Banbury Bulls laid down a marker with a bonus-point victory over Witney at the newly-named DCS Stadium.
Ed Phillips kicked 21 points and Tommy Gray bagged a brace of tries on his debut as Bulls beat Witney 36-18 on the opening day of the South West One East campaign.
Bulls came out clearly pumped out, maybe a little too much as Freddie Cracknell was yellow carded after 25 seconds, dangerously lifting a player above the horizontal on to the player’s back.
Even with a man less, Bulls took the lead. Witney were penalised for not rolling away and Phillips nailed a tricky kick.
Cracknell was back on but Bulls gave away a penalty, not releasing at the breakdown, and George Lewis slotted over.
Phillips was back on the scoreboard again before halftime, good work from several phases saw Bulls deep into Witney territory. Phillips eventually scrambled over and kicked an easy conversion.
Witney hit back through the boot of fly-half Lewis again after Bulls were harshly penalised at the breakdown.
Bulls kicked off the second half strongly with Phillips kicking three penalties in the opening 20 minutes for a 19-6 advantage. Bulls went close when Matt Goode released Cracknell down the left but Alex Foggett bundled him into touch.
Witney punished Banbury’s missed opportunities. An off-load out the tackle released Jack Birks who used his pace to score under the posts. Henry Lamb added the extras and Witney were back within one score at 19-13.
Bulls responded almost immediately. Good runs from Cracknell and Matthew Powell had Bulls on the front foot. Eventually the ball was thrown out wide to Gray, he threw a dummy to hold the Witney defence in their tracks before darting over himself from short range.
The next try was the best of the game. From a scrum, the backs got the ball wide quickly, Goode drew his man before popping a lovely pass to the onrushing Cracknell, who swerved and side-stepped his way over the line, with Phillips making it 31-13.
Bulls sealed the bonus point when a great pass from Jack Briggs pulled the Witney defence out of position and Gray touched down in the corner. Witney scored a late consolation try when Foggett crashed his way over after the ball was sprayed out wide.