt Minogue slotted a simple penalty as the hosts led by five points.

An early Kelly penalty reduced the deficit to two again, but Darlington centre Ben Frankland crossed after 57 minutes.

By now, the rain was relentless, but only one side needed to chase the game. The visitors looked to have set up a thrilling finale when a driving maul went crashing over the whitewash, only for the ball to be held up.

Another Minogue penalty then put any chance of a comeback victory to bed, but three points from the boot of Kelly saw Chinnor leave with a point.

Meanwhile, Henley Hawks also endured a disappointing start to the National 2 East campaign, going down 24-19 to Bury St Edmunds at Dry Leas.

It was always going to be a difficult opening game for the Oxfordshire side after their opponents finished higher in National 2 South last season.

Bury’s Michael Stanway crossed after four minutes, Charlie Reed adding the extras, but Henley hit back as Max Titchener converted Ewan Fenley’s try.

Hawks were on top and Seb Scott went over to give them a deserved 12-7 lead at the break, only for Reed to add the two points to Finlay McCartney’s score after the restart.

Adam Porter restored the advantage as he ran in from 40m, with Titchener’s kick making it 19-14.

But Bury had the last laugh, with Kodie Drury-Hawkins going over either side of a penalty and conversion from Reed as the visitors triumphed.

Oxford Quins got off to a dream start in Regional 1 South Central as they won 25-21 at Brighton Blues, but Banbury Bulls were beaten 26-18 by visitors Havant.

It was also contrasting fortunes for Oxfordshire’s clubs in Regional 2 Tribute South Central.

Witney saw off Buckingham 34-25 at Hailey Road, but Grove crashed to a 58-5 defeat at Marlborough.

Wallingford edged out Bicester 13-12 in Counties 1 Southern North, while Chinnor 3rd won 41-13 at Reading Abbey and Gosford All Blacks went down 36-16 at Milton Keynes.